One of my great political regrets is that the Conservatives have been in power for more of the past 150 years than the Labour party. I am glad to repeat the Prime Minister's phrase that the 21st century will be the progressive, and not the conservative, century. I assure the hon. Member for Reigate that the words ``Tory split'' will never pass my lips in the context of this debate; that would be inappropriate.
The points made by the hon. Members for Southwark, North and Bermondsey and for Reigate are correct. I would like to reinforce a point that they did not make—[Laughter.] The thought police are here. We are talking about replacing a series of local byelaws with a national framework. One reason for that is to achieve consistency across the country so that, for example, people travelling from Bradford to Blackpool or Brighton on holiday—as people from Bradford often do—will be subject to broadly the same legal framework. There is a national, as well as a general, argument for that. It will not only simplify procedures but establish some national consistency.
We agree that there would be confusion if a national framework was side by side with local byelaws, which is why we do not accept amendments Nos. 64 and 65. There are issues about the framework's operation, but it would be unreasonable to think that a local authority should chose to take the byelaw route rather than the national one that we are establishing. I hope that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath will withdraw amendment No. 64 and will not press amendment No. 65.
I am more sympathetic to amendment No. 129, tabled by the hon. Member for Reigate. It deals with a serious issue. One reason why we decided on 10 years, which may seem rather arbitrary, was because of the 10-year limit in respect of byelaws concerning dog fouling. I will examine his point about whether five years, or a shorter period, might be a more appropriate time scale with a view to tabling a Government amendment on Report. However, I want to discuss with the Local Government Association and other relevant bodies their thoughts and feelings on the matter before committing myself to five years or coming back with a recommendation. Given my assurance that the Government will seriously consider an amendment on Report to reduce the 10-year period, I ask that the amendment be withdrawn.
Although I understand that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath does not want an overweening Government to have the right to override the wishes of local authorities, it would be worse for citizens, and more difficult for the police, if parallel sets of legislation were in force beyond a transitional period whose length can be debated. I therefore hope that he will not press the amendment.