I understand that about 60% of travellers will be covered under the new scheme, but I urge the Minister to use the powers under the Bill to extend ATOL further to incorporate holidays sold by airlines. Other tourism companies and operators feel a deep sense of grievance that while they have to pay the levies associated

22 May 2012 : Column 1091

with ATOL, when airlines sell holidays they do not have to do so and do not face the same costs. I hope that will be dealt with, along with companies designated as agents for the consumer also being able to avoid some of the liabilities that other holiday companies have to take up. Although we welcome these changes, a much broader look at how the scheme operates is needed.

We also think there is a need for more information on what the consumers—the travellers—actually want. There is little information about the views of travellers. They might, for instance, want more information on other forms of available insurance. Although I repeat that we certainly welcome the Government’s measures, they need to go further.

More work can be done on all those points of concern, although I reiterate that there is general support for the Bill. I view the items of concern I have mentioned as works in progress and I hope that the Minister can assure us that she sees them in that light too. I hope that she can give us an absolute commitment that there will be closer working between the Department and the Home Office on the queues at our airports so that that problem, at least, can be dealt with satisfactorily as soon as possible.

9.45 pm

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): I welcome the Bill. For too long, regulation across Government has been too centralised in Whitehall and has not focused on its core consideration, which is the needs of the public. The general duty to passengers in the Bill is an excellent step forward.

For far too many decades, we have seen top-down central control of transport policy. Even if all we had was a general duty for passengers the Bill would be good, but it has more to it, as has been outlined by the Minister, such as the ATOL reforms. Under clauses 83 and 84, extra information must be provided for passengers so that they know what is going on, whether it is about transport options for getting to the airport or the environmental impact. It lets passengers know and lets them decide what they want. I particularly welcome the environmental information required under clause 84.

It is clear that we must tackle the growing environmental impact of aviation. Even if we simply stick with the framework set by the Committee on Climate Change back in 2009, by 2050 aviation is due to make up at least 25% of our allowed carbon emissions. Its relevance to the future of our planet is hard to quantify but also hard to overestimate. Aviation already has a huge impact on people’s daily lives. Hundreds of thousands of people live under the Heathrow flight path—indeed, a quarter of all people in Europe who are affected by aircraft noise pollution are under the Heathrow flight path.

I have made it clear throughout the progress of the Bill that I want an enhanced environmental duty and a strengthening of the Bill in that regard. I have been talking to the Minister about that point, as we have not yet reached a solution that works. I am optimistic that the Minister will be able to work out the exact wording before the Bill reaches the other place, but we are not there yet.

Jim Fitzpatrick rose

22 May 2012 : Column 1092

Dr Huppert: I was about to be nice about the shadow Minister, but I shall let him speak first.

Jim Fitzpatrick: In that case, my timing is appalling. It might have been the first time that the hon. Gentleman had been nice to me—[Hon. Members: “Aah!”] I am not getting this right at all tonight, Mr Speaker. I apologise for that.

In Committee, the hon. Gentleman and I had a very difficult exchange. He rightly said that our first amendment on the environment did not have the quite the right focus or the right wording, was not strong enough and did not mention the Climate Change Committee. We took his advice, changed all those points and tabled an amendment on Report that covered all those elements, but he still could not vote for it. Will he give us some indication whether he will be more successful with the Minister this time than we were last time?

Dr Huppert: I thank the shadow Minister for his praise and I am glad that he listened to my comments about the first version of the amendment. I was about to say that I welcomed its intentions and was very pleased that it was improved. I think that it is almost at a stage where it could be accepted. Unfortunately, it was not quite there.

I was wondering whether to use some of the criticisms that I had stored up, and I shall use one. One thing that concerns me about the shadow Minister’s position is his party’s overall position on the environment. The new shadow Environment Minister whose post was announced in the recent reshuffle—the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Mr Harris)—said on Second Reading that he hoped his party would support the third runway at Heathrow and argued that concern for the environment was really a form of class warfare, saying that we were coming up with environmental concerns because people with less money were able to fly. I am sure that that is not what the shadow Transport Minister, the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), means and I hope that he will be successful in persuading his colleagues to take a more sensible approach.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Is the hon. Gentleman arguing for an additional runway at Heathrow? The impact of flying to Heathrow and flying around until the plane can land—stacking—must be environmentally wrong. He is right to argue for an additional runway.

Dr Huppert: I do not think anyone here believes I am arguing for a third runway at Heathrow. If the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood that, I am sorry. This highlights the problem that there are people on the Back Benches on the Government side who are in favour of a third runway at Heathrow. I wish Ministers good luck in persuading them. Unfortunately, it seems that Back Benchers and Front Benchers on the Opposition side hold such views, although I realise that is not the shadow Minister’s official position.

I hope we will be able to get the outcome that we all want, party political bickering aside, and that the Minister and the Secretary of State will be able to deliver that in the other place. One concern that has been raised is that the current proposals will tackle only regulated airports.

22 May 2012 : Column 1093

I would like them to go wider than that. For example, the Aviation Environment Federation suggested amending section 4 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982. That would be a more general approach and would not hit just particular areas, so that is one possibility. This is a good Bill. It could be tweaked to be even better, but it should be greatly welcomed on both sides of the House. It will give us a sustainable future for civil aviation in this country, with open data, proper regulation, support for sustainable transport and proper passenger-led reforms. I am delighted to support it.

9.50 pm

Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to speak. It is particularly expedient that I should do so after the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), for reasons that I shall come to. First, let me address one of the issues at the heart of the Bill: passenger experience. We welcome the Bill, which we sought to amend and improve in Committee. I was proud to serve on the Committee with colleagues from the Opposition Benches, some of whom are present. When things go wrong for someone at an airport their first instinct is to blame the airline, but it is rarely the airline that is at fault. We have seen such experiences at several airports and some bubbling discontentment, particularly more recently as a result of immigration and other issues such as poor weather. That is why we sought to put welfare plans for passengers into the Bill and why we sought to help disabled passengers more explicitly by putting such measures in the licence conditions. The two Front-Bench teams have explained their differences on where the emphasis should be.

