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As To Transfer Of Rights

Volume 178: debated on Wednesday 24 October 1990

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Which amendment was: in page 4, lines 9 to 17, leave out clause 6.

Question again proposed, That the Lords amendment be now considered.

7.57 pm

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You may recall that the Bill has been the subject of some controversy and, indeed, difficulty. When it was last considered an amendment was moved. The House considered an amendment which did not refer to anything. As a consequence of the belated discovery of that fact during the debate, the proposer withdrew the amendment because clearly the House could not debate something which was not there. Could you agree to allow us to start from the beginning? We had two and a quarter hours of debate in a vacuum as it were. It seems to me that it would be better to agree for the purposes of time that the debate was about to begin now because on the last occasion it was about, literally, nothing.

In the first instance, the motion to which the right hon. Gentleman—I should say hon. Gentleman; I am giving him titles that he does not have—referred was not withdrawn. The debate was adjourned. The hon. Gentleman knows that the powers of the Chair do not include a power to make that debate null and void. No occupant of the Chair has that power. Therefore, this is a resumed debate, with which we must now continue. If I remember correctly—I remember the debate well—Mr. Harry Barnes had the Floor.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I remain somewhat perplexed about the position of the printed Bill that we are about to discuss. You will recall that the original Bill that was deposited was dated 16 November 1988. The later Bill, which I have in print, was dated 23 November 1989. The two Bills now available in the Vote Office are dated, respectively, 28 February 1990 and 25 May 1990. Should we come to debate clause 6 and the amendment to it, it is not clear to me which of the two Bills we are discussing. That clause is in the Bill dated 28 February 1990, but it does not appear in the one dated 25 May 1990.

I would consider it odd if it was within our procedures to discuss an outdated edition of a printed Bill, but even if that was so, is it not a contempt of the House that the Bill should have been printed in anticipation of the deletion of clause 6 even before the House had considered that matter?

One Bill is the Commons' Bill and one Bill is the Lords'. The Bill before me is the correct one. The Vote Office, being efficient as ever, has both the Bills and all that hon. Gentlemen have to do is ask for the correct one.

I would be generous enough to offer my copy to the hon. Member for Romford (M r. Neubert), but, as we are debating it, I think that I should have it by the Chair.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. In addition to the two Bills to which reference has been made we have received a statement on behalf of the promoters in support of the consideration of the Lords amendment. Paragraph 3 of that statement says:

"Clause 6 of the Bill dealt with the power to transfer market rights conferred by the Bill. In view of the decision to make the amendment referred to above, clause 6 became otiose and was struck out at Committee Stage in the House of Lords."
I challenge that argument. When I made inquiries as to when the amendment was made, I was informed that when the Bill left the Opposed Private Bill Committee in the House of Lords it was in the same condition as it was when it left the House of Commons. We are now told that that Committee made the amendment. The report of that Committee should be made available, but, having asked for it, I have been told that it is unavailable.

If we are told that an amendment was made, we are entitled to see the business before the Committee when that amendment was made. I seek your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker, about how to obtain the report of those Committee proceedings so that we know exactly why the amendment was made. I have been unable to obtain that information and, therefore, I request that this business be adjourned until we receive it. Yet again we are approaching a debate without the evidence needed to consider the amendment.

I cannot go behind decisions that were taken in the Lords. The question before us is perfectly in order, as is all the documentation. Points of order are taking time out of a resumed debate. We have already spent more than two hours on the procedural motion. The matters that hon. Gentlemen are seeking to raise now could be raised in the general debate when I should be happy to listen to them. I call Mr. Barnes.

I am afraid that I must start by raising a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

We adjourned the debate on 15 October until today to get ourselves out of a great difficulty—we were debating something that did not exist. Many clever speeches were made, and I take my hat off to those hon. Members who were able to talk for two and a quarter hours about material which did not exist but which was loosely linked to the Bill. The amendment that had been moved, however, related to nothing.

I believe that we should start again from scratch and that the promoters should move that the amendment be considered. We should then be able to debate the items correctly. I put my case in a letter to Mr. Speaker and no doubt it was considered before this debate.

I know that the hon. Gentleman approached Mr. Speaker about this matter, but the Chair has no authority to make null and void and erase a debate which was proper and had taken place. We must now continue that resumed debate. The Bills and all the papers are available to the House this time.

In that case I now need to argue why we should vote against the amendment being considered.

The main reason not to consider the amendment is to give Redbridge council time to put its house in order, especially as the Bill is a procedural mess. That would give the council an opportunity to consider the role of the parliamentary agents, Sharpe Pritchard.

In the previous debate on this matter the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert) said:
"Redbridge's parliamentary agents are Sharpe Pritchard who are well known to hon. Members."—[Official Report, 15 October 1990; Vol. 177, c. 994.]

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I know that you have heard several points of order already, but I have another point of order that is extremely important to the Chair and to the House.

When we previously debated the Bill a number of Conservative Members who are deeply involved in this matter spoke and, therefore, under the normal rules of procedure, they would be disallowed from speaking today. However, they were speaking about a clause that was not in the Bill. In effect, now that we know about clause 6, they have not taken part in the proceedings.

For the purposes of proper procedure, and as those hon. Members have a vested interest in this matter, those who spoke about a clause which was not in the Bill should now have the right to speak to clause 6. If not, those hon. Members and, in particular, their constituents, will be disfranchised in this debate.

The hon. Gentleman has made an extremely good point. It is most ingenious, but, unfortunately, at this stage I cannot change our practice to change the rules of debate. Hon. Members who have spoken before may intervene, but I cannot change the practice now to allow them to speak. I must say, however, that the hon. Gentleman raised a most ingenious point of order—one of the best I have heard in my time in the Chair.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We know that there is a procedure in the House whereby an hon. Member can ask the permission of the House to speak again in a debate. Sometimes Ministers exercise that right when they are introducing new Bills. In those circumstances, if Conservative Members who took part in the previous debate on the non-clause asked permission to speak again, would that be allowed? I know that someone might object, but that is another story.

I cannot anticipate that but, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says, it is for the House to determine the answer.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has great validity and I endorse its sentiments. In view of that, would you accept a manuscript amendment to the Standing Orders—a procedure that is widely followed in the House?

That was a very good try on the hon. Gentleman's part, but I am not going to wear it this time.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. If it is not open to you under the Standing Orders to make such special arrangements in the special circumstances of the business being adjourned on Monday 15 October, would you be prepared, if asked to judge the adequacy of the time given to the debate, to make allowances for the fact that a good deal of our time during the previous debate was spent debating a matter that was out of order? We were asked to discuss a clause that did not appear in the Bill and much of the debate was taken up with points of order about just that.

I see that this evening our time is also being taken up with points of order. The hon. Gentleman must now leave the matter to the discretion of the Chair.

On the ruling that you have just made, Madam Deputy Speaker, you said that if we ask for the permission of the House to speak again, it will be up to the House to decide yea or nay. I take it that if there were to be a division of opinion, there would also be a Division of the House on whether that Member could speak.

No, no—one voice only is our normal practice. It is the practice of the House that if one voice is raised in opposition, so be it. It is not up to the Chair.

I thought that the point of order from my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) about the disfranchisement of the hon. Members who spoke in the previous debate was important. That was why I included it in my letter to Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover said it with much more style and panache than could be contained in my letter.

