Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, Amendment No. 43 would require waste regulation authorities to act in accordance with guidance issued by the Secretary of State where the conditions of a waste management licence would require the consent of another person in accordance with Section 35(4) of the Environmental Protection Act.

My noble friend tabled amendments at Committee and Report stages which would have amended Section 35(4) to ensure that the owners of land adjacent to a licensed waste management facility were consulted and received compensation if it was necessary to impose licence conditions which required works to be carried out on their land. My noble friend will recall that I said at Report that we wished to consider the matter further and in particular to consult all those who would have an interest. That is still our intention and we shall be writing shortly to various representative organisations seeking their views. We will then be in a position to

20 Mar 1995 : Column 1107

consider what action, if any, needs to be taken, including, if necessary, amendments to this Bill in another place.

However, the amendment we are considering today takes a slightly different approach and does not attempt to make detailed changes to the way in which Section 35(4) operates. Instead it provides for the Secretary of State to issue guidance and for the waste regulation authority to act in accordance with that guidance. I presume that it is the intention that such guidance should set out requirements which would have the same effect as the earlier amendments.

I appreciate my noble friend's wish to ensure that at least something is on the statute book that would enable his proposals to be brought forward at a later date when we have been able to give further consideration to this issue. I do not think, however, that guidance could achieve all that my noble friend proposed in his earlier amendments, because it could only be directed at waste regulation authorities. It could only require operators to do that which the waste regulation authority was empowered to require.

Furthermore, even in so far as guidance could achieve my noble friend's objectives, the necessary powers already exist. Section 35(8) of the Environmental Protection Act places a duty on waste regulation authorities to have regard to any guidance issued to them by the Secretary of State with respect to the discharge of their functions in relation to licences. If my noble friend considers that "have regard to" is insufficient since he has proposed the term "act in accordance with", then I suggest that his intent would be achieved just as well by means of a direction to the agencies either under Section 35(7) of the 1990 Act or Clause 38 of the Bill.

I have explained that we are considering the issues which my noble friend has raised, but I hope I have shown that this amendment is unnecessary because the Secretary of State already has powers to require waste regulation authorities to have regard to guidance. My right honourable friend will have ample power to direct the agencies. In those circumstances I hope that my noble friend will be able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, yes, of course I shall. Subject to my still being alive and well in October when this Bill comes back, I shall check whether my right honourable friend has in fact done something about this as my noble friend promises that he will. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 44:

Page 222, leave out lines 24 to 33.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 23. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 45:

Page 234, line 32, at end insert:
(" 116A.—(1) In section 50 of that Act, in subsection (1) (power to make regulations, in relation to cases to which section 49 applies, for conferring succession rights to abstraction licences where a person becomes the occupier of part of the relevant land) for the

20 Mar 1995 : Column 1108

words "cases to which section 49 above applies" there shall be substituted the words "cases in which the holder of a licence under this Chapter to abstract water ("the prior holder") is the occupier of the whole or 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) That section shall have effect, and be taken always to have had effect, as if it had originally been enacted with the amendment made by sub-paragraph (1) above.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I shall address Amendments Nos. 45 and 46 together. At Committee stage my noble friends Lord Mills and Lord Crickhowell suggested that we should use this opportunity to deal with a certain point about the management of water resources where the need for legislation was admitted but no suitable vehicle had been found. I agreed to consider the suggestions.

Amendment No. 45 deals with the first of these on succession to water abstraction licences. I should draw the House's attention to the fact that it would be retrospective. That is because the wording of the Water Resources Act 1991, which was a consolidation Act, is accepted not to have reproduced the exact effect of the previous legislation. There was an inadvertent change. This amendment therefore ensures that the law will always have been what was intended.

Amendment No. 46 deals with the second suggestion that there should be a power to make drought orders to deal with problems for the aquatic environment and not just problems of water supply. The Government agree that those are desirable changes. The amendments provide the appropriate wording, which is close, but not identical, to that suggested by my noble friends.

