Mr. Hunter : That is an attractive proposition, but my serious reply is that the provisions of the Bill will be immensely beneficial to many people. There are loopholes in existing legislation. This Bill closes them, and it will be greatly appreciated by many people throughout the country, not least my constituents.
The problem was amending the defective long title. Two options that were left were to do so in the Lords or by means of verbal amendment on Third Reading. It was originally put to me that the disadvantage of making the amendment in the House of Lords was the risk of delay. The Bill would have been lost if it had not returned to the House by today. Therefore, I took the unusual but entirely legitimate step of introducing the amendments by the verbal amendment procedure. The Bill is not controversial. The amendments simply ensure that the long title accurately reflects the contents of the Bill.
On 14 April, Opposition Members spent more than four hours debating the verbal amendment procedure. To ensure that progress could be made, I was obliged to withdraw the amendments, and they were made in due course in another place on 8 June by the Earl of Portsmouth. I have made the point that the Bill has been welcomed by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North and by the Government and the Opposition in another place. It was not substantially criticised on Third Reading. The only controversy has centred on the long title. The amendments merely reconcile the long title with the body of the Bill.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley) : All hon. Members will congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) on clearly and authoritatively explaining the amendments. It is a Herculean task to introduce a private Member's Bill that will redress many grievances. Many citizens in this country, not only in Basingstoke, have every reason to appreciate my hon. Friend's efforts and persistence. Many of us are now rather the wiser about the detail of parliamentary drafting and the procedures of the House.
In so far as responsibility for the error in the original drafting lies within advice that was given by my own Department, I offer my hon. Friend a fulsome apology. It
Column 621has meant that this excellent, sensible, and practical measure, which will close some loopholes in the existing legislation, has been deprived of the full and thorough debate that many hon. Members would have liked it to have, because we have become deeply enmeshed in intricate drafting details. In so far as it affects the long title, it would have been disastrous if there had been any flaw in a Bill, which will play a thoroughly useful part in the campaign against air pollution.
On Third Reading, during a four-hour debate which ranged over several matters, the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) was able to fill much of his time with reminiscences, details and knowledge of a great many subjects. He recollected bicycling across London 40 years ago. To protect himself from smoke and pollution, he put gauze over his mouth. By the time he got to the end of his journey, the gauze was sooty and dirty, giving a clear sign of the pollution that then existed. We have made remarkable progress in the battle against pollution. The smogs that sent even the likes of me home from school early are now a thing of the past.
The amount of sunshine at Kew in the winter, which used to be double that for the centre of London, is now roughly the same as that in the centre at London. That is a clear sign of the way things have improved. Smoke emission have reduced by 85 per cent., and sulphur dioxide emissions have reduced by 50 per cent. It is not only visible forms of pollution that are being tackled, but many invisible forms, such as chlorofluorocarbons, in our battle to reduce the effects of greenhouse gases and climate change, the campaign to introduce tighter emission standards for cars, and the introduction of unleaded petrol. Many of those issues are global. My hon. Friend's Bill addresses some immediate and local grievances.
There have been long-standing complaints by the neighbours of emitters of non-dark smoke in non-smoke-controlled areas that they have no redress. Some years ago, one of my constituents had precisely that grievance. As a result of clause 1, together with the amendments that were introduced in the Lords, it will now be possible to take action against the emitters of non-dark smoke from dwellings in non-smoke-controlled areas. That is an important contribution. Like clause 2, that was supported by many hon. Members, especially Opposition Members.
There have been complaints from people throughout the country. One example given was bus burning in Barnsley. Complaints were made because there were no powers to take action against those burning buses on open ground of which they were not the owners. Furthermore, if that happened at night, it could not necessarily be proved that dark smoke was being produced. On the strength of the amendments made in the Lords, and together with clause 2, it will be possible at last to take the necessary action to redress that grievance.
My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke is a distinguished and long- serving member of the Select
Column 622Committee on the Environment. He has particular expertise and knowledge about air pollution. He, more than many other hon. Members, is concerned to tackle questions of air pollution, on a global, regional, national or more immediate and local basis. Many people will have every reason to be grateful to him for closing these loopholes.
