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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, in considering when legislation might be introduced, would it help the Minister to learn that we on these Benches would very much welcome such a Bill and would give it our support?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful for those comments. I understand that that is the case.

Earl Russell: My Lords, while I welcome the noble Baroness's first Answer and accept her second about the usual channels, can she say how many Law Commission Bills are awaiting implementation and whether it is an objective of government policy to reduce that number?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am seized of the importance of that question. A great effort is being made now to address that issue. We wish to get on with it, because many Bills are non-contentious and we want them to make progress.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I thank the Opposition parties for their support. In view of what has

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been said, if the Government find it difficult to find time, will they consider with favour the introduction of a Private Member's Bill in your Lordships' House?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I note what my noble friend is saying, but I must say first things first. It is important to address the principle of abolition after the report of the Home Affairs Select Committee, and also to decide and determine what safeguards would need to be put in place. Two have been suggested. We regard that point as important, so it must be thought through. We shall have to wait to see whether it should be a matter for a Private Member's Bill or for the Government.

Organophosphorus Sheep Dips

2.57 p.m.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to publish the results of the research conducted by the Institute of Occupational Health at the University of Birmingham, on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive, on organophosphorus sheep dips.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the results of the research belong to the Institute of Occupational Health, not to the Health and Safety Executive. That arrangement was made as an additional guarantee of the independence of the research in this very sensitive area.

The institute is currently having the results peer-reviewed to prevent incorrect or unclear information reaching the public domain, with a view to publishing the findings in an independent journal. Once it has done that, the HSE has its agreement to publish the full research report.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that Answer. Is he aware that I am also grateful to him for keeping me as up to date on the subject as he possibly could by writing to me? Does he recall that on 23rd December he wrote to me saying that the Institute of Occupational Health was fast-tracking publication in a scientific journal and hoped to have it published by the end of January? In view of the fact that this research is so important—I entirely agree with the noble Lord on that matter—would not it be a good idea if just for once scientific privilege were forgone and for the Institute of Occupational Health to agree that it should be published? I was told a fortnight ago that, once the HSE received publications such as this on its desk, it expedited publication in its own journal; in other words, within three weeks of receipt. In this case that does not seem to be happening. Will the noble Lord explain why?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I thank the noble Countess for her kind remarks. As I explained in my Answer, the intellectual property in this important work rests with the Institute of Occupational Health. However, I am sure that all noble Lords will agree that it is important that the report is treated with the seriousness it deserves. In particular, it is important that

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the report is considered seriously in the scientific community. In order to achieve that, it is essential that the work is peer-reviewed and published in a well respected scientific journal.

If such findings leak out before publication, it is often the case—and I am advised that it is the case in this instance—that the respectable scientific journal will not publish. If such work is not published in this type of journal, its standing in the eyes of the scientific community is considerably eroded. It follows that its contribution to the important debate will be that much diminished.

It may be of interest to your Lordships that the Institute of Occupational Health has stated that it has considered the matter and believes that:

    "If the results of a study were such that delay in publication would put at risk the health of those currently exposed, or would impair the chances of recovery from any possible effects of exposure, the institute would make every effort to ensure that those responsible for the control of exposure or the treatment of those individuals were informed as soon as possible. However, under the present circumstances, there is no reason to believe that delay in publication for a matter of weeks has any implications for the health of those previously or currently exposed or under treatment".

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, irrespective of the issue of publication, will the Minister reassure the House that the Government are fully aware of the results of the research?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the matter is currently seized by the HSE, but it is not more widely available.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, how many foreign workers have been notified as suffering from the effects of contact with sheep dips? Will the Minister also say whether there have been any fatalities and what additional steps can be taken to institute further controls? I understand that there is a system of certification but that may be avoided in certain instances.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am not in a position to give the figures for which the noble Baroness asked. However, I shall write to her. There is in place a complicated system for controlling the acquisition and use of the products. The Health and Safety Executive will review matters when it has thoroughly digested the implications of the report concerned.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, is the Minister worried about the delay which appears to have hit the report from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, which was due to report last summer and which appears to have found a substantial increase in the number of farmers who believe that they have suffered from organophosphates, especially bearing in mind that the Veterinary Medicines Directorate is the body which licenses these products in the first place?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the delay to which my noble friend refers has been caused solely by the demand in carrying out the assessment and other work involved in considering the cases and preparing the

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report. Obviously, we want to see these matters made public as soon as possible but at the same time it is important that they are soundly based.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I agree with what the Minister said about peer review and I welcome his reference to a few weeks. However, is he aware that in the academic community there is considerable anxiety about the new research contract introduced in 1988 whereby publication is restricted without the prior consent of the Secretary of State? Does the Minister agree that changing that rule may protect the Government from a suspicion that might perhaps be unjustified?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his comments. We shall certainly bear them in mind.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is the Minister aware that every day I receive letters from OP sufferers who write that their doctors and their consultants do not understand them? Is he further aware that I am anxious that the report should be published in order that credibility is given to such people? I know of a man in prison as a result of the mental effects of OPs and no one understands what the man is suffering. It is most important that the report is published.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Countess is right in saying that it is important that the report is published. It will be published and we wish to publish it in a manner that will give it the greatest scientific credibility and that, in turn, will help doctors throughout the country to the greatest extent.

Environment Bill [H.L.]

3.5 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Environment Bill, have consented to place their prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

On Question, Bill read a third time.

Clause 2 [Transfer of functions to the Agency]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 3, leave out lines 7 to 15.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 1 deals with waste regulation and the transfer of functions to the new agencies. It is not, however, the wrecking amendment that it may appear. I have given the Minister notice of the issue that I wish to raise and the amendment gives me the opportunity to raise it.

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On Report, when discussing the transfer of responsibilities, and in particular pollution and the relationship between the agencies and the local communities concerned about potential pollution, the Minister said:

    "It has been suggested that under the agency there would be no scope for consideration of the concerns of local people regarding the potential impact on local amenity and possible pollution from a proposed waste management facility".

The Minister said that the conviction was puzzling and continued:

    "The local planning authorities will continue to determine whether and where waste facilities are sited".—[Official Report, 2/3/95; col. 1618.]

He referred to the ability of local planning authorities to include appropriate conditions relating to local amenity.

In July last year, the Department of the Environment, in Planning Policy Guidance Note 23 on planning and pollution control, stated:

    "The role of the planning system focuses on whether the development itself is an acceptable use of the land rather than the control of the processes or the substances. They should not seek to substitute their own judgment on pollution control issues for that of the bodies with relevant expertise and statutory responsibility for that control".

I therefore seek clarification from the Government. Will the scope for planning authorities be altered from that contained in PPG23, from which I have quoted, to include possible pollution, as the Minister appeared to imply? If that is not the case, how do the Government see local anxieties about pollution being addressed? I beg to move.

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