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Column 127That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session.
That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.
That this House takes note of European Community Documents Nos. 8030/89 on a European Environment Agency and a European Environment Monitoring and Information Network and the Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Department of the Environment on 19th October 1989 and 9785/86 on the Fourth Environmental Action Programme (1987-1992) ; supports the Government's view that the proposal for a European Environment Agency and a European Environment Monitoring and Information Network provides the most appropriate means of enhancing a sound data base to inform and support Community environmental policy ; and approves in general the guidelines for the Community's Fourth Environmental Action Programme.
[Relevant documents : European Community Documents Nos. 9182/88 on public access to information on the environment and 8882/89 on environment and natural resource information collection.] I welcome the opportunity to discuss three important aspects of community legislation : first, the proposal to establish a European environment agency ; secondly, the fourth environmental action programme ; thirdly, public access to information on the environment. I shall address each of the issues in turn. I start by setting out-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I shall start by setting out the background to the proposed European environment agency. The president of the Commission, Mr. Delors, in a speech to the European Parliament in January, spoke of the need to set up a European environmental measurement and verification system
"to inform and support Community environmental policy." The argument is that such a system on a European scale to monitor environmental quality and trends does not now exist. At present there is no guarantee that the results of environmental monitoring are comparable Communitywide. In response to this need, the Commission has drawn up a regulation to establish a European environment agency to act as a co-ordinating point, bringing together environmental information from existing national and regional networks for the use of the Commission and of member states.
There is widespread agreement throughout the Community that the establishment of such an agency would be highly desirable. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment welcomed the initiative in principle at the September meeting of the Environment Council. The creation of an independent body to enhance a sound environmental database will bring substantial benefits. Not only will it provide a firmer base for developing Community environmental policy, but it should remove many arguments about facts and figures from political dispute. In the United Kingdom our environmental monitoring arrangements are well established and comprehensive. For example, the national survey of air pollution was set up in 1961 and has registered a significant decrease in smoke and sulphur
Column 130dioxide concentration in the past 30 years. The setting up of the agency would encourage the development of systems to provide comparable information in other Community countries so that the overall picture becomes clearer.
Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) : Can my hon. Friend tell me whether the new agency will have the power to require member states or firms or bodies within member states to provide the information that it requires?
Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle) : Surely that is not so, as that is our Government's position in relation to negotiating exactly what powers the agency should have and it has not yet been decided whether there should be powers of compulsion to provide the information.
The regulation is now the subject of negotiations in Brussels. Explanatory memoranda have been submitted to the House summarising the present position and last Wednesday my officials gave evidence on the agency proposals to the Select Committee on the Environment, the report of which was tabled today.
I wish to say a little about the negotiations and the points still to be resolved, one of which has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh). They also concern the precise remit for the agency, its status and structure, the arrangements for establishing and running the underlying information network, and the possible role of non-Community countries.
First, we think that the work of the agency should be confined to assembling, co-ordinating and analysing data to provide an authoritative source of environmental information for the Community. Our firm view is that the agency should not have an interventionist role such as enforcement, nor should it have the right to initiate policy. Such responsibilities rest with national Governments and the European Commission under treaty powers. It would be quite wrong to delegate such functions to a third party such as the agency. Moreover, we see the benefits of the agency essentially lying in its neutrality and independence as a highly regarded professional body which will be open for use by the Commission, by national Governments and by the public.
It should nevertheless be stressed that there are other existing highly reputable international organisations involved with assembling and analysing data. I am thinking particularly of the United Nations Environment Programme and Community bodies such as the statistical office and the joint research centre. There is a clear requirement that the agency should not duplicate the work of such organisations but should draw on their expertise and experience.
Column 131It is proposed that the agency should be a small organisation comprising about 20 professional staff headed by an executive director with a management board comprising delegates from each member state and from the Commission, assisted by a scientific committee to steer the work of the agency. We welcome the proposal that the agency should be a small body and I am sure that hon. Members would agree that we should not wish to create any major extension to Community bureaucracy. It is notable that the restriction on size is due in a large extent to Britain's having pressed the idea when the agency was first mooted.
