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Orders Of The Day

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 9 May 1961

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Covent Garden Market Bill

( Recommitted)

Considered in Committee.

[Sir GORDON TOUCHE in the Chair]

Unless any hon. Member wishes to raise a point about the first fifteen Clauses, with the consent of the Committee I propose to put the Question, "That Clauses 1 to 15 stand part of the Bill."

3.35 p.m.

As you know, Sir Gordon, this Bill went to a Select Committee. No doubt you read the proceedings of the Select Committee. It is a fabulous, intricate document. As a result of going to the Select Committee, Clause 2 and many others were amended. I do not want to waste time, but it would be of assistance if the Minister could tell us the effect on each Clause of the Amendments made in the Select Committee.

There was one major Amendment made in the Select Committee, dealing with the Finsbury lands, and there are a number of consequential Amendments flowing from that decision to take the Finsbury lands out of the Bill. Those were the only Amendments made to Clauses 1 to 15 in the Select Committee and perhaps it would be for the convenience of the Committee if, as you suggest, Sir Gordon, we had a discussion on Clauses 1 to 15 to take in this major Amendment to which I have referred and all that flows from it.

It is fair to say that only one major Amendment was made in the Select Committee. I gather that we can discuss Clauses 1 to 15, or, Sir Gordon, do you want to put the Question on each Clause separately?

If the Committee agrees, I will put the Question, "That Clauses 1 to 15 stand part of the Bill." If the Committee does not accept that, I will put the Question on each Clause.

Clause 2 raises special points. As the Minister recognised, Clause 2 is now substantially different from Clause 2 of the Bill as we passed it on Second Reading.

I accept that, and I was suggesting that we should have a discussion on the Question, "That Clauses 1 to 15 stand part of the Bill." Indeed, I should like to open the discussion to explain what happened upstairs. I should like to explain this major Amendment from which consequential Amendments flow.

As a good deal of the discussion might centre round Clause 2, would it not be desirable to have the Question specifically put, "That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill."

That is what I am trying to find out. The Committee is entitled to have it Clause by Clause, and I will put it that way.

Clause 1—(The Covent Garden Market Authority)

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

Clause 1 sets up the Covent Garden Market Authority. Perhaps we could be told the composition of this Authority, some of its general powers, and how the Minister sees it working. Perhaps the Minister could give certain assurances which are needed by this side of the Committee, because I understand the position of this Authority is somewhat extraordinary. As I understand, once the Bill leaves the House of Commons this Authority will have enormous powers. We will not be able to ask questions about it.

For example, if I feel that the Authority is doing things inside the market to which I object, I understand that I shall not be able to question the Minister about what is happening. In the Select Committee, Mr. Gerald Gardiner, Q.C. argued on much the same lines about the setting up of this body, with enormous powers. We are unhappy about leaving the position there. Perhaps the Minister would give us some details of the Authority.

As the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) will know, Clause 1 was not amended during the Committee stage. It contains seven subsections. The first sets out that the Authority should be constituted on a certain day appointed by the Minister. Subsection (2) provides that the Authority shall consist of a chairman and a managing director and from three to six other members who would be appointed by the Minister.

As to its powers, the best analogy I can think of—I used it during the Second Reading debate—would be the Port of London Authority. It is true that the hon. Member would not be able to put down Questions in the House about the day-to-day activities of the Authority, but it will not be the only statutory authority of which that is true.

As I say, this Clause has not been changed.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2—(Vesting Of Market Lands)

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

The Committee may wish to spend a little time on this Clause. It was on Clause 2 and the related Clauses and Preambles to it that the Select Committee had to spend so much time. We should appreciate the effect of the changes made in the Bill as a result of the considerations and recommendations of the Select Committee. For that purpose, it is necessary to look not only at Clause 2 of the Bill as it was presented on Second Reading, and compare it with the present text, but also to look at the Preamble to the Bill as it was on Second Reading and the Preamble to the Bill as it is now.

Clause 2 is bound up with the Preambles. If one looks at the Bill which was—

Order. We do not discuss the Preamble now. We are now discussing only Clause 2, although I appreciate that they are connected.

They are very much inter-connected, Sir Gordon. With respect, I submit that it might prove convenient for the Committee if we could refer at this stage to the Preamble in connection with Clause 2 rather than to have a separate discussion on the Preamble.

If the Committee understands that we shall not have a separate discussion on the Preamble, that would be satisfactory.

When the Bill was introduced and given a Second Reading it contained two Preambles, which were the basis of part of Clause 2. These Preambles have been omitted and hon. Members can follow this only if they have a copy of the Bill as originally introduced with the Explanatory Memorandum.

The Preamble recites, first, that
"it is expedient to make further provision for regulating the market business"
at Covent Garden and also
"for reducing the congestion of traffic"
in the rest of the borough, and, for that purpose, to vest in the Authority certain lands which are subsequently referred to as the Finsbury lands. I will paraphrase the wording to make it intelligible:
"whereas the storage, elsewhere than"
in Covent Garden
"of horticultural produce intended to be dealt in in bulk and of empty containers…would conduce to the achievement of the object"
originally suggested
"it is accordingly expedient to vest in the said authority certain lands in the Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury suitable for the provision thereon of facilities for the storage of such produce and containers as aforesaid."
3.45 p.m.

This Preamble has disappeared as a result of the recommendations of the Select Committee. There has also disappeared from Clause 2 the specific subsection (2) which provided, in effect, that what are generally known in this context as the Finsbury lands should be vested in the Authority merely as an automatic operation of this Measure so that the Authority might use those Finsbury lands for the purpose of an annex to the market for the purposes of storage therein of produce in bulk and of empty containers. Those provisions have been deleted.

Nevertheless, as I understand the Minister—I may be right or wrong—it is still contemplated that the Authority should make some arrangements outside the Covent Garden area for an annex, so that congestion may be relieved and that produce for some of the operations now carried on in the market—namely, sales by samples or of bulk produce—can be stored at the annex, and so that empty containers may be taken there.

I should have thought this a matter more appropriate to be discussed when we come to Clause 16, where power is given to the Authority to acquire land outside the market for the purpose of storing empty containers. I am wondering whether it would not be better, when discussing Clause 16, that we try hard to get assurances from the Government.

Clause 2 is the first Clause in which the Amendment of the Select Committee begins to bite. I take it that this is the Clause on which we were to have a major discussion about the alteration made by virtue of the Amendment in the Select Committee as it affects the Finsbury lands; and, generally speaking, the small consequential Amendments growing from that. In addition, there are other discussions which we shall have, about whether the the annex shall be inside or outside the market area, which will be separate. I foresee that Clause 2 will be the Clause on which we shall have the major discussion about the Finsbury lands.

On the point raised about procedure by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), I do not in any way wish to curtail the debate which I think we shall have on Clause 16. At the same time, I did not feel that we could dispose of Clause 2 without some explanation of the con sequences of the changes in it. As I understand, we shall want to debate Clause 2 and Clause 16 separately. I do not think that those debates can be merged.

The short point on Clause 2 relates to the opinion of the Minister of the effect of the changes made by the Select Committee. When the Minister mentioned them to the House during the Second Reading debate it was part of the proposal, in fact it was the essential part of the whole scheme, that the Authority should have the Finsbury lands transferred to it and that this land should be used as an annex for part of the purposes for which the market is now used.

That was, therefore, an essential ingredient of the Bill to which the House gave a Second Reading. I am not questioning whether or not the recommendations of the Select Committee were wise. We may come to that point later. Before we dispense with Clause 2 and pass on to a discussion of Clause 16, I would like the Minister to tell the House how, in his opinion, this serious mutilation of Clause 2 affects the whole of the scheme.

Hon. Members should remember that since the controversy in the concession of 1959 and 1960, it had been contemplated that the Finsbury lands would be used as an annex. It was because they had been earmarked, and because the L.C.C. had taken all the preliminary steps to acquire them, with a view to their subsequent transfer to the Authority when constituted, that the Bill was introduced.

It may be that the Select Committee was right—and I know that the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe) would say so—but if it was right, what becomes of the whole scheme? Is the Minister now prepared to proceed with the Bill in the absence of any Finsbury land, because a couple of years ago we were told that the L.C.C. and the City Corporation had for years been looking for an appropriate site for an annex? When there was some controversy in 1959, it did not take them long to find an annex. They found the Finsbury land and, because of that, the Ministry was able to proceed with this scheme and to introduce the Bill.

Now, the Finsbury lands have gone, and there is no site earmarked for an annex. No site is contemplated for an annex and, therefore, a large part of this operation has disappeared. Before we part with Clause 2 the Minister should tell hon. Members whether he is really satisfied that the Bill can proceed without the Finsbury lands.

Is the Minister now proposing that the whole scheme should proceed without an annex? Is he now saying that all the argument used two or three years ago—in which it was stated that there was an essential need for an annex—are no longer valid? It may be found in the coming years that containers will all become non-returnable and that there will be no need for an annex for the storage of containers. If that is valid, it would support the argument for there being no necessity for an annex in which to store empty containers.

That may not be the Minister's idea. His idea may be that an annex should be found. If so, hon. Members are entitled to know, at this stage, what prospect he has of finding a site for an annex. Has he any alternative site in mind? Is he proposing that the alternative site should be put out of the periphery of London, or perhaps somewhere nearer? Whichever alternative he advances, there would be arguments about traffic congestion. We must have more information from the Minister as to how far this radical change in Clause 2 affects the Bill, because, in my view, it largely destroys the whole case for having the Bill.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) is right, procedurally. We should discuss Clause 2 and the Preamble together, because they both dealt in the original Bill, to which the House gave a Second Reading, with what were known as the Finsbury lands.

We are in a difficult position and perhaps you can advise us, Sir Gordon. This Bill is, of course, a different Bill from the one which was given a Second Reading. Since it left the House after its Second Reading the Bill has been to a Select Committee and that Committee has amended it in certain respects. Would it not, therefore, be appropriate for the Minister, on each Clause that has been so amended by the Select Committee, to intervene in order to give hon. Members the benefit of his views on the changes which the Select Committee have made?

The Bill—it is a peculiar one and a hybrid Measure, because it is half public and half private—is not as clear from a procedural point of view as it might be. With your consent, Sir Gordon, and with the agreement of the Minister, it would be advantageous for the Minister to intervene at each point where the Select Committee has made a change.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East raised the subject of the Finsbury lands not with any desire to go over the controversy once again, but to get a clear picture of what is the Ministry's attitude to the alternative in Clause 2 and in the Preamble that has been made by the Select Committee.

Yes we have.

In any case, I hope that the Minister will deal with the point that by Clause 16, unless it is amended as we suggest it should be, the Authority is told that as far as practicable, it should provide these facilities outside the Covent Garden area. That point is of great significance in relation to what my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East said. We all agree that it would be helpful that, where changes have been made in the Bill, the Minister should comment on them.

We cannot discuss matters which arise on Clause 16 until we reach that Clause.

There are a number of Clauses, after Clause 2, from which references to the Finsbury lands have been deleted. These were purely consequential Amendments following the major Amendment which removed any reference to the Finsbury lands.

On the major Amendments made upstairs, it was my hope and intention to say something on each one of them as they were reached.

The main point that has been raised so far in this debate is the question asked by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher): how has the Bill been changed by the taking out of all references to the Finsbury lands? When they brought forward the Bill, the Government's view was that the Finsbury lands were a suitable and convenient site for the purposes of an annex, and it was laid down in the Bill, as presented to the House, that the site should be vested in the Covent Garden Market Authority.

That was put in because the Government felt that it was essential that the Bill should provide for an annex, and we still regard that as necessary. The Government's view has not changed; they still regard an annex as an essential feature for the clearing up of existing conditions in Covent Garden.

4.0 p.m.

What did the Select Committee do? It did not say that the Finsbury lands shall not be used. It decided that it would put Finsbury on the same basis as every other borough within the bounds of which a suitable site might be found. The Committee thought it fairer and wiser to make the Covent Garden Market Authority responsible for finding a site and going through all the planning processes necessary to enable it to buy and occupy the site rather than to vest the specific site on the Finsbury lands in the Authority.

Instead of there being an annex in that particular spot, it will now be for the Authority to request the planning authority to designate a site for the purpose. From that point, it will go through the well-known procedure for purchase with a public inquiry if need be. My right hon. Friend might well think it right, in a matter of this kind, that there should be a public inquiry, but, of course, that would be for him.

In any event, it will be for the Covent Garden Market Authority to go for whatever site it may choose. I agree, of course, that the choice is limited, but what the Government have not done since the Select Committee made its alteration was to find another site and say that that must be the one. It is now left to the Authority to find a site, and among the sites to which it could direct attention Finsbury is still one.

The effect of the alteration by the Select Committee is not, therefore, that the Finsbury lands may not be used, but merely that that site should be treated on exactly the same basis as any other which the Authority might consider for the annex.

As the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) said, when we come to Clause 16 we shall discuss whether the annex should be inside or outside the Covent Garden area. But the answer to the question arises on Clause 2, that is, what is the effect of the alteration, is briefly this. Instead of it being determined by the House that the Finsbury site will be vested in the Authority for this purpose, it is now open to the Authority to choose a site, and it will thereafter have to go through the necessary planning procedure.

The Minister has made the legal position perfectly clear. The effect of the deletion is that the Finsbury land will no longer be vested by the Bill in the Authority. But this means that the Authority will have to search for other land for an annex. It may find somewhere or it may not. If it does find a site, it will face all the procedural complications. It may find a site which it regards as convenient, but for which it will not receive the necessary planning permission. All this must take a considerable time.

One additional effect of the deletion is that, instead of the Authority being able to make an early start by having an annex site fixed for it to which it could go by statutory right, it will have its operations considerably delayed. As I understood the position hitherto, it was contemplated that operations in the annex should be the first and immediate step after the passage of the Bill. Now, it may be two or three years before the Authority has its annex. I do not know. Is it now envisaged that the Authority will still have to wait to find an annex and obtain planning approval for it before implementing the rest of the provisions of the Bill?

No. The implementation of the rest of the provisions of the Bill by the Market Authority is not affected by the change at all. The hon. Gentleman's guess is as good as mine about how long it will take the Authority to find another site. Perhaps delay will be caused. I have no doubt that this was borne in mind by the Select Committee when it considered the matter, but, none the less, it felt that this was the fairer, more equitable, and proper way to do it. It would have taken some time anyhow before the Authority could have moved on to the Finsbury lands. I cannot judge what extra delay might be caused as a result of the change. Although I accept that the change might possibly cause delay, I do not think that it will necessarily be so.

The change has been made, and I think that it should be said now that my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe), my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) put up a tremendous fight in the House against the Bill as it originally stood. We had considerable debate about the principle of any site being used in the central area for storage, and I think that it can be said now that my hon. Friends may take great pride in the fact that that menace, to which it was intended to give legislative force by the Bill as it originally stood, has been removed.

As I understand the position now, the Authority can go anywhere for the annex it requires. It is not confined to one particular site, but it can itself decide where the site ought to be, subject to the usual town and country planning provisions. For the benefit of the Authority, I think that it should be put on record now that, if it eventually does meet to decide that it wants an annex inside London for the purpose of storing empties, it will face the biggest battle of its life.

All those concerned had better be quite clear about that. I can imagine nothing more obnoxious to any Metropolitan borough than having in its midst a site used purely for the storage of empty packages from Covent Garden Market.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East that the day is coming when the annex will not be required. Thanks to modern packaging and marketing systems, the return of empties will soon no longer be necessary, so what we have been arguing about may well become abortive. Nevertheless, it ought to be put on record now—I do not know whether the Authority will do us the honour of reading the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee stage of the Bill—that the Authority can take it firmly from some of us that it had better not try to put anything of this kind within Metropolitan London.

I find it extremely difficult to follow the logic of the Minister's statement. A good deal of public money and time has been devoted to establishing that the proposal that the annex should be at the junction of City Road and Old Street was a bad one and should not stand. A Select Committee was appointed. Thousands of pounds were spent on engaging advocates to establish that what was proposed was wrong not only for Shoreditch and Finsbury, but for London as a whole. The idea of putting the annex at one of the busiest junctions in London was regarded by most people who knew the area as absolute lunacy.

The Finsbury lands are now taken out of the Bill, but the Minister has told us that we are almost back where we started, despite the change made by the Select Committee. If the Authority decides that it is difficult to find another site which can be regarded as suitable, it may revert to the City Road-Old Street junction for the purpose of its annex.

Whether it is unlikely or not, the statement of the Minister is very disturbing, to say the least. I can only interpret it in the way that I have just indicated to the Committee. If I am wrong, perhaps the Minister will correct me.

I do not think that I have misinterpreted either the effect or, to the best of my knowledge, the intention of the Select Committee in altering the Bill in this way. In deleting all mention of the Finsbury lands the Borough of Finsbury has been left on all fours, so to speak, with every other borough. That is all that has happened. That is not very different from what was sought by the petitioners. The Bill does not now say that the annex must not be built in this or that particular borough, but merely that a site should not be singled out and vested in the Authority without going through the usual planning procedures. Whether that was what was in the mind of the Borough of Finsbury, I cannot say. I gather from what has been said that it might have aspired for more, but this is the effect of the Amendments made by the Select Committee.

