– in a Public Bill Committee on 28th February 2007.
I beg to move,
That, if proceedings on the Sustainable Communities Bill are not completed at this day’s sitting, the Committee do meet on Wednesday 14th March at Ten o’clock and Two o’clock, on Wednesday 21st March at Two o’clock, and thereafter on Wednesdays when the House is sitting at Ten o’clock.
May I be the first to welcome you to the Chair, Mr. O’Hara? Knowing your love affair with Greece, I look forward to you presiding over us with Olympian-like serenity, detachment, wisdom—[Interruption.]—and, yes, in English.
I also welcome the Minister and his Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for West Ham, and all those who volunteered to serve on the Committee. Looking around the room, I am struck by the diversity of the geography of the constituencies represented here: north-east, north-west, Gloucestershire, London in all its diversity, south-west, east midlands, Essex and Berkshire.
There are a lot of beards in the room, as well. Everyone should grow one.
Whatever our attitudes toward facial hair, we are drawn together by a recognition of what the Bill can do for the quality of life of our constituents and their ability do something about their communities.
The sittings motion reflects two things. The first is that the Bill deserves proper scrutiny. It is striking the degree to which it enjoys support in breadth and depth, both in and outside the House. That is largely because it is recognised as an honest attempt to tackle a serious problem—the social cost and impact of the loss of so many local services from communities across the country. That has consequences on quality of life, particularly for the elderly, on the strength of local economies, on the environment, owing to the increasing need to travel by car, and on people’s sense of engagement and civic participation—their sense of being able to shape the quality of their environment.
The second reason that the sittings motion has set aside good time for scrutiny is that we recognise, as sponsors of the Bill, that it is honest but not perfect.It can be improved. It is in that spirit that I lookforward to a reasonable, good-humoured and open-minded debate.
I remind the Committee that there is a money resolution in connection with the Bill. Copies are available in the room and, as usual, I remind the Committee that adequate notice should be given of amendments. As a general rule, I do not intend to call starred amendments.