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Procedure of the House: Select Committee

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

I must apologise to your Lordships, and especially to the noble Lord, Lord Clark of Kempston, for an error in his name which appears on the Order Paper. It should of course read Lord Clark with an "a" and not with an "e". With your Lordships' permission, that error will be put right.

Moved, That the Select Committee on Procedure of the House be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords together with the Chairman of Committees be named of the Committee—

L. Allen of Abbeydale,

E. Arran,

L. Brabazon of Tara,

L. Clark of Kempston,

L. Colnbrook,

V. Cranborne (L. Privy Seal),

L. Dean of Harptree,

L. Dormand of Easington,

L. Elliott of Morpeth,

E. Ferrers,

L. Graham of Edmonton,

L. Harris of Greenwich,

L. Henley,

L. Hesketh,

B. Hylton-Foster,

L. Jenkins of Hillhead,

L. Lester of Herne Hill,

L. McIntosh of Haringey,

L. Mackay of Clashfern (Lord Chancellor),

L. Morris of Castle Morris,

L. Mustill,

L. Richard,

L. Strabolgi,

L. Strathclyde,

L. Tordoff,

L. Weatherill.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Deputy Chairmen of Committees

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I beg to move the third Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be appointed as the panel of Lords to act as Deputy Chairmen of Committees for this Session—

L. Aberdare,

L. Airedale,

V. Allenby of Megiddo,

L. Ampthill,

E. Arran,

L. Broadbridge,

L. Brougham and Vaux,

L. Cocks of Hartcliffe,

B. Cox,

L. Elliott of Morpeth,

L. Graham of Edmonton,

B. Hooper,

E. Listowel,

B. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe,

B. Lockwood,

L. Lyell,

L. McColl of Dulwich,

L. Murton of Lindisfarne,

V. Oxfuird,

B. Serota,

L. Skelmersdale,

L. Strabolgi,

L. Strathclyde.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Address in Reply to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech

3.7 p.m.

Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday last by Lord Wade of Chorlton—namely, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): My Lords, in opening this Session of the adjourned debate on the gracious Speech, it is expected that the principal topics for debate will be the environment and agriculture. I know that your Lordships will be looking forward, as I will, to hearing the two maiden speakers who have added their names to the list of speakers for today's debate.

This Government have a long-standing commitment to the environment. We first set out our strategy for environmental action in the 1990 White Paper, This Common Inheritance. It was the first comprehensive strategy for the environment to be agreed by the whole Government, not just by the Department of the

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Environment. It surveyed all aspects of environmental concern, from street corner to stratosphere and from human health to endangered species.

The White Paper contained a commitment to regular updates and reports on progress. To ensure that the whole Government continue to play an active part in developing and implementing our environmental strategy, it established the system of Green Ministers in every department.

We have followed the White Paper with annual reports which record progress on commitments to action and set new targets. The next will be published in the spring, and for the first time will also report on progress towards commitments outlined in the UK Strategy for Sustainable Development. As your Lordships will know, the 1992 UNCED conference in Rio de Janeiro, known as the Earth Summit, was an important milestone in the development of international policies for the environment. The UK took a leading role in the negotiations there and signed historic agreements including the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Biodiversity Convention and Agenda 21.

Agenda 21 set out a framework for involving people from all sectors of society in action to bring about sustainable development throughout the world. It called on national governments to produce their own plans for sustainability. In January this year we published the UK Government's response. Four White Papers were launched by the Prime Minister on 25th January 1994—Climate Change—The UK Programme, Biodiversity—The UK Action Plan, Sustainable Forestry—the UK Programme and Sustainable Development— the UK Strategy.

As with our annual White Paper reports, the whole of Government were involved in putting together the strategy. It reviews the state of the UK environment and looks ahead to the year 2012. It identifies what needs to be done to achieve our goals for a more sustainable future. In doing so it moves beyond purely environmental policy. Both economic growth and the state of the environment affect the quality of life for current and future generations. But words alone will not achieve our aims for a sustainable future. Action is needed to put sustainable development into practice.

One of the first issues we must tackle is that of pollution control. In introducing our plans for the new environment agencies we intend to improve the arrangements for a more integrated approach to pollution control which will ensure proper regulation without undue restrictions on industry. The new agencies will reduce the number of independent regulators in each of their areas, and will improve the prevention and control of environmental pollution. As mentioned in the gracious Speech, the Government intend to introduce at the earliest possible opportunity a Bill to establish an Environment Agency for England and Wales and a Scottish Environment Protection Agency. In addition, this Bill will contain the following measures: powers and duties of the agency in relation to contaminated land, and amendments to powers and duties of local authorities to achieve consistency, arising from the inter-departmental review of policy on contaminated land and liabilities; new requirements to

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enhance the agency's abilities to deal with pollution from abandoned mines; provisions to support industry-led schemes for producer responsibility for waste; provisions to modernise existing Scottish nuisance controls; provisions to give environmental powers to fisheries regulators, including the Environment Agency; measures to establish new independent authorities for the 10 national parks in England and Wales and to revise parks' purposes; an enabling power for the preservation of hedgerows of particular value; and new arrangements for the payment of grants for purposes conducive to conservation. I am very pleased to be able to confirm the measures which will be covered by this Bill, and I am confident that they will strengthen the delivery of our environment policies.