The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) says that there will be great trouble if the Authority tries to put an annex in any borough. We will have to jump these hurdles when we reach them. It will be for the Authority to get the necessary planning permission. It may be that there will be objections. They will be handled in the normal way. The hon Member appreciates and understands that. He says that the need for the annex is fast disappearing since the use of returnable empties is diminishing. One reason why an annex is needed is to house these returnable empties, which are like tinder and are a great fire risk. I agree that the move towards the use of non-returnable contained is all to the good.

There will, however, still be the other object of the annex, which is to prevent the unnecessary carting of very large number of crates of citrus fruits, and the like coming into the Port of London, into the Covent Garden area, when they could well be stored somewhere else, perhaps near the port.

I recognise that the annex could be used for the purposes which the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned. I repeat, however, that I think that most Metropolitan boroughs, certainly those whoch are Labour controlled and probably most Conservative controlled boroughs, would strongly object to their land being used for this purpose. One of the problems that we face under Clause 1 is that the authority will be given certain powers. I agree that there will be the normal restrictions concerning appeals against compulsory purchase orders, but at the end of the day it is a pity that the fight will not be on the Floor of the House.

The argument about Shoreditch and Finsbury and Islington is one which concerns Parliament. This is what caused the Government of 1959 and the Government of today to change their minds on this aspect. It is a pity that we are hoping that outside sources will deal with a matter which, to many of us, is very personal.

The Minister has made it clear that, under the Bill as amended by the Select Committee, the Finsbury lands are not alone in the picture. The site is on all fours with other sites in the country, because the Bill is not confined to London. There may be doubt in the mind of the local authority of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe), because the Minister is on record as having said that the Finsbury site is eminently suitable. His representative in the Select Committee agreed that the right hon. Gentleman had said on more than one occasion in this Chamber that, in his view, the Finsbury site is eminently suitable for an annex to Covent Garden.

Perhaps the Minister can help us further and say whether he accepts the Amendment which the Select Committee has made in the Bill, that he regards the position as open and that the Finsbury annex is not under special favour by himself or by his Ministry.

4.15 p.m.

I wish to clear up one or two points. The first concerns whether my right hon. Friend regards the Finsbury site as eminently suitable. The fact is that the matter is no longer in my right hon. Friend's control. It has now been handed over to the Covent Garden Market Authority. The Minister has parted with his rights in the matter. That is what the Select Committee intended.

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the Authority, when it is constituted, will act under the Minister and with his approval or disapproval in finding land for an annex. That is in the Bill.

It may act with his approval or disapproval. It will not accept dictation as to where it should look for a site for its annex.

I wish to deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe). It is true that the Select Committee deleted all mention of the Finsbury lands from the Bill, and did not add a rider to the effect that in no circumstances should Finsbury be considered as an alternative site, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that that is what the petitioners requested. The petitioners offered us two alternatives in the Select Committee and we accepted one of them. Whether they are satisfied now is another matter. In my view, I think that they should be, because town planning procedure provides a number of safeguards.

As the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) said, I have no doubt that there will be strenuous opposition to the annex, wherever it may be proposed. But equally, as a general rule, there is no doubt that there has to be an annex and, in my view, no doubt that it must be somewhere in London.

We do not necessarily accept that, although it would be out of order to debate it now because it arises under Clause 16.

There may be great opposition, but I think that it will be based on an out-of-date assumption of the precautions that can be taken against fire. The fire brigades are not despondent about being able to cope with a large number of packing cases stored in a modern building. That is the point which must be appreciated. Presumably, the annex will be the latest thing in storage facilities. Therefore, wherever planning permission is sought for an annex, most boroughs can rest content concerning the risk of fire, particularly, as has been said, it is a diminishing risk because, as each year passes, packing cases will be used less and less. The traffic problem will be argued when planning permission is sought. I have no doubt that it will be bitterly fought in every case, as it was in the Select Committee. I suggest that as the Bill stands it is a satisfactory solution to the problem which is before us.

I understood the Minister to say that the Authority could go back to the site at the junction of Old Street and City Road, but Shoreditch and Finsbury, the two local authorities, have been given an interpretation by legal representatives who have dealt with the case for them that that is not so and that if a suitable site could be found, it could be established elsewhere in Finsbury but not at the junction of Old Street and City Road. That was the interpretation that we were given.

I must correct the hon. Member. I do not have the proceedings of the Select Committee with me, but if the hon. Member refers to the Minutes he will find that in the Select Committee, when they asked for the deletion of the Finsbury lands, the petitioners said that they would leave it open to the Authority to seek town planning permission where it wished, including the Finsbury lands.

Speaking as another member of the Select Committee, I should like to confirm what my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) has said. It should be borne in mind that the Borough of Finsbury got all that it asked for with the exception of one or two minor amendments. Indeed, the Select Committee gave Fins-bury all the matters of substance in deleting from the Bill any mention of Finsbury lands.

It is certainly my understanding that what we did in deleting the mention of Finsbury lands was to place the Borough of Finsbury on all fours with all other areas, so that should the Authority wish to set up an annex for any purpose, it had to go through the normal town and country planning procedure with all the inquiries and rights to object which follow.

We thought that if we did that, it would be unlikely that the town and country planning authorities would grant permission for an annex in the place where it was originally intended to establish it.

As another member of the Select Committee, I confirm what the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) has just said. It is also my impression that the decision of the Select Committee placed all available sites on all fours. Until the decision was arrived at by the Select Committee, it seemed that the St. Luke's site for an annex was in a preferential position; there was no need for the planning requirements to be observed or for the special inquiries to be instituted. Therefore, once the Bill was passed, the Authority could go ahead and proceed to erect the annex at St. Luke's.

The Select Committee heard evidence on that point and we came to the conclusion that the preferential treatment which placed St. Luke's in a special position should be deleted from the Bill. The conclusion that we arrived at is that when the Authority looks for an annex—and the House came to the conclusion on Second Reading that there should be an annex—it can go back to St. Luke's if it wishes, but that it must observe the ordinary planning requirements and obtain permission. As the hon. Member for Wycombe said, having regard to the evidence, it is extremely doubtful whether the Authority could satisfy the necessary requirements for this site.

As a Member of the House who was active on Second Reading and, at that stage, was closely in touch with the Bill, but who did not serve on the Select Committee, I should like to ask whether we could not be given guidance that would help us when we deal with Clause 16. When we talk about the annex and storage, should we not at all times draw a sharp distinction between storage for bulk goods which are to be sold, and storage for containers? Are they not two completely separate points and may they not give rise to a great deal of misunderstanding unless they are sharply distinguished?

As I understand, the points made by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) are concerned largely with Clause 16. Unless we make the distinction clear before we reach that Clause, we may be going round in circles.

It is important to get this right. I have been looking at precisely what was said by Mr. Gerald Gardiner, Q.C., who presented the case for the Finsbury Council. The Committee might well be reminded of what he said, for he put the matter succinctly. At page 122 of the proceedings of the Select Committee, Mr. Gardiner said that the object of Finsbury Borough in petitioning was

"either (1) that wherever else the annex may be put, it should not be put on the Finsbury Lands;"—
that was the first thing for which they asked; or alternatively—
"that if the Market Authority is given power to put an annex on any site it thinks fit, the Finsbury site should not be specifically mentioned in the Bill."
Mr. Gardiner went on to say that those two objects might be achieved in one of two ways:
"(1) if the Committee thinks fit to make a special report to the House, if there is to be an annex, or assuming there is to be an annex, the Committee is satisfied that it ought not to be put on this site".
I break off the quotation there to observe that the Select Committee did not adopt that alternative. It did not make a special report to the House and it did not say that the Authority ought not in any circumstances to put the annex on the Finsbury site.

I resume the quotation from Mr. Gardiner, who said that the second alternative would be
"by omitting from the Bill any reference to the Finsbury lands, which would leave the Market Authority with power, with the permission of the Minister"—
I am not sure whether that means the Minister of Agriculture or the Minister responsible for town and country planning—
"to put the annex on any site they think fit, including the Finsbury lands."
It was that second alternative which the Select Committee adopted.

That is so. I think that the final outcome is now broadly understood on both sides of the Committee. In answer to the point made by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), we talk about an annex but what is in the Bill is an obligation upon the Authority to provide storage facilities. We have grown accustomed to talking of it as an annex. There are two distinct problems, the storage of cases and the storage of fruit and the like. The Authority will have to grapple with the question of how large the storage facilities will need to be. It might not prove to be all that large. I do not think that it is for us to try to specify it. We will be referring to storage facilities when we reach Clause 16.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 3 to 13 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 14—(Transfer To The Authority Of Liabilities Under Company's Pension Schemes, And Appointment Of Public Trustee As Trustee Of Certain Of Those Schemes)

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

4.30 p.m.

This is the Clause which transfers to the Authority the liabilities under certain pension schemes and on that I want an assurance from the Minister. Would the Parliamentary Secretary be good enough to tell us, were there discussions with the trade union side about this? Has there been full agreement? Are there any doubts? Can we have an assurance that any schemes in being now will be maintained? The hon. Gentleman will see the reason for my concern. This Authority to be set up is an all-powerful body without any Parliamentary control. It is right that we should make quite sure that those who are to be affected by the activities of the Authority, particularly those who are beneficiaries under any pension scheme, will be protected. It is about that I want to know. If we can get assurances on these things we shall be happy to pass the Clause.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. W. M. F. Vane)

I can give the assurance for which the hon. Gentleman has asked. There has been consultation. There is agreement. He will not. I am sure, want me to give the details of existing schemes, but I am told that the transfer is expected to be smoothly carried out.

There will be an annual report submitted to Parliament, and I would ask hon. Members to bear in mind that that will give ample opportunity for raising all subjects such as this from time to time, which they may at present be a little worried about, on the ground that this may be the first and the last opportunity for discussing them. It certainly will not be. There will be an annual report which, I am sure, will cover not only this but other questions which hon. Members may have in mind.

That is all very well, to say there have been discussions, but we have a duty to satisfy ourselves a little more about this. After all, we are going through this important Bill very rapidly. None of these matters was investigated by the Select Committee. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) has said, this Clause affects the rights of a great many people. So do some of the Clauses that we have just passed.

Would the Minister be good enough to tell us, am I right in thinking that the effect of the Clause is to transfer to the new Authority when set up certain existing obligations of the existing company to pay pensions to certain people? I have not analysed in detail the Second Schedule which goes with the Clause, but would I be right in thinking that the Clause also relieves the existing Company of its obligations? If that is so, certain people in the market have certain rights against the existing company, and I suppose that those rights were enforceable in the same way as they would be against any commercial company.

My experience is that it is less difficult to enforce rights against a commercial company by due process of law than it is to enforce rights against statutory undertakers, authorities set up by Parliament. Why that should be so I am not quite sure, but experience proves that that is the case. Therefore, although the trade unions have been consulted, as my hon. Friend has suggested they should have been, we should like to know that, in so far as pension schemes have been entered into in conjunction with insurance companies—I see, for example, mentioned in the Schedule certain insurance polices of the Eagle Star Insurance Company Ltd.—the insurance companies have also been consulted and that there is no risk of anyone having any existing claim against the new Authority being defeated by reason of the fact that by this Clause we are relieving the company of its obligations.

I will try to give the hon. Member the assurance which he quite understandably seeks. The position is that the Authority steps into the shoes of the company and accepts all its obligations. I cannot comment on what the hon. Member says about having a dispute with a company as against a public authority, but, of course, a company can be wound up, and so I should not have thought that the individual would be any worse off with his contract with the Authority and—

Therefore, the Authority's obligations to the individual will continue. I do not suggest that the company would have been wound up. I do not think that the position is in any way weakened by the changeover.

The pension rights of the market staff are embodied in three pension schemes or arrangements under which certain policies have been taken out with an insurance company to secure benefits. The Bill—I am putting it simply; the Bill says it in rather more words—provides for the Authority to step into the shoes of the market company and to take over all the pension obligations and liabilities. This is the machinery to effect that, and I can assure the Committee that the rights of the employees of the company and their pension expectations are very properly assured under the arrangements provided for by this Clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 16—(Duty Of The Authority To Provide Market And Storage Facilities)

I beg to move, in page 10, line 47, at the end to insert "or any other approved site".

It is not without significance that two of my three hon. Friends who support me in this Amendment were members of the Select Committee, and I believe I am right in saying that this Amendment has the sympathy, if not the formal support of their names being put to it, of members of the Select Committee who were drawn from the Opposition benches.

Subsection (1) of the Clause make it mandatory on the Authority
"On and after the vesting day…to provide within the Covent Garden Area facilities"
which existed there before. Subsection (2), on the other hand, lays on the Authority an obligation, when it has had time to consider the problems which confront it, when it has had time to settle into its new duties and to look around, to provide
"facilities on the market lands, but they shall…take such steps as are practicable either to improve those facilities or to provide, in substitution there for, better ones on other lands within the Covent Garden Area."
The purpose of my Amendment is to release the new Authority from the straitjacket of those words
"within the Covent Garden Area"
so as to leave the Authority, after due consideration and consultation with all those concerned, free to decide how it can best develop and where it can best develop the market of the future.

We are considering a very great and very important and a world-renowned produce market, and I think that it is wrong that we should fetter the Authority in this way so as to force it to continue the establishment of this market in this particular area even though it may decide, after mature reflection, that it can be better sited elsewhere.

It is obvious from the Second Reading debate that many hon. Members on both sides were most alarmed about the proposal that this market should be frozen for all time in the centre and heart of a great city. I took the trouble to analyse the various speeches which were made. Altogether, there were nineteen. All nine Opposition speakers were, rather naturally, against the Bill. Five of my hon. Friends were against the Bill, and three gave it qualified support. They may be said to have damned it with faint praise. Two of my right hon. Friends gave unqualified support to the Bill—the Minister, who opened the debate, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who closed it. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is often called in to fight a difficult brief, and he did it very well, as he always does.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, as reported in column 1273–74, said:
"Over the years the market has far outgrown its first location. Today, it presents grave problems not only of marketing, but of planning traffic and fire control."
Later, my right hon. Friend said,
"Present conditions in and around the market are so bad that all agree that drastic reform is needed. The whole area cries out for proper planning and development."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December, 1960; Vol, 631, c. 1273–4.]
Everyone agreed, but the Minister, nevertheless, introduced his proposals that the market should be retained in the present site, but that some of the load should be shifted from Covent Garden by establishing an annex for containers and bulk produce elsewhere. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Select Committee removed from the Bill the site which the Minister had in mind and left the matter open.

In listening to the evidence presented to the Select Committee it struck me that the Minister seemed not to be fully acquainted with the various traffic problems and their extent—not only those which would be involved in placing the annex in the proposed site, but the traffic problems in general. I was struck by an answer given to me by a Ministry witness, as reported on page 232 of the Minutes of Evidence, Question 2190.

My question and the answer were:
"Was the Minister fully aware of the very serious traffic problems that might result from the St. Luke's site before he had the survey?—I could not say he was fully aware of the traffic implications in the use of any particular site."
I quote that because it makes me wonder a little whether the figures given by the Minister on Second Reading about the general traffic conditions in and around Covent Garden were based on the same kind of information or lack of information.

In the Second Reading debate the Minister said that the flow of market traffic is not a major factor in the flow of traffic on the roads around the market area. The survey on which the Minister relies was taken by a traffic expert in September and a figure which the Minister quoted was 3,250 vehicles going into the market during the day, a figure arrived at by taking an average over five days. On the Tuesday the number of vehicles going into the market was greater—3,858; but the point is that these figures relate to September. The traffic engineer who prepared the report said in his appendix, about the period in September over which he made his investigation:
"It is generally felt by the merchants in the market that this is one of the quietest periods of the trading year, if not the quietest."
It came out in evidence before the Select Committee that in April four times as much bulk produce comes into the Port of London as in September. One can, therefore, assume that the movement of traffic in and out of Covent Garden during that period is considerably greater than the figure quoted by the Minister as representing the average over a week in September, which is a much quieter period.

The Minister prayed in aid the Runciman Committee's Report. Hon. Members on both sides will remember that that Committee recommended that Covent Garden should stay where it is, but it also recommended an extension of Brentford Market, in the west, of Stratford Market, in the east, and of Greenwich Market for the south-east, and, as one very important recommendation, the establishment of a completely new market in the north-west of London. Only after making those recommendations to extend the facilities to be provided by other markets, with the establishment of a new market on the perimeter of London, did the Committee suggest that Covent Garden should remain, reduced in size, in the centre, to act very largely as a price-fixing centre.

4.45 p.m.

It is not without significance, in considering whether the Authority should be allowed to consider other sites for the establishment of Covent Garden Market, to remind the House what the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee said. I quote from page 126 of the Minutes of Evidence, starting at the last paragraph:
"In 1958, the traffic authority, that is to say, the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee Report for that year (it came out in 1959), expressly reminded the Minister of their view stated in their Report of the year before that Covent Garden Market would be best removed entirely to another site. And then they added,'…on 11th June, 1958, the Minister…announced in the House of Commons the Government's decision that the Market should not be entirely removed from its present area although he contemplated provision elsewhere for storage premises associated with the Market, coupled with increased efficiency and a reduction in size. In view of our duties in connection with London traffic, we much regret that this decision has been found necessary. Those responsible for planning the future Market, as well as those responsible for traffic conditions in the area, are now confronted with a challenge which it will require all their ingenuity to meet.'"
This point was made by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) on Second Reading, and the point does not lose force by repetition. Indeed, it must be repeated, because one of the main reasons why we should consider alternative sites is the appalling traffic problem which is likely to arise if it is left there.