Regarding the network, the regulation proposes to require member states to identify and notify to the agency within three months the main component elements of their monitoring network. That timetable assumes that suitable networks already exist in member states and merely need to be brought together. We know that that is not the case and that arrangements for collecting information vary widely. That points to a need to extend the three-month period proposed for setting up the network. Further, there should be no legal requirement to provide information. I hope that that meets the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor). We believe that the agency will operate successfully only in an atmosphere of voluntary trust and co-operation.
Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton) : I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way and I warmly welcome him to his post. Will the collection of data allow the agency to assist our agencies with matters such as the catastrophe which occurred at Rutland Water in my constituency recently, when blue-green algae resulted in the deaths of a considerable number of dogs and sheep? I am getting no sense from the National Rivers Authority or from Anglian Water about the reason why this occurred, but we need proper data and information. I expect to see the Minister about that shortly.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I thank my hon. Friend for his welcome. I confirm that the agency will pull together data in addition to analysing it in a form that is readily digestible. My hon. Friend, his constituents or any member of the public will have access to those data. It will assist my hon. Friend to obtain a clearer picture of what went wrong in Rutland, which should assist remedial action. It obviously makes sense for information to be drawn together for Europe as a whole, as the Community cannot be regarded as an island. Issues of transfrontier pollution are of vital importance. We believe that third countries should be invited to participate in the agency, and that initially that should be on an informal and advisory basis. Clearly, we should wish to avoid third countries directing the work of the agency without the approval of Community member states.
Mr. Michael Morris (Northampton, South) : What communications have there been with the Council of Europe, particularly through the Council of Ministers? It seems more appropriate for the agency to be a Council of Europe initiative, rather than just an EEC initiative.
Column 132Europe, but informal approaches have been made by other European states which in the longer term wish to participate in the work of the agency.
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : Is the Minister saying that the EEC environmental agency will supplement or replace the National Rivers Authority, or does he think that the NRA, under the Government appointee, Lord Crickhowell, is not up to the job? Will the agency supplement the NRA, add to it or make it work?
Other member states have expressed much support for the United Kingdom position. The agency proposal is due to be discussed at the Environment Council on 28 November, and with such a high degree of consensus the French presidency hopes for political agreement on the general terms of the regulation.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has not only publicly welcomed the idea of the agency but has offered to host it in the United Kingdom. We believe that the United Kingdom has a strong case and that siting it here would afford opportunity for links with the many centres of excellence in this country. I am sure that the House will support our efforts to have the agency sited in this country.
The fourth environmental action programme is the second subject to be discussed today. On 19 October 1987, the Environment Council adopted a resolution which notes and approves in general the guidelines of the fourth environmental action programme 1987-92. It also welcomes the Single European Act which introduced an environmental chapter into the treaty of Rome. The action programme represents the Commission's agenda for future environment policy and outlines its ideas for specific proposals. It is not legally binding. The member states approved its overall approach through a general resolution without commitment to any of the detailed proposals. The Commission is free to select which proposals to develop, whether they be in this programme or not.
Agreement has already been reached on many parts of the action programme, including directives on vehicle emissions, pesticide use, reductions in pollution from large-scale coal-fired power stations, control of major accident hazards and the protection of workers. Regulations governing trade in endangered species of animals and plants and restrictions on pesticides and chlorofluorocarbons have also been adopted. The Government have played a leading role in shaping those agreements. The programme also stresses the need for improved public access to information on the environment, which the Government fully endorse. We therefore warmly welcome the fundamental principles embodied in the current draft directive on public access to environmental information, which is the third item under discussion today.
We have long endorsed these principles at home. We have welcomed the recommendation of the Royal Commission on environmental pollution that there should be a presumption in favour of unrestricted public access to information held by pollution control authorities and we have made substantial progress in providing for that
Column 133access. The Water Act 1989, for example, provides for public registers of water pollution controls. There are registers of notices dealing with air pollution and pesticides. We recently proposed a major extension of the system of public registers under our proposals for the new systems of integrated pollution control and local authority air pollution control.
