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Civil Aviation Bill

Volume 685: debated on Wednesday 25 October 2006

My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments and reasons be now considered.

Moved accordingly, and on Question, Motion agreed to.


[The page and line references are to HL Bill 21, the bill as first printed for the Lords.]

1: Clause 1, page 1, line 7, leave out “may” and insert “shall”

2: Page 1, line 8, leave out from “in” to “by” and insert “proportion to the noise made by aircraft and”

4: Page 2, line 31, at end insert-

“( )Charges, in relation to noise, shall be proportional to the noise emitted.”

The Commons disagree to these amendments for the following reason—

4A: Because it is not appropriate to require aerodrome authorities to fix their charges in the manner proposed

The Lords insist on their Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 4 for the following reason-

4B: Because it is appropriate to require aerodrome authorities to fix their charges in the manner proposed

The Commons insist on their disagreement with the Lords in their Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 4 but propose Amendments Nos. 4C and 4D in lieu—

4C: Page 2, line 28, at end insert-

“(4A) In determining whether, and if so how, to exercise his power under subsection (4) above in relation to an aerodrome authority, the Secretary of State shall have regard (among other things) to the interests of persons who live in the area in which the aerodrome is situated.”

4D: Page 12, line 15, after “38(4)” insert “and (4A)”

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on its AmendmentsNos. 1, 2 and 4, in respect of which the Commons have insisted on their disagreement, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 4C and 4D in lieu.

Airports have had the statutory power to charge for aircraft by reference to their noise for almost25 years. Many of our larger airports do so. Moreover, BAA already applies an emissions-related charge at Heathrow and at Gatwick, using the airports’ conditions of use. We believe, however, that it is important to put it beyond doubt that any licensed aerodrome has the power to set such emissions charges, should their local circumstances make it necessary. That is the key purpose ofClause 1.

The Government believe that imposing a requirement that an airport's charges must be set by reference to noise and emissions would hamper airports' ability to reflect their own local circumstances. The Secretary of State will be able to require an airport to fix its charges in a way that takes into account its local environmental impact. This safeguard is already in Section 38 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 as regards noise charges; the power, now of course extended to cover charging by reference to emissions, is in subsection (4) of new Section 38. This power would be used if the introduction of noise and emissions-related charges at an airport seemed appropriate, and the airport operator was unwilling to do so.

The Commons' Amendment No. 4C in lieu would qualify that power of direction. The Secretary of State would be required to have regard to the interests of people who live in the area of the airport in determining whether—and how—to make use of the power. The Government's intention in proposing this amendment was to acknowledge the concern of stakeholders, reflected in previous debates in this House, that the provisions of this clause did not take sufficient account of the impact of aircraft noise on people living near airports. By accepting Amendment No. 4C the Bill would place a duty on the Secretary of State to consider this when deciding whether to use his power of direction, providing an additional safeguard for the interests of a local community around an airport. The further proposed Amendment No. 4D to Clause 11 is a minor consequential amendment that would ensure that this new provision, like the power of direction to which it relates, was executively devolved to the Scottish Ministers.

I am sure that on mature reflection the House will now see the point of the Government’s view that Amendment No. 1 would be disproportionate. It would impose a legal duty on all 140-odd licensed aerodromes to set noise and emissions-related charges. I argued forcefully against that in previous proceedings on the Bill. I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has now tried to address this issue by proposing a monthly level of commercial air traffic. It would become a duty for airports to fix their charges in this way.

Although the noble Lord’s new amendment may seem attractive, and I congratulate him on his ingenuity in proposing it, I am afraid it has drawbacks that mean we cannot accept it. The first is that although it would compel some airports to fix their charges with reference to noise and emissions, it would so alter Clause 1 that other airports with lower traffic levels would not have the power to fix their charges in this way at all. Clearly, that is not something the Government want to see. Our position is quite clear: all along we have sought the power to be available for use by an airport dependent on local circumstances. It should not be dictated by some other broad criterion, which the noble Lord’s amendment introduces.