The point that I was making was that we should vote against the amendment because Redbridge council is in something of a mess over the measure. I was quoting from the hon. Member for Romford, who said:
"Redbridge's parliamentary agents are Sharpe Pritchard who are well known to hon. Members. Their no doubt expensive services enjoy a high reputation in the House."
However, they may not enjoy such a high reputation following the procedures in which we have been involved. A great mistake had been made when the debate had to be adjourned on 15 October.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the debate was not adjourned in the sense of an ordinary conclusion, but came to an end in unusual circumstances because the Bill was withdrawn? The debate had to come to an end because the sponsor had to withdraw the Bill and left the House with nothing to debate. That emphasises the importance of the procedural points that we are making.

The measure was, in practice and de facto, withdrawn, but unfortunately the sponsor moved an adjournment, so formerly we were in that position. I wrote to Mr. Speaker in an attempt to claim that, despite how the words appeared on paper at the end of the debate, the reality was that the officials and, to a large extent, the Chair were in a considerable mess about what was taking place. I was asked by Mr. Deputy Speaker who was in the Chair to allow the sponsor to get us out of that mess, which he did by moping the adjournment. Now, we have been hoist by the petard of the adjournment having been moved. But in reality it was a convenient means of killing off the debate. That is why I felt that we should start the whole thing again and enfranchise the hon. Members who had previously spoken, but Madam Deputy Speaker's ruling was different, so I must pursue the debate.

I was quoting from the hon. Member for Romford in the debate of 15 October, when he talked about the expensive services of Sharpe Pritchard and said that the firm would be well known to hon. Members. He continued:
"Proceedings on the Bill have been under way for nearly two years if one dates them from the printing of the Bill on 16 November 1988. Redbridge residents must have been paying a packet all this time."—[Official Report, 15 October 1990; Vol. 177, c. 994.]
They certainly have been paying a packet and, presumably, have had to pay an extra packet in having the Bill reprinted to make it available for us today. They also have the problem of all the mess that was created on 15 October when the parliamentary agents were present.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have just been up to the Private Bill Office and seen the only copy of the report of the Lords Committee stage. While I clearly did not have time to go through all five days' proceedings, it is, I am informed, practice for House of Lords Committees to announce their findings at the end of the Committee stage. At the end of the Committee stage of this Bill all that is on record is that the Bill should proceed. There is no mention of clause 6 being taken out. It seems that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, may have been misinformed. Clearly, the House cannot debate a House of Lords amendment that has not been made.

8.15 pm

That is something which the Chair cannot go into now. The matter before the House—the procedural motion that we are debating—is perfectly in order.

My point of order is different, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The Redbridge London Borough Council Bill was first introduced by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne); when we debated it last week the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall) spoke on behalf of the promoters. The hon. Member for Ilford, South introduced the Bill, and the hon. Member for Ilford, North was allowed by the Chair to stop the proceedings. If someone who is not promoting the Bill in the House—such as the hon. Member for Ilford, North, who was not at the beginning—is allowed to stop it, it should be right and proper for any other Member, whether Opposition or Conservative, to be able to say, "Let us adjourn again." If the hon. Member for Ilford, North can do that, as he did on the last occasion, why cannot we do it now and get on to something else?

It would be in order for the Chair to decide whether that motion was acceptable.

Further to the matter that has been under discussion, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The second and third paragraphs of the statement put out on behalf of the Bill's promoters refer to a decision made in another place to make an amendment that led to clause 6 becoming otiose and being struck out at Committee stage in the House of Lords. If clause 6 became otiose, an amendment could not appear to leave out clause 6 in the Bill. How can we have a statement saying that the clause is no longer relevant, is otiose and should be struck out, and yet we are discussing an amendment to leave out clause 6? Surely, logically, the decision to leave out clause 6 has been arrived at in another place and we are simply being asked to justify or rubber-stamp a mistake made in another place because the amendment was not properly constructed. The statement contradicts the Bill.

We are not talking about that. The House has been asked to determine for itself whether, when we reach the amendment, we should decide to omit it from the Bill.

I do not know whether there can be a further point of order, but the hon. Gentleman appears to want to delay the debate.

How can we determine what was in the minds of their Lordships in leaving out clause 6? We are being asked to determine whether clause 6 should stand on its own in our opinion, but we cannot see the reasoning behind the decision by their Lordships, the promoters or whoever to leave out clause 6.

The House determines for itself whether amendments should be made and clauses left out or withdrawn. Those are matters that the House determines during the course of debate.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

You were not in the Chair when we discussed the matter last week, but we found that, although there are 1,100 people qualified to sit in the House of Lords, not one of them spoke on the issue. Therefore, not only is the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) right about the matter, but it went through the House of Lords like a dose of Epsom salts. It was not moved by the person who first moved it in this House because the sponsor—the man who is commonly known on these Benches as the man with the monocle, Erich von Stroheim II—was not here to do it. It really is a cock-up of tremendous magnitude.

The hon. Gentleman is not raising a point of order; he is raising perfectly legitimate points of debate and, perhaps, substance. If we can proceed with the debate, I shall be delighted to call him.

On 15 October my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover said that our debate was like something out of Monty Python. Further proof of that is the fact that I might end up making the longest speech that I have ever made while saying nothing because there have been so many interventions and points of order.

My hon. Friend will know that when a Bill comes from the other place it is handed by a gentleman in a wig to the Serjeant at Arms who then holds it—balances it—and gives it to an usher who carries it round the No Lobby in order to give it to somebody who then gives it to one of the Clerks. In all that handling, some sheet of paper with clause 6 on it may have dropped out. Has my hon. Friend investigated that possibility to see whether the missing clause is on a piece of paper in an odd corner somewhere?

I am afraid that I understand nothing about procedural mysteries and details. I am just the hon. Member who walked in here like a little boy lost, picked up the Bill and saw that the emperor had no clothes and that we were discussing nothing. When I said that, the debate was stopped. If I had made some investigations I might have been able to discover some other great procedural anomalies between here and the other place, but I am afraid that I have not.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I feel strongly about this. The report of the Third Reading debate in the other place on 14 June says:

"Redbridge London Borough Council Bill. Read a third time, and passed, and returned to the Commons with an amendment."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 14 June 1990; Vol. 520, c. 414.]
But nowhere is there any record of an amendment. it is only referred to. So how can this House consider an amendment from the other place that has not been made? Nowhere is there a record of an amendment being made by the other place to the Bill to the effect that clause 6 should be erased. How can this House consider an amendment that has not been made? May we have some guidance, because the procedure that we are following tonight seems very strange?

The Chair is not responsible for the deliberations of the other place. The amendment that I have before me tonight has come from the other place, and therefore our proceedings tonight are in order.

Further to my point of order, Maclam Deputy Speaker. Who made the amendment in the other place? No Member of the other place is recorded as making such an amendment.

As I say, the Chair is not responsible for deliberations in the other place. There is no judgment that the Chair can pass on that. The amendment has come from the other place and I am assured by the authorities of the House that it is perfectly in order.

Further to that point of order, Maclam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) said that the Bill was given its Third Reading in the other place on 14 June. You will recall that I drew to your attention a copy of the Bill printed in May this year without that clause. On first glance, that would seem to imply that the amendment was proposed and enacted in Committee in the other place. Yet my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) assures us that, according to the record, that is not so. I think that we are owed an explanation.

I cannot assure my hon. Friend or the House that there was no such amendment in Committee in the other place because I did not have a chance to read all five volumes of the Committee's proceedings. But I am assured by the Private Bill Office that the usual procedure in the other place is to make recommendations on a Bill at the end, and I assure the House that at the end no such amendment was recorded.