We equally accept that there should be an amendment to deal with their third suggestion, which is to give the environment agency wider powers in the management of droughts rather than always requiring the involvement of the Secretary of State. I regret that there has not been the time to produce such provisions for your Lordships' consideration at this stage, but my honourable friends will ensure that an appropriately worded amendment is introduced in another place. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth: My Lords, my noble friends Lord Crickhowell and Lord Mills regret that they are unable to be present this evening. I know that they would wish to thank my noble friend the Minister for his further consideration of the suggestions that they made at an earlier stage.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 234, line 38, at end insert:
(" .—(1) Section 73 of that Act (power to make ordinary and emergency drought orders) shall be amended in accordance with the following provisions of this paragraph.
(2) In subsection (1) (power to make ordinary drought orders) for the words from the beginning to "then" there shall be substituted the words—
"(1) If the Secretary of State is satisfied that, by reason of an exceptional shortage of rain, there exists or is threatened—
(a) a serious deficiency of supplies of water in any area, or

20 Mar 1995 : Column 1109

(b) such a deficiency in the flow or level of water in any inland waters as to pose a serious threat to any of the flora or fauna which are dependent on those waters,
(3) In subsection (3) (power to make drought order not to be exercisable except where an application is made by the National Rivers Authority or a water undertaker)—
(a) for the words "except where" there shall be substituted the word "unless"; and
(b) at the beginning of paragraph (b) (water undertakers) there shall be inserted the words "except in the case of an ordinary drought order under subsection (1) (b) above,".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 20 [Repeals and revocations]:

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 47:

Page 265, line 13, column 3, leave out from ("section") to ("the") in line 16 and insert ("11A(6) (b),").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 33. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

An amendment (privilege) made.

9.10 p.m.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

On Second Reading, there was a broad general welcome for the Bill from many noble Lords. I was grateful for that because I believe that this is an important piece of legislation, and a most important subject. Throughout the progress of the Bill through your Lordships' House, there has also been general agreement with the principles brought forward in the Bill, although there have been a number of areas where the specific approaches that we have sought have differed.

I should very much like to thank all noble Lords on all sides of the House for the interest that has been shown in the important topics that have been covered by the Bill, for the time that noble Lords have taken in considering those issues, including the late nights that some of us have spent here in the Chamber; and for the contributions that have been made towards the development, and often the real improvement, of the Bill as a whole.

I believe that the progress of the Bill through your Lordships' House has been productive. We have debated many issues and I hope that the Government have been able to meet many of the concerns which noble Lords have raised. We have attempted to respond in various ways to the questions which your Lordships have brought forward.

The Government have responded to a number of issues that have been raised about the environment agency and Scottish environment protection agency. The establishment of the agencies is a vital part of the Bill and should provide the way ahead for a more integrated approach to environmental protection across all the environmental media. We have provided a strategic purpose for the environment agency under Clause 4 of the Bill. We have considered the points raised by your

20 Mar 1995 : Column 1110

Lordships about statutory consultation on, and publication of, the guidance under Clauses 4 and 29. We have brought forward an amendment today in response to the strength of feeling that guidance under those clauses should be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

We have accepted amendments to Clause 7 to include a socio-economic provision in respect of rural areas, and have amended Clause 30 along similar lines in respect of Scotland. I hope that I have been able to reassure your Lordships that the conservation duties that we are giving the agencies will prove to be strong and effective. We have responded to concerns raised from all sides of the House that the costs which the agencies must assess under Clause 37 include environmental costs by setting that on the face of the Bill. I believe that the provisions that we shall pass on to another place will establish strong and effective bodies which will be able to build on the strengths of their predecessors and provide for integrated and efficient protection and management of the environment.

In the light of comments made by a number of noble Lords, the Government brought forward major amendments at Report stage to the definition of contaminated land, to restrict its scope. It will now apply only in cases of significant harm, or of pollution of controlled waters. This brings the definition clearly into line with the Government's overall "suitable for use" approach.

