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Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl. His opinion obviously differs from that of the Law Society of Scotland. All I can do in my ignorance is to report what he said to the Law Society of Scotland and take the society's view. I hope that on his side he will check what he said with the lawyers in the Scottish Office and make sure that he is right. We shall possibly have to fight the matter out at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 160 not moved.]

Lord Coleraine moved Amendment No. 160A:

Page 57, line 24, at end insert:
(" (e) any information provided by the appropriate person or by the owner or occupier of land for the time being of action taken or information obtained pursuant to a remediation statement or remediation notice.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, new Section 78L will provide that,

such matters as remediation statements and remediation notices. My noble friend has already replied in relation to an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, that it is not possible to require authorities to give certificates of compliance with remediation notices. Presumably one could not expect them to put anything on the register to say that an appropriate person had complied. On the other hand, the bare facts on the register will tend to make land unmarketable. This amendment is intended to alleviate that situation by providing that the appropriate person or the landowner may give details of how he has complied with a remediation notice and that those details will be entered on the register. It seems to me that that goes some way to meeting the points so reasonably made by the noble

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Lord, Lord Northbourne, earlier this evening. I hope that my noble friend can be encouraging on this occasion. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, Amendment No. 160A, moved by my noble friend Lord Coleraine, is close to the Government's desired solution for further information which might be included on the register. This is a point to which, as my noble friend indicated, I replied in a positive way when replying to an amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. It would enable the recipient of a remediation notice, or the owner or occupier of the land where that is different, to have an opportunity to add his own information to the register of regulatory actions describing what has been done in pursuance of a remediation notice. Indeed, but for some minor concerns with the precise wording of the amendment, I should have been minded to accept it. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will forbear and await a government amendment on this matter. Having said that, I hope that he will consider withdrawing the amendment.

Lord Coleraine: My Lords, I am very glad to learn that I correctly sensed the way that the wind was blowing when my noble friend replied to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. I am happy to beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 161:

Page 57, line 29, at end insert:
("( ) It shall be the duty of each enforcing authority—
(a) to secure that the registers maintained by them under this section are available, at all reasonable times, for inspection by the public free of charge; and
(b) to afford to members of the public facilities for obtaining copies of entries, on payment of reasonable charges;
and, for the purposes of this subsection, places may be prescribed by the Secretary of State at which any such registers or facilities as are mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) above are to be available or afforded to the public in pursuance of the paragraph in question.
( ) Registers under this section may be kept in any form.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, during the debate in Committee on this Bill, in response to an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, I confirmed that the registers of regulatory action to be kept under Section 78L were intended to be open to public inspection. The amendment appeared in the Marshalled List. I am not sure whether the noble Lord moved it, but I certainly took note of it.

Amendment No. 161 seeks to make that point explicit by requiring that the registers maintained by the various enforcing authorities should be available for public inspection free of charge and that facilities should be provided for the public to make copies of entries on payment of reasonable charges. The provisions are in common form with equivalent provisions relating to regulatory registers elsewhere in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Given that both the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, and the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, moved similarly worded amendments, I hope that your Lordships will feel able to accept the wording of my amendment.

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However, my amendment goes somewhat further, in that it also provides for the Secretary of State to prescribe places at which the registers and facilities should be available to the public and permits the registers to be kept in any form. That is in common form with amendments to the other register provisions in EPA 1990 which are being made in Schedule 18 to the Bill. I hope that these will be equally acceptable.

Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to produce the amendment that I promised on the inclusion of further information on the registers relating to actions undertaken by the appropriate person to comply with the terms of a remediation notice. However, I can confirm that it is still our intention to do that at a later stage. I beg to move.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, I thank the Minister. I am grateful to him. I remember moving the amendment and gave the example of the registry house in Edinburgh, where one can go and obtain copies. I am glad that the Minister has come just about as far as we expected. I thank him for that.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 162 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 163 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 163A not moved.]

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon moved Amendment No. 164:

Page 58, line 17, at end insert:

("Power of enforcing authority to vest land in itself.

.—(1) Where no appropriate person can be found after diligent enquiry the enforcing authority may execute a declaration vesting the land in itself.
(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations specify the form and content of the notices announcing the intentions of the enforcing authority to make such declaration, to be exhibited publicly in such places and at such minimum period as he prescribes prior to the execution of a declaration under subsection (1) above.
(3) The enforcing authority may thereupon carry out any act by way of remediation, and may make such provision for the use of the land as it determines to be in the public interest, and may for that purpose enter into such arrangements with any other person as it deems necessary.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we come again to amendments which we did not move at Committee stage owing to the lateness of the hour. Since then, I have exchanged letters with the Minister and I am grateful to him for his detailed response to the points I put to him on this matter.

This is an attempt to provide local authorities with the necessary power and means to develop town centres. It is in line with government policy, as most recently expressed in the document dealing with out of town shopping centres, which said that the Government desired to revitalise town centres. There are many areas of our towns and cities which continue to lie derelict and are wastelands because of old industrial processes that have been carried out there. Amendment No. 164 attempts to deal with what are called orphan sites, where the owners can no longer be traced. It will give local authorities a simple means to adopt them. At present

7 Mar 1995 : Column 224

there are complicated processes to enable local authorities to carry this out, but this will provide a simple statutory means to enable local authorities to take charge of such sites, include them in their structure plans and develop them.

Amendment No. 167 gives local authorities the means whereby they can develop such sites in consortia with business, central government and so on. As the Minister has said, the Government provide some funds to develop city centres under the urban regeneration agency, English Partnerships and various forms of city regeneration. But such measures are patchy and some are dependent upon competitions. That always seems to be a very strange way to ensure that we develop our cities. For example, City Challenge has dealt with some of the problems that are open to more entrepreneurial solutions but may not have dealt with those areas that are so derelict and depressed that they cannot put in a decent bid. Competition may work against cities which are in most need.

We are concerned that it is much easier for developers to adopt greenfield sites, where they do not have to clear away historic pollution and where access is easier. There are all sorts of reasons why they prefer to adopt greenfield sites rather than what are called brownfield sites. This amendment is an attempt to provide a framework and means whereby local authorities can regenerate cities and towns and relieve some of the pressure on the countryside, which is part of what any environment Bill should attempt to address. I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, it is unfortunate that we come to this so late. I merely add my voice to what has been said by the noble Baroness. Public expectations have turned around quite remarkably over the past few years. There is much greater understanding of the need to develop city centres and the jeopardy in which the non-development of city centres puts greenfield sites. Clearly, the Government recognise this, though, sadly, in the case of out of town retail centres, for example, perhaps too many applications have flowed under the bridge. We shall see. However, the aspirations and the means are still a long way apart. I support the amendment as an attempt to bring them closer together.

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