I congratulate my hon. Friend and thank him for his persistence in seeing his Bill through the necessary stages. I hope that it will not be long before those who have been afflicted by this unpleasant problem will be able to take the necessary action on the strength of his endeavours.
Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) : First, I must pass on the apologies of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms. Walley) who is unable to be here today. However, as the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) will recall, my hon. Friend has expressed her personal support for the Bill.
On behalf of the Opposition I should add that we support the amendment. We are delighted to support any measure that will give us better air to breathe and will mean that our atmosphere is better protected, not only for human life, but for all other life on our planet, which we all now appreciate is so endangered by the emissions that we human beings produce.
I am happy to lend our support to the Bill. I shall take up no more of the time of the House, except once again to congratulate the hon. Member for Basingstoke and to say that we are delighted to support the reconciliation of his measure with its long title.
Mr. Hunter : I suspect that all hon. Members who secure a place in the ballot for private Members' Bills experience a mixture of relief and satisfaction when their Bill has finished its passage through Parliament. I assure the House that I am no exception.
I thank the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) for her comments, which I have received gratefully. I am delighted to have her support and that of her party for my Bill.
I should also like to thank my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and her officials for the advice and guidance that they have given me during the past few months. I have greatly appreciated it. I feel a special debt of gratitude to the Clerks for their remarkable tolerance and patience in trying to help me and in explaining what I should be doing next.
The Earl of Portsmouth spent a great deal of time preparing and piloting through the Bill in the House of Lords. I understand that it was the first occasion on which he had done so, and I put on the record my sincere thanks to him.
This is a small but important Bill. It seeks to close two loopholes that have emerged in the Clean Air Acts over the years. The Government have responded responsibly to the need for action to combat air pollution. I am glad to have played a small part by introducing the Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
Lords amendments Nos. 1 and 2 agreed to.
Lords amendment : No. 1, in page 1, leave out lines 12 to 18 and insert--
(there is a dwellinghouse on the land and, if and so far as the land is not the site of that dwellinghouse, it is ancillary to that dwellinghouse ; or)
(the land is ancillary to a dwellinghouse which is not on the land ; and)
(that the requirements of paragraph (a) above have been satisfied at all times since 5th August 1945.")
Mr. Favell : I am sorry that their Lordships have had to make what appear to be extensive amendments to this relatively short Bill. In my own defence, I should say that the Bill was introduced from behind Mr. Speaker's Chair, and that originally it appeared to have little chance of reaching the statute book. However, hon. Members of all parties have agreed that the Bill fulfils one of Parliament's roles in that it puts right a manifest wrong.
Thanks to a great deal of help from the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley) and her Department, and to the co- operation of the Opposition parties, especially from the hon. Members for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley), and for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Miss Walley) and from Lord Graham of Edmonton, the Bill has been given a speedy passage through both Houses and now it is back before this House. I should also like to put on record my gratitude to Baroness Blatch, who guided the Bill so swiftly and competently through the other place.
The Common Registration Act 1965 required, for the first time, all commons, their owners and common rights, town and village greens to be recorded on registers to be maintained by county councils. That was an excellent and timely piece of legislation because commons were disappearing fast. As Kate Ashbrook of the Open Spaces Society, who does so much good work to conserve our commons has said in a recent booklet, commons
"range from the huge heather uplands of Dartmoor and the North Pennines, to the crags of Snowdonia and the Lake District ; from the Chiltern hilltops, ancient woodlands like Epping, Ashdown and the New Forest to alluvial meadows near Oxford and on the Cambridgeshire Ouse. The coast of Norfolk, the heaths of Surrey and Suffolk, and surburban lungs like Wimbledon and Clapham in London and the Strays of York are all commons."
Under the 1965 Act, 1.5 million acres of common land was registered, but unfortunately the three-year registration period was too short and much more land that should have been registered was not. There are other unresolved problems, such as the public's right of access to common land, which is yet to be determined.
Column 624I look forward to hearing what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will say in reply. The Government accept the case for further comprehensive legislation and I urge my hon. Friend that that be done, for the general good, as swiftly as possible.
However, there is an even more pressing and serious problem for the few. There is a problem for those 500 people whose houses and gardens were registered under the 1965 Act as common land by mistake. My Bill is directed at helping those unfortunate people whose plight was first brought to the attention of the House two or three years ago by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) in an Adjournment debate. He told the House about the plight of Mr. Casteliain, who owned what was once a coastguard's hut near Land's End, but which had been converted into a house many years previously. It was later discovered to have been registered as common land by mistake and consequently is virtually unsaleable.