We have pursued the same goal in Brussels. During our last presidency of the Community we proposed a resolution calling for "unrestricted access throughout the Community to information which pollution control authorities obtain or receive by virtue of their legislative powers, with provision for secrecy only in those circumstances where a genuine case for it can be substantiated on the grounds of commercial confidentiality or national security or other appropriate grounds".
Such access can only be good for all parties--for industry and for the public. Secrecy breeds suspicion, suspicion breed doubts, doubts breed fears, and fears help no one. Our commitment to the principles of the draft directive is unequivocal.
As I have already made clear, the approach that we have embraced in Britain for providing access to information is based on public registers. It provides easy access to all the important information in a readily digestible form. All parties know what is involved. The administrative burden is more containable. A number of our Community partners have adopted the same approach. We are keen to ensure that it will be viewed as fully answering the spirit and the letter of the draft directive. We also believe that further work is needed to make explicit the concepts behind the text and to clarify the phraseology.
With those provisos, we welcome the directive. We are taking an active part in working to clarify and refine the text. Our aim, which I have no doubt that the House will share, is to secure a clear and watertight directive which will ensure that there is a full, fair and workable system of public access to environmental information and that it is provided throughout the Community. I invite the House to comment on these three items of Community business and I shall do my best to respond to any points later in the debate, or afterwards if that is more appropriate.
Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle) : The issues before us have not been finally resolved in Europe. Some of the decisions to which the Minister referred are not final decisions but cases being argued by the Government in Europe, no doubt with the support of some other member countries.
I should like to speak mainly about the European environment agency, the fourth environmental action programme and public access to environmental information. The motion calls for the House to note the EC documents on the establishment of a European environment agency and a European environment monitoring and information network. We have before us the draft regulations for the establishment of a Eurowide agency and the proposals listing the sort of environmental action programme issues that would be the subject of inquiry by the agency and network.
Public access to environmental information is important. The Government are going part of the way towards satisfying the Opposition's demands. The latest Community proposals are pretty comprehensive. They originate from the Commission's statement to the European Parliament on 16 January 1989, as the Minister
Column 134said. The Labour party strongly supports the establishment of this kind of information collection and research agency and verification system to ensure that individual European countries have their records, claims and statistics about the environment verified. As usual, Her Majesty's Government have given only a half-hearted welcome to the measure. They claim to welcome the proposals. They say that they accept that such a European environmental monitoring network should be established, but they do not want it to be constituted in such a way as to make it really effective. Indeed, they have admitted as much tonight. As usual, the Government "Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer".
They are adopting their usual tactic of trying to slow down the agency's implementation and insisting on restricting its functioning, so preventing an effective agency from being established. They do not want the agency to have power to require member countries to provide information. What would be the point of such a body? The Government believe that the agency's mandate should be confined to collecting and co-ordinating statistical data. They do not want it to undertake any enforcement role or to have the right to initiate policy.
The Labour party does not want the agency to usurp the powers of the Commission or of sovereign Parliaments in Europe. But the right to propound or advocate policy initiatives would not necessarily do that. The right of inquiry and the right to require member states to provide information would not do that. The agency cannot function effectively if it cannot require those involved to provide information and give evidence. Once established, the agency must have power to force member states to give evidence and permit inquiry into records and institutions.
The Government claim that co-operation and willing participation should be the way forward. We do not believe that the Government would co-operate in exposing their own polluting record. It is not surprising that they are unwilling to establish an agency with legal powers to take action or require action to be initiated. In view of the Government's record--on rewriting environment statistics and avoiding EEC directives and initiatives on the environment--they see this agency as another means by which their appalling record would be exposed.
Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East) : Considering that 18 months ago the hon. Gentleman and his party would have denounced this proposal from the Commission as a gross piece of interference in British policy, but are now pretending to be pro-European and are welcoming this proposal, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will explain why we should listen to the pompous lecture that he is now giving, when the Government have an excellent record on proposing green and anti-pollution measures?