For me, the key issue is about holding airport operators to account. I served on the Select Committee on Transport, and I remember seeing the chief executive of BAA come before the Committee shortly after the December 2010 snow disruption and confess that, of the 80 different measures of Heathrow’s success that were taken in December 2010, only three or four had been breached and marked as red, whereas every other box had been ticked green. In a sense, that underlines why we need to be really explicit about what we want to measure. I am sure that the CAA will be good at that, although the Opposition would have preferred the Government to have a more active role at the legislation stage.

The second issue I want to address is environmental responsibilities. In Committee, we felt it would be extremely helpful and effective if the CAA had a clear duty on the environment, and at one stage it appeared that the Department for Transport believed that too. Certainly, as the Bill came through, we saw from its drafting that that would not be included. I am talking about giving environmental information to passengers so that they can make smarter choices and about making sure that the CAA, as an economic regulator, can do its job, balancing the needs of the economy alongside the needs of the environment.

I wanted to speak to this Bill not just because I represent an airport constituency—Luton airport, which many people will know and love—but because I am deeply concerned about growth. We know that there is limited growth in the economy, to put it mildly, and that we need a long-term strategy for growth. As the Minister

22 May 2012 : Column 1094

has pointed out, if aviation is one of the routes for that growth, it is important to have continuity and consistency in the Government’s approach. That is why I am so concerned about the remarks that we heard in Committee, which the hon. Member for Cambridge spoke about.

A Liberal Democrat member of the Committee whom I shall not name—okay, I will, it was the hon. Member for Cambridge—said in Committee:

“I would very much like to see an environmental duty in the Bill. That is an important issue, and I raised it on Second Reading.”

He went on:

“I am confident that she”—

the Minister of State—

“will…find a way to deliver an environmental duty in this Bill…It is not a trivial issue.”––[Official Report, Civil Aviation Public Bill Committee, 28 February 2012; c. 116-17.]

We wait to see whether the Minister is willing to give to her coalition colleague that assurance. We certainly felt that the point might have been more easily pressed home had the hon. Gentleman voted for it in the first place. I say that not to embarrass any particular Member on the Government side—honestly—but because I think the issue goes to the heart of aviation strategy more broadly under this Government. As with many issues under the coalition Government, we have one party on the accelerator and one party on the brake. Sometimes those flip around, but on aviation strategy the nature of the coalition becomes even more disparate. We have two people on the accelerator and one on the brake, or one on the accelerator and two on the brake at different times. There is no clarity for the industry about where this Government want to take aviation. That should be a big concern for us.

We know the issues in aviation; the big one that needs to be tackled is the requirement for greater capacity in the south-east. With reference to Luton airport, we know that the Minister is deeply interested in point to point and she is right. We should make more effective use of the capacity that we have. I hope the ministerial team will bring forward commitments on that in the coming months. We can go from 8 million passengers to a greater number without doing significant ground works or extending the runway.

We need resolution on whether there will be a genuine hub airport—one that does not fall over when it snows, when it rains, when there are small amounts of disruption. While that issue remains unresolved, perhaps because of the nature of coalition government, perhaps because of geographic requirements on Ministers or individual MPs, simply saying no is not a policy.

Graham Stringer: I wish Luton airport well; I have used it on a number of occasions. However, the recent report from BAA shows that if we do not have a third runway at Heathrow, which is the only solution to providing a hub airport, we will lose £100 billion in the economy. That is a non-trivial amount. Not having a third runway, as the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) said, is actually bad for the environment.

Gavin Shuker: I thank my hon. Friend. I want to make it clear that I think the right approach is to reach a cross-party consensus on the future for a hub airport. In that context, the moves by the shadow Secretary of

22 May 2012 : Column 1095

State and the shadow Minister of State to write to Ministers at the Department for Transport saying, “We will take the option of a third runway off the table,” acknowledging that it has been taken off the table by Ministers, is the right way to go. However, the issue does not go away. In the course of developing policy in both major parties, we cannot continue to dodge the bullet. We need a hub airport that is fit for purpose. That is why I believe it is so important, given the passage of the Bill through the House tonight, that we find a way to tackle the big issues in aviation.

Mr Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that more people who wish to travel to and from London could and should use Luton airport?

Gavin Shuker: Sometimes one is bowled a googly in the House. I am not sure whether I have been with that question. I agree absolutely with the right hon. Gentleman. More people could use the four or five other airports around London instead of Heathrow and use existing capacity well.

I believe that the Minister’s heart is in the right place on the issue. We should speak positively and give a clear direction for industry, because without that the Department will not make its vital contribution, which we need for growth.

9.58 pm

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I congratulate the Minister and the Government on bringing the Bill to the House on Third Reading, and the Opposition on the hard work that they did in laying the foundations for legislative change when they were in power. It should be recognised that the Opposition have done a lot of work on the matter.

The thrust of the Bill is to reform the economic regulation of airports, with particular focus on those airports with market dominance. We are talking about Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. As a Northern Ireland MP travelling every week, I have become very familiar with Heathrow and Gatwick. Since the British Airports Authority was privatised in 1986, London’s largest airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, have been subject to the same economic regulatory regime, which was designed to ensure that these major airports did not abuse their monopoly position.

The prices that Gatwick charges airport passengers are currently capped by the Civil Aviation Authority, which sets them in accordance with a Competition Commission recommendation. The revenues from these prices often appear on passengers’ tickets as airport charges. They are used to pay for runways, airfield facilities, terminals, security, baggage systems and future development. Price caps are usually reviewed every five years, but the Bill reforms that process.