What are the alternatives? It was suggested by the Minister on Second Reading that the market might be rebuilt not exactly on the present site, but possibly on the Seven Dials site immediately adjacent to the existing Covent Garden area. In my view, that would in no way improve the position, because it would still create the same kind of traffic difficulty. I am not at all sure—I have not the map before me—whether the Seven Dials area is included in the Covent Garden Market area and whether it comes within the map which is referred to in Clause 53, in which a definition of the Covent Garden Market area is given. But on the assumption that it is within that area, that is one alternative. If I may quote from "Iolanthe",
"Hearts just as pure and fair
May beat in Belgrave Square
As in the lowly air
Of Seven Dials."
I am not suggesting that Belgrave Square is necessarily a good alternative site.

On Second Reading, King's Cross was suggested as a site. It was mentioned in passing by the Minister on Second Reading and by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, when winding up the debate, when he replied to an eloquent speech on this subject by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith). As I understand, King's Cross was rather dismissed by the Ministry because in its view the British Transport Commission was not prepared to make up its mind whether it was ready to release the land for the purposes of the establishment of a market or whether it wanted the land for some other reason. I have the impression that that is the Minister's view now.

Curiously enough, as I understand, Mr. Glover, who was one of the moving spirits behind the King's Cross idea, is still in active negotiation with the Transport Commission, which, apparently, shows itself keenly interested in the whole idea. Therefore, as far as the Transport Commission is concerned, there does not seem to be any overriding reason at the moment why King's Cross should not be considered as an alternative site.

I have no particular bias in favour of any site. It may be that the Authority, when it has had time to settle down, may find many more suitable places. It may find that it wants to divide the market up in different ways. All I suggest is that, by accepting the Amendment, the Authority is left free to decide for itself whether and how it shall develop the market. It is not forced to develop it in Covent Garden or elsewhere.

The Authority can decide entirely for itself, and in doing so I am sure that it would bear in mind the Abercrombie Report on the County of London Plan of as long ago as 1943, when it was said, of Covent Garden:
"It is now a source of great congestion and delay and, with its inadequate road and rail connections its position cannot be justified today."
There can be no objection, surely, to adding these innocuous but helpful words as an Amendment to the Clause, which would leave the Authority to decide itself, against the background of its own knowledge and investigation, how it should develop this great market in the future.

It would be wrong to put into the Bill a Clause requiring the Authority to keep the market in Covent Garden even though the Authority might come to the conclusion that that was the wrong site.

I should like to support the Amendment It gives the Covent Garden Authority wider powers and does not seem to restrict it in any way. If this were an Amendment directing the Authority to find a site other than at Covent Garden I would not be prepared to support it, whether or not, in my view, the Authority should find another site. If the Clause goes through as it stands the Authority will be compelled by Statute, whether it likes it or not, to rebuild in Covent Garden.

When the Authority looks for various sites—and I say that advisedly, because the annex has to be considered as well and we have heard today about some of the difficulties which will be encountered with that—it may find itself unduly restricted if it may only look for its main buildings in the Covent Garden area. It might find tremendous transport and sewerage difficulties in the Covent Garden area. It might want to look elsewhere, further out from London, for a site for the present and the future.

We must remember that everything that is brought to Covent Garden and taken away has to be transported and that the present Covent Garden area has absolutely no transport facilities whatever. I exclude, of course, lorry transport, which can go anywhere, but by going to and from Covent Garden the lorries cause tremendous congestion in the area every morning throughout the year. The congestion is sometimes worse than at other times. There are parts of London where there are easy road and rail transport facilities and even facilities for air transport.

I am not saying that the Authority should seek a site further away, or that it should not. All I say is that it must be left with a free hand and must be free to decide in the light of all the pros and cons of the situation and of the question of the annex where the site for the new market should be.

It has been said that this site will be only a price-fixing site and that sales will be by sample and not by bulk. I have strong doubts about that. It will be a price-fixing site in the sense that prices raised in Covent Garden will govern prices in other markets, but for centuries there has been trading in bulk and not in samples there and I do not believe that when the new site is provided traders can be persuaded to bring their samples and keep the bulk elsewhere. It is contrary to their training and practice over centuries. We shall find that in the new market bulk will be delivered, dealt with, and taken away after sale.

I ask the Minister to accept the Amendment. It is permissive and it extends the Authority's powers. It does not in any way restrict the Authority, or say that it must or must not go to the Covent Garden area.

I am happy to say that this point was not brought up in the Select Committee, otherwise we should have been unable to preserve the happy unanimity which we so strikingly showed. I cannot believe that this is a sound Amendment and I shall pray in aid the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), who referred to the great difficulty and the delay which would follow if the Authority had to look for a site for the annex.

There would be even more delay if it had to look for two sites. Although this is a permissive Amendment, and does not debar the Authority from carrying on the market where it is, the fact remains that it lays upon the Authority the obligation to look for another site and, therefore, it can lead only to delay in carrying out the object of the Bill.

Moreover, I am not ready to believe that this market should be removed. It has been there for 300 years and enormous good will has grown around it. I know that
"a rose,
By another name would smell as sweet,"
but Covent Garden will not be Covent Garden if the market is built at Ponders End. It is a market which is known throughout the world. It owes some thing to its name and it is well worth the effort to keep that name. There is an objection to having the market in the middle of a great town, but if we are to have a great fruit and vegetable market it must be in the middle of the town—

Paris is a much smaller town than London.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) adumbrated the idea that it should be removed to King's Cross, where there would be the necessary railway facilities.

Anyway, my hon. and learned Friend said that it should be removed to a place where there would be railway facilities, and I do not know of any other where those would be available.

I drew attention on Second Reading and in other debates to 44 acres of goods yards which are quite inadequately used at St. Marylebone and which would make an excellent site, with road and rail facilities and everything else available.

I was not aware that my hon. Friend had the concurrence of the British Transport Commission to the lack of use of these 44 acres, but as for King's Cross I think that it is "just not on"

The City of London announced to the Select Committee that negotiations had been successfully concluded with the Transport Commission for the use of this site at King's Cross for the transport of slaughterhouses from Islington.

My hon. Friend is in confusion, rather naturally because of the confusing evidence on that subject. What the witness intended to say was that the City Corporation had concluded the arrangements for Maiden Lane. My hon. Friend will see that on page 307 of the evidence.

5.0 p.m.

I can only base my statement on what the witness said. I said to the witness:

"I understood you to say in your evidence that negotiations with British Transport over the site at King's Cross have reached a successful conclusion…"
The answer to that was "Yes".

If my hon. Friend ill now turn to page 307 of the Report, he will see that the witness said that the City Corporation was interested in Maiden Lane and not in King's Cross.

The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) is correct. The City Corporation has almost concluded arrangements with the Transport Commission to take the site at Maiden Lane for the slaughterhouse, which is departing from Islington, much to my joy. The King's Cross site was a different site from that at Maiden Lane.

For all I know, the City Corporation may have decided to take two sites. But I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) that the witness was a shade confused under cross-examination, but I was not examining him, I was simply asking him a simple question. It led on to the question whether the City Corporation envisaged that the depôt, if it were available, should be handed over to the Covent Garden Authority. The answer to that was "No". It is unfair to expect the Authority to have any easy access to any alternative sites.

I am sorry to press this point, but it should be made clear that the City Corporation has no interest whatever in King's Cross. Its interest is confined to Maiden Lane. Nothing that it has done or intends to do, as far as I am aware, is likely to affect the King's Cross proposition.

I am not sure that my hon. Friend and I are talking about the same thing. Is not the site in Maiden Lane actually the goods site of King's Cross station, and on the tracks by the station? I do not think that there has been any proposal to move the station. But, passing from that point—which I will, if necessary, concede—the fact remains that it would be extremely difficult for the Authority to find any other site than Covent Garden. It would also be undesirable to throw away what is, as has been said, the world-renowned good will of this market. It will not be Covent Garden if it is somewhere else. I do not believe that the traffic congestion is anything like the problem which the traffic committee said that it would be.

My hon. Friend says "go and see," but the traffic conditions constitute a factor which we are endeavouring to alter. Out of the 30 acres for the market, between seven and 10 are to be devoted to accommodating vehicles which now stand in the roads all round, causing congestion. It is not the movement of traffic in or out of the market, but the traffic standing at the sides of the roads which causes the trouble. I do not believe that the market's daily total of 2,000 or 4,000 vehicles—which is only a tithe of the traffic using that area—is so great a factor in causing congestion, so long as those vhicles are not standing in the surrounding roads.

It would be regrettable to impose on the Authority the obligation to look for an extra site, even though it might take the obligation lightly—which I do not think that it should. It would be better if this Committee did not force it to consider other sites, having already given it the task of looking for a variety of sites.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) seems to have drawn a lot of red herrings across this Amendment. As I understand it, the object of the Amendment, which I support wholeheartedly, is to give the Authority, when it is set up, the opportunity, if it so desires, to look for another site. I do not agree with my hon. Friend's view on the traffic problem. Hon. Members who were present on Second Reading will remember that I laid great emphasis on the fact that I did not believe the Minister's figures were true. We have now been told that the figures we have been given during today's discussion are for the lightest part of the year, which justifies what I said on Second Reading.

The important aspect of this Amendment—which is the most vital Amendment of the Bill—is to give the Authority, when it is set up, the opportunity to look for an alternative site if it finds that the problem of traffic and transport in the Covent Garden area is almost impossible to solve. It is only right that the House should take that step. Perhaps it will be difficult to find an alternative site—no one denies that—but it is most important that the Authority should have the opportunity. I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept the Amendment, because many of us feel that it is vital to the Bill.

The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) has suggested that if this Amendment, which is an interesting one, were accepted, there would be an obligation on the Authority to look for an alternative site. I cannot see any such obligation.

I will make my speech. Perhaps the hon. Member may make another one later. There is no obligation involved. It would merely be a permissive power. There would be no obligation on the Authority to delay doing something about the market area while going all over London or in the country to look for a site. It would merely give it power to look if it wished so to do. The hon. Member for Rugby is reading too much into the Amendment if he suggests that it is imposing an obligation on the Authority to look for another site, coupling with that obligation a resulting delay before anything is done about the market. We should look at the Amendment as it is. If it means other than what I have suggested, then I am willing to be corrected.

I agree that this problem did not assert itself before the Select Committee, and in that respect we were fortunate that it did not do so. Therefore, that aspect was not examined by the Select Committee. Indeed, it was not possible for us to look into the question of an alternative site at King's Cross. As I understand the Clause, the Authority is confined to the Covent Garden area.

All of us will agree, I think, that it is desirable to have some kind of market at Covent Garden which will give a lead to all parts of the country and suggest the price-fixing mechanism. The suggestion was made by the Minister on Second Reading that if this Bill went through it would be possible even for the market to expand. That was part of his original Press statement. It would be a deplorable result of this Bill if that were to happen. It would be far more advantageous to the market and to London, with all its traffic problems, if the market contracted. But that is quite different from going away from Covent Garden. There should be a market there, perhaps for price fixing mechanism, but nothing more.

On Second Reading, the Government implied that they were adopting the Runciman recommendations by introducing this Bill. They were doing nothing of the kind. They were accepting half the proposals of the Runciman Committee and praying them in aid for their action. We heard evidence before the Select Committee of the transport chaos in London. The Report of the Commissioner of the Police was quoted several times on Second Reading. If the hon. Member for Rugby is not aware that on Second Reading the attention of everyone was drawn to traffic chaos in London, he has now been corrected by another hon. Member. I am sure he did not intend to give a wrong impression to the Committee.

Everyone agrees that there is considerable unnecessary chaos in this area at present. If the Bill goes through, I am sure that large numbers of stationary vehicles will be taken off the streets and will go into the building provided in the market. But I am not completely satisfied. If the Government have such confidence in Covent Garden Market area as being the best possible site for a market, why should they resist this Amendment? It is merely a permissive Amendment. It gives the chance to the Authority to say that it wishes to look for another site. The Authority would not be obliged to do so. If there is confidence that, having given these powers to the Authority, it will inevitably come to the conclusion that this is the one and only site it can use, there is no reason for the Government to resist the Amendment.

I am a little confused about this. We have heard from all the sup- porters of the Amendment how permissive it is and how it lays no sort of obligation on the Authority to do anything. Do not supporters of the Amendment accept that if it were carried there would be an obligation on the Authority to do something about looking for another site? If they do not expect the Authority to do anything, why do they proceed with the Amendment?

As the mover of the Amendment, perhaps I may be allowed to answer. The intention is that it should be permissive for the Authority, if on consideration it thinks it best to go elsewhere from Covent Garden, to be able to do so. As the Bill stands, although the Authority may think it better to go to another site, it cannot do anything but establish the market in the Covent Garden area.

I think that reply meets the point made by the hon. Member for Rugby. I was not a sponsor of the Amendment, but that was the impression conveyed to me by the proposer and by my reading of it. It would be purely permissive. The Authority could look for another site if it wished to do so, but it would not be compelled to do so. That is the nub of the Amendment. If the Government have such confidence in this area as the future place in which to invest a very large amount of money for ever, why should they seek to resist—if they do resist—the Amendment?

5.15 p.m.

I wish to support the Amendment. I cannot see what possible objection there can be to giving something which is permissive. Some powerful arguments have been advanced as to why this permission should be included in the Bill. It may be that the Covent Garden Authority when it is set up will find some exceedingly suitable site for an annex. It may be that in course of time that annex could be developed more ably as a Covent Garden Market centre than in the Covent Garden area itself.

I cannot see why permissive power should not be included in the Bill. Quite apart from the King's Cross site, there are sites which I have mentioned from time to time. There is the large area in St. Marylebone and the large area at Wembley which might be useful. There are large areas owned by the British Transport Commission which undoubtedly will become redundant in years to come. As the modernisation plan of the Commission takes place, goods vehicles will be much speedier and smaller numbers of goods vehicles will be required. Therefore, large goods areas will no longer be needed to handle the traffic. It may mean that in the next decade very suitable and convenient areas may be provided with rail, and perhaps road, facilities.

We should look very foolish if the Covent Garden Authority, during the course of its duties, found it was unable to develop Covent Garden activities elsewhere because there was no permissive provision in the Bill. For the reasons which have been advanced, I suggest that this opportunity should be given. All along, Westminster City Council has been greatly concerned at traffic congestion in its area. There have been petitions and representations about that congestion. It may be that if we removed the congestion caused by standing vehicles congestion would not be so great. There would still be a substantial number of vehicles coming to the centre of the city and going out again. That could be avoided if the market were established elsewhere.

Anything which can be done to remove congestion from the centre of London—which in the years to come is likely to increase rather than to decrease—must be an advantage. Therefore, if it is possible for the Covent Garden Authority to have permission, should it think it wise, to move elsewhere, that might be of greater benefit in reducing traffic congestion. For these and other reasons which have been advanced, I hope that the Government will give sympathetic consideration to this Amendment.

It appears that on the Government benches there is a belated doubt as to whether Covent Garden Market would be best left in its present position. Now, on Committee stage, a large number of Government supporters have come round to the view that perhaps, after all, it would be better if the market did not remain where it is. At long last, in Committee, it is thought that perhaps it was a mistake for the Government to decide that Covent Garden Market should remain in its present area.

When this matter was discussed on Second Reading, from this side of the House we advocated what has long been our policy, that the market should be moved to another site. Hon. Members opposite have now seen the wisdom of our policy and are wondering whether it is wise to leave the market where it is. They are seeking permission for the Authority to put it elsewhere if the Authority so desires.

If the hon. Member reads the Second Reading debate, he will see that a number of my hon. Friends held that view before.

That may be so, but now we have a concerted effort on the Government benches to move contrary to the express purpose of the Government on Second Reading. This seems to be rather unfair to the House and the Minister to put forward this project at this stage. It seems to me that, properly, it should have been brought up on Second Reading so that the matter could be considered at that stage. Now that the Minister and the Government have committed themselves in principle to Covent Garden Market not remaining where it now is, it is rather late for hon. Members to seek to give the Authority permission to find another site.

I suppose that this Amendment is in order, although it seems to be difficult to fit it in quite happily into the Long Title of the Bill.

The Amendment would not have been selected if it had not been in order. I would deprecate any repetition of the Second Reading debate upon it. It is very difficult to keep within the rules but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not indulge in another Second Reading speech.

I agree on the first point, Sir Godfrey, that it is in order. Obviously, it must be in order, having been selected. I have no intention of remaking the speech I made on Second Reading, but I am, I hope, speaking to the Amendment. I am saying that this Amendment and the idea behind it should more appropriately have been put before the House on Second Reading. The Amendment is in order, but there is a problem with the Long Title, as it is quite clear that the intention of the Government is that Covent Garden Market should be refashioned and modernised on its present site. Therefore, it seems to me that the Amendment is quite contrary to the Bill as it comes to us from the Select Committee and as we have it before us on Committee stage.

