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Lord Northbourne: Before the noble Viscount sits down perhaps I may draw attention to something which he said a moment ago. I believe I am right in saying that he said that sustainable development involves the whole process of environmental protection. Am I correct? That seems to imply a definition of "sustainable development" which is quite outside anything that we have discussed so far this afternoon. Will the noble Viscount accept that we really do need a definition of "sustainable development" and possibly a reference to "sustainable use"?

Viscount Ullswater: I shall have to look very carefully at what I did say. I thought I said that sustainable development underpins the whole of environmental and economic policy and that I cannot see how conservation is excluded from that.

Lord Marlesford: Further to that point, I simply do not understand why my noble friend should be suggesting that because the phrase "sustainable development" is used quite appropriately in Rio it is the right phrase to use in this piece of British legislation. What we are talking about in Britain is not only the need to have sustainable development but also to make certain adjustments to things which are already happening in this country in order to make them sustainable.

Perhaps I may give two obvious examples. There are many people who would say that there is already too much traffic on the roads. There are many who would say that power stations are already emitting nitrous oxide when they should be stopped from doing so. Would it not be more appropriate in this legislation for

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the phrase "sustainable activity" to be used even though the phrase "sustainable development" is the current vogue phrase in a worldwide context?

Viscount Ullswater: I shall consider carefully what my noble friend said. I believe that the phrase "sustainable activity" suffers from the same difficulty as does the definition of "sustainable development". I believe that development in economic terms has an understanding. That is what we need to do when we look at the definition of "sustainable development". I hasten to say that the definition is not one which will come forward in a flash of blinding light and appear on the statute book. It is something which the guidance will ease its way towards refining during the progress of this Bill through Parliament.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My reservations about this amendment have been well exemplified by the debate which we have had. It is clear that the term "sustainable development" is for many of us not very well defined. We are not clear what it encompasses. Clearly this is a debate which will need careful perusal before we return to this subject.

I now have a copy of the draft guidance. It contains an overall aim for the agency which seems to combine the last two groups of amendments which we have been addressing. The overall aim of the agency shall be,

    "To help to promote sustainable development through high quality, integrated environmental protection, management and enhancement".

That is effectively a combination of the two main amendments which we have been discussing this evening.

Therefore, I hope that the Government will consider putting something along those lines on the face of the Bill. In any case, we certainly intend to return at Report stage with an amendment to that effect which I hope will gain the support of the House as a whole. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 2, line 4, at end insert ("and shall take office provided their appointment is agreed by the House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment").

The noble Baroness said: This group of amendments addresses an entirely different principle which is that of democratic involvement in the functioning of the agency at various levels. The amendments that we are taking together in this group, which I shall be addressing, are Amendments Nos. 8, 9, 11, 13 and 15 and those relating to the Scottish agency, which are Amendments Nos. 132, 133 and 135.

Amendment No. 8 is really intended as a probing amendment. It is an attempt to roll back what we are now beginning to call the "quangocracy". It is an attempt to prevent appointments to these very powerful agencies to be solely within the gift of Ministers. It may well not be that this particular suggestion and the

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amendment is the appropriate one, but it is an attempt to enhance the role of Parliament rather than leaving power totally in the hands of Ministers and quangos.

Amendment No. 9 would make mandatory rather than voluntary the appointment of people with relevant experience to the agency. Amendment No. 11 would require the Secretary of State to have regard to the desirability of having people on the agency with relevant experience in the business world, the voluntary sector and local authorities.

Amendment No. 13 is consequential on Amendment No. 8. The other amendments are also consequential on these particular points. They would assist in the scrutiny of the proceedings of this particular agency. They would create stricter criteria for appointment to the agency board and would apply freedom of information provisions to the agency under Amendment No. 15.

It is accepted that the new environment agency will be a quango operating at arm's length from government, but nevertheless quangos have been increasingly criticised in recent years on various grounds; that is, that they take powers away from elected and accountable representatives of the community both in Parliament and in local authorities. The system for the appointment of members is often extremely secret. The posts are often not advertised or subject to open competition. Their proceedings lack transparency. The usual standards of freedom of access to information and meetings which apply to local government do not apply to these appointed bodies. The amendments are therefore an attempt to address some of those abuses of democracy and the issue of freedom of information. I beg to move.

Lord Renton: The noble Baroness has put forward a proposition which I think is without precedent. It is for Ministers (nearly always in statute) to take responsibility for appointments to statutory bodies of one kind or another. To provide that the appointments should be agreed by the House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment spreads the responsibility. I should have thought that our present system is better because we can question the Minister and challenge any appointment that he makes. To ask a House of Commons Select Committee to share that responsibility seems a constitutional departure about which, to put it mildly, we should think very carefully indeed. Speaking for myself, I see great difficulties in it.

6 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth: Perhaps I may speak to Amendment No. 10 now as it is grouped with Amendment No. 8, and to its consequential amendment which we shall reach later. I heed what my noble friend Lord Renton says, but notwithstanding that I have some sympathy with the thinking behind the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton.

Amendment No. 10 is pretty self-evident. It could be argued that it is special pleading, particularly coming from myself. However, back in 1989 when the Select Committee in another place drew attention to the need for a national agency—a "national commission" as I think it called the body—that idea found favour and culminated in the 1990 Act. The background to this

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provision is that there must be some regulation on waste. As I see it, that is the "birthing", so to speak, of the Bill that is now before us. Looking at the current nine members of the advisory committee of 15—we have some yet to come—I find that there is nobody, but nobody, with hands-on knowledge of the waste industry, with which the Bill is primarily concerned. That implies no criticism of the chairman, my noble friend Lord de Ramsey, or of the other eight named members who no doubt have splendid qualities to add to the deliberations of the advisory committee, which I suppose will ultimately form the board.

It has been said on a number of occasions—notably by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, in her contribution to the debate on the humble Address in November of last year and by others on Second Reading—that the members of the advisory committee as it now is (or of the board ultimately) should have knowledge of the matters with which the Bill is concerned and with which the agencies will have to deal. However, nobody but nobody on that body has hands-on knowledge of the waste industry. That industry represents between £45 billion and £50 billion of business and is probably one of the biggest elements with which the agency will have to deal in terms of pollution, pollution control, landfill, contaminated land and so on, all of which we shall be considering later when I shall have more to say on them. The agency will be setting policies and priorities and allocating resources but, as far as I can identify, nobody at the decision-making level—no current member of that body—has knowledge of the industry or the effects that it may have on society and communities. That will make a lot of difference to the decision-making process.

My amendment specifies one industry in particular, although others could be involved. I suppose that if other members of the Committee were to list their favourite industries or interests and demand membership for them, we should have a board of 40 or 50—or at least one with more than 15 members. Nevertheless, I think that this is an important amendment to set alongside those of the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton. The truth of the matter is that the agency will be operating at arm's length. Notwithstanding the fact that Ministers shall have responsibility to Parliament, it is a pretty long arm, because once the matter reaches Parliament the decisions and actions will have been taken. Therefore, I hope that the amendment will find favour with my noble friend the Minister or that he will at least give the Committee an unequivocal assurance that those industries which have a direct interest in the matters with which the agency will be dealing will have representation.

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