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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord said a few minutes ago that he had very little time left. He has minus 12 minutes of time left.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I did not think that the debate was time limited. It has come in the normal order of business. Am I wrong about that?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it is not time limited, but we have a convention that speeches should not exceed 15 minutes.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I understand and respect what the noble Lord says. If I may humbly say so, however, these are unusual circumstances for a Private Bill. I shall endeavour in the next minute and a half, or even sooner, to sum up.

This Bill is both necessary and timely. It is necessary because the livestock market cannot reasonably carry on or refurbish on its current site, and suitable sites outside the city limits cannot be considered without this Bill. The Bill is simply a paving measure to enable that to happen. It will also enable all areas of Herefordshire to benefit. Farmers from all over the county will benefit from a more accessible market. People from all over the county will benefit from the redevelopment of and new facilities in the city centre. I therefore have much pleasure in moving this Second Reading. I should like to thank the parliamentary agents and legal officers of the council for their help. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Livsey of Talgarth.)

7.5 p.m.

Lord Temple-Morris: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Livsey of Talgarth. I say in his defence, as the result of a recent intervention, that it was important that we heard him on this matter. Perhaps other noble Lords do not quite realise that, by the council stating its case at this time and in this House, this important Bill will be facilitated generally and in another place. I therefore thank the noble Lord for his intervention. As to whether he went against a convention, as a relative new boy I know not. However, this debate is certainly not time limited, as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, has just said.

The noble Lord and I go back a long way. Indeed, our presence here on this particular issue occurs because for many years we were neighbouring Members of Parliament. I was grateful to him for his kind words about Herefordshire, spoken from the

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depths of Wales. I sympathise with those depths because, as he well knows, I was for some years his constituent. I miss his calm hand of guidance on my parliamentary affairs, although it is nice to be in your Lordships' House with him. It will not surprise your Lordships to know that we have had a constructive joint approach to this Second Reading.

I also, incidentally, welcome the presence on the speakers' list and in the House of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. I appreciate that her title comes from another place and another county. She may not realise it, but the name Byford applies to a particularly beautiful hamlet about 10 miles west of Hereford. I do not want to alarm her, but it is not far from a possible site of the new cattle market. We would welcome her presence.

My constituency interest in your Lordships' House is governed not only by my long period as Member of Parliament for Leominster, but also by the wishes, views and understandable concerns of my successor, Mr Bill Wiggin, now Member of Parliament for Leominster, which he would like put forward in this House. I think that those concerns should be put forward in this House because that will, as I said, facilitate the Bill. However, I shall try to make the points as succinctly as I can. No doubt Mr Bill Wiggin will be amplifying them in another place.

The purpose of this Second Reading debate mainly comes down to the fact that the Bill's ramifications are very considerable. Although it is a simple enabling Bill, as the noble Lord rightly said, it will also have very considerable consequences—some of which the noble Lord has touched on in his considerable speech. However, the purpose of this debate is certainly not to oppose the Bill. My view is that the Bill and the idea that it represents are sound. I believe that the Bill will provide a great opportunity to create a modern livestock market for the county of Herefordshire and for our neighbours in Wales and elsewhere. It is equally vital to redeveloping a large part of central Hereford, which has had some very attractive redevelopment generally in recent years. I think that the proposals really will make it a tremendous city, which in many ways it is already. I say that with some bias because it is my county town and I lived there for 21 years.

It is therefore incumbent on the council—I think that this is important, and it is why I welcomed the noble Lord's speech—to deal with the concerns that arise on the Bill as far as it can, when it can. One must not be unrealistic in pushing for too much, too soon, but, as and when matters come up, the council has a duty to be as full as possible in its replies, explanations and assurances with regard to future action to those who are understandably concerned. I turn to those major concerns, which are the final group of points that I wish to make.