Many hon. Members will have read recently in The Times of the case of Mr. John Roe and his wife Irene, which I first came across through a solicitor colleague of mine who is in a practice to which I am a consultant. Mr. and Mrs. Roe live in a former vicarage on the moors near Hexham. Three years ago they decided to sell it, because Mr. Roe's health was none too good. Hon. Members can just picture Mr. and Mrs. Roe's concern when a prospective purchaser discovered that their home was registered as common land, and their absolute despair when they discovered that there was no provision under the 1965 Act to take their house off the register. Therefore, the prospective purchaser was not prepared to buy. That scenario has been repeated on several occasions since, and they have still not sold their house. Under the 1965 Act anybody could go to the local authority and provisionally register what they believe to be common land. Indeed, local authorities, parish councils and interested individuals have registered land as common land. I registered some land as common land in my village of Edale, which is where the Pennine Way starts. Fortunately, it did not have a house on it. Land having been registered provisionally, the council then advertised the fact in local newspapers and, if no objections were received within two years, the registration became final. Alas, there is no machinery to get the land off the register once it is on--even if it was a mistake to register it in the first place.
My short Bill allows the removal from the commons registers of houses and gardens which have been used as such since 5 August 1945. It is a narrow Bill, but, as a private Member's Bill, it can be no other. I hope that, when comprehensive legislation is introduced by the Government, other injustices--there are others--can be remedied. There is, for example, the case of Mr. Paxton, who purchased a Methodist chapel in Cornwall. He converted it into a house, but he now cannot sell it because it is registered as a village green. Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 7 make it clear that, if a house is registered but not its garden, the house can be removed from the register and vice versa. If part only of the house or part only of a garden is registered, that, too, can be removed. Amendment No. 4 deals with the manner in which applications are to be referred to a commons commissioner for determination.
Mr. James Arbuthnot (Wanstead and Woodford) : The Bill, as it went to another place, was a good Bill, but I understand that its defect was that it only allowed the deregistration of a house and garden where the site of the house, as well as the garden, was put on a common land register. There may have been some question that, if only the garden was registered, the Bill may not have allowed deregistration.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell) brought to my attention a specific case, which he has mentioned, to the House concerning a Mr. Paxton, who owns the old Methodist chapel in Trenarren. That case was originally taken up in the House by the late David Penhaligon and has since been pursed vigorously by his successor the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor).
I understand that Mr. Paxton bought the old Methodist chapel in 1986, with the benefit of planning permission, to convert it into a dwelling house. Following that, he carried out the conversion to a high standard, and he intended to use it as his permanent residence. However, he discovered later that he would have to move because of his work and he, therefore, needed to sell the house. However, it is registered as common land. To have a chapel registered as part of a green is extraordinary. The piece of land on which the chapel was built is 30 ft below the level of the land to the north of the land which is called the Ledrah, which was properly registered as a village green. Unfortunately, the chapel should not have been registered. It is obvious that a chapel is not part of a village green.
Since the property was registered as part of the village green the council dealing with the matter has changed to Restormel district council. It cannot produce any documentation referring to what happened on the original application to register the chapel as part of the village green because that documentation is owned by its predecessor council.
Obviously evidence and common sense suggest that a chapel cannot be part of a village green. One cannot have people exercising rights of common land over a chapel, especially if it has been converted into a dwelling house which is lived in. Obviously the House should take some steps to put that right.
I am not sure whether the Bill operates to put the matter right regarding the old chapel in Trenarren. I do not know whether Mr. Paxton will benefit from the Bill or whether he will be prevented from doing so because of the stringent time limits, which I believe my hon. Friend has been forced to introduce into the Bill. If that is so, it is a great pity because Mr. Paxton should have the benefit of the sensible changes that my hon. Friend has suggested. The necessary legislation should be introduced in the future.