The hon. Gentleman and the House can be assured that the Private Bill Office is correct in presenting the Lords amendment. It is in order.

On a different point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You will be aware, as most hon. Members are, that the other place has a strange, but presumably on many occasions useful, procedure by which the House adjourns during pleasure. It is a quaint and rather nice phrase. Will you, Madam Deputy Speaker, accept a motion from the Floor that our proceedings be adjourned for a similar period, which I understand is about an hour, so that the Clerks of this House can contact the Clerks of the other place to discover whether the points made by Conservative Members are correct? If they are, it would save a lot of embarrassment all round if the matter were put right before something wrong was done tonight.

No. Hon. Members are making a good try in raising points of order, but our proceedings are in order, as is the documentation before us, or it would not be here.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think that it would be right to say that the Chair at all times protects Members of the House and the records of the House. As I understand it, after the Committee proceedings in the other place a private Bill is then placed on the Table of what is called the Lord Chancellor's counsel, which may or may not be comprised of Members of the other place but who are lawyers. They then amend the private Bill without any record of the proceedings being made available to hon. Members which would enable them to discover why such amendments were made. That is what happened in the case of the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill. Amendments to that were made by the Lord Chancellor's counsel and there were no records of that. Are there any records of such procedures in the other place at which we could look so that we could discover why the clause was removed from the Bill?

The Chair has many responsibilities and much authority, but it does not extend to the other place.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is a serious matter. According to the Order Paper we are considering that the Lords amendment to the Redbridge London Borough Council Bill be now considered. We have had two documents from the Vote Office, one of which says that in the parliamentary Session 1989–90 the Lords amendment is, in effect, to leave out clause 6. It is stapled to another document which had been issued by Sharpe Pritchard, parliamentary agents.

There must be some limit to the extent to which an outside body can insert an amendment which is to be considered by Parliament without any authority other than their claim that it is a Lords amendment. There is none of the other documentation that is usually available to the House of Commons to verify that it is a Lords amendment. We have only the word of the parliamentary agents. Frankly, that is not something which, in my experience and I am sure in yours, Madam Deputy Speaker, the House has ever taken as proof that the amendment was considered by the other place.

It may well be wrong, but it is not for the Chair to amend that procedure at this stage. I simply tell hon. Members that this is a procedure which has been accepted by the House for a long time.

I was discussing Sharpe Pritchard, parliamentary agents, who have also been mentioned in many points of order, and suggesting that Redbridge borough council should have an opportunity to get itself new parliamentary agents. Given the money that Sharpe Pritchard made out of this and the inept and incompetent way in which it handled the matter, especially in connection with the debate on 15 October, the company should be known as "Sharp Practice" rather than Sharpe Pritchard.

Sharpe Pritchard may not be at fault, because, although the usual practice has been described, it is not the usual practice for parliamentary agents to put forward amendments as being made in the other place when there is no evidence that such amendments were ever made. All parliamentary agents are meant to do is to transmit information about decisions that have been made in this House or another place. If parliamentary agents transmit information about uncorroborated amendments made in another place, it means that they can insert their own decisions into the proceedings of this House, which must be unprecedented. Perhaps my hon. Friend will dwell on how the blame should be apportioned. Presumably Sharpe Pritchard had evidence of the amendment being made, so I wonder whether it provided any of that documentation to my hon. Friend to justify its action.

8.30 pm

It would have been helpful if the documentation from Sharpe Pritchard had included such evidence. If it at least referred to the relevant parliamentary papers, right hon. and hon. Members could then check in the Library whether everything was in order. Sharpe Pritchard's payments should presumably be based on such arrangements. If Sharpe Pritchard are not to blame but someone in Parliament, then that too should be a subject for examination.

Does my hon. Friend acknowledge the value of photocopies in clarifying our procedure? The two sheets from Sharpe Pritchard are photocopies. Given that the Bill was withdrawn on a previous occasion, one wonders why Sharpe Pritchard did not go to the trouble of photocopying a document from the other place which would allow us to decide beyond peradventure, as the lawyers expensively say, whether the Lords made the decision in question. Perhaps, however, Sharpe Pritchard cannot locate such a document, in which case it appears that decisions are made not by the geriatric wing in the Lords or even by this House, but by paid agents. That undermines the constitution.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Your predecessor in the Chair ruled that these proceedings are in order because an amendment was sent from another place, notwithstanding the fact that there is no evidence available to right hon. and hon. Members that such an amendment was made. So far as I have been able to ascertain today, no such amendment was made in Committee or on Third Reading. We are therefore not clear at what stage it was made. Let us suppose that a mistake has been made in another place. What would be the consequence if this House voted for an amendment from another place which had never been properly made?

I assure the hon. Gentleman and the whole House that the Chair is indivisible. I have been listening to the proceedings, and it seems a pity that right hon. and hon. Members are spending time on points of order which are perfectly legitimate points in making the argument that the Lords amendment should not be considered. I think that it would be better if the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), who has been frequently interrupted, now had my protection and was allowed to continue his speech.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I accept that you listened to the earlier proceedings and have taken account of everything that happened, and from your point of view it is just as well that you did so as we might otherwise be on the second round, and we do not want to subject you to that.

This House is portrayed as the mother of Parliaments and the best of its kind in the world. I do not agree, but that is neither here nor there. The Prime Minister goes trotting off to eastern European countries saying, "Why don't you follow our model?" I am not kidding. Should anyone follow a model in which 1,100 people in the House of Lords, who never open their mouths but just take the money and run, send an amendment to this House, only for us to find that it has not been included in the Bill? My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East had to draw attention to that fact, and the Bill's sponsor is not even present—he has gone on a fact-finding trip somewhere and got his mate to move it, but that hon. Gentleman refuses to talk and will not tell us what has happened to the clause. At 9.15 pm he comes to the Chamber and says, "Sorry, we can't find the clause—you've been debating fresh air, so we'll withdraw it."

Order. We have been round that course umpteen times. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East should be permitted to continue his speech.

I was making the point that there is something odd about Sharpe Pritchard's activities, so it would be advantageous to Redbridge council to vote for consideration of this measure at a later stage because that would give the council time to find fresh parliamentary agents.

My hon. Friend made the point that Sharpe Pritchard made a mistake. My hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) mentioned the Lord Chancellor's counsel. The promoters must have access to more information than right hon. and hon. Members do or they could not have included the statement that clause 6 was considered otiose and had been struck from the Bill. How could the promoters so confidently make that statement when the information was not available to right hon. and hon. Members? No one has sought to explain to us why there are so many confusing issues surrounding clause 6.

It would not surprise me if Sharpe Pritchard as the agents and promoters know more about what is going on than we do. We are very short on information about the procedures that have been adopted, and Sharpe Pritchard has not seen fit to provide us with sufficient information to reach a reasonable judgment. The information that hon. Members have been able to dig out throws doubt on whether the amendment has been properly passed by due procedure in another place.

It is clear that the promoters know more than we do because they confidently stated that clause 6 was struck out because it was considered otiose, so why has none of the Bill's supporters come to the House today to explain the promoters' confident statement about clause 6 and to explain who was responsible for striking it out?

It is true that the parliamentary agents should attempt to explain the procedures that have been followed, but if Sharpe Pritchard has not done so there is a duty on the sponsor, who is represented today by the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall), as the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) is in Uruguay. Nevertheless, the hon. Member for Ilford, South should still be able to communicate with the hon. Member for Ilford, North, as should the parliamentary agents, so that the hon. Gentleman can explain to the House the procedures that have been observed.