There is a major role for guidance from the Secretary of State in the determination of whether harm is, in any instance, to be regarded as significant. The Bill now provides both for consultation on that guidance, and, more specifically, for parliamentary scrutiny through the negative resolution procedure before it is issued. We have today also resolved the question of liabilities falling upon the innocent victims of fly-tipping. There is still some work to be done, and I have undertaken to consider a number of other issues in respect of contaminated land, and, where appropriate, the Government will bring forward amendments in another place.

We have also taken account of issues raised by your Lordships on Part III of the Bill relating to national parks. We brought forward an amendment today in response to concerns that proper attention should be given to the interests of local people, which strengthens the duty on national park authorities under Clause 59 with respect to the economic and social well-being of park communities.

The Bill also now requires national park authorities to make arrangements for informing and consulting parish or community councils about the discharge of their functions, and local authorities will have a statutory duty to have regard to the desirability of appointing to the new authorities people who represent wards in the parks. We have also included English Nature as a statutory consultee on national park management plans, and made explicit that the conservation of natural beauty includes flora, fauna and geological and physiographical features.

I appreciate the considerable interest which your Lordships have in our national parks, which has been expressed clearly in our debates on this important

20 Mar 1995 : Column 1111

subject. I am grateful to the significant number of noble Lords who have spoken in those debates in reflection of that interest.

The Government have also responded to concerns about the broad nature of the power to introduce a statutory scheme to protect important hedgerows. I have brought forward amendments which give statutory force to our intention to consult widely on the detailed arrangements for hedgerow protection and make the regulations themselves subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. Together, those measures will ensure that all interests are consulted properly and that future regulations are debated fully before they are implemented.

I hope that noble Lords will agree that the Environment Bill, as amended in your Lordships' House, will make a strong contribution to the improvement of environmental protection. The environment is, as I have said, a most important subject and one which, by its very nature, affects all of us and all sectors of society. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Viscount Ullswater.)

9.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, on Second Reading I said that, while I welcomed the Bill, I thought that it was something of a curate's egg: it was good in parts and not so good in parts. I said also that it was not in our view an overall Environment Bill that was right for the 21st century. It had certain limited aims and did not encompass what we hoped it would. On the other hand, I gave it a welcome in so far as it went, and I reiterate that welcome this evening.

Your Lordships, I am sure, will be aware that the Bill has been discussed fully, and, as the Minister has just pointed out, we have sat late into the night. Many noble Lords have participated in our debates. There have indeed, as the Minister pointed out, been some improvements. We are glad that the Government have conceded the idea of a strategic aim. We should have liked to have seen it in Clause 1, or before Clause 1, but it is in Clause 4, and sometimes one cannot have more than half a loaf, and we welcome that half a loaf.

We welcome the Government's concessions in Clause 7 on guidance and how that should be treated, because that was a worry at the beginning of the Bill. We are content—perhaps a little bit more than content—with the whittling down of the cost benefit analysis in Clause 37 by including environmental costs as a cost, although I am bound to say that I would find it extremely difficult, as someone who has engaged in many cost benefit analyses, to try to put figures on environmental benefits and environmental costs. I wonder what all that will mean in practice.

Specifically on national parks, we are glad to recognise that the Government have moved a certain way towards satisfying your Lordships on a number of matters. In particular, we are happy that the House has endorsed our view that the national parks should follow the recommendations of the Edwards Report by including "quiet enjoyment" in their purposes, and I

20 Mar 1995 : Column 1112

hope very much that when the Bill goes to another place, despite any difficulties there may be about the interpretation of "quiet enjoyment", that will not be lost. In addition, we discussed the local authority role, which is important. We are pleased that the Government brought forward what we consider to be more or less the right balance in respect of hedgerows. However, we would have liked to have seen the inclusion of the conservation of areas other than hedgerows.

We must confess, however, that certain problems remain. As was said earlier today, Clause 54, which deals with contaminated land, is still a bit of a mess. I suspect that in another place there will be urgent and continuing debate on Clause 54. I also suspect that at the end of the day the only solution to contaminated land will be to compile a national register. That is a matter with which another place must deal.