Similarly, we are not convinced that fixing the requirement on the basis of monthly commercial traffic is appropriate. Commercial traffic fluctuates from month to month, whereas airports generally set their terms and conditions of use from one financial year to the next. As I have already noted, the local circumstance of each airport, and therefore the nature of its impact on the surrounding area, will be different. There remains a possibility that using the threshold recommended by the noble Lord would impose unnecessary regulation on some of the airports caught by the duty. For instance, Blackpool airport would be caught by the noble Lord’s proposed criterion, having just over 1,000 commercial traffic movements per month. Yet it will be recognised that Blackpool has relatively few residential neighbours, and the largest aircraft regularly using it are Boeing 737s, which are generally comparatively quiet. The airport is considering its operating instructions with a view to further minimising noise nuisance. Under the noble Lord’s amendment, Blackpool would fall within requirements and circumstances where the Government would not consider it necessary.

My Lords, does my noble friend realise, and I am sure he does, that most organisations concerned with aviation agree with the Government? The case he put forward today is immeasurably advanced by those who know about aviation, including the previous Conservative Government.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for attesting, with his intensive knowledge of the airline industry, that there is great support for the government position. The Opposition will have a chance to speak for themselves, and of course the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has already indicated that his colours are nailed to a different mast.

The airports operator has used its master plan, published earlier this year, to confirm that,

“it would be prepared to work closely with all the relevant bodies and the community to alleviate any particular concerns over noise and activity surrounding the airport”.

Examples of the measures it would be prepared to contemplate include a limit on the total number of flights or a limitation on the extent of a particular noise contour.

The airport operator has also undertaken to continue to work with the airport’s joint consultative committee and to continue its other liaison forums, which involve members of the public, on a proactive basis. In such circumstances it does not seem appropriate to the Government that the airport should be required to fix its charges by reference to noise and emissions when it is perfectly capable of relating to its local circumstances and recognising the needs of local interests.

The noble Lord’s Amendment No. 4E, like Amendment No. 1, would also be contrary to guidance from the International Civil Aviation Organisation that noise-related charges should be levied only at airports experiencing noise problems. I am aware that debate on these amendments has previously enabled noble Lords to raise their wider concerns about the Government’s policy with regard to aircraft noise and emissions. However, the Government will not be changing their policy, as set out in The Future of Air Transport, that wherever possible local solutions are to be preferred for addressing the local environmental impacts of airports’ operations.

Amendments Nos. 2 and 4 would affect the way in which noise and emission charges should be set. As I have previously said, the Government of course agree that airport operators should set noise charges that are appropriate but, as ICAO guidance alreadystates that noise-related charges should be non-discriminatory between users and should not be established at such levels as to be prohibitively high for the operation of certain aircraft, we do not think it necessary to place these requirements in the legislation.

As I have already remarked, airports have been making use of the power to set noise-related charges for almost 25 years. We have no reason to believe that the powers have been applied inappropriately or disproportionately during this time. That is why we do not believe that this additional requirement needs to be added to Clause 1.

I cannot emphasise enough that charges are just one means by which airport operators can address the environmental effects of their operations on local people. The powers such as those in Clauses 3 and 4, which would enable airport operators to impose penalties for breaches of measures such as noise limits on departing aircraft or noise preferential routes, can effect more direct improvements for people living around airports.

I say again that should there ever appear to be a problem with a charging scheme, the Secretary of State will have the power to direct an airport operator as to the manner in which its charges are to be fixed. I hope that noble Lords can reach an accommodation on this clause, taking into account the thrust of Commons Amendment No. 4C in lieu. I think that it will be recognised that the Government have listened carefully to previous debates in this House. The House can rest assured that we have the necessary powers within the Bill to meet the challenges of airport noise and emissions. I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do not insist on its Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 4, in respect of which the Commons have insisted on their disagreement, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 4C and 4D in lieu.—(Lord Davies of Oldham.)

moved, as an amendment to Motion A, leave out from “disagreement,” to end and insert “do disagree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 4C and 4D in lieu, but do propose Amendment No. 4E in lieu of the original Lords amendments”.