I should like first to refer to what has been said about some remarks I made during my Second Reading speech. First, my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) said that I prayed in aid the Runciman Committee, inferring that that Committee had recommended that Covent Garden Market should remain as it is and where it is, and that what we were doing was following the advice of the Runciman Committee. I would refer my hon. Friend to my Second Reading speech, which put beyond doubt what the situation actually is. I said:

"The Runciman Committee came to the conclusion that the national central Market should stay where it is, at Covent Garden, but be reduced in size and scope. It recommended that this should be done by diverting some of Covent Garden's trade with London retailers to a completely new market and to Brentford and Stratford Markets, which should be expanded for the purpose."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December, 1960; Vol. 631, c. 1281.]

I do not think that what my right hon. Friend said then is contrary to what I have said to him. I drew attention to that very fact, though perhaps I put the stresses in slightly different places. I think I have quoted him accurately.

I gathered that my hon. Friend had either misunderstood what I said or thought that I had in some way endeavoured to mislead the House in what he called "praying in aid" the Runciman Report in suggesting that the new Covent Garden Market should remain where it is. In fact, what I put to the House on Second Reading was in line with the Runciman Committee's recommendations.

Secondly, my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Turner), said that the figures I had given him had been shown not to be correct figures. I do not quite know what makes him think so. The figures I gave were from a census ordered from and carried out by a reputable firm used to carrying out such a census, which told us exactly how many vehicles were passing different points, how many were stationary and for how long, in the same way as anybody who wants to can have a census taken.

If my hon. Friend will remember, at an earlier stage it was pointed out that the census was taken at a time of the lowest peak of traffic during the whole year, and that was the very point I made. I did not accuse my right hon. Friend of giving wrong figures. These figures were perfectly correct at the time, but I say the time was badly chosen.

On the point of the lowest peak of traffic, we had this done in September, because it so happened that that was when we decided to have it done, not because we thought it was either the highest or the lowest peak of traffic. I assure my hon. Friend of that. As for the traffic peak, it may well be that there is four times as much imported produce going into Covent Garden in April as in September, and what is equally shown is that there are several times as much home-grown produce going through the market in September as there is in April. I suppose that to be absolutely accurate, one should have taken the census at various times of the year, but there is certainly much more home-grown produce traffic in September than in April, and certainly more imported produce going in the market during April than September.

Irrespective of whether it is home-produced or imported produce that goes through the market at that particular time, the interesting point is that the traffic engineer's own comment, in the report to the Minister, said:

"It is generally felt by traders in the Market that it is one of the quietest periods of the trading year, if not actually the quietest, irrespective of where the produce comes from."

I dare say that the number of lorries coming and going might have been greater if the census had been taken a month or two earlier, or even a month or two later, but I think the fact is broadly appreciated by every one who has studied the problem that the traffic problem within Covent Garden Market is not nearly so much that of the number of lorries passing through, but the length of time which they have to spend under present conditions waiting to unload or load and then getting out again after having been unloaded or loaded.

Indeed, I think I would accept the broad thesis of what lies behind the Amendment. It is this. Can we be sure that Covent Garden is the best place for this market? Would it not be better to leave it to the Authority to decide in the fullness of time, after considering it and with more care, where it should be? Now, the Government could have brought in, had they so desired, a Bill which left it completely open. It could have been done. It would have been a difficult Bill from the hybrid point of view, because people would not have known to what extent they would be affected, whether representations could be made and the like, but it could have been done. To this extent, the Bill now lays down that the annex can be elsewhere than at Finsbury. This has been amended by the Select Committee, and it is now up to the Authority to decide where the annex should go.

But where the Covent Garden Market is concerned, this is a big decision to take, a much bigger decision than that on where the annex is to be. Where is to be placed a central market which trades in millions of pounds worth of goods? Where should it be placed? Should it be where it has been for a long time in Covent Garden, or should it be moved outside? It was the Government's view that if we were to have it put outside, or let the Authority put it somewhere away from its present situation, we should have had to have given the Authority powers far beyond what the Authority is receiving in this Bill, because there was, to put it no higher than that, a risk that a number of the people now trading in Covent Garden, if they had to "upsticks" and go elsewhere, might have chosen to go across the river to the Borough Market, or to Spitalfields or elsewhere, and so created probably worse conditions of traffic congestion in those markets. We had to decide one way or the other.

5.30 p.m.

We either give the Authority far-reaching powers to control all markets and marketing arrangements throughout London, or we have to stipulate where the market is to be. If we do not give the Authority those powers, then we have to say that the market must be in or around that part of an area to which a large proportion of the tenants attach the greatest importance.

Furthermore, the Government felt, and I think that there is a measure of support for this in the Committee, that whether the market should be in Covent Garden or some other place is quite a big decision to take, and that it is the Government's duty to take it. The decision as to where the market is to be sited is not one to be left to an authority that has not yet been set up. It will be the Authority's job to run the market. If this Amendment were accepted, the House of Commons would be left with no power whatsoever to say where—in what part of the country, or inside or outside London—this most important market should be placed.

As I have said, the Government felt it their duty to stipulate where the market should be, and there are always arguments for and against any particular place named. I suppose that the easiest way out would be to do nothing and just let things go on, but the Government's view was that we should come to grips with the matter and that it was the Government's duty to stipulate where the market should be. It was decided that the market should remain at Covent Garden. I am sure that had we chosen any other place there would also have been arguments for and against that proposal.

My hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) said that there are certain areas of land which in some years' time will not be needed. Whenever a Bill of this kind is going through Parliament, one can always call such things as that in aid and say that the time is not far distant when new techniques will emerge which will mean that this and that will be available that are not available now. Nevertheless, from time to time a decision has to be taken—the chopper has to come down.

The Government have taken the view that the best arrangement is for the market to be rebuilt in its present area. I can put at rest the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe by saying that the Seven Dials area is within the area in which the building of a new market is permitted. As I have said, the effect of this Amendment would be to take away from the House the right to decide where the market shall be.

But I must also warn the Committee that if this Amendment were carried there is no doubt that the scope of the Bill would be enlarged. At the moment, the Bill limits the building of the new market to the Covent Garden area. That has been published, and all the petition procedure has been gone through with that in mind. There is no doubt that acceptance of this Amendment would enlarge the scope of the Bill, because we would be extending the places in which the market could be rebuilt to an unspecified number of sites. Although it is not for me to judge what would happen in another place, I think it virtually certain that the ruling there would be that Standing Orders had not been complied with, and, for that reason, the acceptance of this Amendment would be the end of the Bill.

I still believe it right—I have no qualms about it—that to rebuild within this area is the best arrangement. There are, of course, arguments for and against it, just as there would be arguments for and against siting it elsewhere. We believe it right that this Bill should tie the Authority to rebuilding within the present area. We do not think that the Authority should be able to do this work elsewhere except with the express sanction of Parliament.

If, as a result of their inquiries and of representations made to them the Authority thought that it would be better to have the market elsewhere, how could that be brought about? It could not be done under this Bill, but what the Authority could do would be to tell the Government of the day, "We have been into this very carefully. This is the particular site we want. It is, in our view, a better site than the Covent Garden site. From every point of view, we think that it will be a more satisfactory site."

The Authority could suggest that to the Government. That would be the second phase of the operation—quite some time ahead—and that suggestion would be given weighty consideration. It would involve legislation. It would not necessarily need a very long Bill, but it would involve legislation. I believe that to be only right, because it is Parliament that should decide whether this market, which plays such a great part in our life, should be where it is now proposed to have it or elsewhere.

I appreciate the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe, who made a forceful speech. It is very understandable that one should not wish to take such a big decision until all factors have been considered, but it is the duty of the House, by means of this Bill, to say where the market should be. But I can give the assurance that should the market Authority later say, "We think that you have made a mistake—this would be a much better site" that view would be given the Government's full consideration—

Before the Minister sits down, can he enlighten us on one thing? He said that if this Amendment were accepted it would be the end of the Bill in another place because Standing Orders had not been complied with. That is a rather important statement on which I should like him to enlighten us.

I do not think that I can enlighten the hon. Gentleman much more than I have done. I have said that it is not for me to judge what would happen in another place. Nevertheless, as Minister in charge of the Bill, it is my duty to point out the risks the Committee would be running were it to accept this Amendment. In my view, the Amendment would extend the scope of the Bill. That being so, as it is a hybrid Bill it would run the risk of being brought to an end.

But would not the same argument stand in regard to the annex proposal? That has been broadened as a result of the findings of the Select Committee, in that while the Finsbury site has been specifically deleted there now remains a general power for the Authority to look for an annex anywhere. As to the hybrid Bill proposals, there has not been any opportunity for people to make representations about any other site. I should have thought the same argument would apply to both, but I would be grateful for enlightenment.

The difference is that it is specified in Clause 16 (2) that the Authority shall provide facilities on the market lands but shall, as soon as practicable, take steps either to improve them or to provide

"in substitution therefor, better ones on other lands within the Covent Garden area".
The Amendment would extend this. Subsection (3) of the same Clause in the original Bill said
"…the Authority…shall not, without the sanction of the Minister, provide them elsewhere outside that Area than on the Finsbury lands"
In other words, it was not mandatory to provide them on the Finsbury lands, but there was power to go elsewhere by means of appealing to the Minister.

We can be certain that we shall not have heard the last of Covent Garden Market when the Bill becomes law, and I suppose that at some time someone will have to introduce legislation to cover all the markets in London, including Billingsgate and Smithfield, because of the traffic problems.

I recognise that the arguments about traffic are basically sound and no one can turn his back on them. The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) is to be congratulated on the way in which he put his point of view. His theory was rightly and properly expressed on Second Reading, but now that the Bill has returned to the Committee, after having been considered by a Select Committee, we are faced with the fact that it is a Bill to deal with the development of ten acres of land in Covent Garden over a period of about seven years, its purpose being to deal with the produce which goes in and out of London every day. There are to be traffic management committees and all the other paraphernalia associated with the site. It cannot be suddenly decided, that decision having been made, that the market is now to be built somewhere else. It would have been much better and more logical, especially after what my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) said on Second Reading, if the Bill had then been defeated.

Apart from the farmers and the producers and the middlemen and those who take the produce in and out of London, there are several thousand people who work at Covent Garden. They would be the first to agree that the planning of London is the first priority and that their interests must take second place. But when we discuss traffic congestion do not let us assume that Covent Garden is responsible for all London's traffic problems. If Covent Garden were closed down tonight, traffic conditions in London would still be chaotic. I have often heard the Minister of Transport talking about his gimmicks with parking meters and so on in his efforts to solve the problem, but someone some day will have to take some drastic measures, even possibly to the extent of saying that no private motorist should stop anywhere in the centre of London but should drive straight through, and that might include Covent Garden as well. We might be faced with that eventually, but at the moment we are concerned not with the future but with the Bill.

I appeal to the hon. Member for Wycombe not to press the Amendment to a Division, because that will destroy the original intention which was to make the market arrangements workable and the traffic committee one of which we could be proud. If I thought that we would never again get the chance to talk about Covent Garden, I would support the hon. Gentleman, but I am sure that we will hear much about this and other markets in London in the future.

5.45 p.m.

I find it difficult to understand the reasoning behind the speeches of the Minister and the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish). The hon. Member said that he would support me if he thought that this would be the last that he would hear of Covent Garden. The hon. Member is extremely optimistic if he thinks that anyone will come forward with another Bill suggesting that Covent Garden be built elsewhere if, in the fulness of time, it is found that it should not have been retained where it is now.

The time may come, in the next ten or fifteen years, when a great deal of London will have to be entirely rebuilt and when we may not have to confine ourselves to Covent Garden but rebuild the entire dock industry, for instance, at a cost of millions of £s.

That may be, but at the moment we are discussing Covent Garden and we have to confine ourselves to it.

It is absurd that we should spend £20 million on an authority to re-establish the market in the centre of London only to find in ten or fifteen years that we would have to have another Bill establishing the market somewhere else. The Minister seems to be perturbed lest by this, to me, innocuous Amendment some power is taken from the House and the Authority decides on its own responsibility to put the market other than in the Covent Garden area. I point out to my right hon. Friend—I have worded it rather carefully—that the Amendment says:
"or any other approved site".
so that the Minister himself would have to approve the authority's action.

If he studies Clauses 17 and 18, he will see that a good deal of power has been given to the Authority outside the control of the House. In Clause 17 the Authority is required to ensure that the area of Covent Garden is reduced so
"as not to exceed ten acres at the expiration of the period of seven years…"
although the Minister retains to himself the right to lay an Order before the House to vary that period. Under Clause 18 (2) the Authority has the widest powers, akin to that of a nationalised industry, which place it outside the control of the House.

Earlier on, the Minister himself pointed out that we were not entitled to ask Questions about the day-to-day working of the Authority any more than we are about any other nationalised industry. I find it hard to accept the argument that the fact that the Authority might decide to fix upon a site other than within the Covent Garden area is something to be deplored because that would place the Authority outside the control of the House. It would still be within the control of the Minister and, if he felt it better, we could make the procedure subject to an affirmative Resolution. I have heard nothing from either Front Bench speaker to persuade me to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

I beg to move, in page 11, line 7, to leave out "outside" and to insert "inside".

I am sure that the Minister will feel happier about this Amendment than he did about the last one. He may be able to accept it because, unlike the last one, it is designed to keep the activities of the market within the area shown on the map.

Under Clause 16, certain duties and powers will be laid on the Authority. Under subsection (1), the new Authority will be required to improve the existing facilities and arrangements in Covent Garden. We wish the Authority well in that. Whatever view we take about any part of the Bill, and however much we might disagree about the basic concept behind it, now that the Bill has reached this stage I am sure that we all agree that there is much scope for the new Authority to clear up some of the chaos which exists at present in Covent Garden and to eliminate as far as it can much of the unnecessary traffic in the market.

Subsection (3) lays on the Authority the duty to provide, as soon as practicable, adequate facilities for storage, and it specifies that these storage facilities shall be provided as far as practicable outside the Covent Garden area. It is on that point that I invite the Minister to consider the Amendment. We think that the Authorty would be well advised to provide these facilities within the area laid down as the Covent Garden area. It would be a mistake if the Authority unnecessarily spread itself outside the designated area.

It will be many years before Covent Garden functions merely as a gigantic showroom for samples of fruit and vegetables. For many years it will have to continue under the present arrangements, and only gradually will the Authority be able to eliminate many of the activities which are at present carried on in the market.

For many years it will be necessary to provide storage facilities within the Covent Garden area for many commodities. I am not referring to commodities such as potatoes, vegetables, oranges and apples in bulk. Those commodities can be kept at the docks or at the annex, if and when one is found. For some time it will be necessary for the Authority to provide facilities for the storage of perishable fruit, exotic flowers, and so on. I hope that the Minister will agree that it is sensible to ask the Authority to provide facilities for the storage of the more exotic produce within the area of the market. We do not wish to encourage sprawl. We want storage facilities to be provided within the area laid down on the map.

Whether the Authority provides storage facilities inside or outside the area depends on the Authority's judgment as to the practicability of providing such facilities. If the Amendment were accepted, it would encourage the new Authority to keep its arrangements tidy and condensed. It would encourage the economic use of the space available within the market, and at the same time it would prevent the Authority from providing storage facilities outside the market that even if it thought that that was the practical thing to do.

I hope that the Minister will realise that the Amendment will not make any considerable difference to the duty which the Bill seeks to lay on the Authority. It will merely act as a guide to the Authority in the provision of storage facilities. I hope that the Minister will accept the Amendment.

In an earlier discussion I referred to the confusion in people's minds between the provision of facilities in the annex for the storage of produce intended to be dealt with in bulk, and the provision of facilities for the storage of containers. I hope that the Minister will cover those two points when dealing with the Amendment.

The arguments for having space for the storage of horticultural produce to be dealt with in bulk are different from those for having facilities for the storage of containers. I am concerned about the storage containers if they are to be provided outside the area of Covent Garden. We come back to the point about the shuttle service of lorries which would obviously increase expense. We should examine what is done in foreign markets—

Royal Assent

6.0 p.m.

Whereupon The GENTLEMAN-USHER OF THE BLACK ROD being come with a Message, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair.

Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.

Message to attend the Lords Commissioners;

The House went:and, having returned;

Mr. SPEAKER reported the Royal Assent to:

  • 1. White Fish and Herring Industries Act, 1961.
  • 2. National Health Service Act, 1961.
  • 3. Mersey Tunnel Act, 1961.
  • 4. Allhallows Staining Churchyard Act, 1961.
  • 5. Rio Tinto Rhodesian Mining Limited Act, 1961.
  • 6. Shell Brazil Act, 1961.
  • 7. Winchester Cathedral Close Act, 1961.
  • 8. Clerical, Medical and General Life Assurance Act, 1961.
  • 9. Great Northern London Cemetery Company Act, 1961.
  • 10. Lancashire Quarter Sessions Act, 1961.
  • Covent Garden Market Bill


    Again considered in Committee.

    [Mr. GEORGE THOMAS in the Chair]

    Question again proposed, That "outside" stand part of the Clause.