As a Northern Ireland MP, I would ask for some clarification on a number of issues. The Bill has some consequences for all Northern Ireland airports, which I will briefly touch on. The Government are rightly always looking to consult the public, but sometimes the cost is astronomical. Airports have expressed concern to me that the CAA is running a consultation that may lead to a significant increase in the charge it levies on airports, so a cost element comes into the CAA process, which it is important to take into consideration.

22 May 2012 : Column 1096

In addition, there is the proposal to transfer some of the aviation security oversight functions from the Department for Transport to the CAA, which in turn will directly charge airports for those services, which is not currently the case. As the Bill contains no provision for the airport operator to pass the charges directly to users, that will mean an increase in cost that the operator has to absorb, and those costs are extreme. At Belfast International airport, it is likely to be in the region of £100,000 to £120,000 annually. Obviously, that is unwelcome, because it eats into the capability to reinvest in infrastructure, yet the Government’s first objective was to encourage reinvestment in the airports. There are perhaps unintended consequences, but they are significant when we take into account the fact that the annual CAA licence, which is based on passenger numbers alone, presently costs the likes of Belfast International airport £202,000 a year, which is a 50% increase on top of what it already pays. That is very concerning. Who can absorb such colossal sums of money annually?

It has also been pointed out to me by officials from Belfast International airport that we must recognise the relationship between the economic regulation of London’s airports and the Government’s priority of attracting new, direct routes to emerging economies that will help the UK economy to grow. The Bill is about regulating, but it is also and should be about encouraging growth in our airports to encourage growth in our businesses and tourism, and the Bill has a part to play in that. We in Northern Ireland want a balance between regulation, growth and opportunity for our airports, Belfast International, Belfast City and Londonderry.

The hon. Member for Crawley (Henry Smith) also referred to that in relation to Gatwick, and he outlined the issue of regulation. Gatwick wants the regulation system to reflect the way in which the aviation sector operates. Gatwick is clearly emerging as a business airport, competing with Heathrow, and it has space available—another issue that has emerged. In determining whether an airport should be regulated, the CAA must find that an airport is dominant, as interpreted in competition law by the European Commission and referred to in the CAA’s own competition assessment guidelines, and Ministers should provide clarification on that matter.

The CAA has said that it fully expects more than 50% of all decisions to be appealed under the new system. That suggests that the present system is not perfect, and that changes should be made sooner rather than later. Will the Minister clarify how the Government have assessed the financial and business impact that the new appeals system will have, and whether they will consider additional safeguards to reduce the burden that it will place on regulated airports, such as a narrower right of appeal?

The Transport Committee recommended that the information publication requirements should not create disproportionate burdens for the aviation sector, and that is another issue of concern. Gatwick is now competing with other London airports. There is clear evidence of that, with airlines and passengers moving among competing London airports and Gatwick, and airlines choosing Gatwick over others to establish brand new routes to key trading partners. There should be no risk of presumption towards regulation.

22 May 2012 : Column 1097

I will conclude with a final comment on the CAA. It has been indicated to me that the CAA is unable to deliver slots for Heathrow airport. Indeed, it has been identified that the European Union needs to amend regulations in order to enable flight slots for regions, for example for Belfast International airport and Belfast City airport. Can the Minister confirm that the Government have no power as a result of EU regulations to retain or safeguard routes between Belfast and Heathrow? I understand that if she is unable to confirm that, amendments to the Bill will be tabled in the other place. I look forward to the Minister’s response to those questions.

Question put and agreed to .

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Climate Change

That the draft CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme (Allocation of Allowances for Payment) Regulations 2012, which were laid before this House on 26 March, in the previous Session of Parliament, be approved.—(Jeremy Wright.)

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Dangerous Drugs

That the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Temporary Class Drug) Order 2012 (S.I., 2012, No. 980), dated 29 March 2012, a copy of which was laid before this House on 3 April, in the previous Session of Parliament, be approved.—(Jeremy Wright.)

Question agreed to.

petitions

VAT on Static Caravans

10.6 pm

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): I advise the House that time is crucial and I would like to explain how we plan to do this. There are a large number of petitions to be presented and I hope that it will be of assistance to the House if I set out how we shall proceed.

Once the first petition relating to VAT on static caravans has been read to the House, with its prayer, subsequent petitions on the same topic should not be read out in full. Members should give a brief description of the number and location of the petitioners and state that the petition is “in the same terms”. Members presenting more than one petition should present them together.

When a Member has presented a petition, she or he should proceed to the Table and hand it to the Clerk, who will read its title and then hand it back to the Member. She or he should then proceed directly to the

22 May 2012 : Column 1098

petitions bag at the back of the Chair. I will call the next Member immediately after the Clerk has read the title. At the expiry of half an hour, no further petitions may be presented orally, but they may be placed in the petitions bag and will be recorded as formally presented. Is everybody happy? I call Mr Graham Stuart to present his petition.

Mr Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): Normally at this time of night the House is emptying, not filling up. Instead, colleagues are coming into the Chamber because of their concern about the imposition of VAT on static caravans. If enacted, the Government’s proposal to impose VAT on static caravans will cost jobs. Only today, Willerby Holiday Homes, Britain’s largest caravan manufacturer, announced plans for 350 redundancies in anticipation of the tax rise. Jobs will be lost not only in manufacturing and the supply chain, but in the parks themselves, which employ 26,000 people directly across the country. I am grateful to Mr Speaker for allowing us half an hour this evening to present these petitions on behalf of so many constituencies across the country. Although I will read out the full text, Mr Deputy Speaker, you have asked that others do not do so.