4E: Page 1, line 7, leave out “may” and insert “shall, if the number of commercial (freight and passenger) flights exceeds 500 per month”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I must apologise for the fact that during the summer when the latter stages of the Bill were considered, I was absent due to illness. However, today we are considering Commons amendments. I do not consider that the Commons reasons for disagreement are very clearly stated. The reason:

“Because it is not appropriate to require aerodrome authorities to fix their charges in the manner proposed”,

is not very good, bearing in mind that some airport authorities fix their charges in the manner proposed. The Government may well disagree with us that we should have a limit on the size of airports above which a regime would be appropriate, but it is not appropriate to say that it is not right that they fix them in the manner proposed.

Turning to the points made by the Minister, I fully appreciate that it is most important that local issues are taken into consideration, but this needs to be looked at from the point of view of not just the airport operator but the people who live underneath airports and suffer from noise and pollution. There are instances that I brought before the House in the early stages of the Bill. Bearing in mind what the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said just now, I should say that I know something about airports. I specifically visited the Birmingham area to be taken through the whole question of noise and pollution and how they are tracked there. I have been the director of an airport company. I may not have the knowledge that he does, but I am not speaking from a position of entire ignorance on the matter.

The airspace over Birmingham airport is partly shared with Coventry airport. Coventry is quite a big airport, but it does not have a noise and pollution regime, and that raises issues of competition. They are using the same airspace, so the issues about whatever international conventions there may be apply to both airports. One airport, in setting its charges and having lower standards of environment or safety, can decide whether an aircraft uses it or the next airport. We want a level playing field, so that airports are competing on the basis of efficiency and not on the basis of one airport having certain standards and another having lesser standards.

I take seriously what the Minister said about Amendment No. 4C, and if he can put on record that the Secretary of State will,

“have regard…to the interests of persons who live in the area”,

as well as the question of whether competition between airports is affected, I will withdraw my Motion, because I would then be in a position to come to him if a particular case arose—

My Lords, successive Secretaries of State have taken account of the views of people who live near the area and other people who have interests in flying. In what way does the noble Lord consider that successive Secretaries of State have been in breach of their obligations to both Houses of Parliament?

My Lords, there must be many cases and many people who feel that Secretaries of State have not taken into account their concerns about the effect of airports on their lives. I will not go up that avenue and be distracted from the point that I was making to the Minister.

I am prepared to accept the Minister’s assurances that, under Amendment No. 4C, if particular cases come to light whereby local residents are considerably annoyed or have pollutants dumped over their houses, they will be in a position to come to the Secretary of State for him to take action under the new clause. If that is so, I will withdraw the Motion. I wait to hear what the Minister has to say. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to Motion A, leave out from “disagreement,” to end and insert “do disagree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 4C and 4D in lieu, but do propose Amendment No. 4E inlieu of the original Lords amendments”.—(Lord Bradshaw.)

My Lords, we are having another debate about a vital issue that concerns us all in this House and the public at large—noise and emissions from aircraft. There has been growing interest in this and, even as we debated the Bill over the past few months, the issue has been much more in the public eye.

I have some sympathy with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, but I am in the middle here. I totally agreed with the Minister that local circumstances were the most important consideration. I am very much a localist and do not like too much direction from us in this place about what happens in a local area.

However, the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, highlighted an example. I too have visited Birmingham airport, one of two airports that are close and of a considerable size in urban areas, and where there should be some alignment of practices. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s comments on that. In spite of the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis—I do not dispute what past Secretaries of State have done—it would help us all if the Minister could categorically repeat what he has just said, so that it is put determinedly in Hansard that Secretaries of State would intervene and issue directions. I do not normally like them to direct too much, but here I would very much support that. If an airport was not complying with the sort of things that we would like, the Secretary of State should definitely intervene to try to put that right. If that was the case, I would not support the amendment.

My Lords, this has been an interesting debate and noble Lords opposite have raised the question of when the Secretary of State must do something and when he may do something. Coventry has been repeatedly mentioned by noble Lords. If someone complained about the noise at Coventry, who would that have to be for the Secretary of State to intervene? Coventry is an example of where a local authority owns an airport and, therefore, has a commercial interest in its success. That interest has everything to do with running lots of planes in and out of it, but has it anything to do with how noisy they are? That clearly matters to the residents, but we should consider whether that matters to the bean counters in the council.