Mr. Favell : I am sorry to tell my hon. Friend that Mr. Paxton will be unable to take advantage of the Bill as it has been narrowly drawn, for obvious reasons. The Open Space Society and many others interested in common land are concerned that the existing arrangements should not be altered except to remedy obvious mistakes. For that reason the Bill was drawn to include only houses and gardens that were in existence in 1945. Unfortunately Mr. Paxton's house was a chapel then. If I had had the benefit of that obvious example earlier in our proceedings we might have been able to do something to help him. Alas, that example came to our notice relatively late in our deliberations. Even so, I believe that its inclusion may have given rise to objections from other interested parties as it
Column 626could have opened the flood gates for barns that have been converted into houses or are yet to be converted coming within my narrow Bill. I agree with my hon. Friend that the case he has highlighted must be dealt with. It is a complex procedure and when the Minister replies I hope that she will be able to tell us whether such cases could be dealt with when comprehensive legislation is introduced.
I accept that those who are interested in preserving common land should hold as much of that land as is rightly common land. Common land is a good thing and it should not be diminished, but in Mr. Paxton's case an obvious mistake has been made. If my hon. Friend is right, Mr. Paxton's Methodist chapel will not be rescued by the Bill and, therefore, it is possible that the usual village green activities could be carried on in the chapel. Mr. Paxton has had legal advice to confirm that. Clearly that is absurd and something must be done at some stage to put that right.
I hope that when my hon. Friend the Minister replies she will be able to give us some assurances that that matter will be considered.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley) : I am glad of this opportunity to debate the Lords amendments and to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell) on introducing his Bill. This morning we have already learnt of the difficulties of negotiating the parliamentary processes. In this case my hon. Friend, perhaps assisted by his legal background, introduced the Bill at the back of the Chair and he has made speedy progress. It deals with a subject about which many hon. Members hold extremely strong views. Therefore, it is all the more praiseworthy that he has managed to obtain so much support and encouragement in bringing forward the Bill. There is no doubt that appreciation is also due to my noble Friend Baroness Blatch, who did so much in another place.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport said, it was two and a half years ago that my hon. Friend the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) secured an Adjournment debate to draw to the attention of the House problems caused to people whose homes were incorrectly registered as common land under the Commons Registration Act 1965. My hon. Friend referred to the 1.5 million acres that were registered under the Act, which was a magnificent achievement and an important step forward. However, inevitably there were areas where land was not registered or, as in this case, was wrongly registered. I am told that, in their enthusiasm, some individuals did not properly check or realise the long-term implications of registration when it came to buying or selling a property.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport referred to his own experience of a case in which an individual with whom his firm was associated was particularly badly afflicted. My hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot) spoke of another case in which individuals are grievously affected by the unintended implications of what was an extremely important Act. My hon. Friend has made it clear that this matter will not redress the grievance to which he has referred. Others, such as those who live in what were
Column 627previously schools whose properties were wrongly registered are in a similar position. The problem does not merely concern chapels but, as has been stated, barns.
However, to cover all the details and grievances would be a task which even my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport might have found difficult to negotiate in a private Member's Bill. There is no doubt that those who had houses which were dwelling houses before 1945 had every reason to appreciate that my hon. Friend managed to limit the Bill's scope and, therefore, obtain agreement from all concerned. The Department has been aware of the problem for some years. Shortly before the Adjournment debate to which I referred, the Common Land Forum report was published. It drew attention to the various types of incorrect registrations, including the one which the Bill hopes to redress. In the Adjournment Debate the then Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave) recognised the injustice being suffered by these house owners and the need for early legislation on the subject. He recognised that the removal of incorrect registrations was part of the Common Land Forum's package of legislative proposals, on which the Government were about to go out to consultation, and that the forum was loath to see bits of its package taken out and dealt with separately.
There have been many calls for comprehensive legislation on commons. Hon. Members will be aware of the efforts taken to secure agreement on this important matter. We have not yet reached the stage where it is possible to reach agreement, in spite of the great efforts of the Countryside Commission and many others. However, the Department is considering the matter carefully and finding out when we shall be able to give a clearer indication of our intentions. There are agreements over many matters, but where differences exist, they are fairly entrenched differences of opinion.