    I was at the point of saying that this Amendment is designed to delete the word "outside" and to substitute the word "inside". I had sought to distinguish between the bulk storage facilities required for goods to be sold, and the storage facilities required for empty containers.

    Not only is it desirable that this storage space should be inside Covent Garden, but it should also be remembered that there would be a great increase in costs if lorries had to move from one place to another, as they would have to do, if the containers were stored outside the area. The experience of foreign markets is that storage facilities for containers should, as far as possible, be inside a market.

    No technical difficulties arise out of doing this because this is a diminishing problem. I have been able to get some figures on this subject which show that in the last four years the number of returnable wooden boxes has declined by 50 per cent. in the Covent Garden area, and inevitably this trend will continue. Not only do buyers prefer non-returnable boxes—because they are far less trouble, as is the case with canned beer, the sale of which is expanding because the cans can be disposed of, while bottles must be returned—but the growers are willing to meet the demands of the buyers.

    Further, non-returnable cases will become cheaper, compared with their returnable wooden counterparts, as the packaging industry develops and as cartons and laminated wooden containers, which are extremely light, become cheaper. In the Covent Garden area twelve large companies announced during the past year that they would no longer use wooden returnable containers.

    For the reasons I have advanced, I hope that the Minister will distinguish between storage for one purpose and storage for the other.

    6.15 p.m.

    I must first of all answer the points that have been raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) who urged me to differentiate on the one hand between the storage of empty boxes used for home produce, and the storage of imported produce in bulk on the other. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are not laying down or imposing too rigidly on the Authority what it should do with one, as opposed to the other.

    We are saying that the Authority should provide storage facilities, so far as is practicable, outside the area. We have also pointed out that empty containers represent a fire risk to the Covent Garden area and should, as far as practicable, be stored outside, along with bulk produce. But we have not differentiated between the two. I agree that the trend is away from returnable boxes and towards the non-returnable types and that more and more firms are coming round to that point of view.

    The hon. Member for Lincoln gave some figures. I should like to give some more. Two years ago the floor space in the Covent Garden area occupied by empty boxes was 8½ acres. In the last two years that has fallen by 25 per cent. and it is still going down. But the space occupied by empty containers is still quite formidable, and it also represents a considerable fire risk.

    Although I agree with the hon. Member for Lincoln that the trend is away from returnable containers, and that the need to store containers in any quantity will not be as great in three or four years' time as it is to day, it is nevertheless necessary to realise the considerable fire risk, about which the L.C.C. has been very concerned.

    We must grapple with this problem and, at the same time, we want to ease the pressure in the Covent Garden area. The figure of 8½ acres of floor space for the storage of containers show that there is a considerable waste of important space in the centre of London. The storage of containers still creates a problem which will be with us for a good while to come, and it is better that they should be stored outside, rather than inside.

    This brings me to the point made by the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans). He seeks by his Amendment to substitute the word "inside" for the word "outside"—in other words, to ensure that what storage is possible should be done inside. We say that, "so far as practicable", it should be done outside. In our view, the hon. Gentleman's approach runs counter to what we are aiming at here. We are trying to relieve pressure on Covent Garden. We see the need to keep the market there. We should like it to become much more a market dealing in samples, if than can be done, so that the amount of ground covered may be smaller and so that fewer vehicles will have to go into the area. So far as possible, we wish to decrease the pressure on the Covent Garden area.

    It would completely change the whole trend and gist of our thoughts and intentions if we were to accept the Amendment and to impose on the Authority the obligation to keep as much of its storage as it could within the Covent Garden area. The Amendment represents a fundamentally different approach, and I must tell the Committee that I cannot recommend it.

    The extent to which storage is made available will, of course, be something which it would be wise to leave to the Authority to decide when it looks to the future and takes all the advice that it can. It is not something which we should lay down. Nevertheless, I think it is right in principle that the storage facilities we are considering here should be outside the area. We have not forced the Authority to go outside the area. There is the saving expression "so far as practicable" which, I think, protects the Authority from being forced to go outside for all such purposes. However, the inference is there that the object of the Clause is that, when the Authority establishes its storage facilities, it should in doing so relieve pressure so far as possible within the market precincts and the Covent Garden area.

    I hope that the hon. Member will, on reflection, be prepared to withdraw his Amendment.

    I follow the Minister's line of thought, and, substantially, I agree with him. We wish, so far as practicable, to take away bulk produce from Covent Garden. I accept that approach to the matter. At the same time, the Authority, while aiming at taking bulk produce out of Covent Garden so far as practicable, will have to provide storage facilities for a great range of different items of produce and for some containers for a long time to come. I am sure that the market tradesmen, the dealers and the buyers, will expect the Authority to provide adequate storage facilities for certain items of produce which may come in and go out quite quickly—perishable or valuable items which normally are not in large bulk.

    In order to encourage the Authority to give an adequate service in the Market while that service is required there, we should leave the Authority with the choice, encouraging it to keep inside those things which have to be kept inside and, of course, all the time leaving it free to use its own judgment in doing it so far as practicable.

    However, I can see the Minister's point and, basically, I think that he may be right. If the Amendment were accepted and the word "inside" were inserted, the Authority might, perhaps, take that as meaning that it should do very little in the way of shifting bulk produce outside. In the light of the Minister's explanation, I think that my hon. Friends will agree that the sensible course is for me to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

    I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    I beg to move, in page 11, line 7, at the end to insert:

    "but not in any circumstances within the Metropolitan Borough of Islington".

    I think that it would be wise to consider with this Amendment the Amendment in Clause 19, page 14, line 16, at the end to insert:

    Provided that this Act shall not confer on the Minister or on the authority any powers of compulsory acquisition of land in the Metropolitan Borough of Islington.

    Yes, Mr. Thomas, I think that would be very convenient because the two Amendments hang together.

    As the Committee will appreciate, these two Amendments have been put down because a matter of vital concern to the inhabitants of the Borough of Islington is raised by them. It is necessary to say that and to tell the Committee a little of the history of the matter, for this reason. For some years, there was a risk that Covent Garden Market, or at any rate part of it, that is, that part with which we are now dealing—sometimes referred to as the annex—might be moved to Islington to the site or part of the site owned and occupied by the City Corporation for nearly a hundred years used as a cattle market. It was subsequently used as a pedlars' market. The Committee may be surprised to learn that the site covers an area of about 43 acres in the heart of London. Approximately half of it has remained derelict since the end of the war, the other half being used for abattoirs and allied purposes.

    For a long time, it has been the hope and desire of the people of Islington that the whole of that site should be acquired from the City Corporation and used for social purposes requiring very urgent attention in Islington, partly for housing, partly for schools and partly for open space. Recently, the planning officer of the London County Council said:
    "Islington is the second lowest deficiency area of London for open space. Islington is short of 400 acres of open space …. The potential changes which can take place in Islington concern over 48 acres of a most blighted part of London, or rather a most disgraceful part of London under modern requirements".
    He added:
    "The housing position is so severe that in a comprehensive piece of planning here over 1,650 people can be rehoused".
    He was opposing any suggestion that any part of this area should be used for any purpose connected with Covent Garden requirements.

    This matter was the subject of considerable controversy on a Bill debated in the House two years ago. I shall refer to that in a moment, but I feel it necessary to introduce the matter at this stage because Clause 16 has been amended by the Select Committee. When the Bill came before us on Second Reading, certain words which are now omitted appeared at the end of subsection (3). After the words "Covent Garden Area", the subsection then read as follows:
    "but they"
    that is to say, the Authority—
    "shall not, without the sanction of the Minister, provide them"—
    that is to say, the facilities—
    "elsewhere outside that Area than on the Finsbury lands".
    6.30 p.m.

    As long as those words were in the Bill, any risk that part of the Covent Garden Market operations might be transferred to any part of Islington was nil. I hope that there is no such risk, but I move the Amendment in the hope that the Minister will be able to give the people of Islington, who are very concerned about the matter, the assurance which they seek.

    It is necessary to refer to the history of the matter for this reason. I could quite understand the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe) in seeking the deletion from the Bill of any specific reference to the Finsbury lands, but my hon. Friend gave evidence before the Select Committee urging, quite properly, why he and the people of Finsbury thought that the Finsbury lands should not be specifically designated. What disturbed me was part of my hon. Friend's evidence which appears on page 148 of the Report of the Select Committee. He was asked to give reasons why the Finsbury lands should be deleted and whether he thought that any better site than the Finsbury lands was available for the annex. I quote from page 148 of the Select Committee's Report. My hon. Friend was asked:
    "Can I get this agreement from you, Alderman Cliffe, that it is going to be very difficult for anybody to find the ideal site?"
    My hon. Friend's answer was:
    "I think it is going to be impossible in Central London, but I think that there are other places considerably better than the one now being proposed.
    Then came the following questions and answers:
    "Q. Which do you suggest are better? Well, I think—
    Q. The Barking one you have referred to?"
    My hon. Friend replied:
    "Caledonian Market, for example."
    My hon. Friend gave reasons why he considered Caledonian Market the appropriate site for the annex.

    I must say, I was surprised to read that. Evidence given before a Select Committee obviously does not receive as much publicity as do proceedings in the House of Commons. It is therefore desired by my constituents and by those of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) that we should try to get the position concerning Islington clear. The best way to do that would be to add words to the Bill expressly denying to the Authority the right in any circumstances to acquire land in Islington—by that, of course, I mean the Caledonian Market site—for the purposes of the annex.

    In view of the chequered history of the negotiations over the last few years, I do not particularly want to be put off by certain assurances that it is not the present intention, either of the Authority or of the City Corporation, to make the Caledonian Market site available for the annex. I appreciate that it has been stated—I want to quote it to have it on the record—that at the moment it is not intended to use the Caledonian Market site.

    On two occasions, however, the City Corporation promoted Bills in the House of Commons, in the 1957–58 and 1958–59 Sessions, to enable the Corporation, among other things, to have statutory power to use the Caledonian Market site for the storage of empty containers and of fruit and vegetables in bulk to be sold by sample. Those Bills had a curious history. The first was dropped because of certain opposition to it. The second Bill, in the 1958–59 Session, contained in Clause 9 a request that Parliament should give the City Corporation powers to use the Caledonian Market for these purposes, unlimited in time according to the content of the Bill when deposited. That Bill was opposed by the London County Council and by the Islington Borough Council.

    The then Minister of Agriculture had certain observations to make about it. He took the view that it was desirable that the Caledonian Market, belonging to the City Corporation, should be used temporarily for the purpose of storage of containers. Further negotiations followed and the then Minister subsequently changed his mind. Despite the opposition of the London County Council, the Minister suggested to the City Corporation that it should use part of the Caledonian Market area not only for the storage of containers but also for the storage of fruit and vegetables to be sold in bulk.

    It was said by the Minister at that time that it was intended merely as a temporary provision. It was opposed by the traders on the ground that it would have been inconvenient for them to move temporarily to the Caledonian Market. They therefore brought pressure to bear with a view to the Caledonian Market site at Islington being used, not temporarily, but permanently as the annex.

    Those propositions were vehemently contested in the House of Commons by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West and by myself, as well as by others. Although considerable pressure was brought by the London County Council at that time because the council thought that some temporary accommodation in Islington was desired, eventually my hon. Friends and I withdrew our opposition to parts of the City Corporation's Bill in a compromise which is now contained in the City Corporation Act and which provides that, in so far as the City Corporation has power under its 1959 Act to provide market storage facilities on any part of the lands in the Borough of Islington forming part of the Metropolitan Cattle Market, those powers shall cease on the expiration of four years from the passing of the Act. That was the agreement reached in 1959, that if there was to be any use of the Caledonian Market site for temporary storage facilities, it should be deliberately confined to the period of four years from 1959, two years of which have already expired.

    Subsequently the Minister found the Finsbury site and designated it as the annex in the Bill. There may well be objections to this site, but as long as it was designated the people of Islington had no more worries. My hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) well knows the requirements of the people of London and he knows that Islington is starved of housing accommodation and open space, and that these 43 acres are ripe for development.

    Subsequently, there was an application by the City Corporation for permission to develop part of the site, and there was an inquiry by the Minister of Housing and Local Government. The City Corporation's application was turned down, and in his report the Inspector said that the land in this area was needed for the recreational, educational and residential needs of the district. He said that this is one of the largest areas of land, disused or not used to capacity in Islington, and indeed in the inner area of London, and that it affords a rare opportunity for large-scale comprehensive development. In the interests not only of Islington but of London it would be a tragedy if it were thought that there was any possibility of this valuable site of 43 acres in the middle of London not being used for comprehensive redevelopment for social purposes.

    I want to draw a distinction between the City Corporation and the Market Authority. I acknowledge that the City Corporation has this theoretical right for another two years, but it has stated to the Select Committee that it has abandoned any claim to use any part of the Islington site. It is desirable to have that on record. Mr. Geoffrey Lawrence, speaking with the full authority of the City Corporation, as reported in column 294 of the Minutes of Evidence, said:
    "Before I come to that, I should just wind up what I want to say about the Islington site, because it is important, I think, that the Committee should know it. We have now come to an agreement"—
    that is, the City Corporation—
    "with the London County Council on the subject of the abattoir. We have agreed that if a new site for the abattoir and its allied trades can be found at Maiden Lane, which Mr. Dockeray referred to the other day…and satisfactory financial terms can be agreed, we shall be prepared to hand over the whole of the Islington site to the London County Council. Negotiations are still in progress but I have to say that the Corporation has now, in the light of what has happened, given up all idea of using Islington for market storage purposes."
    That is satisfactory as far as the City Corporation is concerned. We do not want to find that, although the City Corporation has abandoned all idea of using the Islington site, the Market Authority comes along and thinks that it has some right to do so. The Minister may tell me that I am worrying about nothing. If he does, so much the better, but I have learned in the last three or four years that one cannot be too sure about all these things and that it is better to take every possible precaution.

    For the record, I would point out that the City Corporation's right under its Act to use the site temporarily for the next few years does not extend to the Market Authority. It is not transferable. It was a right given by Parliament to the City Corporation, but it cannot be transferred to the Market Authority by lease, tenancy or in any other way. That should be stated. It was given to the City Corporation to use and not to grant a lease for someone else to use it.

    I want these words added to the Bill to make it quite clear that the long-fought battle which has been waged to save the Caledonian Market area for the benefit of the people of Islington will not be lost and that there need be no fear that the Market Authority in this amended Bill will purport to have a right to look at this site as a possible annex. For those reasons I hope that the Minister will accept the Amendment.

    6.45 p.m.

    I am sorry to intervene at this stage when the Minister was about to reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), and I will be brief. We regret that we have to take the Committee's time on this matter. It is a local matter, we agree, but my hon. Friend reminded the Committee that the struggle over the use of the Islington cattle market site took place two years ago and that, as a result of long discussions in the House and in Select Committee, a decision was reached.

    We were given by the Minister at that time an assurance that he did not intend to use the Caledonian Cattle Market site for the storage of produce and containers. Following a Question put to the then Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, a representative of the Ministry told the Select Committee two years ago that it was not the intention of the then Minister to use this site in connection with Covent Garden. That definite assurance was given two years ago.

    The assurance was given by somebody from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Select Committee which dealt with this Bill that the Caledonian Cattle Market was not to be considered for this purpose. I quote from page 221 of the Minutes of Evidence. Mr. Norman Robert Culmore Dockeray, who I understand is one of the Minister's chief advisers, told the Select Committee,
    "do not think there is any prospect whatever of the Caledonian Market site being made available for this purpose."
    That is, the purpose of the storage of produce and containers. He added,
    "It could be used, of course, for a short period up to, I think, 29th July, 1963."
    We know that this is so under the powers granted to the City Corporation. The next question was,
    "But nobody would feel justified in spending a large sum of money in building any permanent storage there, because in the long term it is generally accepted that it is to be used for those other public purposes you referred to?"
    He replied, "Yes". Those other purposes are for houses, schools and so on. We have thus twice had from the Ministry a definite assurance that there is no intention of using the site of the Islington Cattle Market for the purposes of storage in connection with Covent Garden.

    It would save us a lot of concern, it would save the Minister a heated battle, which he would have if he were ever to contemplate taking that site, and it would save the new Authority much pondering about the matter, if he would now either accept the Amendment or give the assurance, which has been given on two previous occasions, that it is not his intention to approve any move by the new Authority to take the Islington cattle market site for storage purposes.

    I have been quoted as saying that it might be a good idea if the Caledonian Market were reconsidered. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) has taken my remarks a little out of context. Compared with the Caledonian Market, it would be perfectly ludicrous to choose for the site the junction of Old Street and City Road. It would be ludicrous to consider that a more suitable or desirable site. I repeat what I said before, that as an alternative to that site Caledonian Market obviously would be a much more suitable place. I simply refer hon. Members to what was said on the matter in the Select Committee.

    In Shoreditch and Finsbury we did not adopt an entirely parochial attitude towards this, as a matter affecting Shoreditch and Finsbury only. There was no serious objection from that point of view. Wherever there is a civilised community nowadays a market is an acceptable feature of normal life. It was the site suggested to which there was the strongest possible objection. That was why we raised the objections we did and went to the lengths we did.

