The Minister knows exactly what I am going to ask, given our experience facing each other on the Committee that considered the Planning Bill. That Bill contained specific exemptions for the Crown and the Duchy of Cornwall. In this Bill, we are informed that the Act will bind the Crown. Will it bind the Duchy of Cornwall?
I anticipated that the hon. Gentleman might have an interest in this question, and I am pleased to confirm that I wrote to Her Majesty, who confirmed that she is content that Crown property be bound by the provisions of the Bill, should that property be liable and in an area where a levying authority raises a BRS.
On a point of order, Mr. Atkinson. Before you close our proceedings, may I thank you and Mrs. Dean for the way in which you have chaired and guided our proceedings? You have been very fair and we have maintained a fair pace. I am grateful to you for that.
I thank the staff of the Official Report and the House for making sure that we have been well looked after and that our proceedings have been well documented. I also thank the officialsthe Committees pace, rigour and scrutiny have certainly kept them on their toes. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and I have tried to keep on our toes as well.
The Committee is one of the strongest that I have served on, in the sense that it brings together Members with expertise in local and national Government and in the private and public sectors, andthis reflects the nature of the Bill itselfwith experience of and an interest in both London and the rest of the country. That has come through clearly in the way that the Committee has handled its evidence and scrutiny sessions as part of the process of legislating.
I thank the Opposition spokesmen, the hon. Members for Bromley and Chislehurst and for North Cornwall. I pay tribute to the way in which they have dealt with the differences between us in a rigorous but measured way, although their positions are still riddled with contradictions, which I look forward to debating further on Report and Third Reading.
Finally, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State started his remarks by saying that this Committee was his maiden voyage: only somebody who represents a constituency in landlocked London could describe the Committees proceedings in maritime terms. However, he has sailed through the proceedings; he has not tacked under pressure, but has trimmed when appropriatewhen we have heard strong, persuasive arguments from both sides of the Committee. I am sure that this is the first of many Bills that he will pilot through the House, and I look forward to his leading on other Bills.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Atkinson. I add my thanks and observations to those of the Minister. For once, he and I are entirely in accord, with just one exception.
I and all my hon. Friends are grateful to you and Mrs. Dean for your courtesy. I am also grateful to the staff of the House, the Official Report and the officials. Some of the questions that we have bowled up have been dealt with courteously and efficiently.
I hope that all right hon. and hon. Members agree that this has been a rigorous but good-natured Committee. We are fortunate, as the Minister rightly said, in the breadth of experience that has been brought to bear. That means that although our scrutiny of the Bill was short compared with that of some of the other Bills with which the Minister for Local Government and I have had to deal recently, it has none the less been constructive, and I am grateful for that.
I thank the Whips on both sides for the expedition with which they have dealt with our proceedingsI am told that it is always prudent to say that. I thank both Ministers for their courtesy throughout, and the hon. Member for North Cornwall, who speaks for the Liberal Democrats. All in all, ours has been a civilised Committee.
This is, I think, the first time that I have managed to get through a Committee without any football references, perhaps because the situation of my team and that of the hon. Member for Wigan means that we need to be neither defensive nor unduly triumphant. That is probably why we passed through without any of the analogies that we sometimes hear.
I am sure that all my hon. Friends will agree with those remarks, which I have made on a most considered basis.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Atkinson. I thank you and Mrs. Dean for the way in which you have allowed us to have a full and open discussion of the matters before us, while keeping us firmly in order.
I thank the staff of the House and the Official Report for the way in which they have ensured that we have had everything necessary to hand, which has enabled us to work effectively. I also thank my research staff, who have always been helpful in tabling amendments on timejust aboutwhen I have been dashing about doing other things.
I echo the Ministers comments on the way in which the Committee conducted itself as a whole. We have had the chance to discuss the issues. Political points asidethere were undoubtedly many of thoseeach Member brought little insights to our debates that helped the whole Committee, and we are collectively better off because of that.
Let me reciprocate the comments made by the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst and say that it is always a pleasure to serve on a Committee with him. The Minister for Local Government has, as usual, been generous in his praise and serious in his consideration of the amendmentsif not generous in accepting them. I, too, congratulate the Under-Secretary of State on his maiden voyage through the choppy waters of Crossrail and the BRS.
I look forward to further consideration of the Bill when it is reported to the House and to seeing what those in the other place make of it. I thank you again, Mr. Atkinson, for the way in which the Committee has proceeded.