On 15 October, the hon. Member for Ilford, North introduced this measure. I will read out his entire speech, because it was short:
"I beg to move, That the amendment be now considered. Hon. Members may wonder why I rise to speak to the Bill. It is because my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) is with an IPU delegation in Uruguay. He sends his apologies for not being able to be here. I shall say nothing more about the Bill because it has been debated in both Houses and in Committee."—[Official Report, 15 October 1990; Vol. 177, c. 983.]
Like other hon. Members, I do not believe that it has been debated in the House of Lords. In any case, that was the whole explanation that we have had, together with a small statement from the parliamentary agents which came out the second time around.

We are completely in the dark, and it is right that points of order about procedural improprieties should be raised and considered. We are not protecting Redbridge, although it is beginning to be involved—we are protecting parliamentary procedures and processes, and the constitution.

The crux of the matter that we have now been debating for more than 45 minutes is a simple point that could be easily resolved. Was the amendment made in the House of Lords? If so, was it made in Committee notwithstanding its apparent absence from the record? Was it made in some other way to which we are not privy? Or was it made on Third Reading? The agents are sitting listening to this debate and my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North is present, so it would be an extremely easy matter to give this information to the House. As it has not been given, however, we are entitled to assume that the amendment was not properly made, in which case the debate should not continue because we are debating an amendment that was never made, so the debate has no standing.

I certainly feel that the hon. Member for Ilford, North is obliged to explain the whole process to us and to fill in the blanks in our understanding. He might want to do that in a series of interventions or he might want to wait until after my brief speech. I will happily give way to him if he wants to explain matters more fully.

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) has refused on occasion to allow a measure through on the nod unless the promoters got up and explained in detail what it contained. That led on one occasion—the Adelphi Estate Bill—to a veritable Monty Python show. The Bill was presented without explanation, until my hon. Friend forced some explanation of it. I am sure that a video replay of that occasion could be provided for the House.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As you have been following proceedings with your usual care and attention, you will recall my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) asking about hon. Members who have already spoken in the last debate, which turned out to be a non-debate. Madam Deputy Speaker was asked whether they should not be able to speak again. The hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall) may be intimidated by this procedural difficulty, but I think that your colleague in the Chair made it clear that if such hon. Members sought the leave of the House, they could speak again unless there was an objection. Can you confirm that?

The hon. Gentleman is an expert in parliamentary procedure, but he did not get it quite right. The last debate was in order; it was adjourned, so we resumed it this evening. Certainly, if any hon. Member who has already spoken wants to speak again he will need the leave of the House to do so. The hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall) would not need the leave of the House if he wished to speak again, but I have noticed that a number of hon. Members have been encouraging him to do so. It is difficult for him to do so, however, when an hon. Member is still on his feet.

I am quite prepared to give way to the hon. Gentleman if he wants to clarify matters, or if he wants to move the adjournment so that he can pull together all the threads of this awkward situation and present us with the details that we require. He seems not to want to take up my offer——

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the Lord Chancellor's counsel in another place became involved before the Bill had had its Third Reading, so that was when there was an opportunity to object to amendments made without debate. The hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall) should know those procedures, as he is here to promote the Bill tonight.

Taking over as the sponsor of the Bill, the hon. Member for Ilford, North must be aware of what the debates have covered so far. He could have drawn on that to explain the general position and then allowed questions about the procedural oddities——

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

In view of the unsatisfactory pace of this procedure, and given the many difficulties which you and your colleagues in the Chair have noticed, would it be in order to adjourn the debate until the Bill's sponsor returns from Uruguay? That seems the sensible thing to do.

That would not be in order. The debate is perfectly in order and we should get on with it. We really do not want delaying tactics.

I know that hon. Members are keenly following the thread of my speech, the points of which all follow on logically from each other. So far I have said that we should vote against considering the amendment. The only way to avert a major constitutional crisis and save both the face of Sharpe Pritchard and the procedures of the House is to vote against this measure. That would give Redbridge council the chance to get new parliamentary agents, because Sharpe Pritchard must be to blame for what happened on 15 October, when we had to debate without the correct documentation and even without copies of the Bill itself.

On 15 October the hon. Member for Romford also mentioned the role of public relations consultants:
"Redbridge is also being advised by a well-known firm of public relations consultants … the consultants are being paid £50,000, plus £4,000 a month for expenses".—[Official Report, 15 October 1990; Vol. 177, c. 995.]
Those public relations consultants are doing a fine job. So far, the publicity that they have generated has been about the Bill being killed off on 15 October and about its being resurrected today, when we have revealed the huge difficulties associated with it. This is a proper debate, which has involved almost every hon. Member in the Chamber, apart from the sponsor, all of whom have shown that there are many different procedural problems. Although I have made only two points so far, we have covered a great deal of ground within those two points because of the points of order and intervention.

I am interested to hear what my hon. Friend has to say. Did he suggest that the public relations company was prolonging proceedings on the Bill so as to extend its retainer and its fee?

I do not know what the role of public relations consultants is, but presumably it is to sell the notion of the Redbridge Bill and make it popular. Therefore, they should have handled things in a different way. I do not know what their relationship is with Sharpe Pritchard, but as public relations consultants they should have handed lots of information and explanations to hon. Members, especially those who are liable to be in the Chamber to debate the Bill. Such information would make Members of Parliament more likely to accept what was there because it would seem that a fair job was being done. However, that has not happened and the public relations on the Bill have been disastrous.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) pointed out to the Chair that, as the sponsor of the Bill is in Uruaguay and we have a stand-in, it would be sensible to adjourn the debate until the sponsor returns. My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) is a generous person. Despite the fact that, judging by the sheaves of paper in his hand, he could go on for another hour and 10 minutes, I suggest that he cuts short his speech so as to allow the stand-in to explain the situation before we vote on the Bill.

If the hon. Member for Ilford, North told us that he would speak fully to put us in the picture and explain what has happened, which would be a considerable contribution, although we should still need to cross-examine him, I should be willing to end my speech. I would do, what I imagined that I had come here to do, which is to make a few brief points. I am sure that other hon. Members would assist me by allowing me to finish my speech quickly so as to enable the hon. Member to enlighten us. If no great enlightenment came from his speech, I might be allowed a second bite of the cherry if the House gave me leave to speak again.

The hon. Member for Ilford, North gives us no sign that he wishes to join the debate, so I shall continue with my speech and my reasons why we should vote against the amendment. Should we do so, we would give Redbridge council the chance to come to its senses and reorganise itself. I understand that it is now two years since the council first made the decision to pursue this matter.

The Redbridge council decided to promote the Bill in 1980, and began the consultative exercise. No one has explained to this House, nor to the House of Lords, why clause 6 was included to start with, so my hon. Friend has every right to ask the sponsor to explain both that and why it is now to be taken out.

That seems eminently sensible. I am more than willing to give way to the hon. Member for Ilford, North. I feel a bit like a yo-yo, jumping up and down as all sorts of interventions have been made by various Members—except the one hon. Member who could clarify the situation for us and help us to overcome the problems that we face. If he does not do SO, we shall believe that the problem is insurmountable and we shall vote against the Bill.