I would be interested to know under what circumstances a Secretary of State would take into account the views of residents affected. Many more airports than Coventry are affected, including Blackpool. How would the Secretary of State balance the interests of both parties before deciding whether he would look at the matter? That is the big worry.

My noble friend mentioned the ICAO policy on airports that have noise problems, but who decides whether the airport is experiencing the problem or the residents around it? Words are all good and fine, but while there has to be a cut-off somewhere—the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, mentions a figure of 500 in Amendment No. 4E—many of us would feel much more comfortable if there was a requirement to take noise and other environmental considerations into account for the larger airports. Some of them do it already and some might if the Secretary of State intervened, but why should they not do it as a matter of course? It is a question of “the polluter pays”. I shall listen to other contributions with great interest before deciding which way I shall vote if there is a Division.

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, raised questions about the reasons that are advanced. That is a matter for procedures, both in this House and the other place. He has been involved in these exercises and it is not a question of each House spelling out exactly why it has reached a conclusion, otherwise we would have a document as long as the Hansard that covered the previous debate. What emerges from that short meeting held to convey reasons is a formula merely to indicate the broad area of dissent, discontent or unacceptability. That is all that this does. He is not advancing his cause by saying that he wants to take this position literally. The argument which is meant to be taken literally is the statement from this Dispatch Box that justifies the Government’s position as we see it, which is what I am attempting to do.

The noble Lord mentioned Coventry and Birmingham, as did the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. Coventry airport featured in our previous debates. It is an airport of some significance and is close to Birmingham, another major airport. I draw the attention of the House to the planning agreement which exists between Coventry airport and its local planning authority, Warwickshire District Council, which includes a mitigation package. There are a range of noise-related measures in this agreement, such as a sound insulation grant scheme, a ban on night flying by the noisiest aircraft, a night-noise quota to ensure that night noise reduces, and a quiet operations policy that restricts the ways and times aircraft can operate. The airport also includes noise surcharges for louder aircraft in its conditions of use.

The airport reached this agreement and it now has a noise complaints procedure in place. The minutes of its sub-committee concerned with these issues are placed on the internet site, so that all local people are aware of the discussions which go on with regard to this issue and the way in which they can influence it. All these measures have been put in place using the existing powers available to the airport. There has been no compulsion; it is an agreement with the local authority. I certainly appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, given his significant position with a leading authority in this country. I also appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, who also has some experience of local government. Why should we impose from the centre when airports can satisfactorily reach agreement with their localities? That is all the Government are saying. Of course we have a reserve power.

I reassure the noble Lord that anyone can put forward proposals to have an airport designated for consideration by the Secretary of State. As we have said in our White Paper, The Future of Air Transport, we will consider designating other airports beyond those already designated if there is evidence that a major noise problem is not being dealt with adequately through local controls. But Coventry is being dealt with adequately with local controls to local satisfaction. Why therefore should we insist that it must follow nationally imposed requirements when airports the size of the one at Coventry can solve this problem? There are many airports other than Coventry which are solving these problems on a regular basis and which would not welcome, and should not receive, the requirements designated from the centre that they must deal with this matter only in the way defined strictly in legislation.

I appeal to the House to recognise this. The Government are mindful that airports bring an enormous boon to our nation, in terms of both economic development and of course the great pleasure which tourists receive from being able to fly. We all know that the expansion of airports is a reflection of the expansion of the availability of flights to the benefit of our nation, but we also know that airports bring attendant problems—noise and emissions—and controls are necessary. What I want to establish today and want the noble Lord to recognise—I hope that he will therefore withdraw his amendment—is that the other place carefully considered the views of this House on these matters. It has put forward an amendment which strengthens the Secretary of State’s position in taking local factors into consideration. If the Secretary of State decides to act, he has the power to do so, but the best solution is to have permissive legislation so that the main responsibility for airports meeting their requirements lies with the operators of those airports, taking into account the local communities which they serve.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that answer but I honestly do not find it very satisfactory. I think that people will be plagued with noise and I wanted the Government to take the matter more seriously, as I believe most people wish us to do. However, I recognise that, if I were to divide the House, I would probably lose and I would be better off accepting the assurance that he gave under Commons Amendment No. 4C. But this is a very serious issue and I warn him that I will come back to him through other channels if I become aware that people’s interests are adversely affected in the areas concerned. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion A1, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Motion A agreed to.

