Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Marlesford moved Amendment No. 265:

Page 78, line 5, at end insert:

("National resource management strategy: England and Wales.

(1) The Secretary of State shall prepare a statement ("the resource management strategy") containing policies for the conservation of minerals, energy, water, land and soil resources.
(2) The resource management strategy shall include a statement of the Secretary of State's policies for—
(a) reducing the demand for the resources addressed by the strategy;
(b) encouraging the more efficient use of these resources;
(c) substituting renewable resources for non-renewable resources where there is a net environmental benefit by so doing,
(d) enhancing the environmental value of those resources; and
(e) minimising the environmental impact of extracting, exploiting or developing those resources.
(3) In preparing the resource management strategy or any modification of it the Secretary of State shall consult bodies or persons representative of local government, environmental, business and community interests.
(4) The Secretary of State shall establish appropriate bodies within Government, where such bodies do not already exist, including a Soil Conservation Unit and a Minerals Efficiency Office, to assist in the implementation of this strategy.").

The noble Lord said: Previous amendments related to the detail of the Bill; but my amendment is, in a sense, much more strategic. It suggests that this admirable Bill contains an important gap. That is the requirement or need to produce a strategy for national resource management.

Over recent years there have been a number of extremely valuable environmental White Papers and in 1994 we had the Government's sustainable development strategy. We have also a whole range of guidance produced on what should happen in relation to different issues. I believe that there is a gap between those macro White Papers and environmental sustainable development strategies and the need for something much more specific which relates to the conservation and management of key resources of minerals, energy, water, land and so on.

At present I fear that to some extent, at least, the Government's policies and, indeed, policy planning guidance notes and mineral planning guidance notes are based far too much on a philosophy of predicting demand and providing for that demand. Very often it is simply not possible to provide that demand without considerable environmental damage.

This is very much a probing amendment. I do not suggest that the wording of the amendment is right. I merely ask the Government to seek to strengthen and deepen their own Bill by giving the Secretary of State a requirement to produce a strategy. I do not specify how often that should be done. That strategy should include key measures such as, for example, reducing the demand for such land resources by re-using vacant urban land rather than developing greenfield sites. The amount of rural land still being lost is considerable. Members of

9 Feb 1995 : Column 331

the Committee may not realise that since 1945 an area of land greater than the size of Greater London—Berkshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire—has been "urbanised", which is a suitably horrible word. Currently we are losing rural land to development at the rate of 27,000 acres per year. Therefore, it is a very real problem.

We need a strategy to deal with that, which the Government should provide in the Bill. That would then be the benchmark for the administration of the planning rules, for the consideration of development and for guidelines which the Government issue on detailed matters which arise.

Perhaps I may refer to a few examples. Let us consider minerals and the need for aggregates. It cannot be right to say that, because the need for aggregates is so great, it should be permissible to produce those by quarrying as and where the developers wish to do so. For example, in general I do not believe that it is right to allow quarrying for aggregates in national parks. However, it may be right if the developers are seeking to use a particular stone that is found only in a national park to clothe buildings to be erected in that national park and give a vernacular attraction to those buildings. In that case it may be reasonable to say that the stone must come from the national park. But in general, even though the cost of providing aggregates may be higher in order to meet our environmental objectives, that cost must be met. That often means that the most obvious site for quarrying will not always be appropriate. Unless there is such a strategy, we shall not have the right developments in the right places.

With regard to water, we need effective measures to control leakage and manage demand for water resources. The National Rivers Authority has estimated that the demand for water may increase by some 25 per cent. by the year 2021. That may produce intolerable burdens on existing underground water reserves and already much damage has been done by over-abstraction rather than conservation of water. That is an area in which a specific strategy is needed. Energy is another area in which such a strategy is needed.

I wish to make the general point that there is a gap in the Bill and my amendment seeks to close it by providing, for the first time, a management strategy for those crucial resources which, if they are not properly managed, may result in really serious damage being done to the environment of this country; and that is totally contrary to the purposes of this admirable Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: I support the amendment moved so eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. Last week the Government published a discussion draft on waste strategy for England and Wales which quite clearly should be a very small part of a much wider statement on national resource management. To deal merely with waste is not sufficient. We should not be using so much of them in the first place. Therefore, there is a clear need for a much broader approach to the management of our limited natural resources.

9 Feb 1995 : Column 332

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has covered the major points in relation to the irreparable loss to our national parks and other beautiful places caused by quarrying. We dealt with mineral abstraction a few days ago, without much success in view of the response from the Government. But there is widespread anxiety about the blight which quarries create on landscapes and in relation to the totally irreparable, irreplaceable loss caused by using precious stone for placing underneath motorways. Therefore, I support the amendment.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Howie of Troon: I hope that the Committee will approach the amendment with a certain degree of caution. At first sight it has the look of a motherhood and apple pie amendment in the sense that it aims to do good. Quite clearly, the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is to do good. There is no doubt that the resource management for which he asks is aimed at doing good. But the amendment does not appear to me to meet that aim.

It is obviously good to encourage the more efficient use of those resources. That is clear. It is also clearly good to minimise the environmental impact of extracting such resources. That is clearly good. However, the amendment asks the Secretary of State to reduce the demand for those resources. That is quite a different matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, referred to minerals and aggregates. The Committee will know of my affection for concrete. The noble Lord asks that the extraction of aggregate for concrete, whether used for roads or buildings, should be controlled. That is sensible. But controlling extraction is very different from reducing the demand, because the demand for aggregates can be reduced only by reducing the demands on the construction industry. The construction industry has been extremely hard-hit in recent years without having further damage inflicted upon it.

Lord Marlesford: I thank the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene. One way in which to reduce the demand for new aggregates is to reuse those which exist and there is great scope for that to be done. If such a measure were included in the strategy, that would give encouragement for that to be done.

Lord Howie of Troon: That is true up to a point, but only up to a point. Existing aggregates can be obtained only by knocking things down. In this country we need more building rather than the knocking down of buildings.

Another part of the amendment that seems to have gone slightly awry is that which refers to the idea that renewable resources should be substituted for non-renewable resources when there is a net environmental benefit for so doing. That is good up to a point; but, again, only up to a point. There are two benefits to be derived from the use of resources of whatever kind. I recall that that point was made during Second Reading by the noble Lord, Lord Wade of Chorlton, in a splendid speech. The environmental and the cost benefit have to be considered. There is no point

9 Feb 1995 : Column 333

in saying that it must be a policy of the Secretary of State that the environmental benefit should overrule the additional cost of using one material against another. That is far too detailed a point to put in such an amendment which is meant to achieve general good.

While I support the noble Lord's underlying intentions, for the reasons that I have expressed, I believe that his amendment is faulty. For example, I do not understand what the noble Lord means when he refers to,

    "enhancing the environmental value of those resources".

I cannot support the amendment in its present form.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page