In addition to presenting a petition on behalf of those in Beverley and Holderness, I am presenting petitions from the constituencies of: Birmingham, Northfield; Blackpool South; Blyth Valley; Bognor Regis and Littlehampton; Bridgwater and West Somerset; Carlisle; Christchurch; Clacton-on-Sea; Dwyfor Meirionnydd—I hope there are no more Welsh constituencies to trouble me; Eastleigh; Filton and Bradley Stoke; Forest Heath; Harwich and North Essex; Islwyn; Milton Keynes South; Montgomeryshire—I am confident about pronouncing that one; New Forest West; North Devon; North Norfolk; Poole; Rochdale; Selby and Ainsty—I am delighted to see my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) in his seat and supporting this presentation; Shrewsbury and Atcham—I am also delighted to see my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) in his seat; South Dorset; South Down; Stirling; Tynemouth; Wells—I am delighted to see the hon. Member for Wells (Tessa Munt) in her seat; West Bromwich West; West Dorset; West Worcestershire; and Workington. Mr Deputy Speaker, you can tell the breadth and depth of concern about this issue.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of Beverley and Holderness Constituency,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that levying VAT on static holiday caravans would cost thousands of jobs in caravan manufacturing, from their suppliers, and in the wider UK holiday industry; and notes that the Petitioners believe that such a levy would lose revenue for the Government.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reverse its decision to levy VAT on static caravans.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.

[P001027]

The following petitions were also presented:

The Petition of residents of Rochdale.

[P001060]

The Petition of residents of Christchurch,

[P001061]

22 May 2012 : Column 1099

The Petition of residents of West Bromwich West.

[P001062]

The Petition of residents of Dwyfor Meirionnydd.

[P001063]

The Petition of residents of Clacton on Sea.

[P001064]

The Petition of residents of South Down.

[P001065]

The Petition of residents of Bridgwater and West Somerset.

[P001066]

The Petition of residents of West Dorset.

[P001067]

The Petition of residents of Filton and Bradley Stoke.

[P001068]

The Petition of residents of Montgomeryshire.

[P001069]

The Petition of Residents of Ceredigion.

[P001070]

The Petition of Residents of Eastleigh.

[P001071]

The Petition of Residents of Selby and Ainsty.

[P001072]

The Petition of residents of Birmingham Northfield.

[P001073]

The Petition of residents of Poole.

[P001074]

The Petition of residents of Blyth Valley.

[P001075]

The Petition of residents of Bognor Regis and Littlehampton.

[P001076]

The Petition of residents of Forest Heath.

[P001077]

The Petition of residents of Carlisle.

[P001078]

The Petition of residents of South Dorset.

[P001079]

The Petition of residents of Tynemouth.

[P001080]

The Petition of residents of North Norfolk.

[P001081]

The Petition of residents of North Devon.

[P001082]

The Petition of residents of Stirling.

[P001083]

The Petition of residents of Harwich and North Essex.

[P001084]

The Petition of Residents of Blackpool South.

[P001085]

The Petition of residents of Workington.

[P001086]

22 May 2012 : Column 1100

The Petition of residents of Islwyn.

[P001087]

The Petition of residents of New Forest West.

[P001088]

The Petition of residents of Shrewsbury and Atcham.

[P001090]

The Petition of residents of Milton Keynes South.

[P001091]

The Petition of residents of Ludlow.

[P001092]

The Petition of residents of West Worcestershire.

[P001093]

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): I present a petition in the same terms as those presented by the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), from constituents of mine at the Waren caravan park, Waren Mill, Bamburgh in the Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency. My constituents are deeply concerned about the impact not just on manufacturing, but on the holiday parks and caravan sites in whose business model sales are an important factor.

The Petition of residents of Waren Caravan Park, Waren Mill, Bamburgh, Northumberland.

[P001028]

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): I, too, present a petition, on behalf of the residents of the Brigg and Goole constituency, in the same terms as my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart).

The Petition of residents of Brigg and Goole.

[P001029]

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Having voted against the imposition of VAT on static holiday caravans in the Budget resolution debate on 18 April, I have the privilege to present a petition in the same terms on behalf of residents of the Kettering constituency.

The Petition of residents of Kettering constituency.

[P001030]

Lisa Nandy (Wigan) (Lab): I present this petition, on behalf of the residents of Wigan, in the same terms as the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart).

The Petition of residents of Wigan.

[P001031]

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): I present a petition in similar terms on behalf of residents of the Waveney constituency in Suffolk.

The Petition of residents of Waveney.

[P001032]

Laura Sandys (South Thanet) (Con): I have the great honour of presenting this petition in the same terms as my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart).

The Petition of residents of South Thanet.

[P001034]

22 May 2012 : Column 1101

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I present this humble petition of residents of Wellingborough in Northamptonshire and the surrounding areas in the same terms as those that have already been presented and, in particular, because there is the significant manufacturing of such caravans in my constituency.

The Petition of residents of Wellingborough.

[P001037]

Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): It is my privilege to present a petition in the same terms as those of my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), who made it clear that this is being done to prevent enormous numbers of job losses around the country, with the highest concentration probably in East Yorkshire, not least in Haltemprice and Howden, on behalf of which I present this petition signed by 612 residents.

The Petition of residents of Haltemprice and Howden constituency.

[P001039]

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I thank and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) on the way in which he has conducted his campaign. My constituency contains a large number of static caravan parks, and I therefore endorse all his remarks. It is my honour to present a petition on behalf of my constituents in Maldon.

The Petition of residents of Maldon.

[P001038]

Mark Garnier (Wyre Forest) (Con): I add my gratitude and thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) for the effort he has made in representing the interests of this industry. In similar terms to the aforementioned petition, I have great pleasure in bringing to the House 400 signatures from the residents of Wyre Forest.

The Petition of residents of Wyre Forest.

[P001036]

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): In similar terms to those of the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), I have pleasure in presenting a petition to this House on behalf of more than 1,000 residents of Delyn in north Wales—not only those associated with caravan parks but those associated with the fish and chip shops, pubs and supermarkets that serve them.

The Petition of residents of Delyn constituency.

[P001040]

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): I have pleasure in presenting a petition of 3,249 signatures from the residents of the constituency of Kingston upon Hull North, and also presenting, on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson), a petition signed by 1,788 of his constituents. This matter is of particular importance to both our constituencies owing to the manufacturing of caravans in the city of Hull.

The Petition of residents of Kingston upon Hull and East Yorkshire.

[P001044]

22 May 2012 : Column 1102

Martin Caton (Gower) (Lab): I present a petition in the same terms from the residents of Gower.

The Petition of residents of Gower.

[P001035]

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): I present a petition with 1,401 signatures on behalf of the residents of Kingston upon Hull East. This issue is terribly important and even more so today, with Willerby Holiday Homes announcing a consultation on redundancies for 350 staff as a direct result of what the Government plan to do.

The Petition of residents of East Hull constituency.

[P001042]

Mr Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): I present a petition in the same terms signed by 346 people who are residents of, or visitors to, Argyll and Bute. Owners of static caravans bring a great deal of money to Argyll and Bute, and many businesses in the constituency are very worried that the impact of this tax will mean a loss of revenue and a loss of jobs.

The Petition of residents of Argyll and Bute constituency, and others.

[P001043]

Mr Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): I present a petition in similar terms from the Isle of Wight, from 356 residents or visitors.

The Petition of residents of the Isle of Wight Holiday Parks.

[P001047]

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): It is my honour and privilege to prevent a “Stop Caravan Tax” petition of behalf of my constituents, in the same terms as that presented to the House by my friend the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart). In the wonderful villages of Bushmills and Ballycastle, and indeed in the Glens, caravan parks will potentially be destroyed by such a tax. As I voted against it, it is my honour to defend the rights of those villagers and prevent this tax on holidays.

The Petition of residents of North Antrim constituency.

[P001048]

Mr Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): I seek to present a petition signed by approximately 1,000 residents of East Yorkshire and beyond. It is in identical terms to that presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart). My constituents who are petitioning agree with his, and I agree with him.

The Petition of residents of East Yorkshire.

[P001049]

Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (Lab): I fervently wish to present a petition on behalf of my constituents in the beautiful county of Ayrshire, which depends heavily on tourism and will be most adversely affected if this measure goes through.

The Petition of residents of Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock.

[P001045]

22 May 2012 : Column 1103

Simon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) (Con): I am delighted to present three petitions in similar terms to those presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), on behalf of residents of the Wood Park Caravans, Celtic Holiday Parks and Perran Sands parks and many other people in my constituency.

The Petition of residents of Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire constituency.

[P001052]

The Petition of residents of Perran Sands.

[P001053]

The Petition of residents of Wood Park Caravans.

[P001054]

Amber Rudd (Hastings and Rye) (Con): My constituency has the most beautiful caravan sites in the country. I have the honour of presenting this petition on behalf of my constituents.

The Petition of residents of Hastings Rye constituency.

[P001055]

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): As a representative of Cleethorpes, which I have said on many occasions is the premier resort of the east coast, I am privileged to present this petition in similar terms to that presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart).

The Petition of residents of Cleethorpes.

[P001056]

Mr Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): I present this petition on behalf of residents of Ceredigion in west Wales, in similar terms to that presented by the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart). In particular, I wish to bring to the House’s attention their concerns about job losses in the small business sector, which supports the tourism industry.

The Petition of residents of Ceredigion.

[P001051]

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John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab): I have a petition here, “Stop the Caravan Tax”, signed by Scott Staniforth of 45 Vicar road, Wath, and others from my constituency. They see that the tax on static caravans could add £8,000 to the price of a caravan, price families out of their regular holiday and thwart many people’s ambition to own an affordable second home. They have therefore signed a petition in similar terms to that presented by the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart).

The Petition of residents of Wentworth and Dearne constituency.

[P001050]

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): In the 11 minutes remaining, I should like to deliver a petition on behalf of Mr Norman Bliss of the Lower Treave caravan park at Crows-An-Wra, near Penzance, in my west Cornwall and Isles of Scilly constituency, the premier holiday destination of the United Kingdom. In handing me this petition, the petitioners pointed out that the measure, far from resolving the anomaly that the Government said they had identified, created a new anomaly between static caravans and static bricks and mortar. I am proud and very pleased to support the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) in his excellent campaign.

The Petition of residents of the St Ives constituency.

[P001058]

Simon Reevell (Dewsbury) (Con): I am delighted to present a petition on behalf of my constituents in similar terms to that presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart). Up to a quarter who signed the petition expect to lose their jobs if the proposal is not reversed.

The Petition of residents of Dewsbury.

[P001041]

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Littering and Fly-tipping

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Bill Wiggin.)

10.27 pm

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): I am very grateful to Mr Speaker for granting this debate on a subject about which I have always felt strongly. I spoke of my dislike of fly-tipping in my maiden speech on 2 July 2001, and unfortunately, despite more money being spent on clearing up litter and fly-tipping, the problem has got worse and not better.

Although the Government have reduced the deficit by a quarter in the two years they have been in office, they are still spending more than their income, which is why the £863 million spent on street cleansing in 2011 is such a huge sum. If we add the cost of cleaning the highways and railways, and the cost of removing fly-tipping from public and private land, the actual amount of public money spent on cleaning up litter in England is well over £1 billion annually. If people behaved responsibly and cared for their local areas by not littering, that money could be used to care for the needy and the vulnerable in our communities.

My argument is that we need rigorous and robust action from the Government, the police and local authorities, as well as a massive increase in personal responsibility and care for our local environment from an army of concerned citizens. I pay tribute to street cleansing staff up and down our country. They do an important and valued job, and I thank them for it, but they cannot keep our country clean on their own, which is why I wholeheartedly welcome the Daily Mail “Spring Clean for the Queen” campaign and pay tribute to the Campaign to Protect Rural England “Stop the Drop” campaign. I also note that the Country Land and Business Association says that it costs its members an average of £800 per incident to remove non-toxic fly-tipped waste, and several thousand pounds per incident if the waste is hazardous and includes, for example, asbestos.