5: Clause 2, page 2, line 41, leave out subsection (2)

The Commons disagree to Lords Amendments Nos. 5 and 11, but propose Amendment No. 11A in lieu.

The Lords insist on their Amendment No. 5, do not insist on their Amendment No. 11 and do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 11A in lieu for the following reason—

5B: Because it is desirable to maintain the current system of regulating night flights

The Commons do not insist on their disagreement with the Lords in their Amendment No. 5, do not insist on their Amendment No. 11A, but propose the following amendment to AmendmentNo. 5—

5C: Line 1, leave out “subsection (2)” and insert “subsections (2) to (4)”.”

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 5C to Lords Amendment No. 5.

I am sure that, by now, the House will be aware that Section 78 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 enables the Secretary of State to take steps to limit or mitigate the effects of noise and vibration connected with the taking off or landing of aircraft at designated airports. He is not required to set any operating restrictions at night or at any other time but, if restrictions are set, they must be in the form of a numerical limit on movements by aircraft of the types that it is intended to restrict.

In our White Paper, The Future of Air Transport, which followed extensive consultation on our longstanding aircraft noise powers, we said that we would amend the 1982 Act so that operating restrictions might in future be set on a different basis—for example, one more directly related to the noise nuisance caused. Subsections (2) to (4) of the clause as originally drafted would have allowed a future Secretary of State to impose restrictions that limited cumulative amounts of noise caused by an aircraft using a designated airport. The provisions would not have prevented movement limits being set but Ministers could have chosen to set alternative restrictions—for example, noise quotas or a limiting noise contour area. Those might have provided a more effective incentive for the use of quieter aircraft.

In bringing forward these provisions, it was never our intention to prevent future Governments setting stringent controls on night flying at these airports. We have not sought to relax the restrictions. Any suggestion that we have should be considered in the context of our announcement on 6 June this year on night flights at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. That announcement did not provide for any slackening of current limits; it tightened a number of controls, and that demonstrates our commitment to the effective management of noise impacts.

The restrictions regime which comes into effect on 29 October—this coming weekend—will run until October 2012. It has been set using the current legislative framework; that is, the Secretary of State’s powers under Section 78 of the 1982 Act. Nor would we seek to interrupt that regime before 2012 to impose different forms of restriction. Night flying restrictions are put in place for a number of years to allow the industry to plan fleets and scheduling, and to give local stakeholders some certainty. Interrupting a regime would not be sensible or constructive. The value of movement limits to residents round the designated airports and the sense of certainty they are given is clear. Moreover, movement limits would have been a fundamental part of the next night flying regime, regardless of whether the Bill received Royal Assent before the new restrictions were set.

There have been advances in technology since the 1982 Act was passed, and a movements limit alone would be a pretty blunt instrument as that would not directly influence the types of aircraft used at night or control the amount of noise permitted. That is why noise quotas are set alongside the movement limits at present, as a secondary control to drive the use of the quietest aircraft available.

I am disappointed that the Government’s arguments in favour of amending the Act were not accepted. However, in the interests of moving forward with the many other worthwhile provisions in the Bill, the other place has now proposed an amendment that would remove subsections (2) to (4) of the clause as originally drafted. This means that the relevant provisions of the 1982 Act will, as at present, say unambiguously that any future restrictions will have to be set by limiting the number of aircraft movements as they are now.

By tabling the amendment, we accept that this is not the right time to make a change to the legislation. However, the Government still think that there would be merit in giving the Secretary of State a more flexible power to set such restrictions. That would be possible only if a new legislative opportunity arose. As yet, no such opportunity is apparent. I am therefore clearly signalling to the House that we have nothing in the offing in that respect. The Government seek to continue a balanced approach to controlling and mitigating the noise impacts of night flying at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

We have now delivered our commitment to maintain strict controls on night flying and to set those controls by limiting both aircraft movements and noise quota until at least 2012, as stated in the decision announced on 6 June. We remain of the view that it would be sensible for the Secretary of State to have more flexible powers to control aircraft noise at designated airports but accept that this Bill is not the vehicle for that. Accordingly, I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 5C to Lords Amendment No. 5.—(Lord Davies of Oldham.)