Mr. Roberts : The hon. Gentleman does not have to listen. He can go home if he does not want to hear common sense. There is no point in establishing an agency that does not have power to carry out its responsibilities, and that means effectively monitoring and controlling.
A strong agency would expose, for example, Her Majesty's Government's refusal to set a date for implementing the EEC directive on bathing beaches. Perhaps the Minister will give details of the real condition
Column 135of our drinking water and beaches. People living near the beaches know the state they are in. They are polluted along the length of our coastline.
Polluting private water companies have been exempted by the Government from prosecution. That would be an ideal subject for the agency to investigate. No wonder the Government want to limit its scope and power.
What we are discussing does not have much to do with the Common Market, for we are talking of a Europewide agency that would cover all European countries wishing to co-operate in the provision of environmental statistics. This has nothing to do with whether one is pro or anti-EEC.
Is it possible that Her Majesty's Government would wish to co-operate freely in the collection of statistics and information about nitrate fertiliser pollution, the overuse of harmful pesticides and the effect of that on drinking water and on polluting our rivers and coastal waterways? That would make a very good subject for a European agency inquiry.
Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher) : Given that the hon. Gentleman said that in these issues he is not pro or anti the Community and therefore he is trying desperately to be fair, will he acknowledge that this country is by no means behind in terms of chasing European standards for environmental cleanliness? Will he also acknowledge that the world waterskiing championships in Barcelona were cancelled because the skiers did not want to ski on raw sewage? That would not have happened if the championships had been held off our shores.
Mr. Roberts : At times, the Government are successful at cobbling something together with other polluting nations such as Spain and France which are not famous for their concern for the environment. Other countries are at fault as well as Britain. However, Britain does not have a particularly good record. We are being prosecuted by the Community because of our drinking water and we are in breach of the Community directive on bathing beaches. Only Britain amoing the western European countries has exempted private water companies from prosecution for pollution because of the Government's desire to make water a successful flotation.
The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Chris Patten) : How many infraction proceedings for breaches of environmental directives have been brought against this country in the European Court of Justice?
Mr. Roberts : I would love to tell the House, but I do not know. Perhaps the Secretary of State will tell us. We are the only country that refuses to join the 30 per cent. club of countries that are supposed to be reducing sulphur emissions. We are the only country to wage a major campaign against the catalytic converter, claiming that the lean-burn engine would solve the problems. The Secretary
Column 136of State has only assumed his new position because of the chaos caused by his predecessor in relation to our record on the environment and the EC. The facts were altered under the previous Secretary of State and we were pilloried continually and rightly for failing to take the necessary action required by the EC, not just in terms of the directives, but in all the discussions. In the Council of Ministers and elsewhere in Europe, Britain has been fighting a rearguard action to slow progress down. We did that with the catalytic converters and many other things.
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : My hon. Friend need not take too much notice of the Secretary of State for the Environment. He recently visited Bradford and poured praise on the Tory clique there. The Tory council in Bradford is about to embark on a major breach of the green belt in Bradford--which is already far too small. That is the sort of action that this supposedly green Secretary of State supports.
Mr. Roberts : I can understand the Secretary of State wanting an agency that does not have any powers to compel evidence or information to be provided, particularly as that would show up the Government's record on the environment. Our drinking water and the pollution of our rivers and coastal waters by nitrates and fertilisers would be an ideal subject for an agency inquiry. However, the Government would not want their record on those issues exposed. If the system was voluntary, the Government would not co-operate with such an inquiry or provide the accurate information required. Would they co-operate in a statistical inquiry into the pollution of the atmosphere unless they were forced to? The Minister was seeking praise for the Government's record. As I said earlier, the Government refuse to join the 30 per cent. group of countries that want to reduce sulphur emissions. Unlike Germany, which is retro-fitting nearly all its fossil fuel power stations, this country is retro-fitting only one before the next general election and the retro-fitting of Fiddler's Ferry power station has been cancelled. Of course, a Euro agency investigating the Government's real record on CFCs--not the one covered by their publicity statements--and on the ozone layer would be embarrassing to the Government, as would their appalling and abysmal record of energy and transport policies, which will continue to increase carbon dioxide emissions until at least the year 2000. The United Kingdom contributes 10 per cent. of the world's total production of CFCs--a massive amount. The Prime Minister hosted a conference at which she made a speech about the problem and then said that the free market should deal with it. She and the Government still refuse to ban CFCs in aerosols.
