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Mr. Burns: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making part of the point that I was making and for referring to the FSB. I noted carefully what the Minister said, but, at national level, the federation has expressed deep concern about that aspect of the Bill, which he says is restricted

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to a limited number of its members. The 1990 Act, which currently sets the framework for integrated pollution control, stipulates that pollution control should be achieved through best available technology not entailing excessive costs--BATNEEC, as he said. The Bill, pursuant to the directive, would substitute for that common-sense approach the concept of best available techniques.

I listened carefully to what the Minister said about cost. There is a view abroad, which is not confined to the FSB--as he said, it was raised in the other place--about whether best available techniques would be applied irrespective of cost. He gave some interesting quotes from the detailed workings of the directive about that, and I was reassured to hear them. There is little to be gained by pursuing the matter now, but we should certainly do so in Committee. Small, medium-sized and large businesses clearly need to be reassured that there will not be a problem because of the omission of the words "not entailing excessive costs". We need to be able to set people's minds at rest that the understanding is a misunderstanding at the moment, and we will raise that point later.

I shall refer briefly to two important issues--one has been raised by the Country Landowners Association and one by the National Farmers Union--that we will want to discuss further in Committee and which merit discussion in the context of this debate. The CLA is particularly concerned that

I raised that issue in an intervention. That is fine, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) said, we may consider light pollution and other issues. It would be extremely useful for us to pursue other areas.

The NFU is concerned that the original version of the Bill, which started in the other place, contained a general definition of environmental pollution that has now been extended to tie it in to pollution

Clause 1(3) contains a definition of "harm". Although there is a reference to "harm" in the original directive, the definition now proposed in the Bill extends the concept to include matters such as harm to the health of "other living organisms" as well as to human beings, and includes an

    "offence to the senses of human beings".

On the latter point, the NFU says that

    "noxious smell is clearly a potential source of pollution, but the definition would appear to encompass visual offences to the senses of human beings which would be likely to be highly subjective."

The NFU raises a specific concern about the definition of pollution. Pollution of air includes air in buildings but, in some agricultural situations, the building is itself a pollution prevention control measure. For example, in a power station fuelled by chicken manure, the fuel is stored in a building under negative atmospheric pressure. Mushroom composting facilities may also use buildings to control pollution. Clearly, those facilities should not be regarded as pollution in themselves. The Minister may think, with some justification, that we should consider that

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matter in Committee, but it must be examined--the NFU does not raise these issues just to pass the time of day; they are of genuine concern to its members.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay): My hon. Friend will be aware of the effect that the well-meant landfill tax has had on farmers, who have this year alone identified 60,000 cases of fly dumping as a result of legislation that was meant to help to control environmental pollution. We must be careful before we put powers into the hands of Government officers or statutory bodies and introduce legislation that may have devastating, unforeseen effects.

Mr. Burns: I shall read my hon. Friend's comments carefully in Hansard tomorrow, because we may well consider this aspect in Committee.

We do not object to the basic aims behind this legislation, as there is a need for an integrated system for the control of pollution. However, I have some misgivings about the way in which the regulations will be issued, and about the fact that primary legislation is being used to give the Secretary of State so much power to make orders by secondary legislation.

Despite the sterling work in the other place to improve the Bill, it is wrong in principle to rely so exclusively on secondary legislation. We shall consider this measure carefully in Committee, as we want to build on the work that was done in the other place to improve it.

6.34 pm

Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North): My warm welcome for the proposals has been slightly marred by the negative contribution of the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns). We have heard much about the omission of provisions on the best available technology not entailing excessive costs--or BATNEEC to those of us who have sat through many Committee stages of previous environmental pollution Bills. We have not, however, heard a great deal about emissions. The hon. Gentleman's speech was about omissions, not about emissions that pollute the air, water and land and damage the health of all living organisms.

The House must understand that this welcome legislation deals with a subject that matters to people across the country, and is not about the concerns of one or two vested interests. We are concerned about the damage, pollution and contamination caused by those vested interests, and the legacy and liabilities that we have inherited because they have not understood and invested in the importance of environmental and public health. I hope that in Committee the hon. Member for West Chelmsford will take a more positive approach, so that we can get this legislation right.

I should declare an interest, because I am a vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the chair of the all-party environment group, which I am pleased to say contains many hon. Members from both sides of the House. I welcome the Pollution Prevention and Control Bill because, once enacted, it will give us the toughest set of pollution control measures in Europe. Unlike the hon. Member for West Chelmsford, I have every confidence that my right hon. Friend will undertake any necessary further fine tuning. In other legislation before the House, such as the Freedom of Information Bill, and through the agenda of

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competitiveness promoted by the Department of Trade and Industry, the Government will ensure that we have joined-up thinking across Departments, throughout Europe and among local authorities through consultation with local people. That is desperately needed and long overdue.

I pay tribute to the people who have worked to get us to this stage. I do not underestimate the importance of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and all the other work that has been done, but time is running out and much more needs to be done. The European directive must be on the statute book by the end of this year. It is right that we should deal with the matter as quickly as possible, especially given the full scrutiny to which it was subjected in the other place.

I have sat on Committees considering previous Bills. I am aware of the shortcomings of the current legislation from the point of view of my constituents. Yesterday, I received a document from the city of Stoke-on-Trent pollution control unit. It shows that large parts of my constituency will not meet air quality objectives even by 2005. We stand a far better chance of setting and meeting targets because of the work that my right hon. Friend the Minister is doing and will continue to do.