The first point—which is a local constituency interest point—is the very large financial ramifications of the proposals. As the noble Lord said, we are dealing with the redevelopment of a very large site. In fact, as he rightly said, there are two sites. There is vast

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potential, but also vast expense involved. Therefore, when local people say that we will have new council headquarters and offices, new police headquarters, a library, a cinema, retail outlets and a sports centre, and that the future of the local football team, Hereford United, will be assured for ever, that is all lovely and beautiful. However, I am pleased that serious work is being done by Advantage West Midlands and others. That was a plus factor that I did not know about, but it came out in the noble Lord's speech. We need the flesh to be put on those bones so far as possible, and as soon as possible. We need the necessary reassurances.

I found the noble Lord's words very helpful in terms of the general qualifications for a suitable site. Now may be too soon but, as and when, any progress on finding a site should be reported by the council. Any previous possibilities should be excluded as soon as possible. A number of sites have got it into their minds that they could be chosen, but we are far from choosing any particular site, as the noble Lord knows.

My next point relates to existing market traders and other markets that operate within the larger confines of the Herefordshire livestock market. I particularly welcome the assurances already given that those markets will continue. Those traders can therefore continue to function in the centre of Hereford. There will be strict limitations on any traders that come on to the new site, as and when.

It is important that at Westminster and in this House we welcome local and democratic control in the matter—that the planning controls and the unitary development plan will apply. Whatever happens with regard to control of the council, the lack of one-party control of the council—I do not want to interfere with sensitivities of the moment in that regard—is an additional safeguard. The provisions cannot be whipped and forced through; they must go through with the broad consent of the council. That is the position at the moment.

This is a large scheme which has great scope and ramifications. I again thank the noble Lord for all that he said. The debate enables me to call on the council to come up with as many details of the scheme as it can, as soon as it can.

7.13 p.m.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I, too, would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, for introducing the Bill. It is the first time that I have ever participated in debate on a Private Bill, so I find myself needing to seek advice. When I come to pose questions, I presume that I should pose them to the noble Lord himself, and certainly not to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, which would not be fair. It is unusual, but I shall ask questions on that basis.

My reason for taking part in the short debate stems from my concern about the closure of livestock markets over recent years. The Hereford livestock market has played an important part as a centre which sells a large number of sheep in particular, but also cattle, many of which are reared in Wales and come across the border to be fattened. Having been in

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Hereford earlier this year, in March, I am aware of the site and its being set in the heart of the city. I think that the noble Lord referred to a 3.5-hectare site, but the whole site is some 100 acres in size. It is very valuable, and I can understand the financial attraction of relocating the market elsewhere and developing the site for other purposes, to many of which the noble Lord referred.

The proposals have great ramifications, and will make a difference to local people. I am sure that the noble Lord will accept that some concerns are being expressed locally. I want to put several questions to him. First, the Explanatory Memorandum states that:

    "The location, condition and physical constraints of the existing market site off New Market Street, together with the application of modern regulatory requirements, render that site ill-suited for the purposes of the livestock market".

Was a cost analysis carried out? Was it possible to upgrade the present site to meet the new requirements?

Secondly, how much consultation has taken place and over what period? Was a public meeting held to consider the proposals? Thirdly, presumably the operators of the market, businesses and smallholders have been consulted in advance. Have there been any objections—I understand that there have—to the proposals for the market to be moved elsewhere?

Fourthly, on to which site will the market be moved? The noble Lord spoke of 46 possible sites. I find it rather odd to introduce the Bill when we do not have a site to which the market will be moved. I expect that he will respond to me on that. Is the council confident that the new site, whenever it is settled, will be a financially viable unit in the future? The noble Lord referred to the fact that fewer animals are going through livestock markets following the foot and mouth outbreak, and that obviously has longer-term implications, because there are other cattle markets in the area.

Fifthly, if the site is out of town, is the council confident that the smallholders and other agriculture-linked businesses will be content to move to the new site? Have they expressed any concerns? Sixthly, what is the current site worth? Will the money raised by the sale of the livestock market be ring-fenced to pay for a new market? It is essential that we have some direction on the future finances of the new market.