The Bill does not enable all incorrect registrations to be removed. It does not cover agricultural land which may have been incorrectly registered or buildings, as my hon. Friends have said, which have been of a non-domestic purpose. However, by limiting the Bill's scope, my hon. Friend will make an important and helpful contribution. The amendments that we are discussing will improve the Bill. Amendment No. 1 means that gardens can be considered on their own and will not have to constitute part of a house and garden. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 make it possible to refer, on the basis of a commons commissioner's opinion, to only part of the land and not the full scope of the land originally brought to his attention. Lords amendment No. 4 states that the provisions of section 17(2) of the Commons Registration Act 1965 should be available so that the chief commons commissioner can allocate a commissioner and have an assessor to assist in the purpose. Under Lords amendment No. 7, the title will reflect the changes that have been made in the other place. These are helpful, simple and uncontroversial amendments. The Bill is limited in scope, but is enormously important for those who have been affected by the inadvertent fall-out from the important 1965 Act.
Column 62812.45 pm
Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) : One of the benefits of coming to the House on a Friday and sitting on the Front Bench, sometimes without knowing that one will have to do so, is that one comes across extremely interesting subjects. This Bill falls into that category.
The protection of common land in Britain is extremely important and is dear to the hearts of most of us. Only when one finds, as the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell) did, some significant exceptions and injustices is it right that there should be any tampering with that protection. We support the measure and the amendments. We wish to express sympathy with the case of Mr. Paxton raised by the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot). It is an extraordinary example of the difficulties in which people can find themselves. Perhaps it will be a subject for another private Member's Bill. We sympathise with the Minister about the difficulties of introducing comprehensive legislation. This is a delicate matter and one on which it will be exceedingly difficult to reach agreement. However, I am pleased to be able to say that on this narrow measure where legitimate grievances have been demonstrated and where a cure can be found we are happy to support the Bill and the amendments. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stockport on introducing the Bill successfully.
Question put and agreed to.
Lords Amendments Nos. 2 to 4 agreed to.
Lords amendment : No. 5, in page 2, line 6, after "also" insert "(a)".
Mr. Favell : Under Lords amendment No. 5, regulations will be made to provide for the type of evidence to be produced in support of an application for a property to be removed from the register. Obviously, it is important that before any common land is removed from the register the commons commissioner should be satisfied that all the requirements of the Bill are met. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be able to lay regulations to ensure that that is done.
Lords amendment No. 6 is important because it ensures that any application for common land to be removed from the register is properly advertised and brought to public notice and hopefully to the notice of the Open Spaces Society. I will be lobbying my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to ensure that that is done. This is to avoid the reverse of the situation which led to houses and gardens being registered in the first place because some people did not know what was going on. The amendment will ensure that the public are now aware of what is going on and that organisations interested in such matters are aware of any such applications so that they can consider them before any deletion is made from the register.
Column 629which will be necessary when dealing with this problem. During our earlier discussion of the Bill, much was made of the steps that we had taken to advertise properly the fact that a property was to be deregistered. That difficulty emerged largely because of ignorance of the land in question. Some householders did not know that their houses and the gardens in which they stood had been registered as common land because it was not properly advertised. It follows that it is particularly important that during this three-year period, which will affect those homes registered as dwelling houses which existed before 1945, all the proper steps are taken to ensure that this is done fairly and effectively and all those affected are made aware.
It will be necessary to inform all the appropriate local authorities and we agree that the Open Spaces Society, on behalf of the amenity bodies, should be informed when it is proposed to deregister houses or gardens. Excellent progress has been made in drawing up the regulations. We are extremely keen to make these available at the earliest opportunity. We shall, we hope, shortly be consulting local authorities, the National Farmers Union, the Country Landowners Association, the Law Society, the Open Spaces Society, the Countryside Commission, the Council on Tribunals and any others with a legitimate interest to ensure that the proper measures and all the necessary powers are in place.
We shall prescribe the form in which the objections must be made and make clear what is the necessary evidence that will be required to prove a case. We hope that, after sufficient consultation, it will be possible to lay regulations well before the end of this year. They will be subject to the negative resolution, but we very much hope that on the basis of this, and together with the further Lords amendments that increase the powers of the Secretary of State, it will be possible for the Bill to come into force effectively and usefully before the end of the year.
Question put and agreed to.
Lords amendments Nos. 6 and 7 agreed to.
Lords amendments considered.
Lords amendment : No. 1, in page 1, line 7, at end, insert "are in receipt of an annual grant-in-aid to".