Mr. Gray: Is the hon. Lady saying that the good people of Stoke-on-Trent would not set such targets were it not for the Bill?

Ms Walley: I am saying that the people of Stoke-on-Trent depend on the Government to ensure that the highest standards are set, and that the resources, procedures and framework are put in place to start to deal with the legacy of the industrial revolution. In my area we have made huge advances in air quality control, but much still needs to be done, and will be done under the Government.

The Select Committee on Environmental Audit, of which I am a member, is looking forward to monitoring the real changes and benefits that the Bill will provide as a result of the implementation of the European directive.

Despite my positive welcome for the Bill, I would not like the House to think that I do not have a few words of warning. There must be proper enforcement. In the past, Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution has been starved of resources. Huge advances have been made, ensuring that both the Environment Agency and local authorities are adequately staffed, and I was very pleased to hear what my right hon. Friend said about the extra work that would be done with local authorities; but, without enforcement, none of what we are trying to do can become a reality. Another problem is that, as always, the devil is in the detail. In the case of provisions that are not currently in the Bill, we must place our trust in my right hon. Friend, and let it be known that we are doing so.

As I have said, I welcome the fact that local authorities will be involved, and that communities will participate and be consulted. Only this week, I received a letter from the Environment Agency telling me of the consultation that will take place throughout north Staffordshire. That is crucial: our public and environmental health agenda will succeed only if we can inform and educate the public and ensure that they are with us, and only their vigilance will enable us to make the strides that we want to make.

The legislation will need careful scrutiny in the coming months, and throughout the consultation period. We must consider who will administer the controls, and how those

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people will be trained. I was pleased to learn that the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health would be involved in the training. Moreover, universities and research establishments throughout the country will be given opportunities to ensure that training initiatives are launched, and that a team of experts will work with the informed public to keep pollution control high on everyone's agenda. I am confident that, at some stage, my right hon. Friend will work with his colleagues in the Treasury to provide adequate resources through the revenue support grant.

Much will depend on the progress of the Freedom of Information Bill. I was pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) mentioned that earlier. I cannot stress its importance too strongly. We must have information on pollution levels, and that information must be freely available to the public; otherwise, we shall not have the joined-up thinking that is so essential to the changes that we want.

I mentioned loopholes. Since the Environmental Protection Act 1990 came into effect, I have had time to develop an understanding of the impact of some of those loopholes on my constituency. I shall be interested to hear from the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson), how the Bill will sit side by side with planning guidance. Given the legacy of existing land use, it is all too easy for planning permission to be given, followed by authorisation for polluting processes. If we do not have joined-up thinking at local level--in planning guidance, and among planning officers--integration will be difficult. I hope that it will be made clear in Committee that the planning process will be involved. After all, once planning permission has been given, it is too late to start thinking about the impact of polluting processes and installations. Stoke-on-Trent city council fears that

may lead to problems. Rather than storing up such problems for the future, we should deal with them at the outset.

Certain provisions are missing in the Bill. We must ensure that regulations, and the flexibility to which my right hon. Friend referred, will be there as and when we need them, enabling us to respond quickly to any emergencies that may arise.

I have sat through meetings of the Select Committee on Environmental Audit, which has received evidence from the Environment Agency. Everyone welcomes the news that energy efficiency is to be part and parcel of integrated pollution control, but we must get it right. There are intensive industrial users of energy in my constituency, two of whom have contacted me. One is well known in the House: we daily drink tea and coffee from Dudson Duraline ware. The other company is Steelite, which manufactures wonderful table ware that is used in hotels and, indeed, here. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I am grateful to hon. Members for recognising that.

Both those companies have made enormous advances in trying to reduce the amount of energy that they use. Each has spent some £150,000 per annum, and has been happy to do so. They are pleased to participate in climate

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change; what they want is a level playing field. Perhaps my right hon. Friend, along with his colleagues at the Department of Trade and Industry, will consider the whole issue of competitiveness. Today Stoke-on-Trent launched a major report, the Ecotec report, as a result of the Government's work. I hope that the Environment Agency, and all Departments, will work with the ceramic and pottery industry to ensure that energy efficiency is considered in sufficient detail.

Contaminated land is another crucial issue. I note with interest that proposals that were to be announced in July have been delayed until November. My right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong.

I fear that there could be a lawyers' charter, and that local authorities could spend many months arguing about what is and is not harmful. Those who live in areas where there is contaminated land want, above all else, action to deal with the contamination and dereliction. I urge my right hon. Friend to consider a regime to deal with the legacies and liabilities that the past has given us.

The problems of farmers have been mentioned. The spreading of condensate is a problem in my constituency. I should like clarification--if not today, at a later stage--in regard to the installations that will be covered by the new proposals. Will rendering processes be included? In my constituency, liquid offal condensate has spread on grazing land. Recommendations have been made by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, but we are currently depending on case-by-case initiatives by local authorities rather than an holistic, integrated pollution-control approach. Given the problems that we may be storing up, I feel that we should have a proper pollution control regime.

I may have spoken for too long. I welcome the proposal, and hope that, in five or 10 years' time and in the long term, we will lay foundations to prevent the pollution that has affected so many people in the past.

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