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Lord Beaumont of Whitley: When we were discussing the last amendment I quoted the evidence of the Green Alliance to the Sustainable Development Committee. I would like now to quote from that evidence. The spokesman for the Green Alliance said:
Lord Williams of Elvel: The Committee will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, for moving this amendment. Again, although I like to support amendments moved by the noble Lords, Lord Nathan and Lord Beaumont of Whitley, I find this a rather restrictive amendment. As I said at Second Reading, in our view the object of the agency is enhancement rather than mere protection.
If it is the case that the Committee accepts this amendment then I would regret that the agency's objectives are confined in Clause 1 to the protection of the environment. It is our belief that the agency should go much better and further in promoting the protection of the environment. It should go to restoring pieces of the environment which have been lost. At a later stage we shall be talking about clauses relating to remediation of contaminated land. I believe that the agency will have a role to play in England, Wales and Scotland on those aspects. I believe that it will also have a role to play in ensuring that not only the environment, as it stands at the moment in aspic, is protected but that it is developed and rehabilitated in many aspects.
Therefore, I would be reluctant to assent to the amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, has moved unless the Government sayand I have to add this caveatthat that is really what the agency is about. I hope very much for a positive reply from the noble Viscount. That is not what the agency is about. It is not about pure protection, but about protection with development, enhancement and furthering the development of the environment and all that comes with it. If the noble Viscount can join with me in that respect then at least we shall be making some progress in the early Committee stage of this Bill.
Lord Milverton: I support this amendment. I was ready to support the first amendment especially if the Government had said that they would consider it and do whatever necessary, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams, said. As the noble Lord said, if protection is being given in a proper and positive way, rather than in a negative manner, I should have thought that in protecting the environment, nature and creation, one would be involving oneself in restoring and rehabilitating in the work of protection.
As I see it, one is not just protecting negatively in order to stop something, but one is doing it in a positive way where one enables oneself to do restoration work and rehabilitation of the land as much as in anything
Lord Henderson of Brompton: As regards what the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, said, I should like to draw attention to the fact that in the Title of the Bill one agency is known as the "Environment Agency" and another is known as the "Scottish Environment Protection Agency". Does that mean that the environment agency can, so to speak, take a positive role whereas the Scottish one cannot because it is limited to protection? I believe that they should be the same. In view of what the noble Lord, Lord Williams, said, it is much better to leave the word "protection" out.
The Earl of Cranbrook: I believe that within the general consensus of many of those who would identify themselves as being interested and concerned with the environment, the future debates which we shall have on the clauses of this Bill will do a great deal to clarify and reveal precisely what we do mean about the concept of sustainability. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, made a very good point; that is, if we are to achieve through this Bill the high aim of defining and controlling sustainable development, its impact and associated effects on the environment, we shall have to look carefully at the language we use. The concept of enhancement has to be written in as regards sustainability. It is not enough simply to protect what we have in the way of present resources.
As my noble friend Lord Williams of Elvel said, although "protection" is an important concept, it is also a negative one. We have to have protection and management together as a policy. If we find ourselves choosing whether to put the emphasis on "protection" or on "management and enhancement", I would certainly be in favour of the second, which is much more ambitious and, as I shall say later, in the spirit of the Rio conference.
The Earl of Onslow: We have got into terrible semantic difficulties. We must ask ourselves what we are talking about when we refer to "the environment". Everything that we see around us in this country is man-madefrom the Scottish Highlands down to the tip of Cornwall. It will be extremely difficult to freeze the hedges about which Cobbett complained in the enclosure Acts, to give just one example. What we have to do is to manage the countryside properly so that it looks nice.
I suspect that what we are talking aboutand groping to find words foris the attempt to ensure that we are responsible gardeners and gamekeepers, keeping a perpetually moving but civilised countryside or urban landscape. I am trying to avoid using the word "environment". It is rather a modern word and we are
Lord Boyd-Carpenter: I hope for once that the Committee will accept the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, and that my noble friend the Minister will therefore decide against supporting the amendment. It is a perfectly simple point. The amendment suggests that the duties of the body should be to protect the environmentthat is, to maintain the status quo. Surely, the purpose of the Bill, and of the Government in introducing it, is to enhance the condition of the environmentnot merely to protect it, but to improve it. That is the short and simple point with which I thought the noble Lord, Lord Williams, blew the amendment out of the water.
Viscount Ullswater: The amendment deals with the overall purpose of the agency, as the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, explained. It would make an explicit provision that the agency is set up for the purpose of furthering the protection of the environment. Environmental protection and enhancement are, indeed, the main purposes for which the agencies are being established. We shall no doubt debate that further when we discuss their specific powers and duties as set out in other parts of the Bill. However, I do not believe that this amendment, or the attempts in other amendments to which we shall come, represent a complete statement of the purposes for which the agencies are being set up. Furthermore, I do not think that any such attempt recognises the risk of attempting to encompass within a few select words the full range of functions of the environment agency, however tempting it may be to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, to include them at this stage.
It is essential that we avoid possible inconsistencies between any such description in this Bill and the provisions of the existing legislation on which the agencies will need to rely. That is where I agree with my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. Under the Bill, the agency will inherit a very long list of functions which are painstakingly prescribed in existing statutes. Many of those provisions are set out in Clause 2(1). Any attempt to write overriding statutory functions and purposes on top of those existing provisions risks creating duplication or conflict.
The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, drew our attention to the different names of the two agencies, one north and one south of the Border. It is true that the remit of the Scottish agency is more limited, so they are two different agencies with different responsibilities, as their names reflect.
As I shall explain when we consider Clause 4, we think it right to give guidance to the agency and the SEPA on their aims and objectives. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Williams, will push me to give "further enhancement" a special place in that. We have set out
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