    I support the contentions which have been submitted by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher). His borough is adjacent to my constituency, and I know the difficulties there have been in that borough. I know that there they have had to introduce a certain housing policy, which few of the other London boroughs have had to do, because of scarcity of land. I hope that the Amendment will be accepted because there is a desperate need of land for other purposes than this.

    The attitude taken by hon. Members opposite intrigues me. The hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe), now that he has got his lands in Finsbury struck out of the Bill, is quite prepared to accept an Amendment to ensure that on no account should the site be in Islington, but when the Finsbury lands were at risk what was his attitude? It was, "What is wrong with the Caledonian Market? That will be perfectly all right." I agree that it was not as a member of this Committee that he said that, but under the synonym of Alderman Michael Cliffe.

    That is not strictly true. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to point to any record of my making a statement like that. Can he point to any record of my saying that it should go to the Caledonian Market?

    It was what the hon. Member read out from some column of the Report of the Select Committee's proceedings which is not readily avail able to me. What he said was some thing very near to what I said he said. I do not think that I have misinterpreted—

    —the aims, speeches or methods used by the hon. Member. So there we are.

    The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), moving the Amendment, made, I thought, as is his wont, a speech of considerable advocacy which would have been very much in place had it been at an inquiry as to whether or not a site to which the Authority might like to go should be designated for its purposes. Of course, then it would not have been so readily available to his constituents as was the one he has made today. A very good one it was, too, but with great respect to him, I do not think that this is the time he need bother to make such a speech.

    Why so? For this reason. What happened upstairs was a discussion on whether the annex was or was not going to Finsbury. Upstairs, the Select Committee took out all reference to Finsbury lands and put Finsbury on all-fours with every other borough. That is what happened. That was the object. The object of the Select Committee would be completely thwarted if we were to accept the hon. Member's Amendment and therefore put one borough in a different position from the others. I do not think that this Committee would want to be too much mesmerised by the hon. Member's advocacy to the extent of accepting his Amendment, which would make Islington different from a lot of other boroughs which equally, I am sure, feel very strongly about this. Yet the Amendment would do just that. It would run counter to the spirit and intention of the Select Committee. I do not think that that is what this Committee as a whole would want.

    What is really behind this is not just Islington as a whole. What the hon. Member really means is the Caledonian Market. That, really, is not for me. It is open to the Authority to apply in the normal way for planning permission for wherever it may choose to want to go. I cannot give the hon. Member an assurance here and now as to what will be built on the Caledonian Market. It is not my place to. It is not the Government's place to. This will go through the normal planning procedure.

    What I can tell the hon. Member—this is only the information I have acquired from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government—is that, as I understand it, the L.C.C. has already submitted proposals to my right hon. Friend for the use of that market for the purposes as he says, of open spaces, schools, and housing. I can only say, from what I have heard, that it seems very unlikely that it would be used differently. I say that from what I have heard, but I do not think that we can write that into the Bill or say in the Bill that the site should not be in one borough or one place. The hon. Member need not fear therefore that the site will necessarily be in that particular market, but he will understand that it is not for me to give an absolute, flat assurance as to what will be there. From all the information I have received it looks to me very unlikely that it would be in that particular place.

    The right hon. Gentleman ought not to get so excited about the attitude of my hon. Friends, nor should he be surprised, because it is typical of Labour Members to fight for their constituencies and their constituents' interests—although I should like to get it on the record that I do not agree with very much of what my hon. Friends have said today. However, no one living in Islington or Shoreditch or Finsbury can be anything but proud of his Member who represents him here.

    My hon. Friends' line, quite frankly, is this: "We do not care where this goes so long as it does not come to Islington or Shoreditch or Finsbury". The Amendment is moved to protect Islington's interests. I admire my hon. Friends for that, but I shall not support them, I say frankly, because what would the Amendment mean in effect? It would mean that this site could be in any other Metropolitan area—perhaps my own—where it might be equally unwise to put it.

    There is reason in what my hon. Friend is saying, but surely he cannot object to the Minister's reaffirming the statement made about the cattle market by his predecessors? All I am asking is that the Minister should reaffirm the statement, which has come from the Ministry on two occasions, that it is not intended to use the Islington cattle market for storage purposes.

    7.0 p.m.

    I do not mind what the Minister reaffirms if it helps my hon. Friend. All I say to him is that I do not believe that an Amendment of this kind is of any benefit to the other twenty-six Metropolitan boroughs. We all have the same deep-rooted objection. If the Authority decides to have an outside annex then it has to go through a great deal of procedure. I repeat for the record that I warn the Authority that most of us in London regard it as terrifying that any land which is needed for housing and for the rest of London's problems should be used for this purpose. I hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw the Amendment. If he does not, then, acting in the name of the constituents of Bermondsey, I will oppose it.

    I have listened carefully to what the Minister said. I am not in the least intimidated by what my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) has said. I appreciate the technical difficulty of putting an Amendment in the Bill which appears to make an exception of a particular borough. However, I think that the Amendment has served its object. It has at any rate served the object that I had in mind. It has ventilated the matter and has extracted from the Minister what I regard as a useful statement of the position. Therefore, with the consent of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans), I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 17—(Duty Of The Authority To Have Regard To Public Interest, And Objects To Be Attained By Them)

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

    I told hon. Members earlier that if an Amendment of note and importance to a Clause had been made by the Select Committee I would draw attention to it. Under this Clause, there is an Amendment to subsection (1) which requires the Authority to reduce the area of land in the Covent Garden area used for marketing purposes to not more than ten acres and to do the job within seven years. We regard this as reasonable and we see no reason why the target should not be achieved. The Authority has the right to come to the Minister so that the Minister may lay an order if seven years did not prove enough, but we have no reason to suppose that either of these figures will not be sufficient.

    I take it that the 30 acres which the market is sited on now will be reduced to ten and that the remaining 20 acres will be available for other purposes?

    Yes. I should not like to be specific as to how many acres will be freed, but the market will be now concentrated into ten acres.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 18—(Additional Functions Of The Authority)

    I beg to move, in page 13, line 25, to leave out subsection (2).

    If words continue to have any meaning, it seems to me that subsection (2) provides the Authority with powers which cannot be justified. That is why I seek to have the subsection deleted from the Clause. The subsection states:
    "The Authority shall have power to do any thing and to enter into any transaction…which in their opinion is calculated to facilitate the proper discharge of their duties"—
    and the Authority's duties are referred to earlier in the Clause—
    "or to facilitate the exercise of any of their powers under the foregoing provisions of this section, or is incidental or conducive thereto."
    I should like to remind the Committee of the powers which the Clause provides to the Authority under subsection (1). Paragraph (a) gives the Authority power to provide vehicles, plant and machinery for transport purposes; paragraph (b)
    "to provide plant and machinery for accelerating or retarding the ripening of horticultural produce",
    and so on; paragraph (c)
    "to provide plant and machinery for washing or cleansing";
    paragraph (d)
    "to provide, or secure that there is provided,…rest rooms, canteens, washing facilities"
    and so on; paragraph (e)
    "to provide…facilities for enabling persons to carry on, at the place where the Authority are providing market facilities, business consisting of",
    etc. Then comes paragraph (f), which might be called the "etc. paragraph" which provides the Authority with power
    "to carry on all such other activities as it may appear to the Authority to be requisite, advantageous or convenient for them to carry on for or in connection with the discharge of their duties or with a view to making the best use of any of their assets."
    I suggest that this is a very all-embracing subsection. It gives power to the Authority to do virtually anything that it might feel it its duty to do. Even subsection (1) might be too broadly drawn, but the purpose of the Amendment is to delete subsection (2), which I believe is wholly unnecessary and undesirable.

    This is a nationalisation Measure on a small scale. We are setting up an Authority and providing it with certain obligations and powers, such as the power to borrow money. It will be able to enjoy advances from my right hon. Friend up to a limit of £8 million, as is specified in Clause 40. Parliament ought to define much more precisely than the Clause defines the limits of the Authority's powers. I believe that it is undesirable as a matter of principle that we should draft a Bill in these terms. Unless words have ceased to have any meaning, subsection (2) is either unnecessary or undesirable. I suggest that probably it is both. As subsection (1, f) empowers the Authority
    "to carry on all such activities as it may appear to the Authority to be requisite",
    I cannot understand the necessity for subsection (2).

    This is essentially a point of principle which I think deserves my right hon. Friend's attention. Surely we are concerned with defining what the Authority is empowered to do with public money in the public interest. Surely we should not give it a blank cheque and carte blanche as these provisions do. If one subsection is necessary, then I submit that the other is unnecessary. I hope that I carry hon. Members with me by saying that if we want to write Parliament's intention into Bills then we should attempt to define much more closely what these powers should be and not to divest ourselves of responsibility, which we are bound to do by giving powers which are as wide and ill-defined as the provisions of subsection (1, f) and the unnecessary subsection (2).

    I urge my right hon. Friend not to brush my Amendment aside. I regret that a Conservative Government have permitted a subsection such as subsection (2) to appear in a Bill. I am not seeking to be partisan. This has not been that sort of debate. I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept the Amendment in view of his earlier attitude when he said that it was undesirable that the duties and, presumably, the powers of the Authority should be unduly extended. I bow to any hon. and learned Member who can read something into these words which a layman cannot appreciate. I hope that hon. Members appreciate the point that I am trying to make, namely, that subsection (2) will permit the Authority to do virtually anything that it pleases. I cannot imagine how any provision could give it greater powers. I urge my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to take the point that I am making, which is essentially different from the constituency points which have been made earlier. In saying that I make no criticism of those points.

    We are certainly not talking about nationalised concerns. The Minister has reminded us that the Authority is very much akin to the Port of London Authority. This is a public authority to run Covent Garden. It has the support of those employed in the market and also of the employers. Unfortunately—as I would say—there is nothing in the Bill which will take away from the rights of those who trade there. They will have much the same facilities as they have enjoyed in the past.

    The hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Leavey) should get his facts right. This is a genuine attempt to get the market organised in a better way. I am always surprised that when Conservative Members are dealing with a public body of any kind they are inclined to hurt that body and not give it a chance and then are the first to attack it for not doing its job.

    The words of the subsection are:
    "…or in connection with the discharge of their duties or with a view to making the best use of any of their assets."
    Into these words are read the most terrifying and appalling things. This is a public body trying to do its job, and now we are told that we must delete these words and not give the Authority the opportunity to do it.

    The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. He is referring to Clause 18 (1, f), whereas my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Leavey) was drawing attention to subsection (2) which is rather different.

    The trouble with the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) is that he has made up his mind so much that he was not even listening to his hon. Friend. Of course I know what Amendment is being moved. The hon. Member for Heywood and Royton wants to delete subsection (2) because of what is contained in subsection (1, f). He made that point emphatically and said that if subsection (2) is removed it makes that power ineffective. He said that the subsection would give the Authority money and power to do all sorts of things to which he objected. I know exactly what the hon. Member said, and I know his intentions exactly.

    In setting up a public authority of this kind, we must give it a chance to do its job reasonably well. We ought to have the opportunity at least once a year of discussing not only this authority but all public authorities, including the nationalised industries about which the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton gets so worked up. If I had my way, we would discuss them more and more. There is no question of state ownership here. This is a public authority which is given a job to do, and I hope that the Minister does not in any way indicate that he will restrict its authority to do these things. If he does, then we shall have the first Division of the debate on this Amendment.

    I support the Amendment. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Leavey) that this is nationalisation. I am sure that the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) would agree that it would be better to refer to this as on a par with new town development. I object to the Clause because it gives more power to this Authority than the New Towns Act, introduced by hon. and right hon. Members opposite gave. They were satisfied with the powers given under that Act. Why should the hon. Member for Bermondsey be surprised that we are surprised that a Conservative Government should be bringing in a much more Socialist Measure?

    The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) is a famous business man. Can he imagine any effort in the business world being restricted in the way that he wants to restrict this Authority?

    Most certainly I would restrict a firm from carrying out activities which its own directors or experienced people were not capable of carrying out. Under this Clause the Authority could do anything. It could set up orange groves in Spain or decide that a groundnut scheme was good for Covent Garden. All I am concerned with is that the Authority should have powers commensurate with its experience and with the abilities of its technical staff. No indication was given to the Select Committee that these experts would have these powers. Why will the Minister not agree to restrict these powers in the same way as they were restricted under the New Towns Act, 1946, by hon. and right hon. Members opposite?

    7.15 p.m.

    The Committee should be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Leavey) for raising this point and giving us a further opportunity to consider the very wide powers that the Authority is to be given under the Bill. On Second Reading I drew attention to the fact that these wide powers were being given. I support what has been said from this side of the Committee about them. I do not see why they should be given to the Authority. Surely the Authority ought to be able to carry out its duties and discharge all functions that may be necessary and make the best use of its assets without having these extremely wide powers.

    The Authority is required to run a market and that is something which many local authorities do. Yet here it is proposed to give the Authority far wider powers than are ever granted to any local authority. When a local authority is granted powers they are defined and restricted. It is surely only right that an authority of this nature, whose job is strictly limited, should have its powers likewise strictly limited.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) said that the powers were so wide that the Authority might be able to set up orange groves in Spain. He is not far wrong. Covent Garden markets produce from all over the world, and under the Clause there is nothing whatever to prevent the Authority doing what my hon. Friend suggests. There is no reason why it should not run a Hovercraft to carry bananas from the West Indies, because it could be said that that facilitated the carrying out of its functions.

    There is no need to do that, in view of the Clause which gives the widest power to the Authority to carry out any transaction

    "…calculated to facilitate the proper discharge of their duties…"
    which is to market produce which comes from all over the world. I suggest that the Government ought to take another look at this Clause in another place. They should see whether something cannot be done to restrict these wide powers.

    The Preamble uses the simple words:

    "…to make provision for the conduct…under the control of the Covent Garden Market Authority, of activities relating to the dealing in bulk in horticultural produce; and to make provision with respect to matters arising out of the matters aforesaid."
    I do not think that under those terms one could bring in orange groves in Spain.

    Why not? If by conducting a market in Covent Garden one could facilitate the selling of oranges or of other fruit grown in any part of the world, then, according to the Clause, it would be perfectly within the Authority's power to do these things. This is the point raised in the Amendment. The Clause is far too wide for the restricted requirements of the Covent Garden Market Authority.

    There are two questions which I wish to put to my right hon. Friend. First, will he ensure that the consent of the Minister must be obtained before lands are acquired for purposes other than marketing and storage facilities? If the Authority finds itself with surplus funds, it may desire to invest in land or something of that kind. That should not be done without the Minister's consent.

    Secondly, in view of the wide powers the Authority is to have, what authority will the Westminster City Council have over it?

    I was trying to ascertain whether these wide powers for the new Authority mean that the authority of Westminster City Council is impaired. My question is related exactly to this subsection and the powers it confers upon the Authority.

    If we are to give the Authority such wide powers—which may mean, for instance, that it will be exempted from the law of nuisance—then we should be told about them. I cannot feel satisfied that this Committee would wish the authority of Westminster City Council to be taken over by this new body, or that the Council should not be able to discharge its duties in the Covent Garden area. It is because of these various aspects, which are causing anxiety in some people's minds, that I hope that we can have the position clarified. Better still, in view of what has been said in this debate, the Government might in another place seek to restrict some of the very wide powers to be given to the new Authority.

    The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), who has been busy placing things on record today, was determined to place on record his view of public authorities, and he did so with his usual eloquence and enthusiasm. He is doubtful that the new Authority will be entitled under this Bill to do practically everything it wants. If, however, he looks at Clause 16 (2) he will see that it is mandatory on the Authority to provide storage facilities outside the market area. There is no reason why it should not have a storage area for grapefruit in the West Indies, and sell them by sample in Covent Garden or, indeed, in Bermondsey.

    As I understand Clause 18 (2) the Authority will have complete power outside the control of this House. It has been said earlier that we shall have no right to ask questions about its day-today operations. It will be in the same position as that of the boards of nationalised industries as far as Questions in this House are concerned. We shall not be able to get Questions past the Table except by using the expedients which some of us use from time to time.

    The Minister expressed great concern lest, under the Amendment which I moved earlier, the Authority should be outside the control of the House in the selection of an alternative site for the market. This was a matter of grave personal concern to him. Yet apparently he is quite prepared to accept the powers under this subsection, which are outside the control of the House. They are the widest possible powers. As far as I can see, there is to be no restriction upon the Authority. There is a contradiction in the approach to this Clause as against the approach to my proposed Amendment to Clause 16.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Leavey) has, quite understandably, moved his Amendment so that we can examine the powers which it is proposed to give to the new Authority. The job of the Authority is to provide a market in a general area which we have been speaking about—

    —and not in Spain. It is correct to say that the Select Committee examined a proposal on the same lines as the Amendment, and rejected it for good reason. I am sure hon. Members will agree with me when I explain.

    The powers which it is proposed to give the Authority seem very wide when one reads this subsection, but they are not wide by commercial standards, and no wider than what is normal in the memoranda of association of public companies. My hon. Friends who have supported the Amendment probably have closer associations with the business world than I have, and I am sure they would not enjoy the prospect of being responsible for large scale businesses where some such powers did not exist.

    Does my hon. Friend suggest that the actions of the directors of companies are outside the control of their shareholders?

    They frequently seem to be in practice, whatever they may be in theory.