Mr. Marshall : I am glad to have the opportunity to say a word or two about these amendments, which reflect a good deal of important work carried out in the other place to bring this Bill back in a shape that I believe will commend itself to both sides of the House. The Bill was sent to the other place unopposed by this House, but it happened, for procedural reasons, that we did not have a chance to discuss some of its implications. Therefore, in supporting the amendments, it may be for the convenience of the House if I take the opportunity to highlight why I believe that the effect of carrying through these amendments, and those that follow, will be to highlight the activities of both the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. In that regard, I am glad to see on the Front Bench my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Mr. Durant). He is my opposite number as the chairman of the executive committee of the CPA. Muzzled he may be by his Whip's duties, but alert and vigilant as ever he is on behalf of the CPA.
The amendments are needed for technical drafting reasons. The objectives of the Bill are to set up a register of publicly financed international parliamentary organisations that are in receipt of grant in aid, both for British and international secretariats. The additional words about grant in aid are included in the amendments to clause 1 and the title.
The elimination of any reference to the Council of Europe, the North Atlantic Assembly and the Western European Union is in no way intended to reflect any criticism of those organisations. When the Bill was introduced, we were given technical advice that those three organisations should be included. Further advice, which coincided with the Bill going to another place, suggested that in two important respects--international secretariat and grant in aid provisions--there was a unique arrangement for the CPA and the IPU that did not relate to the three other organisations.
It gives me a great deal of pleasure to talk specifically about the CPA and the IPU. As is well known, on 29 June the IPU celebrated its centenary and Mr. Speaker unveiled a bust of Sir William Randal Cremer in the Members' Lobby. In the centenary year of an organisation founded by this Parliament and the French Parliament, it is splendid not only that a British parliamentarian has been honoured in that way, but that the bust of a Back Bencher
Column 631now appears in the Members' Lobby alongside the eminent figures who have occupied the office of Prime Minister
The IPU has always united all parts of the House. Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you have given great support to both the IPU and the CPA when there have been visiting parliamentary delegations. Your predecessor this morning--Madam Deputy Speaker--is a long-standing serving member of the CPA executive and will be chairing the women's parliamentary meeting at the IPU conference in September as part of the centenary activities. I also wish to welcome the hon. Member for Gateshead, East (Ms. Quin) to this debate. I have been corresponding with her because we are anxious to bring as many women
parliamentarians as possible into the wider international dialogue provided through the IPU.
I wish briefly to deal with some of the activities relevant to both organisations, and I shall explain why they have been singled out in the Bill. The 1988 report of the executive committee of the United Kingdom branch of the CPA highlights the thrust and purpose of the organisation and the way in which it has built on its long establishment since 1911 when it was born--as the British Empire Parliamentary Association.
During the 37th parliamentary seminar in 1988, the United Kingdom played host to delegates from 22 Commonwealth legislatures, among whom where six presiding or deputy presiding officers and three Ministers. The seminars in London and Canterbury attracted a great deal of interest, and much valuable work was carried out. The parallel activity of a Commonwealth parliamentary visit later in the year attracted 20 legislatures. It gave Commonwealth parliamentarians an opportunity not only to meet their fellow parliamentarians in both British Houses of Parliament, but to visit Oxford, Birmingham and Edinburgh.
In all the CPA's wide international activities in 1988, we cannot ignore the fact that many of them were directed towards the recognition of Australia in its bicentennial year. To that end, the 34th Commonwealth parliamentary conference was held in Australia's splendid new Parliament building in Canberra. Those of us from the CPA and the IPU who were privileged to attend a number of events during the bicentennial, thanks to our Australian parliamentary colleagues, will recognise that one of the most rewarding aspects of the development of the CPA has been the growth not only of other Commonwealth Parliaments but their commitment to the CPA and their willingness to keep in touch and work with parliamentarians throughout the Commonwealth, and especially those in the United Kingdom.
Others may wish to say more about the CPA, but, as chairman of the executive of the British group of the IPU, I shall concentrate on that organisation--not only in discussing our status along with the CPA, but our direct funding relationship with the Government and our willingness to volunteer for public accountability.
I first presented this Bill--supported by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), the hon. Members for Tooting (Mr. Cox) and for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) and, in the earlier stages, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson