The most likely monetised costs to arise from the Bill were identified as additional premiums for insurance cover, which my hon. Friend rightly mentioned, and one-off costs to any operators who will need to update

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their equipment or plans to deal with an environmental emergency. The insurance industry was consulted, and it was suggested that additional insurance premiums to cover the costs of responding to an environmental emergency would probably either be minimal or non-existent. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud made that point. Given the level of insurance already required by operators and vessels in Antarctica, it was suggested that that was the case for both small and large operators.

The one-off costs to operators of updating their equipment or plans was also deemed small, given that the vast majority of UK operators already meet the requirements.

Oliver Colvile: Has my hon. Friend considered how many people might want to visit Antarctica, and what the various consequences might be?

Mark Simmonds: My hon. Friend makes a good point. We have carefully assessed the number of scientists and tourists who might visit Antarctica, and if my hon. Friend is patient, I will address his point in detail later.

It is also essential to ensure compliance with the Bill’s provisions. As that will be achieved through the existing permitting system, the additional administrative costs will be negligible.

One non-monetised cost of the Bill might be that operators adjust their plans to avoid highly sensitive or remote areas. Training time may also be needed in respect of any equipment obtained for potential response action. Again, however, such non-monetised costs are not expected to be significant. The main non-monetised benefit is that the Bill will reduce the likelihood of an environmental emergency occurring in the Antarctic through effective forward planning and providing a deterrent to potential irresponsible behaviour. The Bill will also reduce the environmental damage caused by any environmental emergency that does arise; simplify permitting procedures for non-UK nationals; and improve the conservation and preservation of UK historic monuments and sites in Antarctica.

12.15 pm

The Bill will also allow greater avoidance of the costs associated with undertaking environmental clean-up operations in Antarctica. Let me give the House a flavour of the costs. The most serious case of a maritime environmental emergency occurred when the Argentine vessel Bahia Paraiso sank in the shallow coastal waters in 1989, resulting in 600,000 litres of spilt fuel affecting nearby wildlife colonies. It was estimated that in today’s prices the resulting clean-up bill would be more than $10 million. These provisions are not reacting to hypothetical events; the Bill deals with real potential problems for the Antarctic.

I wish to address two or three specific points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North, the first of which relates to the point I was making about tourism. We do not believe that the Bill will reduce tourism to the Antarctic. Tourism is a legitimate activity to undertake in Antarctica and its level has risen dramatically in recent decades. In 1992-93, fewer than 9,000 tourists visited Antarctica, whereas by 2011-12 the number had risen almost threefold to 26,000. The Bill actually helps

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to ensure that tourism is well planned and undertaken responsibly. It is also worth noting that the Bill implements the liability annex, which will come into force only when all states that are party to it have ratified it—I wish to discuss that later, because it is an essential part of the Bill. That ensures that UK operators, including tourists, stay on a level playing field with those from other countries.

In discussing his new clause 1, my hon. Friend also mentioned the need for post-legislative scrutiny. The Bill will implement annex VI to the environmental protocol to the Antarctic treaty, once the annex comes into force. The Antarctic treaty consultative meeting of state parties will review the operations of the annex across the whole suite of Antarctic operations. We therefore feel that a specific UK review outside the structure of these international mechanisms is not necessary.

My hon. Friend’s other point that merits a specific response relates to the exclusions from the Bill, including fishing for profit and transiting vessels. Other hon. Members have discussed this, including the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), who rightly expressed disappointment in respect of the conservation of Antarctic living marine resources and the lack of agreement so far. I can give her a categorical assurance that we are working tirelessly to ensure that we bring the international community together to reach a satisfactory resolution. However, placing obligations on vessels that are just transiting Antarctic waters on a direct route to another destination would infringe their right of free passage in the high seas under international law. Such obligations would therefore contravene article VI of the Antarctic treaty.

I also have to say to my hon. Friend that the UK has demonstrated clearly its commitment to the implementation of marine protected areas in the Southern ocean. Earlier this year, the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands announced one of the largest sustainable marine protected areas in the world, covering its entire maritime zone. I must put on the record the fact that that process was begun under the previous Government, and we have continued that important focus. So I hope that I have reassured my hon. Friend on his points about new clause 1.

Oliver Colvile: Last night, I was at the Royal Geographical Society attending a reception and talk by a number of the military who had just come back from a trip to Antarctica. If new clause 1 was introduced, would it not do quite a lot of damage by discouraging the military from going down there and doing research? What about those scientists who go down, too? Will it have an impact on them?

Mark Simmonds: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. He will be aware that one of the exclusions under the Antarctic treaty concerns military operations in the Antarctic, although we have a presence there. We have a rescue vessel in case anything goes wrong and aspects of the Navy are there in relation to the Falkland Islands and the assistance we provide to them. There might well be problems for scientific research and the military if new clause 1 were implemented, which is one of the reasons I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North will withdraw it.

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Philip Davies: I take the Minister’s point on new clause 1. If there is no cost-benefit analysis, post-legislative scrutiny or whatever we want to call it, how will the Government assess whether the Bill is effective or whether we need to put more measures in place to protect the Antarctic?

Mark Simmonds: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity to clarify that point. We believe that the best place to do that analysis on an ongoing basis is under the architecture of the Antarctic treaty and at the Antarctic council, where the UK plays a significant, positive and engaged role. If opportunities emerge from that analysis in the future to add additional environmental protection with the agreement of all the other members of the Antarctic council, we will consider it extremely closely.

Philip Davies: Is the Minister saying that the Antarctic council will effectively be carrying out the kind of cost-benefit analysis that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) has in mind in his new clause? If the Minister is saying that, all well and good, but I was not entirely sure that that was what he was saying.

Mark Simmonds: The Antarctic council, as well as the UK as an important part of that council, will assess the whole gamut and remit of the working of the Antarctic treaties and the Bills that have come out of the protocols that developed out of the 1959 agreement, the 1961 treaty, the 1994 Act and the protocols agreed in 2005. I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that there will be continual assessments, but the assessments the Government have made in the run-up to the Bill demonstrated, as I said earlier, that there will be no significant additional costs or detrimental impact on UK businesses or scientific operations as the Bill is structured.

Let me address the second set of remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North on amendment 1 to clause 15, which relates to historic sites and monuments as provided for under annex V of the protocol on environmental protection to the Antarctic treaty. It is important to note that any party may propose a site or monument of recognised historic value for such designation to the Antarctic treaty consultative meeting. As the Antarctic treaty system operates on the basis of consensus, the agreement of all Antarctic treaty parties is needed for such a designation to be approved. Once approved, the proposed site is added to the approved list of historic sites and monuments, which is kept updated by the Antarctic treaty secretariat. As Members will no doubt recognise, the designation of historic sites and monuments and the protection that affords them under the Antarctic treaty and subsequent protocols is of extremely high importance to the United Kingdom, as we have significant historical ties with and have taken a significant interest in the Antarctic since Captain Scott’s visit there. It is important on this day to recognise the bravery and commitment of those early explorers.

I want to ensure that the House understands that clause 15, as drafted, provides that the Secretary of State will grant a permit to any British national involved in such work. That will ensure that the work is undertaken to high standards, and that a proper system is in place

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to guarantee that any artefacts removed for conservation work remain protected until they can be returned to Antarctica. That is important because the British Antarctic Territory has published a heritage strategy for the conservation of the British historic huts and other artefacts in the territory, which has been agreed with the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust and the British Antarctic Survey. That sets out overall principles for heritage conservation in the territory, and the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust has developed such plans, and undertakes a programme of maintenance at some of the sites, particularly the huts, each year. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has granted the trust £100,000 in 2011 to support that important work, and the Government of the British Antarctic Territory share profits from the sale of stamps and coins, which also helps to support the trust’s important work.

I am sure that all Members of the House share the national pride in the historic discovery, exploration and scientific pioneering legacy of the UK in Antarctica. The scientific legacy of Captain Scott’s exhibition permeated many of the studies undertaken in subsequent years. British graves and other important legacy aspects are also there.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): Is the Minister aware that it is a poignant time to be discussing this subject, because it is more or less the 100th anniversary of the news finally reaching England, and indeed my constituency, that the Scott expedition had met its very unhappy end? One of those who died, of course, was one of Cheltenham’s most famous sons, Dr Edward Wilson.

Mark Simmonds: I thank my hon. Friend for that comment. Of course he is absolutely right.

I reassure Members that clause 15 already allows for suitable amendments to be made to section 10 of the 1994 Act to ensure the long-term protection of Antarctica’s cultural heritage. The British historic legacy spans right across Antarctica, as do our responsibilities under the Antarctic treaty system. It is therefore crucial that clause 15, which is vital to the support and the longevity of historic and monumental sites in Antarctica as well as the objects housed within them, is extended to the whole of Antarctica, not just those historic sites and monuments in the British Antarctic Territory. I am therefore pleased to be able to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North that the amendment is unnecessary. The 1994 Act already ensures the regulation of British activities in Antarctica. As clause 15 is an amendment of section 10 of that Act, it will apply also to all historic sites and monuments designated under the Antarctic treaty system, wherever they are in Antarctica.

I shall now address the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) that clause 5 be removed from the Bill. Before I respond to my hon. Friend, I want to ensure that the House understands exactly what clause 5 does. It places a requirement on people who are organising activities that are to be carried out in Antarctica, and which are connected with the United Kingdom, to take reasonable preventive measures designed to reduce both the risk of environmental emergencies arising from those activities and the impact that such environmental emergencies

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might have. The requirement must be fulfilled before the person who is carrying out the activities enters Antarctica.

Jake Berry: I reinforce the points that my hon. Friend just made about identifying people who might pollute the Antarctic environment, because the Bill enshrines the “polluter pays” principle. Historically, we have found it very difficult to identify that polluter, and often, as time has gone by, the polluter is no longer around to remediate the damage they have done. That is why I strongly support the specific point in the Bill that says, “Let’s find out who the polluter is before the damage can be done.” I think that is very important.

Mark Simmonds: My hon. Friend makes an extremely pertinent point. He is right in his assessment of the importance of both the Bill as a whole and the “polluter pays” principle. Many of the clauses are designed to act as a deterrent to ensure that the appropriate mechanisms, thought and strategies have been put in place to stop any emergency occurring and to react quickly in the unfortunate event of an environmental emergency in Antarctica.

12.30 pm

I would argue that it is essential that steps are taken to prevent environmental emergencies occurring. It is the Government’s view that the provisions in subsections (4) and (5) of the 1994 Act requiring persons organising activities in Antarctica to make contingency plans prior to their arrival in Antarctica are entirely sensible and appropriate. They are also a direct reflection of the requirement in article 4(1) of the liability annex to ensure that response plans are in place.

The requirement to produce contingency plans in clause 5 covers a wider set of circumstances than both the requirement to take preventive measures and the duty to take response action under the 1994 Act, which focuses entirely on environmental emergencies. Contingency plans should cover environmental emergency scenarios as well as those involving other incidents with a potential for adverse impacts on the Antarctic environment. They also ought not to be limited only to those emergencies and incidents that result from planned activities, but should consider such events as may affect the carrying on of a planned activity. Many of these elements can be foreseen and planned for and form part of good contingency planning practice. However, it is not necessarily expected that every potential incident could be foreseen at the pre-planning stage.

The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) was right to raise the importance of prevention and preventive measures. Despite the fact that the FCO can already require someone seeking a permit for their Antarctic activities under the Antarctic Act 1994 to take preparatory measures—a point that was made very clearly and articulately by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley—we are strongly of the view that there is still a need to legislate to implement fully the requirements of the liability annex. The annex states that each party is to require its operators to undertake these tasks, whether or not that party has prior authorisation.