After all these hours during the passage of the Bill, we are having one hell of a job getting the sponsor to say anything. Could it be, as we have suggested before, that because the Tories have a majority of 150 these private Bill merchants think that they can just slip Bills through the House of Commons because not all the Tories need to be kept here? They will be got here at the time prescribed by the Whips. The Whips will tell them when to come along and vote on the closure. The sponsor does not speak because the last thing that he wants is for people to understand the Bill. He is interested in getting the closure by getting the troops into the Lobby, out of the dining rooms and the 16 bars. They walk in and the shop stewards—the Whips—are on the door. If they ask what they are voting for, the Whips say, "Never mind about that, get into the Aye Lobby", or the No Lobby, as the case may be. That shows up this Parliament for what it is.

The private Bill procedure is being used in a scandalous fashion by the Tory Government. There is no better example of that than the proceedings on this Bill. The sponsor refuses to tell us why clause 6 was there in the first place or why it is now being taken out. They do not care because they will be using the big block vote to hustle the Bill through—all those people will come rushing out of the woodwork to be told by the Whips how to vote.

I am aware of the procedures adopted to ensure that private Bills that the Government support get through, especially as I have recently had experience on the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill, which we were discussing on Monday. The power of the Whips descended not merely into the House but into the Committee so that the Government could control the situation. I will not go too far down that road because we are discussing the Redbridge Bill, although the other matters link in because similar procedures are followed.

We have now been told that the Redbridge Bill has been around for 10 years, although it was drafted only a couple of years ago. The decision to make this move was taken with a majority of one on the council, and since that time there have been changes in the make-up of the council, which is presumably facing an election now. What does the council think about the Lords amendment? We have no information on that, although we have an hon. Member who can correct me if what I say is incorrect, and give details about the position.

Redbridge borough council has been faced during the last two years with a whole host of changes which have affected its position. There is the uniform business rale. There is also the poll tax. There have been other changes in local government finance. The council's financial position has changed as well as its political make-up. Next year, however, the position will have changed again because after the next election there will be a Labour Government, so within a year there will be new financial arrangements for local government. The people of Redbridge, as well as many members of Redbridge borough council, do not want the Bill.

9 pm

I shall seek to test the spirit of the proceedings by requesting permission to intervene for a second time in the debate. In case I am denied that opportunity, I will refer to the authority given for the promotion of the Bill within Redbridge borough council. Since a week ago last Monday, I have established the precise voting figures in Redbridge borough council when the Bill was first mooted for promotion. Of the 63 Redbridge borough councillors, nine were not present at the relevant meeting, 12 abstained in the vote on whether to promote the Bill, 10 voted against its promotion and 32 voted for it.

The Local Government Act 1972 requires, in section 239(2), that
"A resolution of a local authority to promote or oppose a Bill under subsection (1) above shall be—
(a) passed by a majority of the whole number of the members of the authority at a meeting of the authority held after the requisite notice of the meeting and of its purpose has been given".
The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) will have quickly made his calculations and will now realise that the Bill was given the barest minimum level of support—a majority of just half a councillor, if that is possible, or perhaps a very short councillor. Lest the hon. Gentleman think that that happened on just one evening, I should point out to him that the voting figures were identical the following year when the matter was put to the vote a second time.

That information is invaluable. It reveals that Redbridge obtained the power to promote the Bill by only one vote. Had one other person abstained or voted against promotion of the Bill, Redbridge would not have obtained overall support for it in the council chamber and would not have been able to proceed with it. The council would have had to consider other methods of extending Redbridge's market facilities.

I understand that the Food Act 1984 contains licensing provisions that the council could have used. It would have been possible for the borough council to follow a different route from the expensive one that it chose to follow. I picked up that point from the speech made by the hon. Member for Romford on 15 October.

The Bill is likely to have knock-on effects. The markets would be oversaturated—a point made by the Market Traders Association, whose headquarters are in Barnsley. The position is the same in this context as it is with the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill. There was much opposition to that Bill, which led to problems in Committee. The procedures involved in battling against that measure were long drawn out. A promise was made at the Conservative party conference that an enabling Act would be introduced under which all the ports could be privatised.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I had been under the impression throughout the proceedings that the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall) did not intend to speak in the debate, because he could not, but he has certainly been gallivanting about this evening. He has spoken to the parliamentary agents and he is now engaged in little huddled conversations. My hon. Friend and other hon. Members are trying to obtain information from him about the Bill, especially about clause 6, but he refuses to speak in the debate and he prefers to talk to other people. Why is he not imparting the information?

While I am on my feet I have something else to say. Some of the Ministers have been coming in here. I have seen the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Financial Secretary and a Minister from the Home Office. They have walked in, gone to see the Chief Whip or one of the Whips and asked what time the vote will be, saying, "I am at a dinner." The game stinks to high heaven. They are just trying to find out when the vote will be so that they can come in at a time agreed by the Whips. This is a private Bill and they are not supposed to be involved in it. Yet the Whips have told them what time to come. It is high time the Chair took a hand in these affairs. This is supposed to be a private Bill, but the Government's footprints are all over it. Any moment now we shall see the Prime Minister come trotting down from her ivory tower.

The hon. Gentleman is an experienced parliamentarian and he knows that the Chair has nothing to do with these matters. The hon. Gentleman has not raised a point of order, but now that there is an interruption I remind the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) that he is beginning to stray from the motion before the House, which is that the Lords amendment be now considered.

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 141, Noes 41.

Division No. 338]

[9.6 pm


Aitken, JonathanJack, Michael
Amess, DavidJackson, Robert
Aspinwall, JackKey, Robert
Atkins, RobertKilfedder, James
Atkinson, DavidKing, Roger(B'ham N'thfield)
Baker, Rt Hon K.(Mole Valley)King, Rt Hon Tom(Bridgwater)
Baker, Nicholas(Dorset N)Knapman, Roger
Bendall, VivianKnight, Greg(Derby North)
Bennett, Nicholas(Pembroke)Knowles, Michael
Bevan, David GilroyLamont, Rt Hon Norman
Blackburn, Dr John G.Lawrence, Ivan
Boscawen, Hon RobertLee, John(Pendle) r
Boswell, TimLeigh, Edward(Gainsbor'gh)
Bottomley, PeterLightbown, David
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaLilley, Peter
Brazier, JulianLloyd, Peter(Fareham)
Bright, GrahamLord, Michael
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterLyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Brown, Michael(Brigg & Cl't's)MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickMacKay, Andrew(E Berkshire)
Burns, SimonMaclean, David
Burt, AlistairMcLoughlin, Patrick
Carlisle, Kenneth(Lincoln)Major, Rt Hon John
Carrington, MatthewMaples, John
Cash, WilliamMarshall, John(Hendon S)
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaMartin, David(Portsmouth S)
Chapman, SydneyMaude, Hon Francis
Chope, ChristopherMellor, David
Clark, Hon Alan(Plym'th S'n)Mitchell, Andrew(Gedling)
Clarke, Rt Hon K.(Rushcliffe)Morrison, Rt Hon P(Chester)
Coombs, Anthony(Wyre F'rest)Moss, Malcolm
Cope, Rt Hon JohnNewton, Rt Hon Tony
Couchman, JamesNicholson, David(Taunton)
Curry, DavidPage, Richard
Davies, Q.(Stamf'd & Spald'g)Paice, James
Davis, David(Boothferry)Patnick, Irvine
Dorrell, StephenPatten, Rt Hon John
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesPawsey, James
Dunn, BobPortillo, Michael
Fallon, MichaelRedwood, John
Fishburn, John DudleyRoberts, Sir Wyn(Conwy)
Fookes, Dame JanetRost, Peter
Forsyth, Michael(Stirling)Ryder, Richard
Forth, EricSackville, Hon Tom
Freeman, RogerSainsbury, Hon Tim
Gale, RogerScott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Garel-Jones, TristanShaw, Sir Giles(Pudsey)
Glyn, Dr Sir AlanShaw, Sir Michael(Scarb')
Goodlad, AlastairShephard, Mrs G.(Norfolk SW)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesShepherd, Colin(Hereford)
Greenway, John(Ryedale)Skeet, Sir Trevor
Griffiths, Peter(Portsmouth N)Stevens, Lewis
Grist, IanStewart, Allan(Eastwood)
Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynStewart, Andy(Sherwood)
Hague, WilliamSummerson, Hugo
Hamilton, Hon Archie(Epsom)Taylor, Ian(Esher)
Hamilton, Neil(Tatton)Taylor, John M(Solihull)
Hampson, Dr KeithThompson, D.(Calder Valley)
Hanley, JeremyThompson, Patrick(Norwich N)
Harris, DavidThurnham, Peter
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir BarneyTrippier, David
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidWaddington, Rt Hon David
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelWells, Bowen
Hind, KennethWheeler, Sir John
Hordern, Sir PeterWilkinson, John
Howarth, Alan(Strat'd-on-A)Winterton, Nicholas
Howarth, G.(Cannock & B'wd)Wood, Timothy
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyYeo, Tim
Howell, Rt Hon David(G'dford)Young, Sir George(Acton)
Howells, Geraint
Hughes, Robert G.(Harrow W)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Hunt, David(Wirral W)

