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Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, Amendment No. 1 would prevent the transfer of the waste regulation functions of local authorities to the environment agency. This is an issue which the House has already considered in Committee and on Report, and your Lordships will therefore be aware of the importance which the Government attach to the inclusion of waste regulation within the functions of both agencies.

If the environment agency is to live up to its name, it needs to be responsible for all the major pollution control regimes. That is the only way that it can establish a multi-media approach to pollution control. The agency will provide better integration of functions. For instance, it will no longer be necessary to consult the NRA on every waste management licence application. The impact of waste facilities on water pollution will be able to be considered within a single integrated organisation. It will also enable waste regulation expertise to be pooled, and allow for specialist advice on, for instance, the hydrology and geology of sites, which some smaller waste regulation authorities may have difficulty in providing. It will ensure that standards are enforced consistently across the country—something which the waste industry is very anxious about.

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The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to a comment which I made on Report about the role of planning authorities in determining the location of waste facilities. I said then that:

    "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. That conviction is puzzling".—[Official Report, 2/3/95; col. 1618.]

By contrast, that is entirely in line with Planning Policy Guidance Note (PPG) 23 on planning and pollution control. Although planning authorities should not substitute their judgment about how to control pollution for that of the relevant pollution control authority, it is perfectly proper for them to consider the potential for pollution to affect the use of land in deciding whether to grant planning permission.

Planning authorities should work on the assumption that the pollution control regimes will be properly applied and enforced, but that does not mean that they are unable to consider the land use implications of such pollution. Paragraph 1.33 of the PPG says, for example, that material considerations are likely to include:

    "the risk and impact of potential pollution from the development insofar as this might have an effect on the use of other land".

We have no plans to change the basic policies and principles set out in that guidance as a result of transferring waste regulation to the agency, because there is no need to. The boundary which the guidance draws between planning and pollution controls fits in very well with the transfer of the main pollution control functions to the agency. It will ensure that local authorities have control over whether and where waste facilities are located and will be able to consider the impact of those developments on land use and amenity, including the risk and impact of potential pollution on land use. The agency will be responsible for controlling any pollution from the facility and will be accountable for that in the same way as it will be accountable for the other pollution control regimes for which it will be responsible.

I hope that I have explained why we consider it so important that waste regulation is included in the functions to be transferred to the agency and that the noble Baroness will be able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation, or at least I think I am. As it is somewhat technical, it will bear reading carefully in Hansard. I am sure that the Minister will appreciate that the point underlying this is public accountability and reassurance for local people who will feel that they are very directly affected by any development. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 [General aims and objectives of the Agency]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 5, line 41, leave out ("give") and insert ("lay before Parliament an order containing").

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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 3 and Government Amendment No. 4. This amendment takes us to Clause 4 which, after three clauses leading us in, sets out the principal aim of the agency.

I tabled my amendment before the Government tabled their amendment as to how the guidance provided in Clause 4(2) is to be dealt with procedurally. I decided not to withdraw my amendment because I felt that it would bear consideration as to whether the negative resolution procedure proposed by the Government was adequate or whether the affirmative resolution procedure proposed by my amendment was a more appropriate way to have the proposed guidance scrutinised.

Having said that, I must place on record my thanks to the Government. Although they have not moved as far as I would like them to, they have moved some way in dealing with the guidance, which will be extremely significant to those who are to implement the various matters which are the subject of the Bill and to those who will be affected by them.

As I said, Clause 4(1) refers to the "principal aim" of the agency, whereas Clause 4(2) refers to the objectives which Ministers consider to be appropriate for the agency to pursue. I have some difficulty in distinguishing between the aim of Clause 4(1) and the objectives in Clause 4(2), not least because the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines an aim as being a "object or purpose" and an objective as being the "point aimed at". I am sure that your Lordships will understand my confusion since those words appear to be synonymous.

I do not believe that I need repeat how important the guidance will be. So much of what the new agencies are to do will be contained in that guidance. Therefore, I feel that it is of the utmost importance that Parliament should scrutinise the guidance extremely carefully and should have the fullest opportunity to debate it, as it will not be contained in primary legislation, and, in particular, that those affected will have the fullest opportunity to comment on the proposed guidance and that Parliament can be their mouthpiece. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I believe that the noble Baroness did well to table Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 but, of course, Amendment No. 4 has made those amendments quite unnecessary. The importance of Clause 4 is added to greatly by Amendment No. 4.

Perhaps I may comment briefly on the rather strange and elaborate legislative situation which we shall have reached when we pass that amendment. We have various methods of legislating: primary legislation, Acts of Parliament; statutory instruments, either Orders in Council or other statutory instruments, some of which require the affirmative resolution and some of which require the negative resolution; and we have already, under several statutes, codes of practice, most of which require parliamentary approval before they come into force.

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Now we have a new departure—guidance by Ministers to a public body. I find it very difficult to distinguish in importance or purpose codes of practice from guidance. They are all issued by Ministers and have to be observed by the users of the statutes. All the guidance—and that gives it an advantage over some codes of practice—will require parliamentary approval within 40 days. In other words, it is analogous with the negative resolution procedure for a statutory instrument.

By all means, let us welcome that, but let us see where we are getting to as legislators because it means that we have entered a very elaborate new phase. Having said that, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Ullswater on removing doubts and on doing something very helpful that will be welcomed by all concerned.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, perhaps I should speak, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Renton, to all three amendments. Therefore, I shall speak to the government amendment before the Minister has had an opportunity to explain what are the Government's intentions, but I think that I can more or less guess what they are.

I differ from the noble Lord, Lord Renton, in that I do not believe that the amendment moved by the noble Baroness is unnecessary. In fact, I think that it is desirable. I disagree also with the noble Lord, Lord Renton, as regards his contention that there is very little difference between codes of practice and guidance issued by Ministers. There is a great deal of difference between those two concepts. However, where I agree with him is that we are embarking on a legislative procedure which is as yet untested.

I should like to ask the Minister when he comes to explain his amendment what would happen if your Lordships or another place passed an amendment to a Motion to approve the guidance, in whatever form it was produced, which required the House only to approve the guidance if this, that and thus were entered into the guidance. Would that mean that the Government would withdraw it on the grounds that either subsection (5B) or (5C) would operate; or would they amend the guidance and resubmit it? How does the Minister see this whole procedure working? It would be interesting for your Lordships to know how precisely it would operate.

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