All of us have a responsibility not to drop litter and to keep our immediate environment clean. We can all keep the area around our homes clean. Shopkeepers can clean in front of their premises, and businesses can keep their immediate environment clean as well. Public servants should also join in. When I go round schools in my constituency, one of the ways in which I judge head teachers is whether they pick up litter as they show me around their school. I have noted that the schools in which the head teachers pick up litter tend to be cleaner. If it is not beneath the head teacher to pick up litter, the other staff tend to get the message fairly quickly.

I also commend the material to combat littering produced by the Campaign to Protect Rural England for use in our schools. This work is really important. If children are not learning at home that littering is wrong, they need to be told this very clearly in schools. I was delighted to read recently that Mrs Patricia Prosser, in the village of Stanbridge in my constituency, has just been nominated as villager of the year for the regular litter-picking that she undertakes in her village. She does not have to do it, it is not her job specifically, and she is not paid to do it, but she does it because she cares

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about her village and her environment. All of us could well follow her example, whether we live in a town, village or city.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing this important issue before the House tonight. Does he think that increased penalties for those who drop litter and fly-tip are the way forward? In Northern Ireland, council officials have the authority to issue fines on the spot to those whom they observe littering. Is that the way forward, rather than letting people get away with it?

Andrew Selous: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. I hope that he will have been pleased, as I was, by the announcement made by the Government today that they will make it a criminal offence regularly to dump rubbish in gardens and that those who are guilty of “persistent unreasonable behaviour” and who have ignored warnings to clear away unsightly rubbish will be subject to on-the-spot fines of £100—which is higher than some of the current penalties—or a court-imposed fine of up to £2,500. All of us know how it ruins a neighbourhood to have sofas, mattresses or fridges lying around in gardens, making an area look a complete mess. It is not fair on the decent householders who have to live in proximity to such situations. I urge the Government to bring in these community protection notices as quickly as possible as they are very much needed.

Much of the litter in the UK is thrown from vehicles and I was very interested to see that some London local authorities now have the power to impose a £100 fine on the registered owner of vehicles whose occupants throw litter from those vehicles and that this has become a civil offence. Can this scheme be spread across the whole of the United Kingdom?

I understand that local authorities across the UK and not just in London can now introduce similar byelaws into their areas. Can the Minister explain how local authorities can go about this? A poll released by the AA yesterday of 8,800 of its members showed that 61% think that people caught throwing litter from cars should be punished with three points on their licence, a fixed-penalty fine and possibly a community service order. There seems to be a public appetite for taking more robust action on this issue, and when the newsreader, Alice Arnold, recently threw a plastic bottle back into the car in front of her whose occupants had just chucked it on to the road, she was rightly widely praised for her actions.

I wonder whether we could make it possible for fly-tipped waste to be taken to tidy tips for no charge. We need to make it easy for landowners, both public and private, to clear up fly-tipped waste—after all, it is not their fault it is there—and not disincentivise them from doing so. It might be helpful if the local authority certified that the waste had been fly-tipped.

I also wonder whether it is possible to increase the fines for littering. I understand that in Los Angeles the fine for dropping litter is $1,000 and that it is vigorously enforced by the police. People do not tend to drop litter in that city, and unsurprisingly it is much cleaner than many British cities as a result. Do the Government plan to increase fines? Does the Minister believe that more police officers should be involved in enforcing the penalties? I understand that, at present, the issuing of fixed penalty

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notices is mainly done by local authority officers and police community support officers. Does the Minister think that there is scope for all police officers to join the front line of the fight against the litter louts?

We need to take every opportunity to tell the public that littering is offensive and wrong, and will be punished. I am pleased, therefore, that the Highways Agency is trialling anti-littering signs on its electronic gantries across motorways in three areas. I would like this initiative rolled out across the whole UK.

In many European countries, plastic bags are simply not offered at supermarkets. Customers can either buy a permanent bag for a few euros or are given a brown paper bag. Unsurprisingly, those countries have many fewer plastic bags littering the countryside. Plastic bags do not biodegrade easily and consequently remain as litter for very long periods. Will the Minister update the House on the Government’s plans to vastly reduce the number of single-use plastic bags being used in the UK?

Some other countries also have deposit refund schemes. Do the Government believe that such schemes could be introduced in the UK? I understand that the CPRE has done some research in this area and believes that such schemes would make a difference and could be introduced at no cost to the Government. What assessment have they made, then, of how successful these schemes are in other countries?

All Members care for our country and want to make it a better place. We all have a role, therefore, in trying to make Britain a country in which there is less litter. The amount of litter throughout our country is symptomatic of how people view their country and their local community. If someone litters, it means they do not care about their immediate environment or the impact their actions have on others. Litter is about personal responsibility and whether we, as citizens, care about the country we live in. As we approach a moment of great pride in our country’s history, celebrating the diamond jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen, I hope that we can all—those in authority and individual citizens—play our part in making this country one that has far less litter and fly-tipping in it.

10.38 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Richard Benyon): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) on bringing this matter to the House and on continuing his long-running and cogent campaign. I share his phobia of litter and fly-tipping. Without wanting to sound sanctimonious, I will tell the House that during the election campaign, so concerned were my supporters about litter that we took a day off campaigning to pick up litter in the otherwise fairly tidy town of Newbury. The issue goes to the heart of what we feel about our communities, our sense of place and this country.

My hon. Friend referred to his constituent, Mrs Prosser. I am sure that we can all think of Mrs Prossers in our constituencies who, unthanked and unrewarded, do amazing work, because they have pride in, and mind about, their community. As a society, we have to find a better way of rewarding and thanking people such as Mrs Prosser for their wonderful work.