The new environment agencies will have major responsibilities for controlling industrial pollution and wastes and for the regulation and improvement of the water environment. The agencies will be good for the environment and good for industry: they will benefit business by bringing together the different regulatory regimes in single bodies for each country, but not at the expense of environmental protection. The agencies will promote a more integrated approach to environmental protection; they will provide a strong independent voice to influence the adoption of better environmental standards and practices; and they will contribute to sustainable development by promoting high quality, integrated environmental protection, management and enhancement.

Establishing the agencies represents an important step in taking forward government policies on sustainable development. The White Paper earlier this year set out the key principles and broad strategy: it spelt out the need to combine economic development with protection and conservation of the environment. This involves basing decisions on the best available scientific information, taking precautionary measures where necessary, considering the ecological impacts and ensuring that responsibility for costs follows the "polluter pays" principle.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: My Lords, before the noble Viscount proceeds, will he explain to the House why there is a separate agency for Scotland but not for Wales?

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, the agency is taking over the work done by HMIP and the NRA and that is how it is based at the moment. There is a different legal system in Scotland which requires the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

My right honourable friend announced in another place last Friday that my noble friend Lord De Ramsey has accepted the important and demanding post of chairman of the Environment Agency Advisory Committee. We look forward to seeing the agency's holistic approach to sustainable and integrated control of environmental pollution take shape under his chairmanship.

In October we published a draft of the provisions of the Environment Agencies Bill which dealt with the establishment of the two new agencies. This new initiative has enabled interested parties to inform

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themselves of the details of the proposed legislation before we introduce it to Parliament. We have listened carefully to the concerns which have been raised over the wording of the agency's conservation commitments, and my right honourable friend has had the opportunity to discuss this with Lord de Ramsey. We wish there to be no doubt whatever over both the conservation and the sustainable development role of the agency. As my right honourable friend has announced we have therefore amended the wording; the legislation will provide a clear duty not simply to consider conservation issues in relation to all the agency's functions but to further conservation as appropriate.

I am optimistic that the inclusion of national parks legislation in the Environment Agencies Bill will meet our long-standing commitment to safeguard the future of the parks. We intend to legislate to establish new National Parks Authorities for the 10 parks in England and Wales, to revise the parks' purposes, and to introduce a duty on public bodies to have regard to parks' purposes in carrying out their own functions. Overall, we expect these provisions to bring about a number of advantages for the care and protection of the parks, including a greater clarity of vision and self-confidence, a higher profile and a freedom for the national parks authorities to manage their own affairs.

Producer responsibility for waste is an innovative approach to tackling the problem of waste management. It is in line with the objective of achieving sustainable development and it gives industry a chance to produce a cost-effective, industry-led solution. The initiative challenges industry to assume an increased share of the responsibility for the waste which arises from products it places on the market. The result will be a boost in the re-use, recovery and recycling of waste. The packaging industry, and the work of the Producer Responsibility Group, the PRG, is perhaps the best known producer responsibility initiative. However, Ministers in the Department of the Environment and in the Department of Trade and Industry are in discussion with representatives of a number of other waste streams. The packaging industry was universal in its demands for supporting legislation to avoid the risk of "free-riders", who might seek to avoid their share of the responsibility. We are responding to that wish, and that expressed by representatives in other waste streams, to provide legislative support, by including measures in the agencies Bill.

I am sure that noble Lords present today are all aware that a Bill to reform the law for future agricultural tenancies was introduced to your Lordships' House on 17th November. I do not intend to say a great deal about the Bill because the debate on Second Reading is due to take place next week and my noble friend Lord Howe will deal with that topic of our debate today in his winding-up speech and in detail next week.

However, I shall say this. The tenanted sector is a vital part of our agricultural industry. The availability of land to rent is crucial for young people who cannot raise the large amount of capital required to buy a farm of their own. The long-term decline in the amount of rented land in England and Wales—from 90 per cent. of the

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total agricultural area in 1910 to about one-third now, and still falling—has been much analysed but so far has not been halted.

The existing agricultural holdings legislation discourages landowners from letting land due to the degree of security it confers on tenants and its complexity. The Government's proposals for farm business tenancies represent a simplified and flexible framework of legislation which would give parties much greater freedom to negotiate their own tenancy arrangements.

The Bill would enable tenancies to cover a wider range of rural enterprises in which farming is the main, but not necessarily the exclusive, business. Parties will be able to agree what activities can be carried out on the holding, which will mean that diversification will be easier. The industry's ability to respond to market and policy changes will be enhanced.

Tenants will have a right to full compensation for the value of their improvements, provided the landlord gave consent. Parties will be free to decide the length of tenancy which best suits their particular needs, but there will be a requirement for either party to give at least a year's notice of the end of the tenancy.