My Lords, I thank the Minister. We have had numerous debates in this House in the past few months about the noise andthe numbers of night flights. I am grateful that the Government have accepted that this legislation should not be used to change the current regime. We need not go over all the debates again, but the public, especially the public in London, do not want more flights even if they create a lot less noise. Most say that the problem is often not the amount of noise but the fact that there is noise. There is a tremendous fear in London about a considerable increase in the number of night flights. We know that some airlines would like that.

We have had various debates, and I have had numerous representations from all political parties from all over London about this issue. That is why we shall continue to debate it. I declare my interest as leader of Essex County Council. Stansted is not using its quota at the moment; it could have more flights under the existing regime. But it is Heathrow that most concerns people. Therefore, I am grateful to the Government for agreeing with this House. It is a notable victory for this House that we have for the moment abandoned any idea of changing the current regime.

I accept—as I think we all do—that technology moves on and things will change. Future Governments—this Government or my own party when it is in power next year—might want to look at the issue. I do not accept that anyone can set rules and legislation for ever; it is a moving area. I am sure that both Houses, in whatever form, will be debating these issues in the future. I repeat: I am grateful to the Government for accepting this House's view. I therefore accept what the Government are saying today.

My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister just one question. He said that the matter of altering the Secretary of State's power will have to await another legislative opportunity. I assume that he is referring to primary legislation and that we will not have an order brought before the House which is unamendable so that at a future date we are not going to be able to amend what the Secretary of State is doing.

My Lords, I take the opportunity to follow the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, about possible future increases in the Secretary of State’s powers. I beg the Minister to take this matter seriously. I recall our debate on the White Paper on airports policy a couple of years ago. Two questions were raised which worried me very much at the time and continue to worry me. First, in considering the possible expansion of Stansted, the Government’s document made no reference to the fact that the southern boundary of Stansted Airport was the northern boundary of a unique forest in southern England which is regarded by dendrologists as a matter of great importance. It is astonishing that the department responsible for environmental matters did not even refer to that.

The second issue is the possibility of creating a new airport in Sheppey. There was also a short page on that, and it relied exclusively on the danger that an airport there would pose to migrating birds. The paper did not examine the issue properly or reveal that it would be perfectly possible to move the bird sanctuary created by the RSPB a few miles further to the east, thus making it possible to consider a new airport serving London which would be approachable over sea any time of the day or night, open 24 hours a day and very close to the Channel Tunnel link.

I hope that when future plans are made for these important decisions on airports—this is not specifically on the subject of the amendment today—great care is taken by the department to ensure that the highest quality of environmental information is available to it. I think the White Paper showed that that was not the case.

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken in the short debate. The noble Lord, Lord Bridges, will forgive me if I do not open a significant discussion on the issues of Stansted now. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, has shown extraordinary restraint this afternoon in a self-denying ordinance and I intend to follow him. The idea that I might protract these proceedings by a widespread debate on Stansted, or even on Sheppey for that matter, fills me with obvious horror. The noble Lord will recognise that we are at the last stages of this Bill, so I will resist that temptation.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, for recognising that the Government, with the proposals which now come from the other place, are meeting the arguments presented previously with some force in the House. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, must accept that I cannot bind a future Government. He will recognise that there will be another Government before 2012 by another Administration of whatever colour, though I will almost certainly be the one answering on these matters at this Dispatch Box in 2011. The House will, however, recognise that I cannot possibly commit beyond a certain period except to say that in this afternoon’s statement I am reflecting the announcement that the present restrictions will obtain until 2012. The noble Lord, Lord Bridges,will recognise that that position would not be eroded under any changes that Parliament would make to the legislation. That is the best that I can offer and I hope that the noble Lord will accept it in the spirit in which it is given. I commend the Motion.

On Question, Motion agreed to.