Birmingham City Council Bill (By Order)

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 7:44 pm on 24th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Jeff Rooker Mr Jeff Rooker , Birmingham, Perry Barr 7:44 pm, 24th June 1985

Like the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre), I wish to get on to the amendments as soon as possible, so I shall speak for only a few minutes. However, we must use this opportunity to discuss what is in the Bill following its Committee stage.

The hon. Member for Hall Green read out a list of people and organisations whose worries had been met, but he mentioned none of the anxieties expressed by myself and some of my hon. Friends when we discussed a number of instructions on Second Reading. I am still unhappy about the fact that the Bill contains no financial provisions. Not one sum of money is referred to.

I mentioned in an intervention — it was a little underhanded, because I suspected that I was out of order when I was making it — that Birmingham faces a massive financial crises. No one can tell us that everything is financially and economically rosy in Birmingham.

On Second Reading, Conservative Members enthused over the municipal Socialism that the Bill represents, but since then the city council has announced a 43 per cent. rate increase and Conservative Members have subsequently spent their time slagging off the city council at every opportunity.

It is one thing to say that the rate increase is no fault of the city council or of the Government, but it is another to ask hon. Members to approve legislation that will result in an impost on Birmingham ratepayers — without mentioning the fact that Birmingham is in a financial crisis. I shall say more about that later, when I shall also repeat that I am still unhappy about the fact that no attempt has been made to secure the external financing which I believe could easily have been obtained.

Some ignorant comment has been made in Birmingham newspapers about my hon. Friends and myself. I take extreme exception to being classed as the sort of hooligan who caused a death at Birmingham city football ground—and merely because I seek to have every stage of the Bill debated. The hon. Member for Hall Green shakes his head, but the Birmingham Despatch said that my hon. Friends and I were like the hooligans at Birmingham city who caused the crowd trouble that led to the death of a football supporter. I take extreme exception to that, and I shall be most annoyed if Birmingham city council spends money advertising in the Birmingham Despatch. The paper made no attempt to speak to us about why we had to object to the Bill recently so that we could secure today's debate.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We understand that some of our amendments may be accepted. The hon. Member for Hall Green talked about accepting the thrust of our amendments. We want more than that. We want amendments accepted here, not in another place. There is every reason to believe that financial amendments should be inserted here, not in the House of Lords.

I am glad that clause 21, with its code of practice, was added in Committee. It is only a pity that it was not in the original Bill. Nevertheless, I applaud the Committee and the promoters for their action.

Until about 10 days ago, the promoters and their agents had made no attempt since 1 April to contact my hon. Friends or myself to discuss detailed matters that we were worried about. Therefore, they cannot complain that we tabled amendments to the Bill only recently. We did not know until a few days ago that the Bill would be debated today, and it is no good the promoters saying that they cannot amend the Bill here and that amendments will have to be made in the other place. They knew what we were worried about, and the result was new clause 21.

This will be the only opportunity that I shall have to ask the promotors about clause 22, which was not amended or discussed in great detail in Committee. I do not understand why the city council should not have to obtain the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions to institute a prosecution. The powers of prosecution that are sought are different from those that are contained in the legislation.

I hope that some of the amendments that are to be debated tonight will be accepted. Their acceptance would improve the Bill. I share the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short). I am worried about the financial implications. If I can be satisfied about them, I shall not oppose the Bill, but we have not yet been convinced about the financial implications and they remain our greatest concern.

The amendments demonstrate that there are other worries. For example, a meeting is taking place now in Birmingham to decide whether or not to proceed with Birmingham's bid to stage the Olympics. I am not opposed to that bid. I have not been asked for my approval or disapproval. It is not a parliamentary matter. However, after the Olympics, Birmingham would be left with many physical assets.