    We have not broken new ground in drafting the powers of the Authority in this way but, broadly speaking, have followed precedent. This Authority will have the same sort of powers as this Committee has given to other bodies charged with comparable responsibilities. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield), who is a constituent of mine, exercised a constituent's licence to exaggerate when making representations to his Member when he spoke about overseas developments and other figments of his imagination.

    It is absolutely right that we should check any proposal of this sort before it leaves the Committee. It is also right for us to see, when we set up an Authority of this kind, that it has the powers to do its job. One of the checks which my hon. Friends have not mentioned is that there is an annual report. Orange groves and other overseas ventures would be noticed in such a report. They could not be concealed. No doubt they would attract the attention not only of my hon. Friends who have spoken to this Amendment but of other hon. Members as well.

    Later in the Bill there is a series of financial checks. My right hon. Friend will have a wide variety of powers, so that he will exercise a not insubstantial measure of control over the Authority's finances. These powers may seem wide if one reads them as they were read out here this afternoon but—

    They may seem wide as they appear in the Bill, but what is the point of a set of sentences unless they mean what they say? Although the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) has misunderstood my purpose a little, if we have in Clause 18 (1, f) the words

    "to carry on all such other activities.…"
    et cetera, et cetera, it seems unnecessary to add subsection (2) which virtually is the et cetera, et cetera. Is it wise to quote precedent? Is not this the moment not to follow precedent?

    7.30 p.m.

    I follow the argument of my hon. Friend about whether it is always worth checking that it is wise to follow a precedent, but I do not think he has understood the purpose of his Amendment. If subsection (2) were taken out of the Bill, the Authority's powers to acquire or dispose of property would be hampered. There are specific proposals in it, and it is intended that the words shall mean what they say. I hope that, on reflection, my hon. Friend will agree that this is not an outrageous proposal but the right thing to do. When we set up an Authority of this type, we have to bear in mind its commercial responsibilities and give it comparable powers; otherwise the whole purpose of the Bill would be frustrated.

    Amendment negatived.

    Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 19—(Power Of The Authority To Acquire Land Compulsorily Under Town And Country Plan- Ning Act, 1947)

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

    I hope I can induce the Minister to deal briefly with this Clause. I have no desire to detain the Committee too long. It is clear from Clause 19 that the new Market Authority will have power, subject to the approval of the Minister and to the usual planning checks, for compulsory purchase. For this purpose, as the last paragraph of subsection (1) says:

    "in relation to the compulsory acquisition of land under the said section thirty-seven".
    That is, of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947—
    "by virtue of this subsection, the appropriate Minister shall be the Minister."
    The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be the Minister concerned in the operation of this Clause in connection with any projects for acquisition which the new Market Authority might have in mind. I ask what his general attitude will be towards proposals by the Authority compulsorily to acquire a particular site.

    I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to reply in detail, but I remind him that on two occasions from his Ministry have come rather questionable decisions about acquisition. I do not wish to be offensive, but his Ministry is not equipped to make decisions about compulsory purchase and to take the broad public view of the various uses to which any particular site might be put. That is a planning consideration. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree that in any project put up by the Authority he should consult the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who is the planning Minister. Then we would know that before any project is launched the Minister of Agriculture has consulted the Authority and taken pains to discuss with the appropriate planning Minister before giving consent to the Authority to go ahead with any project.

    I would not raise this question but for the fact that the Minister and all of us know that his Ministry is not, and is not meant to be, adequately equipped to take the broad public view of any project for compulsory acquisition before it is launched.

    I take the point made by the hon. Member. I am the Minister to make the decision at the end of the day, but there is plenty of machinery which has to be gone through before the matter reaches me.

    In reply to the question of how I see this power being used, I would say that, first, it might be used for an annex and, secondly, for the purchase of land on which to build a new market. Those, broadly, are the two main purposes for which I see this power being used. Both would be considerable projects. The market will cover six to ten acres. I find it rather difficult to assess how big the other project need be—it is for the Authority to say—but both would be considerable projects which would go through the planning machinery.

    The Authority would say that it wanted a certain piece of land. It would go to the London County Council, which is the planning authority, to have the land designated for that purpose. The Minister of Housing and Local Government could be called in and there might be a public inquiry. I should have thought that would be almost inevitable, certainly in the case of the annex, but it would be up to the Minister of Housing and Local Government who is equipped to deal with these matters. The planning authority would decide whether planning permission should be given. I have nothing whatever to do with planning permission. That is for the Minister of Housing and Local Government. After the planning authority had made the decision, it would be for me to say whether the building should go up.

    This is analagous to the position of the Minister of Power when the Coal Boards wants to buy some land. It has to be designated and the project has to go through the normal planning machinery. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) will feel that his mind is set at rest on this point.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clauses 20 to 32 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 33—(The Covent Garden Market Management Committee)

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

    We now come to that part of the Bill which concerns the constitution of a committee with executive and advisory functions for facilitating the work of the Covent Garden Market Authority. Was Clause 33 amended in any way? Could the Minister say something about that, because this is vary important and his words will be carefully read by those who have to operate this provision in the months and years ahead. I should like to know what amendment was made in the Select Committee to the functions of the Management Committee and how that ties up with the present arrangements in the market.

    I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) for raising this question. This was one of the Clauses where substantial amendment was made upstairs and to which I was under obligation to refer in Committee. As the Clause stood when the Bill went upstairs, it was for the Authority to put to the Market Management Committee any subject which the Authority thought was proper to put to it, which was of interest to it and within its powers to discuss. The point was made to the Select Committee on a petition from the Covent Garden tenants that the traffic should also go the other way—that the Management Committee should consult the Authority on matters which the Committee wished to raise and which were within its competence.

    The effect of the Amendment which was made empowers the Market Management Committee, which is the advisory committee of producers and traders, to make representations to the Authority on any matter appearing to the Committee to affect the interests of persons represented on it and requiring the Authority to take those representations into consideration. This ties up quite closely with what I gather the hon. Gentleman is seeking in the Amendment which he will be moving to Clause 35.

    As to the Management Committee generally, the Authority is required to consult it on all matters affecting its interests, and the Committee is given the right to make representations to the Authority in regard to any regulations or byelaws made by the Authority, and matters of the day-to-day supervision and control of the Market, or of storage facilities, may be delegated by the Authority to the Management Committee. That is the broad outline of its purpose.

    Could the right hon. Gentleman say who appoints the Committee and who are the electors? The Clause provides:

    "(1) On the day on which the Authority are constituted, there shall be constituted a Committee,"
    and so on. Is this some sort of parthenogenesis that occurs on this amazing day?

    It is the Authority itself which appoints the Management Committee, and it is in duty bound to consult all the organisations whose interests are served as to the way in which they should be represented on the Committee, but it is for the Authority itself to appoint it.

    Is that right? I had the impression, and I must plead some ignorance about this, that the Management Committee had to be constituted by itself, as it were. At the moment, at the Market, we have the employers' establishment, and it seems to be the likeliest thing that they would form themselves into a Management Committee. Do I understand that it is the Authority itself which will say that certain people shall constitute the Management Committee, leaving out certain others? Is that right?

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me time to refresh my memory, which I have now done. The chairman is to be the managing director of the Authority, and he will be there ex officio by virtue of the fact that he will be managing director of the Authority. The members other than the chairman are to be appointed by the Authority, and seven are to represent the interests of wholesalers and seven the interests of persons who sell to or buy from the wholesalers. The Authority is required to consult the appropriate representative bodies of these interests before making the appointment.

    It means that the wholesalers will nominate a number of nominees up to seven and that they will be accepted by the Authority?

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 34—(The Covent Garden Traffic Committee)

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

    I do not think this Clause was amended in the Select Committee. I do not know whether it is in order to say this, but I hope it is, because it bears upon a question I want to ask. I should like to protest at the way in which all of us here have had to operate on this Bill, without any explanation of what the Select Committee did or did not do. This Report of the Select Committee covers hundreds of pages, but it does not give any summary of any kind of what the Select Committee did. This makes the life of a humble Member of Parliament very difficult when he is trying to understand a Bill with these complications. I for one am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has co-operated, but he is very lucky to have many people behind him—first-class people who are backing him up. I wish we had one of them to help us.

    From our point of view, this is a great difficulty, and I am therefore asking this question on Clause 34. I hope that the Minister might like to say a word about this. He says that this Clause is the means by which he will co-operate with the Minister of Transport about the congestion arising from this new market and how it will in fact be obliterated. I hope that when he replies he will agree with me about the Select Committee.

    7.45 p.m.

    Before my right hon. Friend replies, perhaps I may be of assistance to the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish). I rather think, though I stand to be corrected, that the Members of the Select Committee, of whom I had the honour of being one, are not permitted, or at least are not expected, to give their reasons for the changes which are made. That does not necessarily mean that the Minister is not able to make some explanation of the changes, but I think I am right in saying that the Members sitting on a Select Committee on a hybrid Bill, after taking their decisions, are not required or expected to give reasons for those decisions.

    I would remind the Committee that we are on Clause 34.

    This is the second of the three Committees to be set up under this Bill. The first is the Management Committee, the second is the Traffic Committee under this Clause, and the third, under Clause 35, is the Workers Committee. This Committee is to consist of a chairman, who will be the managing director of the Authority, and from nine to 12 other members appointed by the Authority who are to be traffic experts. Nine of these experts are to be nominated by Ministers and other interested bodies. The Authority's duties in relation to the relief of traffic congestion, which are set out in Clause 17, are duties to which we attach the greatest importance, and this Traffic Committee will provide expert advice in connection with this important aspect of the matter. The Minister of Transport will nominate two persons, and seven other are to be nominated, respectively, by the Minister of Agriculture, the Home Secretary, the London County Council, the Westminster City Council, the Holborn Metropolitan Borough Council, the British Transport Commission and the T.U.C. I think this is a fairly broad and satisfactory cross-section of the traffic interests, so that they should be well represented on the Committee.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 35—(The Covent Garden Market Workers Committee)

    I beg to move, in page 33, line 12, to leave out "not being more than five".

    With your permission, Sir Godfrey, perhaps it would be convenient to discuss this Amendment with the following two Amendments—

    In page 33, line 19, to leave out "appear to them to"

    In line 26, to leave out from "matter" to the end of the line and to insert "which affects or is".

    They are all probing Amendments, which I put down because we only wanted to ask a number of questions.

    I am not quite clear why the Authority should decide that there shall not be more than five members of such a committee, nor am I quite clear why the Authority should be the body to say whether anything is in the best interests of those involved, and why they should be the people to decide questions affecting those representing those interests. I do not like the wording—

    "Such bodies as appear to them"
    It seems to give the Authority a little more power than it need necessarily have in this Bill. In subsection (3) we are dealing with matters likely to affect the workers engaged, and we have the words—
    "appearing to the Authority to be likely"—
    and so on. I have no doubt that this was done by the Parliamentary draftsmen with the very best intentions, and, unlike some of the criticisms that were made earlier of the Authority that is being set up, I do not start off with the impression that it will consist of a lot of bad people determined to harm the interests of those who work in Covent Garden. The Minister is entitled to give us some kind of explanation, and if it is satisfactory, I can give him the assurance now that I shall seek, with the permission of the Committee, to withdraw the Amendment.

    Having said that, I hope it is in order on Clause 35 generally to put this to him. One of the complications is that in present circumstances we have pretty good worker-management relations in Covent Garden. I think that in many ways they are extremely good.

    On the conciliation committee are represented the tenants and the trade unions. There is conciliation machinery that works. In this country, of course, the only reports we ever get in the newspapers are of disputes and rows. Those hit the headlines, and everyone remembers them. What is often forgotten are the hours of hard work put in by conciliation committees and the trade unions generally—and, for that matter, the employers—which lead to a settlement of so many of these disputes. I understand that the present conciliation machinery is welcomed by the workers and by the employers, so that this is one of the few occasions in my life on which I can say that I am speaking for both sides of industry—most unusual for me.

    That being so, can the Minister say what will happen to the existing conciliation committee? We are already setting up enough committees. Someone once said to me, "Democracy is a committee-ridden structure," but I am all for it if it will avoid trouble, providing that at the end of the day we get some decisions. There is some concern felt about this, and I hope that the Minister will be able to give me the assurance I seek.

    The ambit of this committee will be wide, and I gather that matters for consultation and negotiation will include those arising from the power of the Authority to provide vehicles, plant, machinery and the like. Clause 33 has been amended, and I am sure that it would be a good thing if the Minister would also consider amending this Clause in order to make certain that the conciliation machinery is maintained, as I believe that the workers' committee referred to in the Clause will be a body quite different from the existing conciliation committee. Perhaps the Minister will give me that assurance, and will also give us some idea of what exactly the Authority will do.

    I want to refer to the Amendment in line 26. As I read the Clause, when the committee meets all the initiative rests with the Authority, but it seems advisable, if we are to have such a committee, that the workers should be able to raise matters without having first to get the consent of the Authority. I have served on one or two committees of this sort, mainly in the interests of the employees, and I have found that trouble can often be avoided if the workers' representatives can say to the authority concerned that, for instance, something has happened in the locality that makes some of the regulations legitimately made by an authority very inconvenient for the time being.

    An alteration in a bus timetable can make it inconvenient for people to arrive and depart in accordance with regulations legitimately made by an authority when the bus left at a time that fitted in very well. I know that this is very elementary, but it can cause trouble. The men feel, "Nobody cares what happens to us. The regulation states 6.30, but the bus now leaves at 6.29, or arrives at 6.33, so we have to waste twenty minutes or half an hour because of something that could be easily adjusted if we were able to put it forward."

    I am certain that if this committee is one in which all the initiative comes from the Authority it will not yield the maximum amount of good for the general working of the Authority when we get down to the ordinary working arrangements where, quite frequently, a short conversation can ease the sort of irritating frictions that lead to loss of temper and a feeling that nobody cares.

    I am grateful both to the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) and the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) for drawing attention to these points. With regard to the Amendment moved by the hon. Member, I may say that in December last we suggested to the T.U.C. an upper limit of five members for the workers' committee. As we received no comment, we took it that the T.U.C. accepted that limit, and put it in the Bill. I am not sure that there is not something in what the hon. Gentleman suggests, and that it may be too rigid, but I do not think that this Amendment goes the right way about it.

    If the Amendment were accepted it could mean three members as well as not more than five. However, we will consider it. I thought that we might consult the T.U.C. and the T. & G.W.U., and if there was a general feeling that something on these lines would be an advantage—as, perhaps, it would—we could move an Amendment in another place making the number, say, between five and eight or five and ten members.

    On the Amendment in line 19 I cannot be so forthcoming as I was on the first, or as I shall be on that in line 26, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. Someone has to decide which are the interests, and the decision should rest with the Authority. Otherwise, it does not rest with anybody. If the reference is merely to the interests concerned, it is open to challenge in the courts at some time that someone's interests—those of a break-away union or someone else—have not been consulted whereas it is laid down that they should have been. The decision has to be left with the Authority as, indeed, it was left in the Acts passed between 1945 and 1950 which set up the Steel Board, the Coal Board and the like. I think that we must leave it as a duty on the Authority, but we would, of course, expect the Authority to consult the T.U.C.

    I appreciate the argument advanced by the right hon. Gentleman. In the Select Committee, a petition was put forward by the tenants of Covent Garden that in the Management Committee there should be the sort of two-way traffic of which I spoke on Clause 33, and the Amendment suggests that that should be carried into the workers' committee as well. The wording of the Amendment in line 26 is not quite right, and the T.U.C. has been in touch with us on the subject. I wrote to that body at the end of April in reply to a request that an Amendment to the effect suggested should be made. I said that we were in process of working out the most effective Amendment. Again, we will, in another place, table an Amendment to meet the point of two-way traffic, so that if the workers find something that may be annoying they can bring it to the Authority and will not have to wait for the Authority to bring it to them. That, I think, will meet the situation.

    I wonder whether the Amendment in another place will establish the position of the conciliation committee now in being; whether anything now brought into the Bill will affect the conciliation machinery in it?

    8.0 p.m.

    All that the Amendment which I envisage would do is to provide that instead of there being one-way traffic from the Authority down to the workers' committee, a subject could be initiated at the instigation of the workers' committee as well as the instigation of the Authority, but that would not affect the conciliation committee.

    So that the conciliation committee as such would remain in being to do the work which it has always done in the past.

    It would be a rather wider Amendment than that which my hon. Friend has put down because there is a duty on the Authority to consult, but no power is now given to the workers to initiate discussions which they might wish to take place.

    That is exactly right and that is why I did not think it right to accept the Amendment. That is exactly the sense of what I want to include in the Bill.

    With all those assurances and thanking the Minister for going as far as he has, and in view of his assurance that the conciliation committee will be in being to deal with wages and conditions and the general heartaches which go with the market, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Does the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) desire to move either of the other two Amendments?

    Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clauses 36 to 45 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 46—(Reports, Accounts And Returns)

    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.

    Land Drainage Bill

    As amended ( in the Standing Committee and on recommittal), further considered.

    Clause 27—(Schemes For Drainage Of Small Areas)

    8.11 p.m.

    I beg to move, in page 16, line 33, after "works", to insert:

    "or that the development of land in the area in accordance with an application under the Town and Country Planning Acts, 1947 to 1959, is likely to affect adversely the drainage of that land or of other land in the area so as to make remedial works desirable."