By having an effective ban on aerosols, the Government would meet their obligations as outlined by the Montreal agreement. Even if Britain reduced the present use of CFCs by 90 per cent., we would still use more CFCs than India does. ICI is the world's second largest producer of CFCs and the largest producer in Europe. Britain produces three times more CFCs than India and China together. Last year, the United Kingdom exported CFCs to 117 countries, 80 of which have not signed the Montreal agreement. The United Kingdom is the largest exporter of CFCs in Europe.
Column 137We are reducing the use of CFCs in this country by 50 per cent. but production by only 35 per cent., and are selling the difference to developing countries as though they have a different ozone layer. The Government would not want their record on glabal warming adequately to be exposed ; nor do they wish to provide information. Because of their energy and transport policies, the Government will remain one of the main contributors to the production of greenhouse gases, despite their lip service to the problem in the Netherlands. CEGB energy projections given to the House of Commons Select Committee on Energy were that, in the year 2005, carbon dioxide production in the electricity supply industry in England and Wales will be up to 26 per cent. greater than in 1987.
The biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions is power stations. The second biggest source is transport. Under this Government, vehicle traffic miles will increase by 83 per cent. to 142 per cent. by the year 2025. The Open university calculates that carbon dioxide emissions will increase by 60 million to 130 million tonnes, on top of the 98 million tonnes now being emitted from road traffic. They are the Government's policies and their own projections, yet they pay lip service to doing something about the greenhouse effect. The truth is that they do not want their record on this issue to be adequately investigated by a European environmental agency.
Do the Government really want their record on this save-the-world issue to be the subject of EEC agency scrutiny? Of course not. They will avoid that at any cost. Why do they not want non-EEC European countries to be involved in such an agency? To exclude, perhaps, the environmentally conscious and concerned Scandinavian countries. If Norway, Sweden and Denmark were involved and, perhaps, Austria and other countries, we could never muster the anti-environmental majority that we sometimes manage to cobble together in the EEC. The British Government object also to identifying and notifying to the agency within three months of its establishment the main elements in our national environmental monitoring networks. Surely we do not need more than three months just to tell the agency what we already have. It is a delaying tactic by the Government.
The Government ask how confidentiality would be dealt with. That is another red herring. It would be dealt with in the same way as it is dealt with in similar institutions and organisations. No claim for commercial confidentiality should be allowed to justify a refusal to provide the truth about industries' polluting activities. What is required is the establishment of a European environmental agency, but beyond the boundaries of the EEC, and a monitoring and information network. However, that will be effective only in the context of a British environmental protection agency. Indeed, that should be a keystone of any green Bill that the Government introduce and is the answer to those who say that power would move away from Britain with the establishment of a European agency. We need a really powerful British protection agency, with powers to enforce pollution control and to bring together control of land, water and air pollution. The principle of integrated pollution control should be established--I hope that it will be--in the Government's green Bill. An environmental protection agency should be established and given real powers to criticise and prosecute industry--private and public--local authorities, central Government institutions and Ministries. It should be truly
Column 138independent of Government and take over the National Rivers Authority and other inspectorates, such as Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution. It should have adequate staffing and resources. A Ministry of Environmental Protection should be established, with its own inspectorate and establishment. A Labour Government would carry all those suggestions into law.
The public have a right to know. Access to information is fundamental to environment protection. While industry can keep secret its discharges, waste products and processes, it will continue to be, at best, a source of suspicion. The Environmental Protection Agency that has been established in the United States of America is linked with a Community Right To Know Act. That should form a blueprint for the type of legislation that is required in this country and in Europe. Such legislation would be vital for the satisfactory working of an EPA. It would also aid the work of the Department of the Environment. The United States right-to-know legislation calls for access to information on the amount of raw material entering a works, the products, the amount of waste and the type of waste treatment or disposal route. Under a Labour Government, industry would not--it should not now--be allowed to use commercial confidentiality to deny freedom of access to information about discharges into the environment.
