Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Wade of Chorlton: I am grateful to my noble friend for those comments. I am not quite in agreement with his remarks on what my noble friend Lord Mottistone said. There are plenty of opportunities for the industry to make its contribution. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that he will ensure that the first part of the provision which is referred to in Amendment No. 266A is better explained. I feel that it is necessary to make it clear that the Government intend to consult industry on the matter. Perhaps my noble friend will also reconsider Amendment No. 266B. I take this opportunity to thank my noble friends and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, for supporting the amendment and beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 266AA to 268 not moved.]

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 269:

Page 80, line 1, leave out ("SEPA") and insert ("The Secretary of State").

The noble Lord said: Perhaps I may speak to Amendment No. 269 and the consequential Amendments Nos. 270, 272, 274 to 278, 280 to 285 and Amendment No. 287. They are all probing amendments. I wish to find out why the arrangements for the preparation of a national waste strategy in Scotland are to be different from those which prevail in England and Wales.

I regret that we are to have two separate agencies, although I appreciate that their remits are slightly different. However, since we are to have two agencies, it is important that they operate within the same policy

9 Feb 1995 : Column 345

framework and to the same standards so that there is a consistency of approach throughout the United Kingdom. The amendments therefore seek to bring the Scottish provisions into line with those which relate to England and Wales so that the ultimate responsibility for the preparation of the Scottish strategy rests with the Secretary of State rather than SEPA.

The strategy will, after all, set out environmental policies and targets which are necessary to meet the Government's international as well as their domestic obligations. The ultimate responsibility for its content must therefore rest with the Government and Ministers and not with the agency.

At Second Reading the Minister stated (at col. 1462 on 15th December 1994) that central policy decisions are a matter for government, while the agency is essentially a pollution protection and water management body. Perhaps my noble friend who is to respond will explain why the division of responsibility is not to be reflected in the Scottish provisions of Clause 75.

There is some anxiety in the industry that, were the regimes to be greatly different, offering incentives to do business in one part of the United Kingdom rather than another, it could distort the management of waste. It is therefore necessary to have a universal strategy and that is the purpose of the amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: I wish to speak to some of the other amendments in the group: Amendments Nos. 269A, 271, 273, 279 and 286. I start with Amendment No. 269A which proposes on page 80 at line 1 to insert after the word "prepare" the phrase:

    "following consultation with local authorities".

The argument behind that is to ensure that the local authorities, which will largely have the responsibility for collecting the bulk of the waste, should be given the opportunity to make some input of advice on the structure. It is important that those responsible for the waste disposal functions should have an input into the policies in relation to the recovery and disposal of waste in Scotland.

Amendment No. 271 is important because members of the public should know about the national waste strategy and that they are able to inspect, free of charge, the contents of that strategy. Consumers will play a central role in the process of a national waste strategy and, in addition, as local taxpayers they have a stake in the decisions taken which influence the contents of the strategy.

Much of the debate so far has stressed the fact that the public are becoming very aware of waste management. Therefore those members of the public who are sufficiently interested should be able to inspect the strategy that is suggested for the disposal of waste.

Amendment No. 273 would alert members of the public—it will of course be those who are interested—to any major modification that is made to the strategy. As I have said, they should be able to inspect any such modifications free of charge. As was accepted with an

9 Feb 1995 : Column 346

earlier amendment, they should have the right to see the general strategy at the very beginning. I believe that the noble Lord wishes to intervene.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth: In discussing Amendment No. 273, I wonder whether the noble Lord can help me in understanding who is to pay for this information. The amendment states that it should be made available free of charge. But of course somebody has to pay for it.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: I did not envisage that glossy booklets should be issued. I envisaged a department in each local authority where the information was available and where the public could go to see it. That is a perfectly reasonable amendment.

Amendment No. 286 seeks to lay down that the strategy, in order to be successful, should encourage appropriate consumer behaviour. This involvement of the consumer may even help to get rid of some of the debris that we see in the streets if people become conscious of the fact that it is part of their city or their town.

However, changing consumer behaviour is a lengthy and complex process. Care should be taken to ensure that proper attention is given to involving the public before the strategy is finalised. I shall move these amendments as we come to them.

5.45 p.m.

The Earl of Balfour: Within this basket of amendments being moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove and my noble friend Lord Lucas to the proposed new Section 44B of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which applies to Scotland only in Clause 75, is my Amendment No. 287A, which aims to leave out "planning" and insert "local".

The reason behind the amendment is to include the whole basket of functions carried out by a local authority and not just a single "department of planning". The noble Earl, Lord Kintore, and I feel that the very important environmental health department should at least be included. Perhaps I may give the Committee one example. In previous legislation, two years ago, it was stated that caravan sites should be a "district planning function". I said at that time that there was also the question of site licences dealing with the provision of clean water, and toilet and sewerage facilities, which were in no way connected with planning. That was an environmental health function. I therefore wished to replace the word "planning" with the word "council"; i.e., making it a district council function. However, that amendment was defective, just as, I am afraid, this amendment is also defective. I had at that time to move a complete long sentence to cover that matter at the next stage of that Bill.

I ask my noble friend the Minister to bear in mind that the public analyst comes within the environmental health department. That department visits such places as abattoirs, food preparation factories, etc. It also takes samples of water, sewage, etc.

