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Lord Wade of Chorlton: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for accepting the amendment. I am sure that the Bill is very much better for it. I am grateful to all the noble Lords throughout the House who have supported it. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 46 not moved.]

9.15 p.m.

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 47:

Page 9, line 3, after ("architectural") insert (", engineering").

On Question Amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 48 not moved.]

Lord Coleraine moved Amendment No. 49:

Page 9, line 40, at end insert:
("( ) Nothing in this section shall enable the Agency to require from any party reports, evidence or documentation of a nature similar to that previously considered by a local planning authority in pursuance of that authority's planning functions under the Town and Country Planning Acts and related legislation.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I move this amendment in the hope that my noble friend will be able to respond to concerns expressed to him by the Law Society and planning lawyers as regards the effect of Clause 7. The fear is that Clause 7 as drafted may give the agency the power to act as a second planning authority, introducing a potentially conflicting, expensive and dilatory second level of regulation. Under normal development control process, an applicant obtains planning permission for his development from the planning authority. As part of the process, the authority consults the regulatory authorities, currently the NRA and HMIP. The responses of the regulatory authorities are taken into account by the local planning authority when it issues its decision. If, having considered the representations of the regulatory authorities, planning permission is granted and the developer then has to seek consent for works specifically involving the regulatory authorities, for example land drainage works, he will be placed in an

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untenable position. The agency can require the developer to repeat environmental exercises that have already been undertaken in respect of the original planning application to the local planning authority. This amendment will render the taking of those additional steps unnecessary. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, Amendment No. 49 moved by my noble friend seeks to ensure that nothing in Clause 7 shall give the environment agency the power to require anyone to provide information similar to that which previously will have been considered by a local planning authority in relation to its functions under planning legislation.

I am sure that my reply would have benefited from hearing what my noble friend had to say about this matter at Committee stage. Unfortunately, at that moment I believe that he was prevented from doing so. We accept that there can be an overlap between the information that is required for planning purposes and information required for pollution control. We have tried to address it in various ways, one of which is through Planning Policy Guidance Note. No. 23. That provides guidance on the respective roles of the planning and pollution control systems. It stresses the need for proper consultation between planning and pollution control authorities, and has been prepared in consultation with interested parties.

I am sorry that I cannot give my noble friend a more detailed response to his amendment. The environment agency will need to obtain information for a variety of purposes, including the assessment of applications for licences. I think it is right that it should be able to obtain all of the information that it needs to carry out its functions properly. I hope that my noble friend will withdraw his amendment, although if he remains concerned about it I will be happy to meet and discuss it with him further.

Lord Colraine: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his reassuring reply, which is reassuring as far as it goes. I know that what he has said will be read with critical interest by those who advise me. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 not moved.]

Clause 8 [Environmental duties with respect to sites of special interest]:

Lord Wade of Chorlton moved Amendment No. 52:

Page 10, line 9, after ("above") insert ("(other than section 7(1) (c) (iii) above)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 11 [Advisory committee for Wales]:

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 53:

Page 12, line 27, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsection (5) below").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 53 standing in my name and the names of my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas. It may be for the convenience of the

2 Mar 2002 : Column 1669

House if I speak also to Amendments Nos. 54 and 55. Yet again, we turn to the question of the relationship between local authorities and the agency, this time in Wales.

Your Lordships will be aware that there has been a local government reorganisation in Wales along somewhat different lines from the local government reorganisation which has been proposed for England. I now gather that it will be on a slightly different basis. In speaking to this group of amendments, I wish to address the local authority matter, and the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, wishes to speak to his amendment (Amendment No. 54).

Local authority associations in Wales, particularly the Council of Welsh Districts, are especially concerned about the shift from local accountability, through locally elected members of local councils, in a more indirect route to Government Ministers. That change in accountability will be felt most keenly in the area of waste regulation which of course is a current district council (or unitary council as it will be) responsibility, but will be transferred, we now hear, to the environment agency. But local authorities in Wales will continue to play a significant role in the protection of the environment, as environment health and planning authorities; and it will continue to be to local authorities that members of the public turn when they have both specific and general concerns about the environment.

For those reasons, and to maintain the necessary link between local authority regulation and regulation by the agency, we believe that it is essential that the advisory committee for Wales has a sufficient number of elected representatives serving on it.

The draft management statement of the environment agency gives no greater commitment than to appoint members representing a range of interests in the principality. By nominating those already elected as representatives of local people, the Secretary of State will ensure that the greatest range of interests is in fact represented. I beg to move.

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, in Committee on 19th January on this issue (Hansard, col. 843-845) I proposed a number of amendments relating to the membership of the advisory committee for Wales. I do not want to repeat those arguments, but to endorse what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, about the importance of local authority representation, and the scale and nature of that representation. That argument relates to one I deployed more generally earlier about the agency in England and Wales; namely, the issue of whether the agency itself is to be a partnership and is to have local accountability, or whether it is to appear to be a non-departmental public body along traditional quango lines.

In that discussion (at col. 848), the Minister emphasised that he accepted that it was important for the advisory committee for Wales to comprise a wide range of representative views. He accepted that nature conservation and pollution control experience would be useful to the advisory committee. That is why in my amendment, which is grouped with Amendment No. 53, I have stressed membership of the Countryside Council

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for Wales, and of at least one member of the Countryside Council for Wales being also a member of the environment agency.

I do that for another reason, of course, which is my concern about the role of the Countryside Council for Wales in environmental protection and conservation activity within the principality. In that debate, and in a subsequent debate on 2nd February, the future of that agency was raised. I received subsequently a detailed letter from the Minister's right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales in which he emphasised that the CCW grant for 1995-96 would be sufficient for it to fulfil its statutory duties.

I am still concerned that the review of the CCW has not been completed. It is not clear to what extent the CCW will be able to play a key role as a partner with the new environment agency if it is to see its activities curtailed severely. I am concerned that the action plan with which the agency is being threatened by the Secretary of State will concentrate its activities on limited aspects of protected areas and nature conservation without giving it that necessary broader remit of countryside activities and overall commitment to sustainable development in Wales, which seems to be necessary for a wide-ranging countryside agency.

For those reasons, and in view of the uncertainty surrounding the funding and the nature of the activity of CCW, it is even more important, in my view, that the Government should accept the amendment to ensure that there is at least one member of the Countryside Council who serves on the advisory committee for Wales, thereby ensuring that a link as regards environmental conservation, countryside management and the activity of the environment agency.

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