    I think it would be convenient if the House also discussed the Amendments in page 16, line 36, after "land", insert:

    "as may be necessary from time to time".
    In page 16, line 36, at end insert:
    "improvement remedial or".

    That will meet our general convenience.

    Here we are back again on the Land Drainage Bill after a six months' stint, and I hope that we are in sight of the end of our labours. This Clause deals with schemes for the drainage of small areas and widens the power of the county authorities to promote local improvement schemes. More important, it extends to a river board the right to promote local improvement schemes where the constitution of an internal drainage district would not be practicable.

    I said in Committee upstairs that I regarded this provision relating to the river boards as the most important part of this Clause. The Amendments we are discussing are based on a proposal which I, and no doubt other hon. Members, have received from the Clerk to the River Nene Board. His board believes that the Clause should be extended to deal with land which may be adequately drained at the moment but which may be adversely affected by a proposed and known development. That is why the Amendments have been tabled. Anyone who thinks about the River Nene thinks at once of the effects of the ironstone working in the area.

    The difficulty with the Clause as drafted is that it is confined to areas capable of improvement by drainage works. In other words, it is confined to the situation which exists at present and there is power to prepare schemes in advance for future developments. When the result of the ironstone workings is known, one can anticipate a general disturbance of the topography and a silting up of the streams in the area. It is for those reasons that we have tabled these Amendments.

    8.15 p.m.

    I say at once that I realise that these difficulties are at present met by agreement. In fact, the Clerk to the Nene River Board referred me to an example at Finedon where the workings are being carried on by Messrs. Richard Thomas and Baldwins. He says:
    "With a view to overcoming this difficulty, the County Council, the Mining Company, and this Board are to enter into a collateral Agreement before the Planning Authority are prepared to consent to the development which provides that the County Council will prepare a Scheme for the execution of any remedial drainage works which may be necessary."
    I realise that the River Boards Association believes that these difficulties can be overcome in that way, but I have tabled these Amendments because the River Nene River Board is an important one. It is faced with these difficulties, and if it is possible to provide the safeguards proposed in the Clause I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment.

    I believe, too, that there are something in the way of precedents in both the Coal Mining (Subsidence) Act, 1957, and the Opencast Coal Act, 1958. For those reasons, in spite of the provision which is at present made through the agreement I have mentioned, I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment.

    The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
    (Mr. W. M. F. Vane)

    The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) moved the Amendment in a way which echoed the discussion we had on a new Clause the last time we met, although his present representations are not so wide as those brought forward on that occasion. I wondered whether he had been in touch with the Nene River Board on this point, because I know that that board was concerned with this problem, not least because it has, as the hon. Gentleman said, to deal with the problem of ironstone workings in its area which, without proper liaison and administrative arrangements being made, could cause drainage problems in a different area. On the other hand, the proposed Amendment does not attract the support of the River Boards Association generally because it understands that it will be very difficult to operate in this context.

    Clause 27 is entitled:
    "Schemes for drainage of small areas."
    It is not intended to deal with major works. It is intended to deal with small local problems, and it hardly seems appropriate to insert an Amendment of this kind which would imply drainage other than can be described as local drainage works.

    It would not be a logical extension, and if hon. Members consider what has been put to the House they will see that it would be difficult in practice to draw up schemes in anticipation of the effects of planning decisions. That, in effect, is what the Amendment means. Nor would those paying necessarily be those who would benefit from the work, and that is inherent in the small drainage schemes. We would have problems created, maybe at a distance, by work done in a different part of the area, and benefits divorced from payment.

    When we discussed a similar Clause on a previous occasion, we discussed at the same time the relevance of planning considerations in this regard. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me about this. If we are to have planning as a vital power we must avoid stripping it of powers whenever a technical reason is put forward.

    From time to time, technical reasons are put forward by different interests who say that it would be much better if they settled the matter on technical grounds and took it away from the concept of planning. But I suggest that if planning is to be vital, it must be accepted as taking account and being responsible for technical considerations of all kinds. It must not be looked on simply as a power to deal with the residue of problems which, for some reason or other, have not sufficiently powerful interests to take them out of the planning sphere.

    Here we have what is basically a planning problem. It has technical interests, but it is a planning issue and one which ought to be dealt with by liaison arrangements between the river boards and the planning authorities. If it is to be effective, planning must imply a very widespread system of liaison with all the technical services. I do not think it at all out of the ordinary to expect a problem like this to be dealt with administratively in that way. I am sure that it would be a better way in which to deal with the problem than trying to graft something on to this Clause which would change completely its intention and balance and make it, in effect, extremely difficult to work.

    I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not think I am unsympathetic to the problem. I appreciate that there is a problem, but I think that we should attempt to meet it in other ways. I am sure that it would be better to try to meet it in a way different from that proposed in the Amendment.

    I am obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary for his reply. The hon. Gentleman spoke of my being in touch with the Nene River Board. In fact, it was the other way round. The Nene River Board has been in touch with this matter through its members and I have become cognisant of its point of view. In spite of the view of the River Boards Association, it felt it should raise this matter and I considered that it ought to be raised by way of an Amendment. I wish to emphasise that although, as I said, in this case the board has been able to take advantage of these agreements, it does not regard the agreements as entirely satisfactory.

    The Parliamentary Secretary said that there are two difficulties. One is the financial difficulty, which I will not pursue further, as it might provoke another discussion on the financial support for drainage. I do not think that because of financial difficulties we should preclude ourselves from providing the means to take effective action. I can see the practical difficulties, and I appreciate very much a Conservative Minister speaking about planning with such fervour, particularly about comprehensive all-in planning.

    For that reason, and because I am greatly encouraged by this conversion to all-purpose planning, I feel that it would be unwise to press these Amendments any further at the present time. I rest my hopes on the declared intention of the Parliamentary Secretary that the most practical and effective means of dealing with this sort of problem is to encourage a greater recourse to comprehensive planning and provide for the utmost liaison between the Parties affected. Therefore, encouraged and heartened by this assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    I beg to move, in page 17, line 13, to leave out "navigation authority or".

    I am glad that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) feels so encouraged at so early a stage. I hope that I shall be able to help him in other ways as we proceed with our discussions.

    When we discussed this subsection during the Committee stage, various suggestions were made as to extending the list of bodies which should be consulted before a small local drainage scheme was put forward under the terms of the Clause. It was suggested that the correct way to deal with the proposal was not to add to the list which at the moment specifies only the navigation authority, and that is followed by the words:
    "or other persons appearing to them affected by the scheme."
    To strike out the one authority specified does not exclude it. In fact, by the following words it is included. It would seem that we ought to stick to the general phrase rather than try to specify. If one adds one sort of authority, there is no reason why others should not be added. I hope the House will agree that the subsection would read better without those words.

    In view of the modesty of some hon. Gentlemen who raised this matter during the Committee stage, and on their behalf, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for, in effect, meeting the point which was then discussed.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, in page 17, line 30, at the end to insert:

    "and a copy of the report to the Minister of the person so appointed shall be supplied by the Minister to the persons by whom the objections are made".
    Obviously there is anxiety to make expeditious progress and I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that we might have a system of "one up, one down." We have just lost one group of Amendments and so I think that we can claim this one.

    We are trying to ensure that the safeguards recommended by the Franks Committee are adopted in this Bill. I hope, therefore, that the Parliamentary Secretary will accept the Amendment which, I think, is in line with the recommendations of the Franks Committee. I claim at once that it has the support of the Country Landowners' Association and for that if for no other reason I hope that the Amendment will commend itself to the Government. I think that in these cases the report should be made available wherever possible. It was one of the main purposes of the Franks Committee to ensure that this should be done. I see that the Parliamentary Secretary is nodding. I hope that that signifies his agreement, and in the anticipation that this Amendment will be accepted. I will say no more.

    8.30 p.m.

    The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) made a good suggestion as to how we might make progress. I indeed hope that we shall make progress, but perhaps we should not be so rigid as to follow the hon. Gentleman's particular suggestion.

    I agree entirely with the spirit of what the hon. Gentleman suggests in the Amendment: that we should follow the recommendations of the Franks Committee and that we should not deny to those who are affected a copy of the inspector's report. On the other hand, I suggest to the House that really it is better that we should have precise rules laid down dealing with specific forms of inquiry which can be made to apply in different cases, rather than that we should attempt to write the rules into each Bill which comes before this House.

    Perhaps I can put this in a more simple way. We should not rewrite the rules into every Bill and, in this connection, I can tell hon. Members that at this moment the Lord Chancellor is in consultation with the Council on Tribunals and it is, in fact, intended that rules of procedure for specific types of inquiry will be laid down.

    In certain earlier Statutes—those for which my right hon. Friend has been responsible—sentences were added, but that was before we received the Franks Committee Report, and I suggest that it would be better that we should apply the rules which are now in the process of being considered, rather than attempt to write a sentence or two into this Bill now. This is in accordance with the spirit of the hon. Gentleman's Amendment, even though I am not able to accept the words he proposes.

    I very much regret that the Minister has refused to accept the Amendment on the ground that it is better to lay down a general body of rules, which are being discussed by the Tribunal, rather than write into the Bill rules which we assume are to cover every exigency.

    One of the things from which this country is suffering—with planning authorities and all sorts of people in different Departments making decisions—is that the victims of those decisions can never get a real answer as to the grounds on which the decisions were made. In land drainage matters, no two cases can be the same.

    It is not our intention that any one should be denied the information referred to by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence). It is the normal practice for such information to be given. We are concerned to see that there is some authority behind that. There are two ways of doing it. I have suggested one way. I do not depart from the hon. Gentleman's proposal that the information should, in fact, be available to those who want it.

    In that case, why not write it into the Bill? That is precisely what my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) was asking—that the information given to the Minister on a particular scheme should be available to those persons who are concerned, either in objecting or supporting the scheme. They should be given the information on which the Minister has made his decision to go forward or to reject a scheme.

    This is important, because it always seems to me that in our history, and in our very social being, we are concerned not only that justice shall be done, but that every person concerned shall see that justice has been done. Too often we hear from constituents of cases where Ministers make decisions and where it is difficult to convey to the people affected all the information that the Ministers have in enabling them to arrive at those decisions.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North is concerned with an almost inalienable principle of a democratic society; that anyone affected by a planning decision—and the Minister has said that we are to be subject to a great deal more planning and that we are becoming a centrally planned society—shall have at his disposal all the information which has been presented to the Minister and upon which the Minister has made his decision. That seems to me to be the inalienable right of every citizen. If this trend of central planning continues—and I have no objection to it—every citizen should have this right.

    I wholeheartedly support my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North in the Amendment, because, looking at the country's historical background, this is a basic and fundamental right of every citizen who is subject to central Government planning. Everyone concerned should know why the Government have made a decision and why there is no alternative to the action being taken.

    I do not think that we should lightly part from this discussion. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary knows that there is a good deal of anxiety about this matter now and there is a general feeling that the Government have been dodging the implications of the Franks Report. Many people who previously were concerned about the matter, under the present Administration, be it said, are again anxious and concerned.

    The Parliamentary Secretary said something which was quite remarkable. He told us that his right hon. Friend and his predecessors had on previous occasions made this very provision in other Acts of Parliament. If I remember aright, we tried it in Standing Committee in this very Measure. The precedents to which he has referred arose almost without exception from Amendments which we on this side moved to the Measures to which he referred. The safeguards were put in at the instance of the Opposition. Time after time in Standing Committee on Bills such as this I have said that what disturbs me is that steps to provide for safeguards have to come from the Opposition. After we raise the matter, the Government give way and accept what we suggest. I would much rather the Government of their own initiative provided for these straightforward safeguards recommended by the Franks Committee. It has not been done.

    I concede that the Government may be in difficulty because the Minister and his predecessors have accepted Amendments and, by virtue of accepting them, they appear now more virtuous than other Ministers who have got legislation through, perhaps, without such Amendments being moved. Bills passed in recent years have varied very much in the way that these provisions have been dealt with. But that is a serious reflection on the Government. It is for the Government and for the Parliamentary draftsmen on instructions from the Government to ensure that safeguards are laid down in all legislation providing for procedures such as this. It ought to be standard form, but it is not.

    In a wheedling, pleading sort of way, the Parliamentary Secretary says, "Please do not press this Amendment. The Lord Chancellor is considering the matter." I say quite frankly that we are not very impressed by the Lord Chancellor's consideration of these matters. We are not willing to leave the safeguard provided for in this way. If the Parliamentary Secretary is not prepared to accept the Amendment, we shall have no alternative but to divide the House on it. It ought to be accepted. The very fact that similar provision has been made in previous legislation on agricultural matters serves only to reinforce the argument that it should be accepted here. Why should an exception be made? There is no case whatever for an exception here, and we insist that the Amendment be accepted. Otherwise, we shall show our disapproval of the Government's attitude by going into the Division Lobby.

    I support the Amendment. Taking the matter as it stands, the Minister has gone so far at least as to give the person concerned the opportunity to appear, but when he does appear he has nothing to go on. We say that when he is requested to attend he should have the information so that he may advance a reasonable case.

    The Minister has told us that this is something embodied in a comprehensive standard to be applied generally by the Lord Chancellor. This operates at the moment in other inquiries. I know from past experience that representatives concerned in the inquiry have had copies of objections placed in their possession. I fail to see why the Minister cannot embody in the Bill the privilege which is extended in other legislation. As the Minister has gone so far by agreeing that the person concerned should be present at the inquiry, let him have the information that makes the case better and makes a man feel that he has something on which he can act.

    There is nothing between both sides of the Committee concerning our desire to give a man the safeguards to which we think he is entitled. The only difference between us concerns the best way in which we should do it. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) and I have blood of the Long Parliament in our veins. Neither of us wishes to deny anyone a proper safeguard for which no doubt our forebears fought. The question is whether the Amendment is the best way to carry out the desire which we all have. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that we cannot put every administrative provision into every statute, otherwise all statutes would be inordinately long. I suggest that as the Lord Chancellor is considering drafting a new code in which it is intended to include this proposal because it is normal practice today, it seems more appropriate that we should make a code like that apply to statutes of this sort rather than to every statute and that we should not repeat the details every time.

    On the other hand, hon. Members may say that in a provision of the sort suggested in the Amendment should appear in every statute in which reference is made to an inquiry. I understand that the Amendment does not covet both forms of inquiry to which reference has been made, and I presume that hon. Members wish the safeguard to apply both to public inquiries and to private hearings by a person appointed by the Minister.

    I suggest that hon. Members opposite should consider this matter again and that they should not press the Amendment. There is another place. If hon. Members opposite think that they can improve on the Amendment, no doubt they will move another one. Meantime, if it seems to us on this side that the Clause would make a better balance with the rest of the Bill if an Amendment such as this were inserted, we will consider the matter again. I cannot give a particular assurance, but I suggest that hon. Members opposite should look at the Amendment again. We will look at it again. I therefore hope that, in that spirit, the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the Amendment rather than press it to a Division.

    I am surprised at the reply of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. He says that we should do nothing about this matter and that we should leave it to the Lord Chancellor. We have heard about the Lord Chancellor drafting a code in another place. We are not certain whether it will be drafted. There has been no announcement about it and we are not certain about the details of it.

    We are here dealing with specific legislation. We in this House have certain responsibilities. If we want to improve the Bill and to provide safeguards, we can do so simply by accepting the Amendment. I should like to hear the view of the hon. Members for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) and King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard). I am sure that they have sympathy with our point of view on this very important matter.

    I know that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has the blood of the Long Parliament in him. Coming from the same county, I know that his ancestors were very active. I only wish that he was as radical as they were. The hon. Gentleman has retreated. Here, on an important Bill affecting drainage law, we are safeguarding the rights of citizens to have available to them all the full machinery of the law to help them to make necessary objections and the rest and, above all, for them to resist bureaucratic action.

    8.45 p.m.

    I should have thought that hon. Members opposite, who used to rail against Labour Ministers during the period when a Labour Government were in power because, it was said, we were creating a vast State bureaucracy, would now, in the spirit of the Franks Committee, sympathetically support our Amendment. We are not satisfied with the reply of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. We are afraid that he is passing the question to somebody else outside and that he is failing to accept the responsibilities—

    The Amendment as drafted does not cover both forms of inquiry referred to in the Clause. I was suggesting that if the hon. Member wanted to press it, he should do so on another occasion after he had had time to put it right.

    I am sorry that a Law Officer is not present. The sensible course would be to accept the Amendment and to improve it in another place.

    The Joint Parliamentary Secretary thinks otherwise. Why cannot it be done? Why not accept the Amendment and improve it in another place? Let us take the first step now. We do not want this vague and nebulous approach which has been suggested of leaving it to the Lord Chancellor to bring in a new code which would apply not only to drainage law, but to other legislation. We are concerned here with drainage law. We can amend the Bill now and improve it later. The Minister can do that in another place if he wishes. I hope that my hon. Friends will accept the advice—as, I am certain, they will—of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and press the Amendment to a Division.

    I hope that the Committee will forgive me in rising again, but I must answer the remarks made by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary—

    Do I understand that the hon. Member has already spoken to the Amendment?