Mr. Jacques Arnold and Mr. James Arbuthnot.

Irvine, Michael


Abbott, Ms DianeBeggs, Roy
Allen, GrahamBuckley, George J.
Barnes, Harry(Derbyshire NE)Budgen, Nicholas

Cohen, HarryMorley, Elliot
Cryer, BobNeubert, Michael
Cummings, JohnO'Brien, William
Dalyell, TamPike, Peter L.
Davies, Ron(Caerphilly)Powell, Ray(Ogmore)
Davis, Terry(B'ham Hodge H'l)Primarolo, Dawn
Dixon, DonRuddock, Joan
Evans, John(St Helens N)Sheerman, Barry
Forsythe, Clifford(Antrim S)Sillars, Jim
Fraser, JohnSkinner, Dennis
Golding, Mrs LlinSmyth, Rev Martin(Belfast S)
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)Spearing, Nigel
Hughes, Simon(Southwark)Wareing, Robert N.
Illsley, EricWelsh, Andrew(Angus E)
Ingram, AdamWise, Mrs Audrey
Lofthouse, Geoffrey
McKay, Allen(Barnsley West)

Tellers for the Noes:

Meale, Alan

Mr. Terry Patchett and Sir Nicholas Bonsor.

Michie, Bill(Sheffield Heeley)
Morgan, Rhodri

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the Lords amendment be now considered:—

The House divided: Ayes 139, Noes 30.

Division No. 339]

[9.19 pm


Aitken, JonathanGriffiths, Peter(Portsmouth N)
Amess, DavidGrist, Ian
Aspinwall, JackGummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Atkinson, DavidHague, William
Baker, Rt Hon K.(Mole Valley)Hamilton, Hon Archie(Epsom)
Baker, Nicholas(Dorset N)Hamilton, Neil(Tatton)
Bendall, VivianHampson, Dr Keith
Bennett, Nicholas(Pembroke)Hanley, Jeremy
Bevan, David GilroyHarris, David
Blackburn, Dr John G.Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Boscawen, Hon RobertHeathcoat-Amory, David
Boswell, TimHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Bottomley, PeterHind, Kenneth
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaHordern, Sir Peter
Bright, GrahamHowarth, Alan(Strat'd-on-A)
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterHowarth, G.(Cannock & B'wd)
Brown, Michael(Brigg & Cl't's)Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickHowell, Rt Hon David(G'dford)
Burns, SimonHowells, Geraint
Burt, AlistairHughes, Robert G.(Harrow W)
Carlisle, Kenneth(Lincoln)Hunt, David(Wirral W)
Carrington, MatthewIrvine, Michael
Cash, WilliamJack, Michael
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaJackson, Robert
Chapman, SydneyKey, Robert
Chope, ChristopherKilfedder, James
Clark, Hon Alan(Plym'th S'n)King, Roger(B'ham N'thfield)
Clarke, Rt Hon K.(Rushcliffe)King, Rt Hon Tom(Bridgwater)
Coombs, Anthony(Wyre F'rest)Kirkhope, Timothy
Cope, Rt Hon JohnKnight, Greg(Derby North)
Couchman, JamesLawrence, Ivan
Curry, DavidLee, John(Pendle)
Davies, Q.(Stamf'd & Spald'g)Leigh, Edward(Gainsbor'gh)
Davis, David(Boothferry)Lilley, Peter
Dorrell, StephenLloyd, Peter(Fareham)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLord, Michael
Dunn, BobLyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fallon, MichaelMacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fearn, RonaldMacKay, Andrew(E Berkshire)
Fishburn, John Dudley "Maclean, David
Fookes, Dame JanetMcLoughlin, Patrick
Forman, NigelMajor, Rt Hon John
Forsyth, Michael(Stirling)Malins, Humfrey
Forth, EricMaples, John
Freeman, RogerMarshall, John(Hendon S)
Gale, RogerMartin, David(Portsmouth S)
Garel-Jones, TristanMellor, David
Glyn, Dr Sir AlanMitchell, Andrew(Gedling)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMorrison, Rt Hon P(Chester)
Gorman, Mrs TeresaNewton, Rt Hon Tony
Greenway, John(Ryedale)Nicholson, David(Taunton)

Page, RichardStewart, Andy(Sherwood)
Paice, JamesSummerson, Hugo
Patnick, IrvineTaylor, Ian(Esher)
Patten, Rt Hon JohnTaylor, John M(Solihull)
Pawsey, JamesTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Portillo, MichaelThompson, D.(Calder Valley)
Redwood, JohnThompson, Patrick(Norwich N)
Roberts, Sir Wyn(Conwy)Thurnham, Peter
Rost, PeterTrippier, David
Ryder, RichardWells, Bowen
Sackville, Hon TomWheeler, Sir John
Sainsbury, Hon TimWilkinson, John
Scott, Rt Hon NicholasWinterton, Nicholas
Shaw, Sir Giles(Pudsey)Wood, Timothy
Shaw, Sir Michael(Scarb')Yeo, Tim
Shephard, Mrs G.(Norfolk SW)Young, Sir George(Acton)
Shepherd, Colin(Hereford)
Shersby, Michael

Tellers for the Ayes:

Skeet, Sir Trevor

Mr. Jacques Arnold and Mr. James Arbuthnot.

Stevens, Lewis
Stewart, Allan(Eastwood)


Allen, GrahamLofthouse, Geoffrey
Barnes, Harry(Derbyshire NE)McKay, Allen(Barnsley West)
Bonsor, Sir NicholasMeale, Alan
Buckley, George J.Michie, Bill(Sheffield Heeley)
Budgen, NicholasO'Brien, William
Cohen, HarryPike, Peter L.
Cryer, BobPowell, Ray(Ogmore)
Cummings, JohnPrimarolo, Dawn
Dalyell, TamRuddock, Joan
Davies, Ron(Caerphilly)Sheerman, Barry
Dixon, DonSkinner, Dennis
Golding, Mrs LlinSpearing, Nigel
Home Robertson, JohnWise, Mrs Audrey
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Hughes, Simon(Southwark)

Tellers for the Noes:

Leighton, Ron

Mr. Michael Neubert and Mr. Terry Patchett.

