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Lord Crickhowell moved Amendment No. 374A:

Page 213, line 50, at end insert:
(" . In Section 196 of that Act (trade effluent registers) in subsection (1) (which identifies the matters required to be kept available for inspection) there shall be inserted after subparagraph (e)—
"(f) information provided or obtained pursuant to or by virtue of a condition of any consent referred to in paragraph (a) above, or of a provision of any direction, agreement or notice referred to in paragraphs (b) to (e) above;
(g) information produced by analyses of any samples taken in connection with or for the purposes of any of the matters referred to in paragraphs (a) to (e) above".").

The noble Lord said: I am sorry to delay the Committee at this moment, but we hurried over a group of amendments earlier, and I am afraid that I missed the opportunity to speak to Amendment No. 374A. I warned my noble friend that I might wish to come back to it.

This amendment would create a requirement for sewerage undertakers to keep a record of the quality and quantity of trade effluent discharges to sewers. The agency will have powers to seek information, but the nub of the problem is that the water companies may not be able to provide the information when asked because there is no obligation on them to keep records of analytical results or information on trade effluents apart from the limited documentation—consents, agreements, directions and notices—held on the register.

What is needed is a duty on the companies to maintain a record, either on a public register or elsewhere, so that when the agency approaches the companies for information under existing duties and powers, there are data that they can give. That is the bare minimum that should be required of the water authorities. I am assured that the amendment will not require the water companies to obtain any information that they do not obtain already. They would have to have that information in the course of their trade effluent control operations. We simply seek to ensure that they keep a record of it, so that the law can be effectively enforced. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater: I fully appreciate the concern which lies behind the amendment. It is important that the public should have easy access to environmental information, including that held by the agencies, and that exclusions from environmental registers should be kept to the absolute minimum. This is not the first time that we have discussed the issue of the role of the new agencies and other bodies in providing environmental information to the public. I believe that we agree on the principle involved; our differences are over the details of the legislative provisions needed.

Amendment No. 374A, moved by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell, seeks to include additional information on trade effluent registers. Section 196 of the Water Industry Act 1991 puts a duty on sewerage undertakers to make available for public inspection registers which contain certain information about trade effluent consents. I believe that the registers already contain sufficient information. I am not aware of any problem in the operation of the registers. Therefore, I see no reason to add to the information that they already contain.

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With that reassurance, I hope that my noble friend will see fit to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Crickhowell: The hour is late and I shall not press the amendment. I am not entirely convinced by the argument. Our experience is that the information is not necessarily always available. I shall think about what my noble friend said before we return to the matter again.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 375:

Page 214, leave out lines 23 to 25.

The noble Viscount said: My noble friend Lord Lindsay spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 352AA. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 376 and 377 not moved.]

Lord Crickhowell moved Amendment No. 377A:

Page 215, line 14, at end insert:
(".—(1) In section 50 (succession where person becomes occupier of part of the relevant land), for the words "to which section 49 above applies" there shall be substituted "in which the holder of a licence under this Chapter to abstract water ("the prior holder") is the occupier of the whole or a part of the land specified in the licence as the land on which water abstracted in pursuance of the licence is to be used ("the relevant land").
(2) This paragraph shall be deemed to have been in force from 1st December 1991.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall refer briefly also to Amendments Nos. 378ZA and 378ZB. They were spoken to briefly by my noble friend, although I understand that they were not moved by my noble friend Lord Mills at the time. I am afraid I was not in the Committee at that time.

My noble friend the Minister made some helpful comments about the amendments. With regard to Amendment No. 378ZA, he asked noble Lords to take comfort from an undertaking to consider the amendment further. On Amendment No. 378ZB, he said that the Government had already published their intention to bring forward changes of that nature and were broadly in agreement with the amendment. With regard to Amendment No. 377A, he noted that while the amendment afforded the ideal opportunity, at that stage he could only undertake to give it further consideration.