As regards minewater pollution, we were sad that we lost today's Division on an important issue. On the other hand, the issues that we have debated are fully in the Government's consciousness. None of the problems is easy and sooner or later we must clear up the mess that previous generations have left not only in coal mines but in metal mines.

I am depressed that your Lordships have not allowed Wales to have its proper consultation on subordinate legislation from the Secretary of State to the Countryside Council for Wales, but no doubt that matter will be brought to the Government's attention in another place and perhaps with more acerbity than in your Lordships' House.

Other matters remain to be decided in another place. There is the issue of air quality on which we shall bring forward amendments. There is also the issue of rights of way in national parks, about which the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has spoken tonight. Those and other matters must be resolved by the Government in another place. I can speak for my right honourable and honourable friends in another place in saying that they, as we have, will provide a constructive if sometimes fairly aggressive opposition. That is what the Government need in order to get the Bill into as good a shape as possible as it goes through both Houses, given the complications of its diverse nature.

I wish to place two major procedural problems on the record. The first relates to timetabling. As the noble Viscount pointed out, and as I have mentioned, we have sat late into the night on a number of occasions. In your Lordships' House it is normal that the timetabling of Bills—that is, how many days there should be in Committee and on Report—is agreed through the usual channels. In more Bills than I can remember—and I have taken a number of Bills through this House for the Opposition—it has been possible to say that four or five days might be right. I am bound to say that for the first time I have been unable through the usual channels to give any guarantee on the date of delivery either in Committee or on Report. The reason is that amendments have been tabled from all sides of the House.

The Bill has been diffuse and therefore we have had several debates on different issues. Different Members of your Lordships' House have attended on different occasions to put forward different points of view. The

20 Mar 1995 : Column 1113

Opposition, including the opposition party on my right—and I shall not repeat this—have from time to time, because of the need to accommodate the timetable that they put forward to the usual channels, felt somewhat constrained in speaking to some of the amendments that we wished to move. As your Lordships will be aware, on some occasions we have not moved amendments which we should have liked to debate because time was taken up by noble Lords in other parts of the House.

As regards the sittings of the House, it was agreed by your Lordships that the House should rise at 10 o'clock and that we should conduct our affairs in a manner which allows that. But I am afraid that on this Bill, that has gone by the board and that is a lesson which the authorities in the House should consider.

The second procedural problem which I believe that we must consider is the question of groupings. On many occasions during the passage of the Bill, groupings appeared to have been agreed but had not been agreed. Again, that is partly because it is such a diffuse Bill and with many noble Lords coming in as they do at perhaps lunchtime, 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock in the afternoon, it has not been possible to agree something which is usually agreed through the usual channels. We cannot blame those noble Lords for that but the job of the Minister and the spokesmen for the Opposition has been made extremely difficult when the groupings are suddenly broken and we are not quite sure where we are. Again, on all sides of the House we must consider the question of groupings in relation to a complicated Bill such as this.

My last task is to thank the noble Viscount, which I do very sincerely, for the courtesy with which he has dealt with all the matters on the Bill. In particular, I thank him for the courtesy which he has extended to the Opposition and I thank him also for the expertise which he has brought to bear on the matters we have debated. I thank also the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay. I understand that it was his first job on the government Front Bench. He has been assiduous, in particular in relation to Scottish affairs. Also, from time to time, we have had the benefit of the interventions of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, not, alas, this evening, to my pleasure, but he has done so always with his usual elegance and courtesy.

I wish to give my deepest thanks to my noble friend Lady Hilton who has helped me enormously and has provided the House with an excellent example of how the Opposition can field a number of good calibre spokesmen. I know that she will wish to intervene in the debate but I wish to express my personal thanks to her. I thank also my noble friend Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove. He has borne the heat and burden of the Scottish day, if I can put it like that.

To sum up, we wish the Bill well. We hope that it will be further improved in another place. We believe that your Lordships have improved it but it needs to be better. I am sure that it will be improved in another place and I look forward to further discussions on the Bill when the amendments come from the other place. In the

20 Mar 1995 : Column 1114

meantime, as I say, I am happy to support the Motion that the Bill do now pass because, in general, we think it is a good Bill.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page