Lightbown, David

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment accordingly considered.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.— [The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Notice being taken that strangers were present, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to Standing Order No. 143 ( Withdrawal of strangers from House), put forthwith the Question, That strangers do withdraw:—

The House divided: Ayes 1, Noes 137.

Division No. 340]

[9.30 pm


Gregory, Conal

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Harry Barnes and Mr. Alan Meale.


Abbott, Ms DianeBrooke, Rt Hon Peter
Amess, DavidBrown, Michael(Brigg & Cl't's)
Arbuthnot, JamesBurns, Simon
Arnold, Jacques(Gravesham)Burt, Alistair
Aspinwall, JackCarlisle, Kenneth(Lincoln)
Atkins, RobertCash, William
Baker, Rt Hon K.(Mole Valley)Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Beggs, RoyChapman, Sydney
Bendall, VivianChope, Christopher
Bennett, Nicholas(Pembroke)Clarke, Rt Hon K.(Rushcliffe)
Blackburn, Dr John G.Cohen, Harry
Boswell, TimCoombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Bottomley, PeterCope, Rt Hon John
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaCouchman, James
Bowis, JohnCryer, Bob

Curry, DavidLilley, Peter
Dalyell, TamLloyd, Peter(Fareham)
Davies, Q.(Stamf'd & Spald'g)MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Davis, David(Boothferry)McKay, Allen(Barnsley West)
Dixon, DonMaclean, David
Dorrell, StephenMcLoughlin, Patrick
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMajor, Rt Hon John
Fallon, MichaelMalins, Humfrey
Fearn, RonaldMaples, John
Fookes, Dame JanetMarshall, John(Hendon S)
Forsyth, Michael(Stirling)Martin, David(Portsmouth S)
Forsythe, Clifford(Antrim S)Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Forth, EricMitchell, Andrew(Gedling)
Fraser, JohnMorley, Elliot
Freeman, RogerMorrison, Rt Hon P(Chester)
Gale, RogerNeubert, Michael
Garel-Jones, TristanNewton, Rt Hon Tony
Glyn, Dr Sir AlanPage, Richard
Godman, Dr Norman A.Paice, James
Golding, Mrs LlinParry, Robert
Goodlad, AlastairPatchett, Terry
Gordon, MildredPatnick, Irvine
Gorman, Mrs TeresaPatten, Rt Hon John
Gregory, ConalPortillo, Michael
Griffiths, Peter(Portsmouth N)Primarolo, Dawn
Grist, IanRedwood, John
Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynRoberts, Sir Wyn(Conwy)
Hague, WilliamRyder, Richard
Hamilton, Hon Archie(Epsom)Sackville, Hon Tom
Hamilton, Neil(Tatton)Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Hampson, Dr KeithSalmond, Alex
Harris, DavidScott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir BarneyShaw, Sir Giles(Pudsey)
Hayward, RobertShaw, Sir Michael(Scarb')
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidShephard, Mrs G.(Norfolk SW)
Hind, KennethSkinner, Dennis
Howarth, Alan(Strat'd-on-A)Stevens, Lewis
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyStewart, Allan(Eastwood)
Howells, GeraintStewart, Andy(Sherwood)
Hughes, Robert G.(Harrow W)Summerson, Hugo
Hughes, Simon(Southwark)Taylor, John M(Solihull)
Hunt, David(Wirral W)Thompson, D.(Calder Valley)
Irvine, MichaelThompson, Patrick(Norwich N)
Jack, MichaelThumham, Peter
Jackson, RobertTrippier, David
Jones, Barry(Alyn & Deeside)Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Key, RobertWelsh, Andrew(Angus E)
Kilfedder, JamesWheeler, Sir John
King, Roger(B'ham N'thfield)Wise, Mrs Audrey
King, Rt Hon Tom(Bridgwater)Wood, Timothy
Kirkhope, TimothyYoung, Sir George(Acton)
Knapman, Roger
Knight, Greg(Derby North)

Tellers for the Noes:

Knowles, Michael

Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. Nicholas Baker.

Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Leigh, Edward(Gainsbor'gh)

Question accordingly negatived.

Question again proposed, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Genuine concern has been expressed at this amendment and it is a discourtesy to the House for the sponsor, albeit standing in for someone else, to seek to move the amendment as he has. He has full responsibility for promoting the Bill and he has a duty to provide the House with information about the origin, source and, most importantly, the verification of the amendment. As you will be aware, there is no evidence that this amendment was ever considered by the House of Lords. We are entitled to something more than the shortest possible sentence muttered by the sponsor of the Bill.

The hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall) has moved the Lords amendment and he is perfectly within his rights to do so.

We must now proceed to discuss the proposed Lords amendment to delete clause 6. Before I do so, however, I must say how surprised I am to find myself ranged against so many former colleagues in government and other hon. Friends. They have given this Bill intermittent support throughout its proceedings, no doubt in the belief that they are spurring us on to greater competition, whereas the Bill seeks to create a new market monopoly within the London borough of Redbridge.

Little progress has been made in respect of greater competition and I find it difficult to accept that Romford should be singled out for special treatment when there are so many other charter markets in the country and the Government are not prepared to take action to reform the system. That argument must be left to one side, however, and we must consider clause 6, which deals with the transfer of rights. That clause, now that we have it in print in the Bill, states:
"Any person entitled or authorised by virtue of this Act to hold a market may transfer or dispose of all or part of his rights to another and that other shall have and may exercise to the extent authorised by the Council all or any of the powers which the Council have in relation to markets established by them under section 50 of the Act of 1984 other than any power to make byelaws but shall be subject to all the restrictions, liabilities and obligations in respect thereof to which the Council are subject:"
That part of clause 6 was in the original Bill as deposited in this House, but a Committee of the House added the further line,
"provided that no such transfer or disposal of rights shall take effect without the consent in writing of the Council."
Since the debate on 15 October we have had the benefit of a statement issued by the promoters' agents, who were asked repeatedly during our proceedings on 15 October to explain the Lords amendment, the authority for which is still in some doubt. We are still unclear as to why it has come before us tonight despite repeated exchanges attempting to elicit that information.

The statement on behalf of the promoters answers the question, and, like all good examinees, the promoters answer the question on one side of one piece of paper. The statement says:
"The Bill is promoted by the Council of the London Borough of Redbridge ('the Council'). It would authorise the Council to establish a market on a site near the town centre of Ilford."
It does not make the point that the market will be fully protected by law and have a monopoly in the London borough of Redbridge so that by supporting the Bill Members of Parliament are seeking to create a new market monopoly in the London borough of Redbridge.

9.45 pm

Paragraph 2 of the statement continues:
"In the opposed Bill Committee in the House of Commons, amendments were made in consequence of the Petition of the London Borough of Havering. One of these amendments was to delete the power for the Council to authorise others to establish a market."
Paragraph 3 states:
"Clause 6 of the Bill dealt with the power to transfer market rights conferred by the Bill. In view of the decision to make the amendment referred to above, clause 6 became otiose and was struck out at Committee stage in the House of Lords. That is the only amendment for consideration."

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Can he enlighten the House as to the consequences of removing the two clauses? I do not understand whether, as a result of that, the council will have the right to transfer its rights to hold a market.

Before I respond to my hon. Friend, let me say that the statement that I read out at least takes the place of the explanation that we were owed by the sponsor, my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall), who has stolidly sought not to contribute to proceedings other than by formally moving the amendment a minute or so ago. The statement has clarified the position, but we need to read and comment on the statement and examine it more closely.