Let me address the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley made in relation to guidance requirements on contingency and pre-planning which

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already exist, as we have signed annex VI of the protocol. The guidance that we issue requires contingency and pre-planning because it is good practice in the UK, ahead of the curve, not because we have signed the annex. It is therefore important that we put this into a legislative structure. However, it will apply only to operators who apply to the FCO for a permit, not to all UK operators, as required by the annex. That would clearly change if we put it in a legislative framework.

It is clear that there is a strong connection between this provision and the 1994 Act. For those UK operators who go through the UK’s permitting process, and who are already subject to these, there are clearly advantages. For these operators the Government would be keen to ensure that there is no duplication of effort and no additional bureaucracy arising from these proposals.

Let me clarify a couple of points that relate to clause 5. There was a little confusion earlier, so let me inform the House that there is no relationship between annex V of the protocol, which provides for the designation of sites requiring protection, and clause 5, which seeks to ensure that all those going to Antarctica undertake pre-planning and prepare contingency plans.

So far, six countries have ratified the protocols—Finland, Peru, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Australia—and we very much hope to be the seventh. I can assure the House that once the Bill is passed we will forcefully attempt to persuade other countries to ratify as quickly as possible so that the contents of the Bill can be implemented as quickly as possible.

It is essential that clause 5 remains part of the Bill to ensure that best practice is enshrined in UK law. That best practice is enshrined in international law by the liability annex. The clause must also be seen in the global context. While the liability provisions are symbolic and central to the liability annex, they are likely to be invoked only in very rare circumstances and are intended primarily to act as a deterrent. The real value of the liability annex for Antarctica is the proposed introduction of a duty on all state parties to ensure that their operators take preventive measures and make contingency plans that will apply to all expeditions, not just those that have a permit from the UK.

Given those assurances, I hope that my hon. Friends the Members for Bury North and for Shipley will withdraw their new clause and amendments.

Mr Nuttall: We have had a very full and comprehensive debate on new clause 1 and my amendment, and on the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies). I have listened closely to what Members have said, particularly the promoter of the Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael).

On the new clause, the Minister said that there will be a reassessment of the effectiveness of the protocol once it is passed into law by all the nations that are signatories to the treaty, and he has reassured me on that point. It is important that international mechanisms are used to review the effectiveness of the treaty.

In respect of my amendment, which relates to historic sites and monuments, I am sure that the whole House will be as reassured as I am that the protection that is necessary for the huts of Shackleton and Captain Scott to be preserved is already contained within the treaties and the Bill.

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Philip Davies: The Minister made some very good points about my amendment, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael). I am as satisfied with the explanations given on my amendment as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) appears to be with regard to his amendments.

Mr Nuttall: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making his view clear to the House. I said that I might be persuaded by his arguments, but I am grateful that he was persuaded by the other arguments, and that clause 5 will remain in the Bill. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Third Reading

12.38 pm

Neil Carmichael: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I am grateful for all the comments that have been made throughout the debates on the Bill, not least on Second Reading and in Committee. There has been a huge amount of all-party agreement about the purposes of the Bill.

Martin Horwood: May I take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend and neighbour in Gloucestershire on bringing the Bill this far? The Bill is vital for the future of Antarctica and the wider environment that it represents. He has the full support of the Liberal Democrats for the measure.

Neil Carmichael: I thank my hon. Friend very much. I appreciate that, not only because the Liberal Democrats are part of the coalition Government, but because it is good to know that all parties support the Bill. I am grateful for the shadow Minister’s comments earlier on the Opposition’s support for the Bill. The Bill is important precisely because we all care about the future of Antarctica and recognise its vulnerability, as well as its awesome size and climate. The widespread agreement on the Bill is therefore impressive and reassuring to me and to others who have worked on it.

I also appreciate the number of people who have congratulated me in one way or another on the work that we have done thus far. I reassure the House that I will not stop trying to ensure that the Act—if the Bill becomes an Act—is used as an instrument to encourage other nation states to do what we have done and underline the need to protect Antarctica for the foreseeable future. In my book, that means a very long time.

As I have informed the House, I visited Antarctica at the beginning of the new year. I went with the British Antarctic Survey, supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I was pleased to have the opportunity to go there for several reasons. The first was, funnily enough, to understand more about why this measure really matters. That became increasingly obvious the closer I got to Rothera, the main base of the British Antarctic Survey, where we have up to 90 people working in various ways.

This is a good opportunity to pay tribute to the work of the British Antarctic Survey. What it does really matters. I would like to emphasise the extraordinary amount of scientific research that is undertaken at

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Rothera and on other bases. We were there for only five days, but we looked at all sorts of research projects. For example, there is research into the future of the Southern ocean, its role in absorbing carbon, its changing food chain and the changing temperatures of the water at different levels. All of that matters because we need to know how our changing climate is influencing things and what the consequences might be for that continent and the various crustaceans, fish and other wildlife living in and around Antarctica. It was impressive and encouraging to see that the work being done to study the ocean is of such huge value in terms of science, research and commitment.

Oliver Colvile: I do not know whether my hon. Friend is aware of this, but in the very depths of the waters of Antarctica, creatures are still being discovered. I do not know whether the British Antarctic Survey talked to him about that. It is important not only that we carry out a large amount of research in that area, but that we do not endanger those species.

Neil Carmichael: Absolutely, and I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Not only is he right about the new discoveries, but another interesting point is that existing marine life is taking a different shape in terms of breeding and growth and so on because of the changing temperatures. All that is part of the science that we need to see, which, of course, has been helped by really interesting technology, most particularly a glider—for gliding through the ocean, not the air—that is able to co-ordinate its own pathway and send valuable signals back to Rothera about what it is finding throughout the ocean, from top to bottom and along the bottom. We should be taking note and celebrating that kind of research and science. There was other scientific work as well.

Mr Nuttall: My hon. Friend has explained that he went to Rothera, which is one of the year-round stations. As he will know, however, there are also two field stations: Fossil Bluff and Sky Blu, with Fossil Bluff being nearest to Rothera. Did he have the opportunity to visit the research stations?

Neil Carmichael: No, I did not get to Sky Blu although I heard an awful lot about it. It is a very important part of the work by the British Antarctic Survey and will remain so for some time. It is excellent that it is doing so well and contributing so much to our knowledge base about what is happening, and what will and could happen on that continent.

We were also told about long-term record keeping of weather conditions, temperatures and so forth. That is important because we cannot just take a snapshot now and make a judgment; we need to go back some years. The British Antarctic Survey has been working on climate change, looking for patterns and studying changes for nearly 20 years. That knowledge base is important and it is used by others as a benchmark for measuring developments in climate change.

Jake Berry: My hon. Friend is speaking interestingly about the work of the British Antarctic Survey. Did he get the opportunity to see some of the work that it has been doing on ice cores to measure the historical carbon dioxide content in our atmosphere, which is hugely important in global warming and climate change?

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Neil Carmichael: Yes I did, and the ice cores are from drilling down into ice that is 800,000 years old. That tells us a huge amount about what was happening to the air, because trapped within the ice are very small air bubbles that contain strong messages and signals about what life was like all those years ago. Ice core research is a huge logistical exercise. First it has to be drilled and transported, and then it needs to go to Cambridge for proper evaluation.

That brings me to the important role that the British Antarctic Survey plays in providing logistics, not just to the scientists—although that is crucial—but to visitors and other structures. I want to emphasise the international nature of the British Antarctic Survey. It is able to help other nation states in their work and I was particularly struck by the good relationships that exist between the various countries represented, in connection with scientific discoveries and the work they do.

As I mentioned in connection with clause 5, the memorandum of understanding between Britain and Chile was signed before Christmas and is clearly much appreciated by the Chileans. Britain also has relationships with other European countries, which serves to enhance the quality of the work—not least because a Dutch contingent of scientists at Rothera is doing important work in the invertebrates department—and shows the level of co-operation. Co-operation is necessary in the Antarctic continent because the risks are great—they really are great. Not being able or willing to help others would be a danger, but that danger does not exist because of those good relationships.

The British Antarctic Survey performs another important role: the simple fact of being there. It is important that Britain has a proper location in Antarctica that it supports and promotes. I was impressed by the level of dedication shown by everybody at Rothera and in all parts of the Survey’s activities. Ultimately, they are there for their work, and for their commitment to science and to the continent. However, by being there, they also show Britain’s commitment to the continent. That has to be noted, celebrated and properly recognised. For those reasons, I was pleased to go to Antarctica and meet people from the British Antarctic Survey, to thank them for all they have done, reassure them of my personal support and the continued support of the Government, and underline the fact that by visiting them we are signalling that we appreciate the things they do. We understand the stresses and strains involved in their work, and we want them to know that it is properly appreciated. I thank the British Antarctic Survey for giving me an opportunity to see all of that.

Mr Nuttall: While my hon. Friend was on his visit, did any of the scientists he met express any views about the Bill?

Neil Carmichael: Yes, they did. They were extraordinarily appreciative of it going through Parliament, and thanked me for promoting it. The Bill was one of the reasons I was there, and I learnt a lot about the impact it will have on Antarctica. I saw the appreciation from members of the British Antarctic Survey, and noticed that other countries were also appreciative of the Bill, particularly Chile. I was with the Chileans for some time, as we flew to Chile before we got to Antarctica. I had the opportunity of visiting the Chilean Antarctic Institute, which is the

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Chilean equivalent of the British Antarctic Survey. Like us, it has a strong science wing and recognises the importance of logistics—although it does not use its own, but accesses other logistical services—and like us, it recognises the importance of international co-operation. In terms of regional geopolitics, that co-operation is all the more important given the issues relating to the Falkland Islands, Argentina and other nation states. The presence and commitment that we have demonstrated in Antarctica for decades and the relationships we are developing with nearby nation states are necessary to ensure that our broader interests are protected and enhanced.

Jake Berry: The legislation relating to Antarctica is a template that we should seek to replicate across the globe. It is an exemplar of co-operation between countries that can put their national differences aside. Does my hon. Friend share my pride in the fact that Britain is front and centre in pushing forward international co-operation to protect what is probably the last unspoilt area of the globe? We can take national pride in that, and I believe my hon. Friend should take personal pride in the huge contribution that he is making through his Bill.

Neil Carmichael: I thank my hon. Friend for his generous intervention. I must emphasise the pride that I take in Britain’s leadership in this area. We have led from the front, and we continue to do so. If my Bill is passed, I will ensure that that work continues through the activities that I will undertake. I will do that even if it is not passed—although I hope it will be—because I am determined that Britain’s leadership should continue in all the areas that I have described. I am very proud of it.

I was particularly proud to visit the British club in Antarctica, where Sir Ernest Shackleton based himself during his attempt to rescue his men nearly 100 years ago. That whole building is laden with history. It was fascinating to walk into a room that had remained relatively unchanged since he was there making those decisions and bold moves to save his men, and showing exemplary leadership and commitment to those he led. It was quite moving. Sir Ernest Shackleton is another example of the tremendous leadership that this country has demonstrated, both personally through people such as him, and nationally through our overall direction of travel on that continent.

We must also salute Captain Robert Scott. Yes, his reputation took a slight dip, but people are quite properly recognising the sheer enormity of his achievement in getting to the south pole. Also, while he was going there and attempting to come back, he was still committed to carrying out scientific research. It is not often remembered, but it should be noted that temperature changes and other data were being collected right up to the end.

Oliver Colvile: Is my hon. Friend aware that Plymouth was Captain Scott’s home town? The Plymouth marine laboratories have done an enormous amount of research on climate change, and there is a great tradition in Plymouth of ensuring that that continues to happen.

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Neil Carmichael: Absolutely. I have been to the university in Plymouth. I presented a paper on restructuring the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, but my thoughts were not taken into account by the then Prime Minister. There we are. I enjoyed my time there, however.

My constituency of Stroud has a strong connection with the Scott memory. Sir Peter Scott, the son of Captain Scott, established the Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust there. That was emblematic of Captain Scott’s wish—almost his last wish, in fact—that his son should get involved in that kind of activity. It is also emblematic of the fact that my constituency is interested in protecting the environment and is prepared to take the necessary steps to do so. I am proud of that connection between my constituency and Antarctica. One reason why I am so pleased to be able to take the Bill through the House of Commons is that there is a huge synergy between protecting the environment in my constituency and the need to do so in Antarctica. My constituency link and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) are strong and should be clearly stated.

I touched on the foreign policy aspect of the legislation when I mentioned Chile and Argentina. It is important to note that other nation states are becoming interested in Antarctica. Just 12 nation states signed the treaty in 1959, but now the number expressing an interest in Antarctica exceeds 50. Unlike us, however, some of those nation states do not have aims and objectives consistent with a determination to protect the environment. We should be using our influence to ensure, first, that all nation states respect the idea that Antarctica should remain properly protected and not be exploited, and secondly that it remains demilitarised. It is important to state and restate both those points, because we have to remember that Antarctica is pristine, vulnerable, pivotal to our climate change issues and has no Government. It relies on interested nation states coming to an agreement, including on territorial claims, about which we have heard in the past few weeks and whose contest the treaty suspends. We should take note of that.

Mr Nuttall: My hon. Friend makes a good point about the work of the Antarctic treaty consultative meeting—the highest level of government controlling the area—which will next occur in Belgium in May. Does he have any plans to attend that meeting on behalf of the House?

Neil Carmichael: I have no immediate plans, but it is important that we are properly represented at such gatherings. I know that the Government will ensure that their views are expressed and their contributions made—given the Minister’s excellent performance, we can be confident of that—but my hon. Friend makes a good point. As I have said already, I am committed to ensuring that other nation states do the right thing, behave in the right way and take the appropriate steps to improve and protect Antarctica.

Political leadership is extremely important and it is right that Britain plays a significant leadership role, because we were one of the first nation states to show

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an interest in Antarctica and have been consistent on it ever since. We have always conducted ourselves responsibly—I do not expect to be contradicted on that—and we should be encouraging others to follow that example.

We debated the Bill in detail on Report, but it is important briefly to canter through its key parts.

Oliver Colvile: Has my hon. Friend had any discussions with the Irish? I understand that they have not been quite as quick to sign. They have accepted what they need to do, but they have not signed. I am concerned about why they have not done so. Have there been discussions with the Irish Government?

Neil Carmichael: That is one Government whom I have not spoken to about Antarctica. I met an awful lot of Irish people yesterday, but we did not actually talk about Antarctica—we talked about art. My hon. Friend is right, however, that we need to encourage nation states to do the same. There is a question not just of quantity, but of quality. We are legislating thoroughly on our agreements under the treaty, but some countries have not been as thorough, and we need to ensure that they become more so. The example of the Netherlands and ourselves is the right one.

Where we are seeing, basically, expressions of commitment to the treaty, we need to see more, and we certainly need to see nation states such as the United States ensuring that they, too, take action. I have already been in touch with environmentalists in the United States to see how we might encourage a proper debate about the issue in Congress. I am working on these things. I intend to encourage all nation states to take the right action at an event later this year, when I hope to gather their representatives and explain what we have done, why we have done it and why they should do the same. That is absolutely right.

Let me continue with my brief canter by underlining the importance of encouraging operators, visitors, tourists and everybody else involved not just to plan for their trip, but to plan contingency measures, to recognise that they have to behave in a properly responsible way and that insurance is necessary just in case things go wrong. If things go wrong, we need to be sure that tidying-up operations can take place in a timely, efficient and comprehensive manner. That is one part of the Bill that we effectively discussed in our debate about clause 5, and quite right too. I think we all agree that it is a good clause and part of that whole process.

Jake Berry: I want to raise the issue of insurance, which is not covered in clause 5. As my hon. Friend knows, it is covered in clause 6—there is some cross-reference between the two clauses. Does he know—I must admit that I do not—whether there is a developed and advanced insurance product readily available to people seeking to go to Antarctica today, or hopefully after the Bill becomes law, that they could effectively sign up to now?

Neil Carmichael: We have discussed insurance in some detail, because there are different types of insurance—in the shipping world, the tourist world and so forth. Obviously more products will be developed; the key thing is that people have to demonstrate that they are

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properly insured. I would have thought that things such as self-insurance and so forth will not meet the criteria set out. As more and more people wish to go to the Antarctic and the demand for more complex insurance mechanisms increases, I am sure that more will be developed. The key point, as I have said, is that there is no governance of Antarctica; therefore we need special dispensation through the treaty and the legislation, as in the case of shipping, to ensure that appropriate insurance cover is always made available. We discussed that issue in the consultation process, before the Committee stage. That is where we are; so yes, we should see more and more insurance packages becoming available as appropriate.

The second part of the Bill extends protection to flora and fauna, including invertebrates, by ensuring that we do not import problems into Antarctica and so on. That is absolutely right and proper. When I visited Antarctica I noticed a keen interest in that aspect of the Bill. I was pleased to be able to reassure those who were concerned about the risks to the various crustaceans and so forth that we were talking about that we have taken action in the Bill. That is really quite good.

The other aspect of the Bill is the monuments and historical sites. We could talk at length about those; the key point is that we need a responsible way of protecting them. We need to ensure that measures can be taken to put appropriate support mechanisms in place. We benefit from the tremendous work of the various trusts, organisations and others who are interested in doing this, and I pay tribute to them.

Those are the key parts of the Bill. They add up to a very strong commitment by Britain to do the right thing for Antarctica—by that, I mean to protect its environment, making sure that British interests are still prominent, and continue to work in an international framework to encourage other nation states to do the same. That is the direction of travel of the Bill, and I intend it to follow it with vigour—and, hopefully, with the continued support of colleagues.

I commend the Bill on Third Reading.

1.10 pm

Oliver Colvile: Let me start with a quote:

“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”.

Those are the words that appear on the Scott memorial at Murdo Sound in the Antarctic. They appear, too, on the statue here in London, and, I am delighted to say, in Plymouth overlooking the Sound.

I am most grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) on introducing the Bill and on encouraging and allowing me to serve on its Committee stage, helping it to reach its current position. I feel that we are within inches of the final yard we need to travel to get over the line and get the Bill on to the statute book.

I have to declare an interest. I am a trustee of a charity that deals with the Antarctic, and I was invited to get involved by Dr David Wilson, the great nephew of Dr Wilson who, along with Captain Scott, Bowers, Evans and Oates, died on the ice on 29 March 1912. As I said earlier, yesterday was literally the 101st anniversary of the Scott expedition’s arrival in the south pole. I am also a vice-chairman of the all-party group on the polar regions, of which my hon. Friend the Member for

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Romford (Andrew Rosindell) is chairman. Until recently, there was, sitting downstairs in the passageway here, an exhibition of a medal called the polar medal, which was produced after Scott’s activities on the ice. When I have walked past it, I have always been delighted to take a little time to look at it.

I pay tribute to Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers for renaming, in the jubilee year, that part of Antarctica unofficially known as the Edith Ronne Land as Queen Elizabeth Land. I think that shows a clear commitment that our country has demonstrated to Antarctica. I am told that the area is situated in the Weddell Sea between longitudes 20°W and 80°W, stretching from the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf to the south pole. That was a very useful thing to do in that year.

I became interested in Antarctica because Captain Robert Falcon Scott, born in 1868, was brought up in Stoke Damerel—as well as being born there—and attended what is now Stoke Damerel community college in my Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport constituency. He is, without a shadow of a doubt, a great son of Plymouth, along with Sir Francis Drake and other great, wonderful naval sailors. Quite rightly, Scott has been rehabilitated as one of Britain’s great national heroes. I know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been greatly interested in what has been taking place and has watched it very closely. Last year, when my hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb) was the Minister of State at the Department for Education, he visited the school to see for himself some of the Scott memorabilia, including a pair of his skis. I am told that quite a large number of them were littered around the world, but I am delighted to say that we have some in Plymouth.

Scott’s tragic expedition was principally to undertake scientific environmental research. There has been a great deal of discussion about whether it was a race between him and Amundsen. I am told, very firmly, that it most certainly was not. Scott conducted his environmental research very effectively. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud told us earlier, the last message that he sent his wife before he died was about his son Peter Scott, the well-known environmentalist and founder of what is now the World Wide Fund for Nature. He asked his wife to

“make the boy interested in natural history”.

Last year the Natural History Museum organised a very interesting and worthwhile exhibition which showed what Scott had been doing during his time in Antarctica.

Yesterday evening I went to a reception and lecture at the Royal Geographical Society. Some members of the military who had been on a very similar expedition to Antarctica explained to me how difficult the climate is down there. They said that people must be incredibly fit in order to survive. I am delighted to learn that there are now a number of global positioning systems so that we can have much better records of what is happening to the atmosphere.

Captain Scott’s legacy is highly commendable, and it is a very big legacy as well. Should the Bill become law, I shall be proud to be able to play a small role in the safeguarding of our environment in one of the most important parts of the world.

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Last spring, shortly before the Scott centenary memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral—it was addressed by the Bishop of London, who did an incredibly good job—I went to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), where I visited the British Antarctic Survey and looked at some of its work. I am delighted that it has been decided not to get rid of the British Antarctic Survey and merge it with the Natural Environment Research Council, and that the BAS will retain its own distinctive identity.

During my visit, I learnt that—as my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud said earlier—the BAS had drilled 800,000 years into the ice, taken out that ice, and was analysing what had happened to the climate over those 800,000 years. It is still conducting that analysis. I even had an opportunity to touch some of the ice, which made me feel that I had touched 800,000 years’ worth of our climate. That work has had a major impact on the whole climate change story, which I find incredibly interesting. It convinced me that things are indeed happening to our atmosphere which are having significant effects.

The BAS concluded that for the vast majority of those 800,000 years there had not been much climate change, although there might have been some global warming, mainly owing to slight tilts in the earth’s axis. However, it also found that during the 300 years since industrialisation began, there had been a significant amount of acidification of the atmosphere, which had produced much of the climate change. Acidification produces rain, which falls on to the earth or into the sea, where it is having a major impact on our fishing stocks. There are signs that some of the plankton and krill on which fish feed are moving. The Bill is important because it seeks to ensure that we are much more environmentally friendly, and I hope that the Foreign Office and the British in general will be taking the lead in that.

When I was a child, I was always taught that the difference between the Arctic and the Antarctic was that the Antarctic was land surrounded by sea, whereas the Arctic was sea surrounded by land. Moreover, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud will know, penguins live in the Antarctic and polar bears live in the Arctic. Those are quite good ways of remembering which is which. I do not know whether my hon. Friend has read “Penguins stopped play: eleven village cricketers take on the world”, a book about a man who played cricket in every continent, including the Antarctic. I believe my hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Matthew Hancock) has also played cricket in the Antarctic. Recently, devotees of Sir David Attenborough will have watched the much-acclaimed “Frozen Planet”, which was very informative, too.

There is an enormous amount of tourism in the Antarctic, and unless we are very careful, at some stage there will be an accident. If so, the ferry or cruise ship operator involved should be held responsible for clearing up all the damage. We must not, however, discourage scientists from going to the Antarctic, and we should encourage parts of the Government to use it for training purposes.

I am delighted this Bill will be enacted, and that it will ensure tourism operators are held responsible for any accidents under on their watch.

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1.21 pm

Philip Davies: It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile), and to learn of his expertise and interest in this matter, particularly as it relates to Plymouth. It was a pleasure to speak on Second Reading, and I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak on Third Reading, too.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael). He has built up a significant amount of knowledge of this subject. I was particularly struck by the fact that he has visited the Antarctic in his endeavours to guide this Bill through Parliament. That shows great dedication. Buoyed by his triumph with this Bill, he may well be thinking of introducing a future private Member’s Bill on, perhaps, the Caribbean, and of making it his policy to visit every place his Bills address. If he does not do that, I am sure other Members will have noted the initiative he has deployed, and will want to build on his example.

The Bill is important, and my hon. Friend should be immensely proud of steering it through Parliament. As we all know, managing the progress of private Members’ Bills is always a challenge, and it can be difficult to guide them over all the hurdles put in their way. Fortunately, the Members who tend to erect those barriers are not present today to block the progress of this Bill, and my hon. Friend has good will from both sides of the House. He has argued for the Bill with characteristic charm, too, which has also stood him in good stead.

I certainly do not oppose this Bill. It implements an important part of the Antarctic treaty system, complementing and completing the set of internationally binding agreements. This is a noble cause. We must focus on both environmental protection and scientific research. Our country has a long and proud history of being at the forefront of both of those important endeavours, and the Bill continues that tradition. This country has always been in the vanguard of exploring the unknown and finding new ways to do things, thus revolutionising the way we live.

Antarctica is, of course, an unspoilt part of the world, which is why we need to ensure the conditions imposed by the Bill are fulfilled, and any other legislation is also enforced. It is one thing having the legislation in place, but it is quite another to make sure it is enforced. The Bill achieves the first part, and it is crucial that all the relevant authorities are involved in making sure the letter and spirit of its provisions are followed.

The Bill seeks to implement the liability annex to the Antarctic treaty that was agreed in 2005; the protocol has six annexes and, as we know, the first five are already in force, so this is the next stage of that process. Determining how the environment of the Antarctic will evolve over the next century presents challenges and has many implications for science and for policy makers. One reason why this is so important is that travelling to the most distant corners of our planet is becoming more and more popular. Such travel is becoming less of an issue, less of a challenge and more logistically possible. It is becoming more popular for adventurous people, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, who want to explore distant corners of the planet. I do not think we can call them backpackers; they are just adventurous people. That increased popularity of travel

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is why the implementation of annex VI to the protocol on environmental protection to the Antarctic treaty is so important. Implementation has been delayed and it is an outstanding issue, which is why it needs to be finalised.

When the Government find it difficult to find the time for certain legislation, private Members’ Bills are the appropriate route to take, and this is a very appropriate Bill to steer through, particularly given that it has all-party agreement. It amends the Antarctic Act 1994, and I wish to refer to something that the hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) said when that Antarctic Bill was being debated. I do not always agree with him, but I agree with the following:

“The environmental message from the Antarctic is absolutely overwhelming. There is no other place on earth where one can drill for a core sample. In the Soviet research base the deepest possible ice-core samples have been drilled. We can check what the water purity was like as long ago as 500 years…We can see what we are doing to the planet by studying core samples of ice in the Antarctic.”

He went on to say:

“The Antarctic has the largest amount of water locked up in it of anywhere in the world. The Antarctic demonstrates the fragility of the planet and the ecosystem. If we do not use the Antarctic as a place for research, we shall be denying ourselves knowledge”.—[Official Report, 25 February 1994; Vol. 238, c. 568-69.]

Those words said back in 1994 still apply in exactly the same way today. This Bill simply reflects changes that have taken place. It brings the legislation up to date and will help to ensure that other countries follow the example we have been setting.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud set out the position clearly in his excellent speeches on Second Reading and, in particular, on Third Reading today. He set out not only why this Bill is so important, but his passion for the subject; this was not just his personal passion, but British passion for this particular area, which goes back hundreds of years. The UK has been actively involved in Antarctica through the heroics of the explorers, as my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) made clear, and this Bill is the next stage of our involvement, which is why it is so important to people in this country.

I am well aware that we are on Third Reading and therefore we are talking solely about what is in the Bill; we cannot discuss what is potentially not in the Bill or what could be in the Bill. I certainly do not intend to deviate from that, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I just want to pick out one or two clauses in the Bill that set out why it is so important and such a good piece of legislation—I do not want to go through the whole Bill, because that would be unnecessary and time-consuming.

Clause 1 is entitled: “Duty to take response action”.

That is incredibly important as it introduces a new statutory duty on those organising activities in Antarctica—importantly, both government and non-government—to take

“reasonable, prompt and effective response action”

where their activities

“directly or indirectly give rise to an environmental emergency”.

That is a key part of the Bill. It applies only to activities organised by a person based in the UK or activities “connected with” the UK—that would obviously be the

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case as that is all we can provide for. Nevertheless, the provision still makes a very important difference.

In addition, the failure to comply—to make such a response—is made a criminal offence, with an associated maximum two-year custodial sentence or fine, or both. It is worth pointing out—this has not been done so far—that we are introducing some serious offences in this Bill. It takes an awful lot to be sent to prison in this country, as many of our constituents know only too well. The fact that breaching this part of the Bill is made a criminal offence with a two-year custodial sentence reflects how seriously the House takes these matters.

Clauses 2 to 4 and the schedule concern the civil liability for failure to respond to an environmental emergency. That is a key part of the Bill and something that we should all support. The liability annex encourages parties to take response action to environmental emergencies when those causing them have failed to do so. That takes me to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) made about the belief that the polluter should pay. One of the key parts of the Bill is the fact that it entrenches that principle in legislation. He made the point that too often in the past that has not happened and the Bill is an important step in ensuring that it does. It also enables the Government to recover costs in those situations where they might have had to take action to respond to an environmental emergency, allowing them to get the cost back. That is crucial.

Clause 3, on the liability to the Antarctic environmental liability fund, is an important part of the Bill, and that probably did not come out in the debate as much as it might have done. It is essential, because it requires the operator responsible to pay into an Antarctic environmental liability fund the equivalent costs of the response action that should have been taken. That measure is more important than many people might understand and it was previously lacking.

We must accept that such emergencies are not remote possibilities that will probably never happen. We have already experienced accidents in Antarctica that have raised ecological and safety concerns. Indeed, in recent years some kind of incident has taken place most years and the Bill might well help to deal with such situations. In November 2006, a Quark Expeditions ship ran aground on Deception Island in the South Shetland Islands. In January 2007, we had another incident in the same area—and so on, and so forth. I shall not go through all the examples, Mr Deputy Speaker, as there is no need to at this point. However, accidents are not just remote possibilities. There is every chance that the provisions in the Bill will need to be invoked at some point.

I want to touch on clause 5. We had a fairly long debate on Report about the merits of the clause and I set out the case that it was perhaps not necessary, but having listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud and the Minister, both of whom are experts in this field and know far more about it than I do, I think they made a persuasive case that clause 5 is an important part of the Bill. The duty to take preventive measures and make contingency plans is necessary and although there might be some requirements under the 1994 Act, the clause moves things further forward, puts more requirements on people and is a belt-and-braces approach

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to what is required. The Minister made the point—and I was particularly persuaded by this—that putting something in legislation so that it applies to everybody, not just to people who are applying for permits through the FCO, means that there is no doubt about people’s liabilities. That was a very good point and certainly persuaded me of the merits of clause 5.

I do not want to delay the House too much further as other colleagues wish to contribute to the debate, but we can be very proud of the fact that we are continuing a long tradition in this country of playing our part in protecting a very special part of the world. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud should be commended. I know that when people do well in the ballot for private Members’ Bills they are bombarded with people wanting them to introduce one measure or another. Many people in this House will believe that my hon. Friend chose wisely and picked a noble cause. He is into the home straight—into the final furlong, as some might put it—and that is down to his skill. He should be commended for that and for introducing this important piece of legislation.

1.34 pm

Jake Berry: I shall keep my remarks relatively short because other colleagues want to contribute to the debate.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael). I hope he will reflect on the comments that I made in my interventions, but I think he can be extremely proud of this excellent Bill, which he has brought through the House of Commons. It is no mean feat to take a private Member’s Bill through the House, even with cross-party support. I hope that I might get the opportunity to do it myself one day, but I know that the process is academically rigorous. My hon. Friend has approached it with great integrity and a desire to tackle all the issues that face the Bill, and has worked across Departments; he can be proud of all that he has achieved.

It is timely that we are legislating on the environment in the Antarctic, because it is the last unspoilt environment on the globe and it has been described by other hon. Members as pristine. It is probably not quite as pristine as we would like it to be. We have heard about recent sinkings of ships, and about the impact of tourism, and it is hugely important that those of us who do care about it take action, legislate and ensure that we protect it as much as we can. I note that the WWF commented:

“Just a few decades ago this region was virtually untouched by human exploitation. Today, it is under sustained attack from land, sea and air, putting”

all aspects of the environment

“at risk.”

So it is hugely important that we give the Bill its Third Reading today, and that it becomes part of our law.

It is also important that Britain once again leads in this area. We were the first nation really to take an interest in the continent of the Antarctic. From Captain Scott to the British Antarctic Survey today, we have a hugely important role to play, and we have a legacy and a future that we shall be rightly proud of. I notice that the British Antarctic Survey has been there continuously since 1962.

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Oliver Colvile: Does my hon. Friend agree that it is very important that children learn about Antarctica—not only about Captain Scott and Shackleton but about the environmental requirements? Should we not be pushing the Secretary of State for Education to ensure that that is very much included in the national curriculum?

Jake Berry: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I certainly will not be pushing the Secretary of State to ensure that it is included in a very crowded national curriculum, but he makes a valuable point and I commend him for the work he has done with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to ensure that we recognise Captain Scott, who is, of course, one of Plymouth’s most famous sons. My hon. Friend has been a real champion of ensuring that that legacy, that great British history, gets into schools, and that we talk about and take pride in it. We should take pride in it because we are a buccaneering, adventurous nation and I like to think that spirit still lives on within us. By telling young people about that great history, we ensure that we shall be the people who cross the frontiers in the future, whatever they may be.

Speaking of frontiers, when I was putting down some thoughts about what I might say this afternoon, I happened to be watching an episode of “Star Trek”, which I noted has a very similar form of governance to that of Antarctica—global co-operation not driven by money, and demilitarised. I am pleased to say that it is not science fiction; we actually see that co-operation—everyone working for the good of an area—today. We do not have to look for “Star Trek: The Next Generation”; we can see it today.

I note that our territories have their own money. The Minister spoke about the profits from that going to support the British Antarctic Survey. I am an avid collector of coinage and I was going to make an offer to any Member who has been to Antarctica to swap me, pound for pound, some currency. I look particularly at my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, who I am sure came back with pockets full of it. I have never seen any currency from our territory there and I would be pleased to have a look at it.

I shall focus on two further aspects—first, the work of the British Antarctic Survey. We heard earlier about its fantastic work on ice cores, which provides the most persuasive evidence of the problem of global warming in this country. The problem is man-made, created by the burning of thousands of years’ worth of carbon within 200 years of industrialisation. I encourage those nay-sayers who say that global warming is a myth and unproven to look at the work on ice cores showing the changes in our atmospheric make-up and global warming.

Scientists with the British Antarctic Survey were the first to discover the hole in the ozone layer. I was a young man when that was discovered, and it aroused my first interest in environmental issues. I thought I was making a great contribution when I invested in a Vidal Sassoon hairspray that, rather than using chlorofluorocarbons, was operated by pumping. I was pleased to see just a few years later that CFCs were banned. That was an enormous contribution and shows that a continent on the other side of the world can make a huge impact on environmental policy and thinking in our country. The continued work of the British Antarctic Survey is to be welcomed.

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My final point is about the hugely important “polluter pays” principle in the Bill. When the Environmental Protection Act 1990 came into force, there was a great kerfuffle among lawyers about whether environmental surveys of properties would devalue them and make them unmortgageable. To some extent that has happened. That is a case where the “polluter pays” principle has failed. I can give an example from my constituency. Brenbar crescent in Whitworth, the site of an historic town gas works, was thought to be polluted and there was concern about the value of properties there. Given that the town gas site closed some 80 or 90 years ago, it was not possible to find the original polluter.

One of the great advantages of the Bill is the speed at which we will be able to act to get the polluter to remediate the damage that they do to a pristine environment. That is particularly important when we see the increasing tourism to the Antarctic. In 1992 there were fewer than 9,000 tourists. In 2012-13 there were 26,000 tourists. That is a huge increase in the number of people visiting the amazing and awesome place that my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud described. I can see that it is attractive, but we cannot let that attraction and the commercial gain of tourism companies degrade the environment.

That is why the insurance clause, clause 6, is so important. Any of us who have booked a holiday know that it is not unheard of for travel companies, operators and shipowners to go out of business. We cannot allow self-insurance and the Bill does not do so, but if we look to the proper international shipping and insurance market to ensure that we get protection, we can enshrine the “polluter pays” principle and make sure that when an incident occurs—they happen too regularly already—the money is readily available and we do not have to argue about which country should clean up the pollution. If it is in the British Antarctic Territory, should it be cleared up by Britain or the Chilean Government? We are not having such arguments. There is a clear line of liability leading back to someone who has the resource, the desire and the ability to pay.

With 100,000 bird species, flora and fauna, the Antarctic is not a desert or a desolate land. It is somewhere we must work hard to protect. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) spoke about the new discoveries of creatures there this year. It is amazing to think that on a planet where we think we know everything about everything and all the animals under heaven, we can still be surprised to find things in this amazing environment that are new to us. We have to be very careful that we are not losing species before we even know they exist, because then we will not know we have lost them. It is important that the Bill proposes a ban on commercial fishing, because there is a danger that that will take hold in the area because it is such a rich resource.

Finally, I want to speak about the Royal Navy’s contribution to the area. We all believe in this House, I am sure, that we have the finest armed services in the world. I have been involved with the armed forces parliamentary scheme and have had the great privilege of seeing some of the work undertaken by members of our armed forces, particularly the Royal Navy. We might be complaining today about the icy conditions outside, but the lowest recorded temperature in the Antarctic is minus 85°. We must pay tribute to those

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serving on HMS Protector, who are spending long periods there, on HMS Endurance, on HMS Scott and on other Royal Navy ships that go to the area to police it and to rescue people who find themselves in trouble. I want to record my personal thanks to and admiration for members of our armed forces who ensure that the global co-operation on keeping Antarctica safe, non-politicised and demilitarised continues.

1.46 pm

Mr Nuttall: It is a great pleasure to follow my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry), in speaking on this matter. I associate myself with his remarks about the work that the Royal Navy does in the area.

I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) on piloting the Bill through its Commons stages so skilfully and ensuring that it has arrived at its Third Reading in good time to be able to proceed to the other place. Having come seventh in the ballot he could easily have picked one of his own pet causes to promote, but instead he nobly took on the job of piloting this measure, which at first sight might not seem the most populist ever brought before this House but concerns a matter of great importance. It is testimony to the Bill’s lengthy gestation period that it passed through its Second Reading so quickly in November last year, went through Committee in a little over an hour on 21 November, and will, I hope, pass through its Third Reading today.

Some may wonder why such an important measure has been left to the vagaries of the private Members’ Bill system. I might have missed it, but I could not see it in the coalition’s original programme for government. Given the nature and content of the Bill, I find that fairly surprising. I would have thought that, in view of its cross-party nature and cross-party support, it was have been an ideal measure to put in the coalition’s programme for government.

I am conscious that we have not yet heard from the Minister, so I will restrict my remarks to one aspect of the Bill—its effect on visitors to the Antarctic. Increasing visitor numbers is a good thing, because it is good that more people are interested in exploring the world and our environment. Television programmes such as the “Frozen Planet” series will undoubtedly have had the effect of publicising the splendour of the Antarctic to a wider audience. However, higher visitor numbers undeniably bring a greater risk to that precious environment. It is for that reason that we need the Bill desperately. We are putting into law the maxim that prevention is better than cure, which is a good maxim to follow in matters of environmental protection.

We have heard that the number of tourists has increased enormously in recent years. That is partly because of the growing diversity in the nature of the tourism that is available, with more activity-based tourism such as diving, kayaking and extended walks. People no longer go just to look at the millions and millions of penguins that live in the Antarctic. Activity-based tourism brings different potential impacts on the environment from the traditional forms of tourism.

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We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) that the Bill is not just of academic interest. Sadly, there have been occasions on which ships have sunk. In November 2007, the MS Explorer struck submerged ice with 154 crew and passengers on board and sank. Mercifully, all those on board were rescued, thanks to a passing Norwegian cruise liner. However, that example demonstrates that as more ships visit the region, there is a risk that accidents will happen that damage the environment.

When it comes to the Antarctic, we should leave only footprints and take away only photographs. That is what we have often said about our own countryside, and it applies all the more so to the pristine environment of the Antarctic. I trust that the Bill will pass through this House today on Third Reading, receive a warm welcome and cross-party support in the other place, and have a speedy passage into law.

1.52 pm

Mark Simmonds: May I begin my remarks on Third Reading by reiterating the praise that has rightly been expressed for my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) for his able stewardship of the Bill through its Second Reading, Committee and Report stages? He has done an excellent job not only in taking the time and trouble to follow in the footsteps of Scott and Shackleton, but in getting to grips with the detail of this all-important Bill.

I also thank all those who have participated in the passage of the Bill at its various stages, and those who have proposed new clauses and amendments and taken part in the Third Reading debate today. One reason why the debates have been so successful is the cross-party support that has been shown consistently in the House for this important Bill and the important protections that it will afford to the pristine Antarctic environment. That has been highlighted again in today’s debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) was right to raise the presentation of Queen Elizabeth Land to Her Majesty at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office by the Foreign Secretary on the last visit that the Queen made during her jubilee year. It is important that areas of the British Antarctic Territory are named for identification and safety reasons. It is fitting that such a significant area should be named after Her Majesty as she has been the sovereign for all of the time that the British Antarctic Territory has been in existence. I confirm to my hon. Friend and to the House that that approach fits with the provisions of the Antarctic treaty.

In an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport also asked about Ireland. Ireland has not signed the Antarctic treaty, although we encourage all states with an interest in science or activities in Antarctica to do so. We will continue to try to persuade Ireland, and over past years we have offered to facilitate any interest from Ireland in Antarctica. My hon. Friend may have been referring to Northern Ireland, and I assure him that all devolved Administrations have been consulted and are supportive of the Bill. My final point in response to my hon. Friend’s remarks relates to education, and I confirm that the British Antarctic Survey and the Royal Geographical Society have provided

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an educational website on aspects of Antarctica, and a question about Antarctica was included in the GCSE geography exam last summer. Antarctica is, therefore, already a key part of the geography curriculum.

The Government have consistently shown their support for this Bill and the important protections that it will afford to the Antarctic environment. A number of hon. Members have mentioned the legacy of Captain Scott and his fellow explorers, and scientists understand the significant risks they took when they set out on their fateful expedition. Despite considerable advances in technology and communications, Antarctica remains a potentially life-threatening environment.

Human activity in Antarctica has increased significantly over past decades, and the number of countries party to the Antarctic treaty has risen from an original 12 signatories in 1959 to 50 today. As I said, in 1992-93, fewer than 9,000 tourists visited Antarctica, but by 2012-13 that number had increased threefold to 26,000. In addition to the number of tourists visiting Antarctica, in the mid-1970s only the original 12 signatories to the treaty had established research bases there. The Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs currently lists 80 stations, and growing global interest in Antarctica as both a place of science and of tourism poses an increasing risk to Antarctica’s environment. That is the background to the provisions in this important Bill.

The consequences of an environmental emergency in Antarctica could be devastating. Antarctica is one of the world’s most pristine natural environments, if not the most pristine. The Southern ocean is surprisingly biologically diverse, and much of the Antarctic landscape is virtually untouched by man. On its own that is enough to make an environmental emergency potentially devastating, and the continent’s remoteness, harsh operating conditions and relative lack of infrastructure serve only to exacerbate any potential impacts. It is therefore crucial that all reasonable steps are taken to prevent, minimise or contain the impact of an environmental disaster, and that is the driving force behind my hon. Friend’s Bill and the Government’s support for it.

This is an important, well-drafted and coherent Bill, and the clauses outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, and others, include important aspects concerning environmental emergency responses, civil liability, preparatory prevention measures, and historical monuments and sites. That comprehensive package of measures will greatly enhance the protections afforded to Antarctica and ensure that the UK has fully implemented current obligations in the Antarctic treaty.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) was correct to try to determine whether the Government will not just continue their interest but

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take a proactive role, and I assure him and other Members of the House that we will not rest on our laurels. Hopefully, after the Bill makes it on to the statute book, we will continue to participate in a significant and leading way.

We remain fully committed to the treaty, seeing it as one of the best conflict prevention strategies, as well as a robust protection for our sovereign claim to the British Antarctic Territory. The Government want to ensure that the treaty system does not stagnate, and it is crucial that the treaty parties continuously look ahead and make sound, proactive decisions about future management. Co-operation has worked in the past and we hope it will continue to do so. With an increase in the number of parties engaged, it is not only dependent on the commitment of states to the treaty system, but intrinsically linked to wider global challenges, from population increases to global climate change impacts, wider diplomatic relations and the continued willingness of states to work together for the greater good.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport pointed out, Antarctica is unarguably changing as a result of the climate. In the face of these challenges, the UK will advocate and implement comprehensive environmental protection measures and careful conservation of the Southern ocean. The Government remain resolute in our commitment to the indefinite prohibition of commercial exploitation of Antarctic minerals. We will continue to promote the values and importance of Antarctica, and ensure that the British historic and scientific legacy is promoted and conserved. Working with key partners, such as the Scott Polar Research Institute and the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, we want to ensure that future generations can continue to be inspired by the endeavours of our forefathers. Most importantly, the Government want to ensure a continued active and influential British presence, both in the region and in the treaty system. This will remain grounded in science, but with a clear objective to uphold the principles of the treaty system and international law.

I am grateful for the opportunity presented today by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud to reaffirm the Government’s continued and wholehearted support for the Bill to increase protection of the Antarctic environment. The Government look forward to continued support as the Bill enters the other place and hopefully proceeds expeditiously to the statute book.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

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Wild Animals in Circuses Bill

Second Reading

2.2 pm

Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline and West Fife) (Lab): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am sure many people are disappointed that we have not had the chance to debate energy tariffs or financial literacy. I hope that those Members who are now slinking out of the Chamber, such as the hon. Members for Shipley (Philip Davies), for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) and for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry), will reflect, particularly in this weather, on the fact that we did not have the opportunity to discuss a measure that would help thousands of their constituents because they filibustered. I hope that their voters are made aware of that. On a more positive note, I thank the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon), for the productive way in which his Department has engaged with this Bill.

The House is familiar with this issue. Some 16 months ago, the House had a productive and constructive Backbench Business debate and resolved, without Division, that wild animals in circuses should be prohibited. In the interest of saving time, I do not intend to rehearse those arguments today. Instead, I shall explain what my Bill would do that the Government have yet to achieve. I hope that, through my eloquence, I shall be able to persuade the Minister to make a positive announcement when he responds to the debate.

There is currently a licensing arrangement in place. A rather robust statutory instrument debate took place last year, led by the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr Heath), and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South (Mr Harris). It was one of those debates in which there was a lot of heat but not very much fire. However, we welcome the licensing as a step in the right direction, and we hope today that we can—to use a word that the Prime Minister is rather fond of—nudge the Department into finally upholding the promise that it made to the House 16 months ago to ban outright the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.

The number of circuses that use wild animals has decreased substantially in recent years. According to the latest figures, only about three dozen wild animals remain in travelling circuses. The Bill does not cover the use of wild animals in television and film. There is a recognition that they form an important part of our creative industries, and that there are already strict controls in place covering the use of wild animals in those circumstances. Nor does the Bill cover the use of wild animals in zoos or aquariums. Again, rigorous standards cover those establishments.

It is fair to say that the country has grown to dislike the idea of wild animals being dragged around the country for the purpose of entertaining people. A YouGov poll showed that nine out of 10 of the people surveyed supported an outright ban. The Back-Bench debate and the early-day motion showed that more than half of all Back-Benchers in this House support such a ban.

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Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Thomas Docherty: I will, because the hon. Gentleman has had the courtesy to stay in the Chamber.

Mr Nuttall: I am listening to closely to the hon. Gentleman. Will he explain why, if the need for a ban on wild animals in circuses is so pressing, the Labour Government took no action at all on the matter during their 13 years in office?

Thomas Docherty: We took a number of steps to improve animal welfare, and the number of wild animals in circuses decreased during that period.

I often try to be helpful to the Minister, and I have indicated that I would have been happy, had he and his colleagues been so minded, to use the Bill as a vehicle for taking the necessary legislation through. Perhaps he will tell the House when he responds to the debate what path the Government intend to take towards introducing a ban. There is cross-party agreement on this matter. No one in the House who is in their right mind believes that wild animals in circuses should not be banned. As I have said, nine out of 10 members of the population support a ban, and more than half the Back Benchers in this place signed the early-day motion in support of one.

I have been in contact with a number of charities involved in this area—there are too many to list—and I have received more than 1,000 e-mails in the past seven days from supporters of a ban who have also contacted their constituency MPs. I know that there are many Members here today, possibly including the Minister, who have received e-mails urging them to vote for a ban.

This is a relatively straightforward measure. It is also useful that the charities involved have found homes for all the wild animals if the circuses do not wish to keep them. As I have said, there is a role for them in the creative industries, and they will not be put down or kept in poor conditions. I am conscious that my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) wishes to speak in the debate, and that I need to allow the Minister adequate time to explain how he has been so moved by my eloquence. So, with those brief remarks, I commend the Bill to the House.

2.8 pm

Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): I rise to support the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) and to congratulate him on introducing it. He deserves our thanks for securing the debate. I would also like to thank the hon. Member for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell), my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) and the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) for playing such a pivotal part in the parliamentary journey of the Bill.

There is a kind of “groundhog day” feeling to these proceedings. Stop me if you’ve heard it all before! We kind of have. There is a weary familiarity to the proceedings, except that we are looking forward to a jack-in-a-box presentation from the Minister providing a different ending, perhaps, to this debate.

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After two years’ delay, we still do not have a ban on wild animals in circuses. It has been a long and tortuous journey. In April 2011, DEFRA Ministers seemed finally to have caught the public mood. They, or their officials, briefed the Sunday Express that a ban was imminent—joy all round, flags and bunting. Then, however, came the DEFRA treatment—or was it the No. 10 treatment?—and a lot of political backtracking. It was a classic case study—I am sure people are writing it up as we speak and will be teaching it across schools of government across the world—on one of the many examples in DEFRA of a lack of political leadership and incompetent decision making. I must congratulate the Minister, however, on being the sole DEFRA survivor of the first two years, which might say something about his ministerial competence and decision making being different from that of his former colleagues.

It is worth remembering what happened. We consulted on a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses in 2009. More than 10,000 people responded and 94.5% of them backed a ban, and in early 2010 we gave a commitment to introduce one. This ban was strongly supported by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the British Veterinary Association, the Born Free Foundation and Animal Defenders International, all of which agreed that a licensing regime would be unworkable.

Despite saying they were minded to ban wild animals in circuses, however, Ministers delayed taking any action to end this cruel practice of wild animals performing for so-called entertainment in circuses. First, they claimed that a ban might be illegal under the EU services directive, despite there being no evidence for it, as EU Environment Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, made clear in 2011:

“Circuses are specifically excluded from the scope of the Zoos Directive, and are not covered by any other EU legislation. Therefore, the welfare of circus animals remains the responsibility of the Member States.”

EU Commission 1, UK Government nil! Then DEFRA Ministers said that a ban was not possible owing to an ongoing court legal challenge to a ban in the Austrian courts. That created a lot of mystery and disruption, because the then Secretary of State repeated this allegation in her written ministerial statement on 13 May 2011. Sadly, her officials placed a little too much trust in Google. I see that the Minister is unsupported by his officials today, which is probably a wise decision—he is on his own at last, freed from the shackles of the ministerial Box.

The following Tuesday, the then Secretary of State was forced to issue another written ministerial statement to clarify that no such legal challenge existed. The European Court of Justice confirmed that no cases relating to circus animals were being considered at a European level. I quote Christopher Fretwell, from the Court of Justice information service, who e-mailed me on 17 May 2011:

“I have searched our internal databases and, like my colleagues in the Registry, have found no reference to such a case. It is perfectly possible that a case has just arrived at the Court within the last couple of days and is yet to be entered into our databases, but this is always a possibility. Searching the internet I have found a number of references to infringement proceedings initially started by the Commission around 2004-2005, but these never seem to have led to any case being brought before the Court.”

European Court of Justice 1, DEFRA Ministers nil!

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Why, however, should that affect UK policy, and how does a ban on wild animals performing in circuses affect our obligations under EU treaties? Finally, DEFRA Ministers said that a ban on wild animals was not possible because—this really was a moment of high comedy—it could infringe the human rights of circus owners. On 19 May 2011, the then Minister, the right hon. Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Sir James Paice), told the House that

“bits of the Human Rights Act could be infringed by a ban on wild animals in circuses.”—[Official Report, 19 May 2011; Vol. 528, c. 502.]

Yet his Department’s own impact assessment read:

“There are no human rights issues raised by these proposals.”

Left hand, right hand—strangers to each other! Had he not read his Department’s own documents? I am sure today’s Minister has.

There was no reason for Ministers not to ban wild animals from British circuses. All these arguments were exposed and kicked around the metaphorical parliamentary football pitch in that extraordinary Back-Bench business debate on 23 June 2011—long may it live in parliamentary memory—when an extraordinary coalition of cross-party support for a ban defeated the Government Whips’ attempts to force the vote in the direction that they wanted it to go in. We all remember the speech that the hon. Member for The Wrekin made about his phone conversations and the inducements that No. 10 offered him not to press his debate to a vote.

At the heart of this debate is a conflict at the heart of Government between DEFRA Ministers, who supported a ban, and the Prime Minister and No. 10’s ideological opposition to regulation and a pathological aversion to anything that protects animal welfare. DEFRA Ministers’ inability to make a decision and stick to it or, crucially, to get their civil servants to act on their decisions has long been a potent source of comedy for this House. The Government have spent 18 months and £261,000, as well as thousands of staff hours and hours in meetings with charities, preparing for a licensing regime that will not work. With the Minister’s announcement, we will see what a monumental waste of effort that was. Harvey Locke, the president of the British Veterinary Association, has said:

“The welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within the environment of a travelling circus; especially in terms of accommodation and the ability to express normal behaviour. A licensing scheme will not address these issues.”

The reasons propagated by the Government for not introducing an outright ban—a lack of parliamentary time, legal difficulties, the European Union, a lack of resources or a desire to avoid red tape—have been found, one after the other, to be utterly without substance. The Government were simply covering themselves for a simple lack of political will. It is time for another DEFRA U-turn. Let us have the ban on wild animals in British circuses. Too much time, too many resources and too much money have been wasted already. The Government need to get on with legislating for a ban to end this era of cruelty. They owe it to Parliament, to the public and to the animals. The Minister said on that day that the Government wanted a ban. The whole House wants a ban. Let us get on with it.

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2.17 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Richard Benyon): I thank the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh), who has the ability to work something acerbic into any conversation and sometimes—to put it in the context of this debate—to play the clown when it comes to what has actually happened and to what our commitment in DEFRA is.

I fully appreciate how important the issue of the use of wild animals in circuses is, not only to this House, as has been said, but to the wider public. I congratulate the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) on bringing the issue to the fore once again. The protection of the welfare of performing wild animals in circuses is a matter that the Government take very seriously and we have pledged to take tough, prompt action to address it. The Government have already announced that they will be seeking to introduce primary legislation to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. The Government’s policy in this area was set out in two written ministerial statements, on 1 March 2012 and 12 July 2012. We further announced on 12 July that we would seek to publish draft legislation this Session for pre-legislative scrutiny that would outline our proposals for a ban. That position has not changed. I am happy to assure the hon. Gentleman that DEFRA is working on a draft Bill and we firmly intend to publish it for parliamentary scrutiny in this Session.

Thomas Docherty: Just so I know that my ears did not deceive me—as he is a Conservative Minister, I have a great deal of trust in his word—will the Minister confirm that his Department will introduce the draft Bill for scrutiny in this Session, rather than just “seeking” to introduce it?

Richard Benyon: I will repeat what I said: I am happy to assure the hon. Gentleman that we firmly intend to publish the draft Bill for parliamentary scrutiny in the current Session. The final timetable for legislation will be for Parliament to decide. It inevitably takes some time to reach a position where we can present a draft Bill that does the intended job and is robust against potential legal challenge.

Mary Creagh: Will the Minister provide us with some sort of timetable or calendar? When does he think this will happen—February or March? The Session ends in April. Secondly, will he explain why we need pre-legislative scrutiny, given that there are only three dozen animals in this position left in the country, and that this issue has been debated over and over again ad nauseam by Parliament for the last two years?

Richard Benyon: We want to make sure that the legislation is robust, so it survives any challenge from any source. This Bill’s promoter, the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife, sits on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, which has a good record of pre-legislative scrutiny. I think that a cursory look at what we are proposing will allow the Bill speedy passage and ensure that it then survives and is effective at achieving what we want it to achieve.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): As the Minister will know, when he had our debate some 14 months ago, we did not press the motion to the vote because we were under the clear impression that the Government

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were going to go away and start working on proposals for a ban. What has happened in those 14 months—between then and now—to justify the Minister telling us that he still has to work on draft legislation to bring before the House? Has not that work already been done over the last year or so?

Richard Benyon: A lot of work has been carried out. As I said earlier, we want to make sure that the legislation is effective. A number of challenges could be made against it if it fails to cover all the bases. I assure the hon. Lady that it is our full intention to see a ban come in that will be effective at dealing with the small number of animals that remain and that deals with the possibility of travelling circuses or new circuses wanting to set up in this country. I will come on to explain what the Government have been doing in the meantime to bring in a rigorous licensing system that will be of comfort to the hon. Lady.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): I warmly welcome the Government’s announcement that they have the clear intention to legislate for a ban on wild animals in circuses. Does the Minister appreciate that he will have very strong Liberal Democrat support within the coalition for such legislation to be brought forward in this Parliament? That is what I think all Members and our many supporters want.

Richard Benyon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I think there is a coalition of the whole House on this legislation, and that the Government and all of us will be able to be proud of it.

There is some justification for saying that there have been plenty of opportunities to introduce this legislation over previous decades and before, so let us look at what we are proposing. All Members will appreciate what it involves when they realise that the legislation will not only be robust, but will be something of which we can all be proud.

Mary Creagh: I congratulate the Minister on weaving a silk purse out of a proverbial sow’s ear. Will he confirm that if he introduces a Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny in this Session, it will not actually be scrutinised until the parliamentary Session of 2014 and could then run out of time in the final year of this Parliament?

Richard Benyon: No, I think this will become law in the next Session, subject to the vagaries of the House’s opinions on the wording of the Bill—another reason why we want pre-legislative scrutiny. The hon. Lady can be absolutely assured that we want to get this measure on the statute book as early as possible; we do not want the issue continuing into future Parliaments. We want to make sure that it gets Royal Assent as soon as possible.

Thomas Docherty: Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh), let me give the Minister this guarantee. If the Department publishes the Bill prior to the end of February, the EFRA Select Committee will make every effort possible to scrutinise it this Session. If the Minister can use his generosity and commitment to make that happen, we will do our bit in the Select Committee.

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Richard Benyon: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I will pass his assurance on to officials and ministerial colleagues who have oversight of this issue.

The Government have already introduced new licensing regulations, as was promised in July, and these will come into force on 20 January—this Sunday. From Sunday, it will be an offence to operate a travelling circus with wild animals in England without a valid licence. The regulations will ensure that if a travelling circus continues to use wild animals, it will be subject to regular inspections to check that it is complying with strict welfare standards. The licensing regime is tough, and inspection will be rigorous. It goes without saying that the safeguards of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 against cruelty continue unabated.

I thank the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife for his efforts, but let me repeat that DEFRA is working on a draft Bill to be published and presented for parliamentary scrutiny in the current Session. Let me also repeat that we want to ensure that the Bill is robust, will do what it sets out to do, and will not be vulnerable to successful legal challenge.

The Government fully recognise that—as has been mentioned today—the use of wild animals in travelling circuses generates significant public and parliamentary interest. In 2009, when DEFRA consulted on the question of a ban, 94.5% of the 10,000 respondents supported it. Since the start of the current Parliament, DEFRA has handled more than 120 parliamentary questions and 16,500 items of correspondence on the subject of wild animals in travelling circuses. There have been five debates in Parliament—including two on the licensing regulations in October 2012—supplemented by five early-day motions with a total of 223 signatures. Many Members have called for a ban, and during the Backbench Business Committee debate on 23 June 2011, which was mentioned earlier, the House agreed on a motion directing the Government to introduce a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.

It should be borne in mind, however, that a ban introduced solely on welfare grounds might be vulnerable to successful legal challenge. The Radford report on the welfare of wild animals in travelling circuses, which was commissioned, accepted and published by the last Government in 2007, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses on welfare grounds. In particular, Radford concluded that there was little evidence to demonstrate that the welfare of animals in circuses was any better or worse than in any other captive environment. We respect that piece of research and the people who carried it out, but I think that Parliament has expressed a clear opinion that reflects opinions in the country at large, and that is what is guiding our actions now.

I hate to use cheap clichés such as the one about the elephant in the room, but it must be said that the recent high-profile court case focusing on allegations of cruelty to Anne, a circus elephant, has rekindled legitimate public interest and concern about the treatment of wild animals in travelling circuses. However, the outcome of that case is not in itself an indicator of endemic or systematic failure to promote welfare in travelling circuses. It would simply not be responsible to proceed with a ban without being confident that we would be safe from legal challenge. I think we are now approaching a point at which we know how to deal with the issue. In any

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case, the new licensing regulations will ensure that good welfare standards are in place for any circus that wants to use wild animals in the short term before the ban comes into force.

The publicly available Radford report summarised the position by pointing out that the scientific evidence that welfare is being compromised is not compelling; that section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act permits only legislation to “promote animal welfare”; that banning on welfare grounds would be disproportionate in the absence of evidence that welfare was compromised; and that an outright ban might be beyond the powers in section 12 anyway, even if the welfare case were made out. Radford wrote that

“it is submitted that to introduce a ban on the use of any type of non-domesticated animal presently in use by circuses in the United Kingdom…by way of a Regulation made under the authority of section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act would be vulnerable to legal challenge.”

Mary Creagh: When he was agriculture Minister, the right hon. Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Sir James Paice) said that he would introduce a ban on moral grounds. Will the Minister enlighten us on how far that has got?

Richard Benyon: I hope I am giving the clear message that this Government are determined to ban the use of animals in circuses, and I do not want to dance on the head of a pin in trying to tease out the different strands of opinion in the House on how to achieve that end. Societies’ attitudes change over time, not least on animal welfare issues, and this is one such issue.

I take my family to see Giffords circus, which travels around my part of the country. It does not have wild animals, but it does have horses and dogs, and—

2.30 pm

The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No. 11(2))

Business without Debate

Water companies (social Tariffs) bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 1 March.

Water companies (minimum Tariffs) bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 1 March.

Transparency in Uk company supply chains (eradication of slavery) Bill

Resumption of adjourned debate on Question (19 October), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Debate to be resumed on Friday 1 March.

18 Jan 2013 : Column 1217

Town and country planning (control of advertisements) (England) regulations 2007 (amendment) bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 1 February.

18 Jan 2013 : Column 1218

Planning Guidance

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

2.31 pm

Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): I know that the issues I am about to raise are of as much concern to you and your Ribble Valley constituents, Mr Deputy Speaker, as they are to my constituents.

I am grateful to have this opportunity to raise some important concerns about the clear and unequivocal advice that I suggest Ministers need to give to the Planning Inspectorate in the period prior to the adoption of new local plans under the national planning policy framework. I am also grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), for being present on a Friday to respond to the debate.

We need to build more houses. At every constituency surgery I hold in Banbury or Bicester, I hear heart-rending stories of families with very real housing difficulties. It is essential that councils make proper and adequate provision for new houses. During the debates on the national planning policy framework, Ministers have rightly made it clear that decisions on where new housing should go should be taken by local councillors, elected and accountable to local people, and decisions should be informed by new local neighbourhood plans expressing the views and wishes of local people.

Local decision making, local accountability, localism and neighbourhood planning are at the heart of this Government’s approach to the planning system. No longer are we going to have top-down, imposed regional spatial strategies and a whole number of planning mechanisms that undermine local decision making.

Local authorities, including Cherwell district council, have been working hard on developing a new local plan. Cherwell published its proposed new local plan last August. Its details can be found at The draft Cherwell local plan looks forward for the next 20 years and beyond. It sets out how the area will grow and evolve in the period up to 2031. Cherwell district council estimates that between 2006 and 2031 we are going to need to build some 16,750 new homes in Cherwell, of which 2,542 were built by 2011. The intention is that between 2011 and 2031 some 14,208 new houses will be provided, with 6,997 new houses being built in Bicester, 4,352 new houses being built in Banbury, and 1,709 new houses being built in the rest of the district.

Cherwell’s draft plan rightly seeks to utilise brownfield sites wherever possible, including the canal-side development in Banbury, on which it is now possible to build as a consequence of the construction of the Banbury flood defences and the fact that the land is now no longer within a potential flood plain. It also seeks to use significant building on brownfield land in Bicester as a consequence of the Ministry of Defence divesting itself of some 227 hectares of land from MOD storage distribution lands. So, over the survey period, Bicester will see nearly 7,000 new houses being built. Part of the new development will involve the new eco-town project, and I hope that Bicester can become a new garden city.

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Will the Minister update the House on what progress the Government are making with their garden cities initiative?

As the Minister will know, Cherwell district council is committed to sustainable housing growth. I would be grateful if he updated the House on whether the former defence land at Graven hill can be transferred to Cherwell district council so that it can be developed quickly. There would then be the prospect of this being the largest self-build scheme in the country, with early work starting well before the next general election. The site lends itself to being a hub for off-site construction and, thus, provides an opportunity for national and local gain. I understand that Cherwell district council has come forward with a solution to protect the interests of the public purse and would ask if ministerial support could be given to make this happen, to enable officers of the district council to devote their energies to ensuring delivery on this site.

Cherwell’s draft local plan makes it clear that Cherwell, as a district, is determined to ensure that full and proper housing provision is made in the local plan over the survey period, with robust proposals for new housing development. Comparatively few towns in England can have grown as fast over the past 30 years as Banbury and Bicester, and they continue to grow. Cherwell is a district that is determined to make robust and credible housing provision for the future. The consultation on the draft local plan proposals concluded last October. I understand that elected councillors will consider final submissions and suggestions at a meeting next month. It will then be a matter of waiting for the Planning Inspectorate to be able to appoint an inspector to consider Cherwell’s draft local plan in due course. Then, as soon as possible, and at an examination in public—we hope this will not be long afterwards—it can become an adopted local plan.

As the House and everyone knows, once there is an adopted local plan, there is a general presumption that planning applications that are consistent with the adopted local plan are very likely to be allowed. Likewise, planning applications that do not accord with the adopted local plan will be refused. Obviously, I hope that Cherwell’s examination in public will take place as soon as possible. I am conscious that the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which is currently in the other place, will give the Planning Inspectorate considerable new duties, but that notwithstanding I hope that any extension of the Planning Inspectorate’s role will not take resources away from the speedy and timely consideration of local plans.

Recent legislation also made provision for local areas to draw up their own neighbourhood plans, and I am glad to be able to report to the House that a number of sizeable villages in my constituency are actively engaged in developing and producing them, in accordance with the legislation. Such villages include Adderbury, Bloxham, Hook Norton, Deddington and others. In short, local councillors, local councils and local communities are doing exactly what the Government want them to do to ensure that there is adequate housing provision locally between now and 2031.

So if everyone is doing what they are meant to be doing, the Minister might be prompted to ask what is causing me concern and why have I initiated this debate. I am concerned at the way in which house builders and developers are behaving in anticipation of the introduction

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of the new local plan. I am no stranger to the planning system. During my ministerial career, I was for some four years a Minister at the then Department of Environment, and throughout that time I was a planning Minister. I have to report to the Minister and to the House that what I am witnessing in my area at the moment is something akin to planning anarchy.

For historical reasons, Cherwell district council does not, at present, have an adopted local plan, and it is not alone in that. I understand from the House of Commons Library that some 198 planning authorities in England—some 54%—do not have an up-to-date current local plan. One of the benefits of the national planning policy framework is, of course, that it is ensuring that all local planning authorities in England are working on agreeing new local plans, and that is much to be welcomed.

There is also a dispute about whether Cherwell has an adequate five-year housing supply. The straightforward reality on housing supply is not that Cherwell district council has failed to make planning provision for new houses, but rather that house builders and developers have failed to build new houses, for which they have been granted planning permission. Such sites include: Bodicote/Bankside in Banbury, which has planning permission for 1,092 homes; Heyford Park, at Upper Heyford, which was itself subject to a lengthy planning inquiry a number of years ago and which has planning permission for some 700 new houses; and the Kingsmere estate at Bicester, where progress is comparatively slow because developers and house builders are building new houses only at the rate that they are selling built houses.

Cherwell is not unusual in that regard, as the Local Government Association reports significant land banking across the country. The Local Government Association estimates that there are some 400,000 approved units with planning approval across the country. Indeed, the LGA has illustrated its figures on an interactive map, available at, which allows anyone to click on to any local planning authority to acquire their figures on approved but unimplemented planning applications.

Of course the district council, district councillors and local people have no control over the rate at which house builders build houses once planning permissions have been granted. There is no scintilla of a suggestion that Cherwell district council has granted planning permissions to developers other than in complete good faith in the expectation that house building would follow reasonably swiftly after the planning permissions had been granted. House builders and developers are making opportunist planning applications on sites that they consider to be the most attractive and their arguments, put simply, run something along these lines: Cherwell district council does not have an adopted local plan, and because it has no local plan housing should be allowed to go anywhere in the district and, as it is alleged that Cherwell does not have an adequate five-year housing supply, any new houses, wherever they are built, should be allowed on appeal on the basis that any new houses wherever in the district they are built will count in some five-year housing supply figure. That is planning anarchy. It effectively means that house builders and developers who get their planning applications in

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first, irrespective of where they are and irrespective of the number of houses, expect those applications to be granted, if not by local councillors, on appeal.

If that continues to happen it will completely undermine any concept of a local plan-led system and any concept of localism and neighbourhood planning. I obviously do not expect the Minister to comment on any individual planning application and I fully appreciate that it would indeed be improper for him to do so. However, I want simply by way of example to highlight the sort of difficulties about which I am concerned.

In the draft local plan, Cherwell district councillors have determined that the southern boundary of Banbury should be an ancient trackway known as the Salt way. Not unreasonably, local councillors are keen that Banbury should have some reasonably well defined boundaries. They are also keen that there should be clear green buffers between Banbury and surrounding villages to make sure that they maintain their own identities and prevent areas from merging

It seems to me to be a wholly reasonable and proportionate policy objective for a local planning authority to want to set planning boundaries and to ensure adequate green spaces between towns and other communities. A local landowner recently applied to build 150 houses on land below the Salt way. The application was refused, the applicants went to appeal and it is now clear that other landowners and developers who own options on land below the Salt way are not waiting to argue at the examination in public that their sites should be included in the new local plan. Those landowners and developers are now simply submitting planning applications in the hope that under the present system, whereby Cherwell does not have the protection of an adopted local plan and whereby they hope to persuade a planning inspector that Cherwell does not have an adequate five-year housing supply, any housing, built anywhere, will be allowed.

Locally, developers are making planning applications for housing in villages that they consider to be particularly popular and attractive, even though such villages are required by the emerging local plans to take only limited new development consistent with Cherwell district council’s policy to seek to focus development on Banbury and Bicester. It is particularly galling that some of those house builders have had planning permissions to build on sizeable sites elsewhere in the district, but have failed to build houses and now seek to pray in aid the fact that those houses were not built as grounds for being allowed to build houses elsewhere in the district where they would prefer to build—not where local councillors or local communities want them built, but where house builders decide they want them to be built. Again, I suggest to the Minister that that is akin to anarchy.

What will be the point of communities such as Hook Norton, Bloxham, Adderbury, Deddington and many others in my constituency undertaking neighbourhood plans in accordance with the new legislation if before they are even considered neighbourhood plans are undermined by planning applications from developers hoping they can get their planning permissions home before a new local plan for Cherwell is adopted? Some four appeals are already before the Planning Inspectorate, at different stages, against decisions by elected councillors

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in Cherwell recently to refuse planning applications for new housing, all of which are entirely inconsistent with Cherwell’s draft local plan.

If Ministers want planning permission to be given simply on a first come, first served, irrespective of where it is built basis, they need simply do nothing, because that is effectively what will happen. If, however, they want to see a responsible, plan-led system, with decisions taken locally, based on neighbourhood planning, they will need to give some very clear guidance now to the Planning Inspectorate.

I suggest that Ministers should make it very clear to the Planning Inspectorate that in considering planning appeals, inspectors give considerable weight to the provisions of draft local plans. Otherwise, what is the point of planning inspectors allowing planning appeals that undermine the draft local plan? I would suggest that this is particularly important for those 198 planning authorities in England that at present do not have an adopted local plan.

I further suggest that Ministers make it very clear to the Planning Inspectorate that in considering the adequacy of a five-year housing supply, inspectors have regard to unimplemented planning permissions. Indeed, that would be to do no more than make clear what Ministers have already said on a number of occasions in this House.

On 30 January 2012 I asked my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), the then Minister of State with responsibility for planning:

“Will my right hon. Friend instruct the Planning Inspectorate that in considering whether a local authority has made adequate provision for housing over a five-year period it should take into account all the extant granted permissions for housing that a local authority has given, irrespective of whether construction work on such housing has started?"

The Minister’s response was clear and unequivocal:

“My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We want to strengthen the sovereignty of local plans and it seems to me that if councils have done their bit by granting planning permission, that ought to be taken into account by the Planning Inspectorate. I will certainly make sure that this point is reflected in the new framework on which we are consulting.”—[Official Report, 30 January 2012; Vol. 539, c. 546.]

Later, on 27 March, I asked my right hon. Friend similarly:

“Will my right hon. Friend confirm that local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate, when considering whether a local authority has an adequate five-year housing supply, will take into account where planning permissions have been granted but where houses have not started to be constructed?”

to which my right hon. Friend replied, again unequivocally:

“Yes. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for raising this issue. That has found expression in the framework.”—[Official Report, 27 March 2012; Vol. 542, c. 1351.]

And indeed, on 30 July 2012, the Minister wrote to me and said:

“‘The policy is clear that unimplemented planning permissions count towards the five year supply’. The footnote does require consideration to be given to whether such permissions can be expected to be built. This is necessary because it would otherwise be possible for councils to meet their housing requirements by approving applications for land that is never likely in practice to be financially viable to build out. So viability does have a role to play. The footnote makes clear that all sites with planning permission

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should be considered deliverable, ‘unless there is clear evidence that schemes will not be implemented within five years’, so the onus of proof is correctly to show clearly that they will not be implemented if they are not to be included’.”

There is not a scintilla or a shred of evidence of Cherwell district council having granted any planning permission at any time for land that it considered was not likely to be built upon. However, the local council and local councillors, having granted planning permission in good faith, are not in a position to control the speed at which house builders and developers utilise such planning permission.

Ministers are going to need to make it very, very clear to the Planning Inspectorate that, in considering the five-year housing supply, inspectors need to have regard and take into account planning permissions that have been granted or, as the Minister put it,

“it seems to me that if councils have done their bit by granting planning permission, that ought to be taken into account by the Planning Inspectorate”.—[Official Report, 30 January 2012; Vol. 546, c. 539.]

I would hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that Ministers are giving the Planning Inspectorate guidance on the weight that it should give to draft local plans and on the account that it should take of planning permissions that have already been granted.

If such guidance is given, I think there is every prospect of the national planning policy framework being introduced in an orderly, sensible, plan-led way, based on the principles of localism, local decision taking and neighbourhood planning. If not, I think between now and the adoption of new local plans we are simply going to see some very opportunist planning applications, with house builders and developers simply hoping that those who put in their applications first will have their housing applications granted.

2.48 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Nick Boles): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) on securing this debate, on a subject that I know is of close concern to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, as well as to my hon. Friend.

I want to start by addressing my hon. Friend’s proposals for a new garden city extension to the town of Bicester in his constituency, before moving on to the main point in his speech. I am very pleased to say that the Deputy Prime Minister has very much welcomed my hon. Friend’s invitation to work with him and local partners in Cherwell district council to explore the various factors necessary for Bicester to become a garden city for the 21st century. On a personal note, I entirely share my hon. Friend’s enthusiasms for garden city principles. I have visited Letchworth Garden City twice in the short time that I have been planning Minister, and I am inspired by the way in which Letchworth has combined a huge amount of green space, a huge amount of trees and parks and gardens and broad verges, with a great deal of housing that, when it was built, was very much affordable housing. It was not housing just for the well-heeled. If we can find a way to do that again, nobody will be more pleased than I.

What is important—this is why it is so good that my hon. Friend made the speech that he did about Bicester’s future as a garden city—is that the proposals are locally

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determined, and that these communities spring up in response to local suggestion. I encourage more communities around the country to come forward with such proposals, and the Government will be thinking more about how we can encourage that. My hon. Friend mentioned Graven Hill, and there is another site in north-west Bicester. They have different needs and we are determined to work across Government and with local partners to ensure these are addressed.

In addition to the ongoing discussions on each of these sites, officials from my Department have been in contact with Cherwell district council with a view to starting discussions on how all the development in and around Bicester can be brought together under the garden city banner. The Deputy Prime Minister announced a special fund of £225 million to support large locally determined developments of this kind and to help unblock any obstacles, infrastructural or otherwise, to such welcome developments.

I congratulate my hon. Friend’s district council, Cherwell district council, on publishing its local plan in August 2012, and on producing a plan which, from everything that he has told us and all the evidence we have, does what the Government and the country would like to see, by embracing growth and the need for more housing development. That is vital, as my hon. Friend said. One of the greatest crises of social justice facing our country is that young people increasingly have no prospect of getting a home of their own until they are well into their 30s, and that there are many young families with both partners working who nevertheless have to bring up small children in a pokey flat with no green space.

That is an affront to all of us and the Government are determined to tackle it. The important question is how. We tackle it by persuading local communities and local authorities that it is in their interest too to meet that need locally. The way to do that is to follow the policies set out in the national planning policy framework and draw up a local plan, as Cherwell district council has done.

Let me reassure my hon. Friend that the Planning Inspectorate will proceed promptly and expeditiously with the public examination of that local plan, once it has been submitted. Although my hon. Friend referred to the new duties that the Planning Inspectorate will take on if the Growth and Infrastructure Bill achieves Royal Assent, I can reassure him that those duties are relatively limited and not as expansive as some have feared or suggested, and that there is no reason why the Planning Inspectorate will not be able to examine Cherwell district council’s plans and all the other plans coming forward for examination promptly and expeditiously, as I said.

Let me also reassure my hon. Friend that the draft plan that Cherwell district council has produced emphatically does have some weight in decisions. Of course the weight that attaches to it is not as great as it will be once the plan has passed examination, and of course not as much as it will have once it has been fully and finally adopted. It was produced on the basis of extensive consultation locally, so it is not the case that developers can propose sites for development and that the plan will be entirely ignored by the decision makers in their decisions about such applications.

Let me turn to the issue that my hon. Friend raised about sites that have received planning permission, but on which building work has not commenced. He was

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right to point out how that works in the national planning policy framework. I am grateful to him for quoting my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), now the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. The framework is very clear that sites with planning permission should be considered deliverable until that planning permission expires unless they have become clearly and demonstrably unviable. I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree that if, for instance, a scheme were proposed, perhaps in the heady years of the boom, that was even then a marginal scheme the economics of which did not seem to stack up, it would not be sensible for it to be considered a deliverable part of the five-year plan that the council is now adopting given that it was clear that houses would never be built on the site.