Seventhly, what research has been carried out on the long-term viability of livestock markets, bearing in mind the Government's desire to restrict animal movement to lessen the risk of disease spread? Eighthly, has the council undertaken research into the possible reduction in the number of people coming to the current market who often then spend time and money in Hereford? It is a meeting place. Has that been considered a relevant factor or is it of no consequence? Ninthly, at line 24 of page 1, subsection (8) maintains that the requirements of Section 239 of the Local Government Act 1972 have been observed. What did they include?

On page 3, Clause 4(1) states:

    "The Council may from time to time alter the location of the markets to any place or places within the district",

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but I understand that it is proposed to move the livestock market "out of town". There is no consideration of keeping the livestock market within the town, although it will obviously fall within the district.

The Bill requires the council to consult in advance before moving markets to a new site. If a new site has not been established, are we not putting the cart before the horse? Does not the new site have a bearing on the proposals? A new site could be chosen by the council, but those who use the current livestock market may not like the site or think that it will work. That seems odd.

Am I right in thinking that a Bill to move the site was proposed, but that the Government objected? I have a copy of a letter from Tony McNulty MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, dated 28th January 2003. Its last paragraph states:

    "In my opinion the promoters have failed to undertake an adequate assessment of the compatibility of their proposals with European Convention on Human Rights in respect of clause 4(1)".

What has the council done since that letter was received to remedy that position? Have changes been made, or is in fact the same Bill being put forward today?

I am sorry that the Deputy Chief Whip was a little agitated, but the move is hugely important. Hereford is very much a focal point for Herefordshire. Having visited Wales last year and been to Hereford, and having gone back again this year, I think that the Bill is important and I am very glad to have had the opportunity to ask the questions that I have asked tonight.

7.20 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, for explaining the contents of the Bill so fully. With regard to the suggestion from the Government Front Bench, in 35 years in your Lordships' House I have never believed that your Lordships wanted the Second Reading speech of the mover of a Bill to be time limited. I hope that that is so because it would be totally wrong to do so.

In contrast to the 11 questions posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, I have only one. A Bill such as this rings alarm bells with all environmentalists. We have experienced market Bills. The Hailsham market Bill presented a rather nasty deal whereby a supermarket was offering inducements to the local council to move the market in order that it could build a branch in the middle of the town. I am pleased to say that your Lordships managed to knock that Bill on the head.

I would never suspect my former noble friend Lord Livsey of being a party to such a thing. The purposes of the Bill as he has explained them, and my researches before this Second Reading debate, have led me to believe that such a suspicion would be wrong. However, perhaps in winding up he could put it firmly on the pages of Hansard that no such deal is under way and that there is no proposal to build supermarkets in the centre of the town.

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I should like those assurances, but with that I give full support to the Bill.

7.22 p.m.

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I shall take just a couple of minutes. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, has made this such a major debate, according to my noble friend Lord McIntosh, that I want to put a couple of things on the record. As this is a Private Bill, the Government do not speak in support or against, but their views, brief as they are, ought to be placed on the record. Following what was said by my noble friend Lord Temple-Morris, I hope that the House of Commons will not have to put aside three hours of prime debating time on the Floor just so that the Member for Leominster can make the same points as my noble friend. I consider that to be an absolute waste of parliamentary time because no one is opposing the Bill.

The Bill is simple: it frees Hereford District Council from a restriction in an antiquated charter. The Bill contains safeguards about consultation; Herefordshire cannot move markets to a location where they would infringe the rights of other markets in the district; and—this needs stating—as in any new development, the relocation of the market would be subject to the ordinary planning procedures. There is nothing in this Bill that pre-empts any planning decisions.

Finally, on the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, it is true that the Government initially considered that the agents' compatibility assessment of the ECHR implications of the Bill was inadequate. The Government are not required to take a view on the implications themselves. However, following further discussion with the agents, the Government are content that the assessment was adequate.