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Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): The simple fact is that Mrs Prosser and others should not have to undertake such activities, but at least while they do have to I hope that my hon. Friend will join me in congratulating her and all those in my constituency who clear litter from the verges on the valuable work they do.

Richard Benyon: I entirely agree with my hon. and learned Friend and thank the volunteers in his constituency who do that, and I resent, in almost equal measure, the people with such little regard for our communities and countryside that they throw the litter in the first place, thereby requiring those volunteers to perform the selfless act that he describes.

Let me set out to the House the Government’s plans for good-quality local environments and the actions that we are taking to tackle littering and fly-tipping. We know from repeated public surveys that the appearance of local neighbourhoods matters greatly to people, ranking alongside or above concerns such as global climate change or rising fuel prices. Poor quality environments can destroy neighbourhood pride and create a climate of fear and neglect. These are therefore important issues, and it is right that we take a close interest in addressing them. Local authorities are on the front line of dealing with littering and fly-tipping. They have the duty to clean up public land and the powers to take enforcement action to fit local circumstances. Although most fly-tipping on public land is handled by local authorities, the Environment Agency also has a role in investigating large fly-tipping incidents, in particular those involving hazardous waste or organised crime. As my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire said, on private land the responsibility for dealing with fly-tipping rests with the landowners—often at great cost to them and their businesses—although many local authorities offer advice, guidance and, in some cases, help.

Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): I wonder whether the Minister could address the problem of different local authorities having different responsibilities. In my area, Somerset county council has shut a number of local recycling centres, leaving the district councils as the level responsible for dealing with fly-tipping. That transfers the cost from the county council’s budget, but means that district councils have to deal with an increasing problem. Indeed, they are left having to charge, through council tax, which seems most unfair.

Richard Benyon: I understand that all local authorities, like the Government, face difficulties and have to set priorities. If we are to be a truly localist Government, we have to leave decisions about priorities to be taken locally. In areas with unitary councils there is less misunderstanding on the part of the public about who is responsible. When I was a district councillor, people were always blaming the county council for things that were my responsibility, and vice versa. I know that this is a difficulty in areas with two-tier local authorities, but I understand the point my hon. Friend makes.

The charity Keep Britain Tidy carries out a survey for DEFRA each year, and this year the 10th report was produced. It provides an opportunity to look across the changes in the last decade and highlights the fact that

22 May 2012 : Column 1109

litter levels are not much better than when the survey was first carried out, in 2001, with 15% of areas deemed “unsatisfactory” for litter. Yet since that time, the costs to local authorities of sweeping the streets, including dealing with litter, has risen by hundreds of millions of pounds, as my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire said, to little short of £900 million.

DEFRA and the Environment Agency host the collection data on fly-tipping, through the Flycapture reporting system, which helps to provide evidence of the nature and scale of fly-tipping and allows decisions to be made locally and nationally on the best interventions to tackle the problem. Fly-tipping continues to have too great a detrimental impact on the local environment. In 2010-11, there were 820,000 fly-tipping incidents in England. Although that is a reduction compared with the previous year, this is in part due to changes in reporting practices by some authorities. The true figure is likely to be considerably more, as it is recognised that many incidents, particularly those on private land, go unreported. We also know that a lot of fly-tipping involves domestic waste, which can ordinarily be collected by local authorities or taken, as has been said, to civic amenity sites.

So what can be done to make real inroads into the persistent levels of litter? The Government’s commitment in this regard is clearly set out in the coalition’s programme for government. We aim to reduce litter as part of our drive towards a zero-waste economy. Changing the attitude and behaviour of those who drop litter and casually fly-tip is essential, which is why the Government are committed to working with Keep Britain Tidy, businesses, local authorities and community groups on their “Love Where You Live” campaign. It appeals to all sectors of business and across all sectors of society, and support is coming from Wrigley, McDonald’s, Network Rail, Coca-Cola, Waitrose and many others. Businesses can contribute in many ways: by supporting the campaigning effort; by carrying their message to customers, staff and others; and, directly, through changing the design of their products, packaging and services to reduce the possibility of litter from the outset. The “Love Where You Live” campaign holds promise in being able to attract widespread support to capture the public’s imagination and inspire civic pride, especially in this year of the Queen’s diamond jubilee, and the London Olympic and Paralympic games.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Richard Benyon: I am very short of time and I must answer the questions put by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire, but I will certainly give way at the end if I have time.

I, like my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire, welcome the Daily Mail’s “Spring Clean for the Queen” campaign to encourage clean-up events for the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

I know that littering from vehicles is a particular problem for local authorities. In March, the Secretary of State met businesses, trade associations and local authority representatives to look at what more can be done to tackle this. There was great enthusiasm for voluntary action and for innovative ideas coming forward

22 May 2012 : Column 1110

from business, including carrying branding and anti-litter messages in vehicles, in outlets and in communications with customers and staff to raise awareness of the issue. I was interested in what my hon. Friend was saying about the Highways Agency, because there is much more we can do, working with it.

Changing attitudes and behaviour is key. Much can be done through voluntary approaches to tackle littering from vehicles, but the Government’s mind is not closed to the regulatory route if that will work. London boroughs will soon start using powers under private legislation to issue a civil penalty against the registered keeper for littering. We want to see how that works in practice—to see if it helps to support behaviour change efforts elsewhere. If it works well, we will consider applying the approach more widely across the country.

The CPRE proposal for implementing a bottle deposit scheme has been mentioned. As part of the review of waste policies in 2011, the Department undertook a full analysis of the costs and benefits of implementing such a deposit system, based on the CPRE’s report “Have we got the bottle?” Although such a scheme may increase recycling rates for the materials covered and reduce litter, the estimated costs of running such a scheme are very high; they are much higher than alternative measures that could achieve the same aims. Taking that into account, it was decided not to take forward this option for the time being and instead to concentrate on other ways to increase recycling and address litter.