I am reassured to find that the statement confirms my speculation on 15 October, which appears in column 995 of Hansard for that day, that the reason for the proposed deletion was in relation to the previous clause 3(2), which was amended by a Committee of this House. It sought to give Redbridge the right to hold other markets, and it has now been removed.

The history of the clause which it is now proposed to delete is that it was originally included, added to in Committee, its removal was sought, in part, on Report on 27 February in the House and, after Third Reading, it went to the Lords. The proposed deletion comes before us for examination tonight as a result of our recent decision in the Lobby.

The clause refers to transfer of rights. We must examine what these rights are to know what the clause is about. They seem to arise under section 50 of the Food Act 1984. Under that Act, a market is sought in the London borough of Redbridge. Section 50, in part III of the Act, gives power to the local authority to set up a market and gives some of the rights that may be transferred under clause 6. Section 50 states:
"(I) The council of a district may—
  • (a) establish a market within their district;
  • (b) acquire by agreement (but not otherwise), either by purchase or on lease, the whole or any part of an existing market undertaking within their district".
  • Redbridge council proposes a new market in relation to substantial commercial development, so it is seeking powers to establish such a market under the Act.

    The powers and rights attached to the Act and proposed for transfer in the clause include, under section 51, the power to sell a market undertaking to a local authority. That would not, arise in this case because the owner of the market undertaking is a local authority, the London borough of Redbridge, the Bill's promoter.

    Market days and hours are prescribed in section 52, which says:
    "A market authority may appoint the days on which, and the hours during which, markets are to be held."
    Presumably that is one right that can be transferred. We had a great deal of debate earlier on the number of days on which such a market would be held because in Romford the market is held on three days a week and the Bill would give Redbridge the opportunity to hold a market on six days a week.

    Another right that is conferred by the Food Act relates to charges. Section 53 says:
    "A market authority may demand in respect of the market, and in respect of the weighing and measuring of articles and vehicles, such charges as they may from time to time determine."
    It goes on to deal with the provision of a weighing machine for weighing cattle, sheep or swine. Presumably that will not be relevant to Redbridge's market which we understand will not be a market for livestock.

    Section 53(3)(a) says that the authority
    "shall keep exhibited in conspicuous places in the market place, and in any market house, tables stating in large arid legibly printed characters the several charges payable under this Part".
    If they were relevant, that would be one of the obligations mentioned in clause 6 as also transferring to another owner. Section 53(3)(b) says that the authority
    "shall keep so much of the tables as relates to charges payable in respect of the weighing of vehicles, or, as the case may be, in respect of the weighing of animals, conspicuously exhibited at every weighing machine provided by them in connection with the market for the purpose."
    Those are considerable rights that are to be transferred to the alternative owner, if it is not to be the London borough of Redbridge. Time is prescribed for the payment of those charges and presumably that is another right that is transferred.

    Section 55 gives powers to the market owner to recover charges either summarily as a civil debt, or in any court of competent jurisdiction, if it should go that far, and to levy a charge by distress. Section 56 prohibits sales in market hours. Section 57 describes the weighing machines and scales. Section 58 describes the weighing of articles, and section 59 deals with information for the market officer.

    Finally, section 60 deals with byelaws and says:
    "A local authority who maintain a market, whether or not they are a market authority within the meaning of this Act, may make byelaws—
  • (a) for regulating the use of the market place, and the buildings, stalls, pens and standings in that market place;
  • (b) for preventing nuisances or obstructions in the market place, or in the immediate approaches to it;
  • (c) for regulating porters and carriers resorting to the market, and fixing the charges to be made for carrying articles from the market within the district."
  • I hope that that is a sufficiently comprehensive summary of the rights and powers that would accrue to Redbridge under this Act, should the Bill reach the statute book, as owners of the new market to be established at Ilford. I am not sure whether the transfer of rights relates to another owner or operator of the market or to the individual stallholders.

    We had an interesting debate on clause 6 on Report on 27 February when my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) moved an amendment to it. He much regrets that he cannot be here tonight, but he has been active throughout the Bill's proceedings. My hon. Friend's amendment and the debate that followed it proceeded on the basis that clause 6 concerned the transfer of individual stallholders' rights. Let me explain why I believe that to be the case. My hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone. (Miss Widdecombe), another stalwart opponent of the Bill, unfortunately cannot be here. She is in the Cambridge Union tonight debating abortion. We know how sincere she is in her commitment to that cause. Only the issue of life itself would prevent her from being here to see her opposition to the Bill through to the end. On 27 February, my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone, speaking to clause 6, said:
    "The clause implies that there will be something unique about markets in future. If someone wishes to set up shop, he can do so in the knowledge that he can dispose of that shop—a greengrocer's or hairdresser's shop or whatever—so long as there is no change of use. All is well—he can go ahead and sell the business. That will have quite an effect on his decision to set up business in the first place and on how he assesses his competitiveness."
    There is no indication there that we were talking about one local authority or another or an institution, but about a shopkeeper, an individual business man or woman.

    That reading of the clause is confirmed by the sponsor, whose absence in Uruguay we regret. Intervening to answer the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone, he said:
    "First, it is normal for a landlord to have a right to approve a change of tenant. That is a normal procedure and is therefore quite normal in this case. On the question of whether people should have an automatic right, the London borough of Havering and most other councils which control markets find it desirable to be able to stipulate whether they approve of the person to whom the market trader intends to pass on his stall."
    That is a very real issue in the world of open air markets, because the rights of individual stallholders not only to prosecute their own business but to pass it on when the time comes to members of their family is crucial.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South added:
    "They do not wish to do so for reasons of nepotism or anything of that sort but simply to ensure that the trader who takes over is honest and reliable and will provide a reasonable service to the community. That is a perfectly reasonable thing for the public to expect. That is why the council would wish to be involved in that process."
    That point particularly relates to the last two lines of the clause, which stipulate that no transfer should take place other than with the consent of the council, which in this case is the London borough of Redbridge.

    That theme was taken up by my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell), who asked this of my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone:
    "Does she accept that the circumstances of a market are slightly different from those of a row of shops? One knows that simply from practical experience. Market traders arc close up against one another. They can move stall to stall and, indeed, may be seen doing so. Property can, as it were, move sideways. In contrast, shops are normally separate lock-up establishments in a defined space and much easier to defend."—[Official Report, 27 February 1990; Vol. 168, c. 208–11]
    All that suggests—

    rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put, but Mr. Deputy Speaker withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.

    All that suggests that right hon. and hon. Members were under the impression on 27 February that the rights in question related to the rights of the individual stallholder, but I am not sure that that is the case. I wonder whether it is not the case instead that the rights and obligations that flow from clause 6 are to be transferred not in relation to individual stallholders but rather to the persons or institution who operate the market.

    The Committee, to which the House must be indebted, reported that it was not prepared to allow the original clause 3—to which clause 6 is linked—to stand, because it provided not only for a monopoly market to be established in Ilford but for other markets that it would be within the power of the London borough of Redbridge to grant to other operators.

    It was because of the transfer of those rights to those operators that clause 6 was necessary. I should be grateful for clarification on this from the sponsor of the Bill. I should have welcomed a contribution from the Under-Secretary, too, since he has a similar market in his constituency which might be threatened by the potential precedent of this Bill. I should be grateful for an explanation from him or from the sponsor about whether the transfer of rights comes down to stallholders——

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


    That the debate be resumed tomorrow.