It always seems very surprising that, although the Government accept that the amendments are admirable and should be considered, they are never prepared to accept any of them. I rise simply to register that, if they do not produce amendments at the next stage, I shall certainly ask the Chamber to approve my amendments. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater: Amendment No. 377A would correct the confusion caused by the 1991 consolidation over succession to water extraction licences. As I mentioned in the context of a previous amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, it is our intention to put that right. We cannot accept Amendment No. 377A as drafted, but we intend that a suitable amendment should be brought forward.

14 Feb 1995 : Column 680

I also spoke in the same kind of glowing terms about Amendments Nos. 378ZA and 378ZB. As with Amendment No. 377A, we cannot accept those amendments as drafted, but we intend that a suitable amendment should be brought forward. With those very comforting remarks, I hope that my noble friend will see fit to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Crickhowell: I am grateful to my noble friend and I hope that in due course I shall be able to speak in glowing terms of his drafting abilities or those of his advisers. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 378 to 378ZB not moved.]

9.45 p.m.

Lord Crickhowell moved Amendment No. 378ZC:

Page 215, line 20, at end insert:
(". After section 88(2) of that Act (Defence to principal offences in respect of authorised discharges) there shall be inserted—
"(2A) Nothing in any consent given under this Chapter shall be treated for the purposes of subsection (1) above as authorising a discharge containing substances or having properties other than those identified in the consent.".").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 378ZC I shall speak also to Amendment No. 378B, though briefly. I had hoped not to speak because I believed discussions to be taking place outside the Chamber which would give me encouragement to wait for the Government to provide solutions to some problems that have arisen. However, I am not satisfied that that is likely to be the outcome, and in those circumstances I want to signal what is a serious problem and one to which we must find a solution.

Amendment No. 378ZC is a probing amendment to seek an explanation of the way in which the Government may approach a problem that has arisen. The Committee may recall a pollution incident that occurred last year at Wem in Shropshire in a tributary of the River Severn. A discharge from a factory to a sewer got into the river, passed down the river and caused serious pollution problems—smell problems and so forth—to the drinking water of the town of Worcester.

In normal circumstances, following such an incident, the NRA would certainly have wished to prosecute. However, the wording of discharging consents, as they have been prepared in the past not only under the present legislation but also under previous legislation, do not provide a satisfactory legal basis. I do not want to pursue the matter much further. I am giving information which is well known to all the water companies involved and which goes to the heart of the pollution control regime of the NRA at present and the agency in the future.

Confronted by such a situation, the department has a tendency to say that it is all rather difficult and legislation is not the answer—it may be a good idea to rewrite the thousands of discharge consents to try to solve the problem in that way; or it may be said that the Minister is not minded to do this or that. That will not be satisfactory. A significant problem exists and we shall have to return to it later. I am speaking therefore

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not because I expect my noble friend to give a detailed answer to what is an extremely difficult and complicated problem but to enable him at least to indicate that he understands that the problem is serious and that we should return to it while we have a legislative opportunity to correct the position. Otherwise, the environment agency may find that it is confronted with difficulties.

Amendment No. 378B seeks to provide additional powers to enable the agency to prevent pollution in respect of discharges to controlled waters. In a debate on an earlier amendment I suggested that it was slightly bizarre that we should allow pollution to occur and then seek to recover costs and that the agency should not be able to recover the costs of seeking to prevent pollution. I am again trying to prevent pollution by enabling the agency to serve a notice on a person carrying on a licensed discharge in a manner that involves imminent risk of pollution to require that person to take steps to remove that risk.

HMIP has such powers to issue prohibition notices and waste regulation authorities have powers under Section 38 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to revoke or suspend waste management licences where it appears that continuation of licence activities would cause, among other things, pollution of the environment or harm to human health. But no similar powers currently exist in relation to consented discharges under the Water Resources Act 1991. That is an anomaly.

Again, I have indications that the Government will say, "Oh well, it may be necessary for HMIP and it may be necessary for the waste regulation authorities, but we do not want to do any more about pollution and it is not necessary". I have to say, as I have said on previous occasions, that I disagree with that view, and I disagree with it at least with the authority of speaking for those who have had the job of trying to prevent pollution over the past five years and to clear it up when it has occurred. So once again, without much hope but in the confident view that such an amendment is sensible and necessary, I beg to move.

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