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Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: I thank the Minister for that reply and I accept the logic of much of what he said. However, the existence of the Nolan Committee shows that all is not well with appointments to quangos. I reject entirely the strictures of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who suggested that because things have not been done previously we should not do them in future. I accept that the suggested remedy may not be appropriate; but, from the widespread anxiety about appointments to quangos, it is clear that things have not been as they should. I was puzzled by the Minister's slightly naive statement that we did not want to bring politics into the appointments to quangos. Surely, the chief anxiety about ministerial appointments has been the introduction of politics to the field. I accept entirely that the amendment might be suggesting the wrong mechanism; but, nevertheless, I believe that there is a wrong that needs addressing.

As regards the representation of local authorities and others, I believe that it is a general principle which should be part of the guidance to Ministers rather than being written into the Act. We shall think further about what the Minister said on that issue and about freedom of information, which may be provided for elsewhere in the Environmental Protection Act. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 9 to 11 not moved.]

Lord Prys-Davies moved Amendment No. 12:

Leave out Clause 1 and insert the following new clause:

("Establishment of Agencies

. There shall be established—
(a) a body corporate to be known as the Environment Agency for England (in this Act referred to as the English Agency), to exercise in relation to England the functions transferred or assigned to it by or under this Act; and
(b) a body corporate to be known as the Environment Agency for Wales (in this Act referred to as the Welsh Agency), to exercise in relation to Wales the functions transferred or assigned to it by or under this Act.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 12 involves another issue of principle. It would establish a separate Welsh environment protection agency, which is the policy of the Labour Party and all other opposition parties in Wales. The policy is supported by the Council for the Welsh Districts, the Assembly of Welsh Councils and the Wales Association of Community and Town Councils. In addition, I believe that it is supported by voluntary bodies which play an important role in the conservation and enhancement of the environment in Wales. They are bodies such as Friends of the Earth Cymru and, I am advised, the Wales Wildlife and Countryside Link.

That is a broad and significant body of opinion; it is not a minority opinion in Wales. Of course, the case for a separate Welsh agency has been much enhanced by the Government's decision to set up in Clause 20 a separate Scottish environment protection agency. To an extent, I was heartened to hear the Minister acknowledge on Second Reading the distinct needs of Wales. That, essentially, is the basis of our case. Of course, the Minister did not say what he meant by the distinctiveness of Wales.

We submit that, in the context of this Bill, it arises out of the fact that within its narrow boundaries Wales, a small country, is a singularly beautiful country of mountains, barren uplands, lakes, rivers and a long coastline of which 42 per cent. is defined as heritage coast. It is studded, more so than England, with conservation areas. The high quality of the environment in much of Wales is of enormous importance to the people of Wales. That is in addition to being a major factor in the annual £1.3 billion Welsh tourist industry.

The distinctiveness of Wales also arises from the fact that it has a proud, historic identity. It is recognised by the existence of the Welsh Office and the Secretary of State for Wales. It is, therefore, a natural and appropriate level for the decentralisation of executive power.

That leads me to the third main argument for a Welsh agency. It is true to say that, generally speaking, the bodies involved in the care and control of the environment in Wales are able to liaise with one another on the basis that the buck stops in Wales. Agriculture and forestry, trunk roads and planning and public health and economic development come under the Welsh Office control. Indeed, that applies to almost every service which the environment protection agency must

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co-ordinate. Our local authorities also refer to the Welsh Office but I take note of the point made earlier today by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas.

During the past decade in particular, the voluntary and private sectors, the political parties and the media have more and more aligned themselves in such a way as to create a vibrant Welsh policy. We need a separate environment protection agency which is fully attuned to the distinctive scene and which has the status and authority to take decisions without sending them up the line to an England and Wales body.

There are sound reasons for setting up a Welsh environment protection agency under the terms of this Bill. But instead of setting up a separate agency for Wales, the Bill resorts to an advisory committee to the Secretary of State, in addition to the type of advisory committees to be set up to advise the England and Wales agency. From these Benches we say that that is inadequate.

When the noble Viscount summed up the Second Reading debate he revealed that, initially, the Government considered setting up a separate agency for Wales but had concluded that it was not the most effective means of proceeding, whatever those words may mean.

He then went on to make three criticisms. First, the Minister alleged that a separate agency would involve the reorganisation of the NRA and the HMIP, which would be disruptive. Of course it would be disruptive but, in any event, there will be upheaval and problems of redeployment under Part I of the Bill, as a number of noble Lords pointed out on Second Reading. Therefore, I am not so sure that the setting up of a Welsh agency would make a substantial difference.

Surely the relevant question is whether a separate Welsh agency would facilitate a more effective environmental service for Wales. We answer that question in the affirmative.

The Minister's second criticism was that a separate Welsh agency would be "likely to reduce effectiveness". That is a cautiously expressed conclusion. Perhaps we may be told by the Minister this evening how his Ministerial colleagues arrived at that decision. Did they by chance resort to independent—I stress the word "independent"—expert advice? If they did, we should know about that. Will the Minister place a copy of the report in the Library? If Ministers did not resort to such advice, perhaps I may ask whether it is too late to do so before the Bill reaches another place.

On this side of the Committee we are extremely concerned with the ability to deliver effective protection services. The test of effectiveness must be assessed in relation to the whole range of activity, irrespective of the environmental resources of air, land, water and wild life, and the co-ordination of those services. To our way of thinking, one of the separate agency's prime concerns should be to ensure that services are co-ordinated at Welsh level and that the most cost effective use is made of public funds under its control. Have those considerations been brought fully into the calculation?

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I thought that the Minister's third criticism revealed a contradiction. As I understand his words, he argued that in Wales the waste authorities are the district councils and that they lack what he described as a national structure. He then concluded that the functions should be removed from democratically elected control and handed over to an England and Wales nominated agency. Surely that would be far too remote from the Welsh scene. The district councils cannot see any sense in that conclusion.

I ask the Minister also how that conclusion is to be reconciled with the need for local accountability which the noble Viscount considered to be so important in his opening speech on Second Reading.

In so far as there might be a case for the centralisation of some of the waste regulation and disposal functions, their transfer from local democratic control to a Welsh agency rather than to an England and Wales agency would be some amelioration—I put it no higher than that—as at least a Welsh agency would be considerably more accessible. Therefore, for all those reasons, we say that a Welsh environment agency is needed urgently to protect and enhance our environmental resources.

I wish to touch very briefly on the other two amendments. Amendment No. 126 is not grouped with Amendment No. 12 but it should be because it follows, in a sense, from Amendment No. 12, and I see that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, agrees with that. The purpose of that amendment is to provide in the Bill a joint machinery to safeguard the common interests which affect the main river basins on the border with England. That amendment reflects clearly an analogous provision in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and I am advised that it reflects also arrangements which are in force in respect of major river basins within unitary states such as Belgium, Germany and France.

Finally, Amendments Nos. 128 and 129 extend the remit of the Welsh agency to include the functions now undertaken by the Welsh Countryside Council. We owe this amendment to the advice of my noble friend Lord Williams of Elvel who is president of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales and who will develop the argument in support of that amendment.

In view of the exchanges at Question Time today, I make it abundantly clear, in case of any misunderstanding, that on this side of the Committee we are not critical of the Countryside Council for Wales. We are fully supportive of it, but it is our submission that the Bill provides an opportunity to merge it with an environment agency in order to give us a comprehensive environment agency without adding to the network of nominated bodies in Wales. I beg to move.

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