I cannot agree with the amendments that are proposed by my noble friend Lord Lucas. SEPA must be given a chance on its own to get on with its job and not be too

9 Feb 1995 : Column 347

much under the thumb of the Secretary of State. SEPA will not work well if it is forever looking over its shoulder to see whether or not the Secretary of State approves.

I also point out to my noble friend that the functions of the river purification boards that were established in 1951 are very different in many ways from those of the National Rivers Authority in England. The environmental protection provisions of Scotland were based to a very great extent on the old Burgh Police Act 1897. That has now been repealed but in this respect our civil law is rather different in the two countries.

On the amendment that will be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, I have some sympathy. But I hope that what the noble Lord proposes is not too onerous or expensive.

The Earl of Lindsay: The first series of amendments in this group, which are proposed by my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, would require my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to prepare a strategy containing his policies in relation to the recovery and disposal of waste in Scotland. As drafted, the Bill will place his duty on SEPA.

Unlike the Department of the Environment, the Scottish Office will not have the appropriate staff available to it to prepare a waste strategy for Scotland. SEPA, on the other hand, will be well placed to undertake that task, as it would be staffed in part by those expert staff who previously prepared plans for their local authorities. Placing the duty on SEPA therefore means that the strategy could be prepared both effectively and efficiently.

However, I can assure the Committee that, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will have powers to influence the development of a strategy by SEPA, I do not expect its content to be materially different from on which might otherwise have been prepared by him. I can go on to assure my noble friend that the Secretary of State will ultimately remain responsible for waste management policy in Scotland, which is properly a matter for him. I envisage that SEPA will wish to ensure that due regard is paid to the strategy for England and Wales, so that where possible there will be a common framework across Great Britain.

The purpose behind government Amendment No. 286A is to confer on the Secretary of State a slightly wider power of direction over SEPA in recognition of the Scottish agency's different role.

Amendment No. 269A, which was spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, seeks to ensure that local authorities are consulted as part of SEPA's preparation of the waste strategy. I recognise the important role which local authorities will have in relation to the strategy. But the consultation is already provided for in the new Section 44B(4) (b) of the Environmental Protection Act inserted by Clause 75. I do not believe therefore that this amendment is required.

The noble Lord also spoke to Amendments Nos. 271 and 273, which would require SEPA's waste strategy, and any modifications to it, to be publicised and made available, free of charge, for public inspection. Again, I

9 Feb 1995 : Column 348

have much sympathy with these amendments. SEPA cannot implement its waste strategy on its own. Other bodies, both public and private have crucial parts to play. And as a pre-requisite to their involvement, they will require to have access to the strategy.

The strategy will of course be subject to the Environmental Information Regulations 1992, and access to it is assured. But as I have said, given that such access is required in order to implement the strategy, I envisage that SEPA will want to make sure that it is available to those with an interest in it. As the noble Lord said, public interest in waste matters is increasing fast. Therefore, given that access will be available in any event, I suggest that Amendments Nos. 271 and 273 are unnecessary.

The noble Lord also spoke to Amendment No. 279, which would add a specific reference to representatives of the interests of consumers to the list of persons to be consulted as part of the preparation or modification to the waste strategy. It has not been our intention to include an exhaustive list of persons with an interest in the strategy. That is why, at the end of the list of consultees, there is a reference to "other bodies" that SEPA considers appropriate.

As drafted, the list refers specifically to industry and local authorities. That is not to say that others do not have an interest. I certainly acknowledge that consumer behaviour is an important factor in the successful implementation of a waste strategy. I do not believe that the role of consumers is diminished by accepting that their interest is not as great as industry's and local authorities'. The interests of consumers will, where appropriate, be picked up by reference to "other bodies".

Amendment No. 286 was also spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael. It would restrict the extent of matters in respect of which the Secretary of State may direct SEPA to carry out surveys and investigations for the purpose of preparing its waste strategy. It would mean that he may only direct on the steps which will be required in terms of information, publicity and education to encourage responsible consumer behaviour compatible with any aims set out in the strategy.

I appreciate that publicity, education and promoting awareness of the waste issues covered by the strategy would be desirable; but the range of matters on which the noble Lord's amendment would allow the Secretary of State to direct SEPA is too restrictive. I believe that it would be more appropriate to give the Secretary of State general powers to direct SEPA to carry out surveys or investigations. Those powers could be used to direct SEPA in the manner sought by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, though I must say that I am not convinced that SEPA would be the most appropriate body to undertake such work, given its primary role as a regulator.

My noble friend Lord Balfour spoke to Amendment No. 287A. This amendment would mean that, where SEPA had been given a direction by the Secretary of State to carry out a survey or investigation, it would first have to consult bodies or persons representative of "local" (rather than "planning") authorities before undertaking that work.

9 Feb 1995 : Column 349

As the Committee will be aware, after local government reorganisation in Scotland, all local authorities in Scotland will become planning authorities. The use of either term will therefore be construed in practice to mean the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA). I can confirm to the noble Lord that, although CoSLA would be consulted in its capacity as a representative of planning authorities, there is nothing to stop it responding for its wider interests, covering, for example, its responsibilities for environmental health, which my noble friend mentioned specifically, or its responsibilities for waste disposal. However, I feel that there is value in relying on the term "planning" authority as an indicator of the primary purpose of CoSLA's involvement.

I hope that what I have said will reassure noble Lords. I invite them to withdraw the amendments.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page