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Mr. Forth: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. A moment ago he used the phrase "relatively simple, swift and painless". Does he believe that that is likely to be the case? The clause headings refer to procedure for dealing with complaints, remedial notices, variation or withdrawal of remedial notices, appeals, appeals procedure, withdrawal of appeals, offences, remedial action, orders and regulations, and so on. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that in that jungle of well-meaning procedure, the term "swift and painless" can apply?
Mr. Foster: I am certain that it can. If the right hon. Gentleman reads the report of his intervention, he will note that nearly all the procedures that he mentioned will come into play only on appeal, or following suggestions for variation of the legislation. In the vast majority of cases, the simple procedures set out in the first part of the Bill will pertain.
I return to my response to the hon. Member for Buckingham, who mentioned legal costs. I pointed out that in addition to savings in legal costs, there may well be significant savings in building costs. There is a further financial benefit and a benefit to the nation as a whole. One of the issues that has not yet been touched on in our deliberations is the effect of hedges blocking out light. That affects people's homes in terms not only of appearance, but of heating.
One study that I have seen shows that the reduction of passive solar heating results in people having to keep their heating systems on longer and to a higher temperature. That represents a significant additional cost, which may be comparable to the cost of adopting the procedure proposed in the Bill--£1 million to £2 million a year. There would thus be savings in legal, building and fuel costs.
Mr. Foster: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Unfortunately, however, it suggests that I was slightly over-generous in referring to his diligence in the Chamber; had he been as diligent as I had assumed, he would have heard his hon. Friend the Member for Solihull answer that point in his introductory remarks. The hon. Member for Solihull correctly pointed out that, in the early stages of his consideration of the measure and in the work previously carried out by other organisations and by other hon. Members, it was clear that the key issue was the fact that high hedges blocked out light from people's houses. That was what he wanted to address. However, he noted that subsequently, when complaints are made to local councils, other issues may need to be considered. The proposed legislation thus has the scope to take such problems on board if they become apparent at a later date. That is a sensible approach. It is clear that the key problem is the one identified by the Bill, and I am delighted that it is to be addressed.
Mr. Foster: I note that the hon. Gentleman is keen to intervene again, and although I shall be delighted to give way, I must point out that I am well aware that other hon. Members want to speak in the debate.
Mr. Bercow: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I did listen to the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor), and I am slightly wounded by the gratuitous unkindness of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster); I am not oblivious to the Bill's potential to cover issues that have not yet been anticipated. My point is simple. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if matters have to be dealt with by regulation, they should be subject to full debate on the Floor of the House?
Mr. Foster: The hon. Gentleman will have no difficulty in obtaining the answer he seeks; he will see from my record both on the Floor of the House and in every Committee on which I have served that I have always argued that regulations must first be given the approval of both Houses of Parliament, after debate whenever possible. My record on that issue is clear--[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says that he is much happier; I am glad about that and I hope that we will have his support if there is a Division.
Urgency is important. I read with some interest the press release issued by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions on 10 August last year. The Minister for the Environment himself stated:
The problem is extremely important; it deserves to be addressed as quickly as possible. That view is shared by many people throughout the country and, sadly, by far too many of my constituents. I have received numerous letters on the subject. As I bring my remarks to an end, I remind the House of what the problem is like for the individuals who suffer from it.
There are three 80 foot leylandii trees on boundary line in neighbours garden, which is trespassing and cutting out light from our house, putting it at risk and devaluing our property.
We would welcome a law that would make people control these trees."
The government has at last promised legislation, which is required now and not at some distant future--hopefully before the election . . . Swift action is required."
Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): The hon. Member for Selly Oak had the good fortune to be successful in the ballot for private Members' Bills. I congratulate him not on that, but on having the good sense to use that opportunity to introduce the Bill.