My hon. Friend mentioned bags. Concern about single-use carrier bags has also been raised frequently with my colleague Lord Taylor of Holbeach, who leads on this issue. We share the concern about the effect that those bags have on the environment, and about the increase in their distribution. We are looking carefully at all options to make sure that we further reduce their usage, and we are paying close attention to developments in Wales, where a 5p per bag minimum charge was introduced in October last year. The Welsh Government are currently evaluating their policy, and we will consider our position on carrier bags further following the evaluation of that scheme in July.

Let me deal with other issues that my hon. Friend raised, particularly the action we are taking against fly-tipping. The Government’s review of waste policy in England, published in June 2011, set out a range of measures to tackle fly-tipping. The approach advocated in the review is to make it easier for businesses and others to do the right thing with their waste, while also ensuring that the sanctions available act as a real deterrent to those responsible for waste crime.

A major area of concern is the cost incurred by public landowners for clearing up fly-tipping on their land where local authorities are not under any obligation to act. We do not have an accurate figure for fly-tipping on private land or for clearance costs, as landowners are not required to report them to Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire says, however, the Country Land and Business Association estimates that it might cost their members, or landowners across the country, in the region of £50 million to £100 million a year to dispose of fly-tipped waste.

This issue was highlighted in recommendations made by the Farming Regulation Task Force in 2011. We are working towards the development of best practice on the prevention, reporting, investigation and clear-up of

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fly-tipping through the National Fly-tipping Prevention Group and the taskforce implementation group. The aim is to allow local solutions that will free landowners of much of the “hassle” associated with clearing fly-tipped waste from their land. We are also looking at developing a partnership approach between landowners and local authorities that will encourage clearance of fly-tipped waste and the adoption of measures to improve local environmental quality. We will be presenting our approach at a ministerial summit to be held with key stakeholder groups later this summer.

As for sanctions for fly-tipping, these include stronger powers for the Environment Agency and local authorities to seize vehicles further to investigate suspected involvement in fly-tipping, as well as revoking the registration of waste carriers who repeatedly flout the law. While the penalties for fly-tipping are sufficient—up to a £50,000 fine on summary conviction—we want to ensure that the levels of fines and sentences handed down by the courts act as a deterrent. We have provided evidence to the Sentencing Council, which is considering producing a separate sentencing guideline for magistrates on fly-tipping. I am now happy to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher), if he still wishes to intervene.

Christopher Pincher: If the offer is still on the table, I will; I am grateful to the Minister for sweeping me up in his remarks. He rightly says that public attitudes need to be changed. Does he agree that the flexible attitude of some councils to supporting volunteers is to be commended? In my Tamworth constituency, Streetscene, the street cleaners, offer volunteers bags, litter pickers and gloves, and come back at the end of the litter-picking exercise to take the bags away. Is not that sort of positive flexibility to be commended?

Richard Benyon: It certainly is. I commend those sorts of schemes, which I have seen happening elsewhere. There is also good partnership working to be had between parish councils, town councils and higher tiers of local authorities where equipment can be shared and know-how and guidance can be supplied to volunteer groups and communities that wish to carry out their own spring cleans. This is clearly to be welcomed.

What about people who put their waste out for collection incorrectly? This is a matter of concern. Hard-working people, who already have enough worries, should not face the threat of being punished for innocent mistakes such as putting their bins out an hour or two early. It can be a problem when that is wrongly labelled as somehow similar to fly-tipping. That is why we want to change the law so that only the small minority whose behaviour causes problems for their neighbours and harms the local environment as my hon. Friend described will be punished; we want to make the fines more proportionate. As a first step, we are changing the law to reduce the level of fines under the current fixed

22 May 2012 : Column 1112

penalty notice regime. These changes are due to come into force on 30 May. We intend to make longer-term changes, including removing the current criminal sanctions, as parliamentary time allows.

My hon. Friend raised the issue of sanctions. He is right that littering is an offence under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The litterer can be prosecuted in magistrates courts and can on conviction face a fine of up to £2,500, as well as getting a criminal record. As an alternative to prosecution, local authority enforcement officers can issue a fixed penalty notice of between £50 and £80; it can be set locally, and is soon to rise. So there are sanctions, and they do hurt the perpetrators of this crime—for it is a crime.

Underlying all that, however, is the need for us as a Government, and, perhaps, us as a society, to view the problem as a culture of littering which has been allowed to develop and which we see regularly in some corners of our constituencies. It requires education in schools, it requires education of the adult population, and it requires a true partnership between those who love and respect their communities—and who constitute the vast majority—and the inconsiderate minority who are apparently happy to see their communities trashed. I am a great believer in the “broken windows” theory of policing, and dealing with littering is at the heart of that. I hope that what I have said tonight provides clear evidence of the Government’s commitment to tackling the blight caused by litter, fly-tipping and waste.

Andrew Selous: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Richard Benyon: I am happy to do so, in the minute that is left.

Andrew Selous: I should be grateful if the Minister would return to whether local authorities throughout the United Kingdom can now follow the example of London authorities. Has the Localism Act 2011 given all our councils the power to make byelaws similar to those being made in London to deal with the problem of litter being thrown from vehicles?

Richard Benyon: Yes. Under the neighbourhood planning scheme and the Localism Act, authorities elsewhere in the country will be able to do what is being done in London, and I expect that to prove very welcome.

I think that this is an ideal issue for Members to discuss. My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire and others who have remained in the Chamber to take part in the debate have demonstrated that it is possible for us to show real leadership and, together, to remedy a problem that has become much too prevalent throughout the country.

Question put and agreed to.

10.56 pm

House adjourned.