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Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 108:

Page 12, leave out lines 25 and 26, and insert ("to oversee all matters relating to the function of the agency within Wales.").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 108 to 111 and the amendment that comes under Clause 12 are an attempt to strengthen the committee structure for Wales proposed in the Bill. At this late hour I do not need to repeat the discussion we had on Tuesday.

The intention of the amendments is to strengthen the committee structure in terms of name, function, representation, frequency of meeting and, in reference to the environmental protection advisory committee, to the actual territory covered. I shall refer only to Amendment No. 108 because the proposed wording seeks to strengthen the functions and ensure that the committee for Wales is an executive committee and not merely an advisory committee, and that it will have oversight of the functions of the agency within Wales. To me that is an acceptable compromise bearing in mind that the proposal for a separate agency moved by the official Opposition was rejected on Tuesday, and I request the Government to think again about the nature of those functions.

Amendment No. 109 seeks to include on the committee for Wales people who have also been nominated by the Secretary of State on to development agencies, the countryside council and land authority, to bring together within the body of the Welsh committee people who have the expertise to enable it to be an effective committee of the agency relating to its own function and also relating to the rest of the structure of intermediate government in Wales. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Elvel: The Committee is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, for moving Amendment No. 108 and, like him, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 109 to 111 and Amendment No. 120.

I do not want the Committee to feel that the Opposition abandoned the idea of a separate Welsh agency. We had lengthy arguments on the matter. If this Chamber or another place decides that there should not be a separate Welsh agency, then we wish to support the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, in his views that the advisory committee should be strengthened. However, I reserve my position on that matter until we come to a later stage of the Bill.

Viscount Ullswater: Amendment No. 108 seeks to require the advisory committee for Wales to oversee all matters relating to the functions of the environment agency within Wales. Clause 11 already gives the committee a remit covering all of the agency's activities in Wales and any matters affecting or connected with the discharge of the agency's functions in Wales; but

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the existing clause gives the committee the role of advising my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales, as the minister responsible for setting the policy framework for the agency in the Principality. The amendment does not specify how such supervision of the agency's activities would be translated into action, whether by Ministers or by the agency. It is essential that the committee's purpose be to advise my right honourable friend, who is accountable for the agency's operations in Wales, not itself to oversee directly the agency's operations and remove ministerial responsibility. This parallels the arrangements for the existing National Rivers Authority Advisory Committee for Wales, which have worked well. I ask the noble Lord to withdraw that amendment.

Amendments Nos. 109 and 110 relate to the composition of the advisory committee for Wales. They seek to ensure that membership of the committee reflects a balance of views. I agree that the advisory committee for Wales will need to comprise a wide range of representative views, knowledge and experience relevant to the discharge of the agency's functions in Wales. Indeed, that will be vital for the committee to provide effective advice. Nature conservation and pollution control experience will be useful to the advisory committee, but they are only two of the numerous areas of expertise which it may need. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales has already committed himself to include locally elected members on the committee, as that is important to facilitate responsiveness to local needs.

I also agree with the principle of aiding communication and co-operation between the Welsh bodies mentioned; but specifying a need for common membership of all these other bodies could cause unnecessary complication. These amendments, specifying a considerable part of the composition of the advisory committee, would constrain my right honourable friend's flexibility to choose a balanced and effective membership, to which he is committed. He will of course take account of the importance of all the factors cited in making his appointments to the committee.

Amendment No. 111 requires the committee to meet at least four times a year. I agree that the committee is likely to need to meet more than the minimum of once but of course the provisions do not preclude that. This requirement is based on the legislation under the Water Resources Act which the existing National Rivers Authority Advisory Committee for Wales operates. In practice, that committee usually meets around three or four times a year, as necessary. I think a similar flexibility would be most useful for the Advisory Committee for Wales.

Finally, Amendment No. 120 seeks to require the agency, in determining its regions which will each be covered by an environment protection advisory committee, to include as its Welsh region the whole of the geographical area of Wales. It is important that the agency's Welsh region has a strong identity, and it is for that reason that the Bill as drafted requires the Welsh

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region to consist wholly, or mainly, of Wales. The boundary will, however, need to be consistent with the overall structure determined by the agency.

The Government did not believe it sensible to come to a decision on the boundary of the agency's Welsh region in isolation from the agency's proposals for its organisational and management structure. It is intended, therefore, that the boundary of the agency's Welsh region will be determined by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales, in consultation with my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, on the basis of proposals from the environment agency.

The environment protection advisory committee will be established by the agency to advise it on how best to carry out its functions in its Welsh region. It makes sense, therefore, that the committee for the Welsh region should not have a remit which may extend beyond that region. This is different from the position in relation to the advisory committee for Wales, which will be set up to advise my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales on the carrying out of the agency's functions in relation to the whole of the Principality, whatever the organisational boundary of the agency's Welsh region. I would ask the noble Lord, therefore, to withdraw this amendment.

Lord Elis-Thomas: In view of the fact that the noble Viscount has responded in detail to the content of the amendment, I am very pleased to withdraw it with the caveat that whereas I would warmly accept the extension of the Welsh boundary eastwards, I am not so happy about its withdrawal westwards. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 109 to 111 not moved.]

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Environment protection advisory committees]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 112:

Page 12, line 41, leave out ("consider any representations") and insert ("have regard to the recommendations").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I understand that we are also taking Amendments Nos. 113 to 119. We seem to have seven minutes left for a number of quite substantial points. I shall curtail my remarks in order to try to observe the spirit of the Rippon arrangements.

Clause 12 contains some very odd wording. Why does it say, "consider any representations"? It makes the regional advisory committees sound like pressure groups. Surely to goodness the agency should have regard to their recommendations. In those circumstances and with those stronger words, which lawyers may argue about, it clearly makes the advisory committees part of the agency structure and not some kind of tiresome appendage. Papers may have to be read but presumably they do not need to be given any substantive replies. I hope that my noble friend will feel able to accept the amendment.

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If my noble friend believes that the words have the same meaning, I commend to him the words of the Secretary of State for the Environment who said to a Select Committee in another place that,

    "if the words are different but mean the same, why do we not have the same words as they want"
—that is to say, what I want—

    "so that they are not unhappy".

Perhaps my noble friend can make me happy by giving me my words.

Turning to Amendment No. 114, the Committee will know that there has been a great deal of criticism about ministerial patronage in relation to appointments. Why does the Secretary of State have to appoint the chairmen of these bodies? Why cannot the regional advisory bodies appoint their own chairmen? After all, the Secretary of State appoints the members of the agency and it seems perfectly straightforward to allow the advisory committee, when it has been established, to elect a chairman by its own majority.

Finally, on Amendment No. 118 and echoing points that have been made in earlier debates, I ask that,

    "not less than one third of the members ... are elected members of a local authority".

That reflects the fact that the waste advisory authorities have been local authorities and have, in almost every case, operated very satisfactorily. They are now to be taken into the agency. Those local authority committees have a great deal of expertise. They have been accountable locally and it seems highly desirable that a proportion—I suggest one-third—of the membership of the advisory committees should consist of local authority members.

Again when the Secretary of State gave evidence to the Select Committee in another place—I shall not go into the argument about boundaries because my noble friend has just dealt with that—he said:

    "I would have to say that in environmental terms the crucial importance of the river catchment area is something one could not possibly [over]state. On the other hand, we do need to have proper relationships with local authorities and we do want to be very sensitive to local views".

I cannot think of any better way of doing that than that the Bill should provide that one-third of the members of the advisory committees should come from local authorities. I could have said a great deal more, but perhaps I had better not at this hour. I beg to move.

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