I need not go into further detail: our concerns were removed through discussions with the promoters. On 6th March, Tony McNulty made a statement to another place to that effect. I regret that that has not been transmitted to the noble Baroness and I apologise if we have forgotten. We have a bad track record of keeping noble Lords on the Front Bench informed and I apologise.

I have nothing to say about the general issues the noble Baroness raised about markets because I know from my time at MAFF, when I was dealing with animal health as opposed to welfare, that the issue of traceability is a problem. Many supermarkets buy direct from farms and are bypassing the markets. However, I understand the vitality and importance of markets for social intercourse for farmers. They can put on their best suits, meet and chat, reducing some of the isolation. That issue is not a fundamental part of the policy, but it is one of the reasons the markets are considered so important.

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Like everyone else, I have visited Herefordshire many times both as a Minister and privately on holiday and I have really enjoyed it. But people tell me, "Jeff, don't tell anyone else about us because we don't want it spoilt".

7.25 p.m.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I thank the Minister for those remarks. I shall refer to them in addressing the questions posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Temple-Morris, for his warm welcome and support of the Bill. I well understand the concerns which relate to the possible site.

As the Minister said, this is an enabling Bill. It is for local democracy, as the noble Lord acknowledged, to decide with the council what will happen about the site. It is not my place today to pontificate on any particular site because that is the decision to be made by the council. He referred to the fact that the council is narrowly dependent on a great deal of cross-party support. It is likely therefore that many safeguards will be locked in, but I take on board his remarks.

I can give the noble Lord the reassurance that every market town in Herefordshire has been consulted on this matter by the council and their views have been taken into account. The local economies in those market towns should not therefore be adversely affected by the development and it will not impact on any of their markets.

I want to address in particular the questions posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. I cannot respond to one of them, but I am sure that we will be able to write to her in reply. First, she asked who had been consulted. It is my duty to inform her that interest groups were consulted between October 2002 and January 2003. The groups consulted were the Meat and Livestock Commission; the Food Development Group; the six town councils to which I have referred; the market traders; the tenants; the NFU; the Tenant Farmers' Association Ltd; and the Farmers' Union of Wales. The noble Baroness asked about public meetings. There was a meeting with the NFU which 70 NFU members attended. There was not one single objector to the development of a livestock market outside the town.

The Chamber of Commerce was also consulted in relation to another question the noble Baroness raised; that is, her concern that fewer people might visit Hereford as a result of the moving of the market. The general opinion of all of those canvassed was that there would not be an adverse effect.

As regards the public, the consultants published leaflets in which they asked for responses. The public responded and their views have been taken into account. The noble Baroness then referred to concerns about the location and I repeat what I said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Temple-Morris. It is for the council to decide what sites will be considered. As I explained during my speech, that will go through the normal processes.

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As yet the cost is not known because it is the subject of the UDP, which does not complete its report until August this year. So, we do not know the details of that. The money will be ring-fenced. The noble Baroness referred to viability. That will be part of the report of DTZ Consulting, to whom I referred, which is at present conducting the consultation. Should the Bill pass through this House and another place, the general public, the farmers and rural dwellers appear to be at ease with what is proposed in principle; that is, that the livestock market be moved.

The Minister referred to the issue of Tony McNulty and I shall not repeat that. The only point I cannot answer is a complicated question. I should very much appreciate it if the noble Baroness would write to me with her question concerning various clauses and subsections of the Bill and what impact they would have. I am not able to answer the question in the time allowed, and I apologise for that.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, asked a fundamental question in relation to the possibility of a supermarket being built on the old market site. The categorical answer to that is "no", that most certainly will not happen; it is not allowed. It is regarded as something which would not assist the sustainability of the area. In that respect, the fact that the other markets remain in the middle of Hereford should ensure quite a lot of market trading.

Finally, I thank the Minister and all those who have participated in the debate. I apologise if I detained the House too long. I was not given instructions about the length of time I could speak. As a relatively new Member—I came in at the same time as my noble friend—I was not clear about that. I apologise to the Minister.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to an Unopposed Bill Committee.

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