There has been extensive consultation on the subject of these reforms with a wide range of interests. The package which is now before the House is fully supported by the main organisations representing both landlords and tenants, as well as the professional bodies. We believe that the reforms will lead to more land being made available to rent, which will benefit farmers in general and new entrants in particular. The reforms will not only encourage new dynamism and investment in the agricultural industry but will contribute to the future well-being of the rural economy as a whole.

We are conscious of the important part the countryside plays in people's lives. My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced on 12th October our plans for a rural White Paper. Its subject will be working in and enjoying the countryside.

That White Paper will be another example of the whole government approach to environmental policies. Jointly produced by the Department of the Environment and Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, with contributions from all government departments, it will present a coherent view of government policy for the countryside and will demonstrate the integration of rural affairs across all departments.

The issues it will address will include the impact of agricultural policy on the countryside; ways to provide development in the countryside in a sensitive and well-designed manner; the dynamic relationship between towns and cities and the countryside, the sophisticated nature of economic activity in today's countryside and the importance of encouraging further economic development and diversification; the recognition of local identity and the role of local government; and policies to respond to the decline in biodiversity and to protect and enhance the wider countryside as well as the most valued landscapes and habitats. However, the White Paper will not be about

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quick fixes, nor instant initiatives. It is intended to develop a long-term strategic framework for the future of our countryside.

I have mentioned that the rural White Paper will review policies to halt the decline in biodiversity. Biodiversity: The UK Action Plan was one of the four White Papers launched last January as part of the Government's response to Rio. It provides a strategy and a way forward for the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity in the United Kingdom. Putting it into practice requires a partnership among all sectors. The Biodiversity Steering Group appointed to advise the Government on the implementation of the plan has representatives from central and local government, the nature conservation agencies, scientific and academic institutions, industry, farming and land management and the leading voluntary conservation bodies. A key task for the group is the development of specific costed targets for species and habitats for publication in late 1995, European Nature Conservation Year. Those targets will be the baseline against which trends can be monitored.

I have mentioned the agency's role in sustainable development. But action is needed by all sectors of society if we are to make real progress towards our goals for a more sustainable future. Our strategy for sustainable development is not an end but a beginning. As I mentioned, the Government will publish their first sustainable development annual report in spring 1995, monitoring progress on commitments during 1994.

The strategy makes it clear that all sectors have a role to play: central government, local government, business, NGOs, individual citizens. To ensure that appropriate action is taken we have launched three new mechanisms which will work for sustainable development.

The Government Panel is an independent panel which will advise the Government on implementation of the strategy. Convened by Sir Crispin Tickell, the panel has met three times so far. It is currently looking into four main topics: environmental pricing and economic instruments, ozone depletion, depletion of fish stocks and environmental education. It will publish its first annual report early in 1995.

The second new initiative is the UK Round Table for Sustainable Development. The sustainable development strategy stressed the need to develop partnerships between the key sectors. The round table will bring together representatives of different groups to discuss the issues of sustainable development and to identify what action needs to be taken. It offers a new opportunity for partnerships. We have therefore been careful to take account of all views in setting it up. There has been lengthy consultation on the scope, format and membership of the round table, and it is hoped that it will soon have its first meeting.

However, we must not forget that it is the actions of individuals in their everyday lives that will make a difference in our quest for a more sustainable future. Recent surveys conducted by my department have shown that people remain concerned about protection of the environment. It may not always be at the top of the list, but it remains a long-term concern. People are interested in very local environmental problems such as

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litter and noise, as well as global issues like ozone depletion. The good news is that people are mostly optimistic and believe that a lot can be done.

We recognise that, if people are to translate their good intentions and concern for the environment into real changes in lifestyle, they need up-to-date and accurate information so that they can make informed choices about the environmental impact of their actions. That is where the third new initiative we have established comes in. "Going for Green" will encourage people's interest in the environment and make sure that they understand the real consequences of the choices they make as consumers, at work and at home.

A national campaign committee chaired by Professor Graham Ashworth, Director General of the Tidy Britain Group, has been set up. Its aim is to promote the vital messages of sustainable development to the public in clear, unambiguous language. It will organise national promotional events and projects for local action. The committee has already met three times and is reviewing the work already going on in the voluntary sector, local government, the Churches and many other groups. "Going for Green" will build on that work to encourage everyone to take practical action for the environment. We are determined to follow up the publication of our response to Rio with positive action.

I have already outlined action for sustainable development, which is our overarching objective. To quote the definition given by Mrs. Gro Harlem Brundtland, sustainable development is:

    "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".
That definition was used in the Brundtland Commission report for the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. We used it as the starting point for our own sustainable development strategy.

I have outlined today our action to follow up that report. I have introduced to your Lordships our plans for the establishment of the agency which will act as a cornerstone for our sustainable development policy. It has a unique opportunity to influence the adoption of better environmental standards and practices. The three new initiatives we have introduced will help to translate the aims set out in our sustainable development strategy into action involving everyone. Our Rural Development White Paper will ensure that rural concerns are reflected in the development policies across government, and we are following up the biodiversity action plan by setting specific costed targets.

Finally, I should like to assure your Lordships that the environment and the countryside remain at the heart of this Government's policies. I look forward to hearing a lively debate on these very important issues.

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