When the Secretary of State was given his present job, we issued a 10-point challenge to see whether the Government were serious about their attitude to the environment and to the fourth Community environmental action programme. We wanted to know whether policies really had changed since the former Secretary of State was sent off to the Department of Trade and Industry. We asked the present Secretary of State to reverse the exemptions from prosecution for causing pollution that have been given to private water companies and to set dates when Britain will comply with EEC directives on bathing beaches and drinking water standards. The Department of the Environment, under the new Secretary of State, has refused to do so. To help reduce global warming, we wanted the Secretary of State to launch a programme of energy conservation and to make available Government grants. The former Secretary of State for Energy cut the previous programme. A new programme still has not been launched and there has been no reversal of policy.
We called on the Government to join the club of European countries that are committed to reducing sulphur emissions by 30 per cent. to prevent acid rain, but this Secretary of State takes the same attitude as the previous one. We asked the Government to reverse the decision on the Rose theatre site and to make it a scheduled ancient monument, but this Secretary of State is as concerned about our heritage as the previous one was. We asked this Secretary of State to establish, in co-operation with local government, a programme to recover CFCs already banked in the environment in disused fridges, but the Department has refused to do so. We said that this Secretary of State should abandon the proposals of the previous Secretary of State to privatise waste disposal. However, the Government still intend to establish arm's-length companies to run waste disposal services and to privatise waste disposal. They intend to put the control of monitoring toxic waste into the market, where the profit motive will be more important than concern for the environment.
Column 139We asked this Secretary of State to restrict imports of toxic waste into Britain, but he has refused to do so. We asked the Secretary of State to bring forward a comprehensive dog registration scheme ; he refuses to do so. We have asked him to support the speedy implementation of the three-way catalytic converter into all types of British vehicle, accepting the 1991 date for small vehicles that was proposed by Europe, but he refuses to do so. We asked the Secretary of State to abandon Nick Ridley's--[ Hon. Members-- : "Order."] Conservative Members seem to want to be here long into the night. We asked him to abandon the decision of the former Secretary of State to dismantle the Nature Conservancy Council and the Countryside Commission. On all counts the Government have been found wanting. The Secretary of State has done hardly anything since he took over the job. The EC environmental action programme will expose that failure, especially if the agency is given the power to require evidence.
Mr. Robert B. Jones (Hertfordshire, West) : The Government's support for environmental improvements is amply demonstrated by the presence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. He takes such issues seriously, and this is an important debate. How sad it is that the shadow Secretary of State could not be bothered to attend to hear what the House had to say.
The hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts), for some reason which is no doubt obvious to other hon. Members, gave way until he gave way to my right hon. Friend who asked him a pertinent question. He asked how many prosecutions there had been against the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman said that he did not know the answer. This debate is about European statistics, but the hon. Gentleman has not collected any. I shall give the answer. Between 1983 and 1989, there were no prosecutions against the United Kingdom Government by the European Court, in comparison with 64 prosecutions against other European Community countries. That is the mark of our Government's sincerity in comparison with others.
It is true that action has been taken against the United Kingdom on water standards, but, in common with other hon. Friends, I find it curious that no action has been taken against other member states. When the Select Committee on the Environment visited Italy during its consideration of the problems of contaminated land and toxic waste, the local authorities in Milan told us that all the sewage from Milan and the surrounding suburbs is discharged straight into the River Po and out into the Adriatic. What action has been taken against the Italian Government? None. It is no coincidence that the European environmental Commissioner happens to be an Italian.
This is an important matter. That is why the Select Committee on the Environment thought it right to consider the issue to try to come up with a report for the House in time for this debate. That report is ready, and I shall refer to its various recommendations. It is right that our Government should welcome the creation of the European Environment Agency. They did not do so half-heartedly, as the hon. Member for Bootle
Column 140suggested. Civil servants giving evidence to the Select Committee told us that the Government warmly welcomed the proposal. It is wecome because one cannot develop environmental policy without the reliable statistics necessary to establish what corrective action should be taken and what directives should be issued by the Commission. Unlike some of my hon. Friends, I believe that it is natural for environmental policy to be considered at European level, precisely because so much pollution is transboundary that it can be dealt with only through international co-operation.
It would be helpful to the House if we considered the recommendations--they were unanimous--of the Select Committee. The Committee considered the powers of the agency. I shall quote those recommendations verbatim, so that no misinterpretation is possible. The Select Committee said :
"We agree with the Department of the Environment that the proposed Agency should not be intrusive of Member States whether by way of inspection, enforcement of policy making. We would support any proposal to ensure that its duties are carefully defined and do not go beyond acting in an advisory capacity. In view of its proposed functions, we consider that its full title--with its inevitable reminders of the United States Environmental Protection Agency--is misleading ; and feel that it would be more appropriate to limit the name".
If the agency were to have executive powers, it would involve the creation of a huge bureaucracy which would have to draw together the different experiences and abilities of member states. That may be possible in the dim and distant future, but it is not practical if we are to get the agency going now.
The second Select Committee recommendation referred to the Corine programme and the avoidance of duplication and overlapping. There are other agencies collecting statistics--the European Environmental Statistics Office, the United Nations organisation to which my hon. Friend the Minister referred and others--and it is important to ensure that statistics are not duplicated. I questioned civil servants on that point but I did not receive a satisfactory answer. When I asked about the European Environmental Statistics Office, Mr. MacCormack, on behalf of the Department, said :
"We have got one of those already."
I asked :
"What is the difference between the two?"
He replied :
"The Statistical Office, in as far as it looks at environmental statistics, for example, is very much concerned with numbers and collecting numbers and not with the analysis of such numbers, so that it is the provision of pure statistics ; whereas the Agency is seen as more than that. It is seen as dealing with scientific environmental information and going further than just pure statistics."
In that case, why cannot the remit of the European Environmental Statistics Office be widened so that it collects the numbers and analyses them as well? Why do we have to have two such bodies? Cannot some saving be made in trying to bring the statistics together? Thirdly, the Select Committee felt that at present the agency should be limited to members of the Community in order to get it off the ground. In due course it will be sensible to bring in other states within Europe--not just western Europe, but eastern Europe and beyond. As I have already said, many of the issues of transboundary pollution go far wider than just EEC member states.
Column 141However, in practical terms it seems sensible to start with a proposal that can get off the ground rather than one that would fall at the first fence.
Among the issues that have to be tackled are the financial and voting rights of non-EEC Governments. One of the Select Committee's recommendations is that when the negotiations take place, procedures should be developed so that in due course non-member states that wish to take part can do so on proper terms.
There was reference earlier to the involvement of non-governmental organisations--NGOs. I do not think that it would be right to lose the benefit of the immense experience and statistical base that many of those organisations have, whether they are European bodies collecting statistics for a particular industry or organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Unlike the French presidency, the Select Committee did not feel that it was appropriate for NGOs to be represented on the management board because it would be difficult to determine which NGOs should be represented, how they should be appointed and so on. However, we would wish to see their experience drawn on to the maximum extent through co- operation.
Also, there is the question of location. The Select Committee strongly supported the Government's stance on wishing to see the agency located in the United Kingdom. We have tremendous expertise. The British Antarctic Survey is just one source of that expertise. It would be appropriate to seek to have the agency located in the United Kingdom in conjunction with one of the distinguished academic bodies located here already.
One domestic point involves the staffing of Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution and the Department of the Environment. The Committee recognised that the creation of this agency would not have a huge impact on such staffing, but clearly it would have some. When I questioned civil servants on this matter, I did not receive a clear answer about whether there would be an appropriate increase in staffing levels to deal with the work involved. I hope that this point will be taken on board in due course.
The Select Committee has produced this report, which I hope will be helpful to the Government and the House. This is a most useful debate to take place at this time, with the consideration of what to do being due on 28 November which is not far away. I commend the report to the House.