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The Earl of Lytton: My Lords, from these Benches it is not possible to speak on behalf of my noble friends who sit in this part of the House. However, there is one issue on which I feel that I can speak for all on these Benches, and that is to thank the Minister for the courteous and efficient way in which he dealt with inquiries and with the amendments that were tabled, always managing to maintain the highest standards of candour and politeness throughout, even late into the night. I must pay him great tribute for that. Perhaps I may pay tribute also to the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay. We are broadly of similar age. If I may say so, he has brought a youthful appeal to the Front Bench, which is much appreciated. However, by the same token perhaps I may express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord

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Williams, and his team. We have often not agreed wholeheartedly on matters in the Bill, but we have respected the reasons why we differ in our views.

I have often found myself speaking a slightly different language from that of the noble Lords, Lord Marlesford and Lord Norrie. I hope that the respect for each other's position which has been established during those dialogues will be an enduring feature.

The Bill is an important watershed in legislation. It represents an enormous opportunity. Some difficulties will still have to be sorted out in another place. However, that factor underlines the complexity of the different facets within the Bill rather than denoting that there are intractable problems. I do not know whether the problems are intractable. Ultimately the proof of the pudding will be the manner in which the commercial world considers matters of residual liability, the interaction between BATNEEC and fit for use, and cost benefit. Those are all important factors.

I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he responded regarding the way in which hedgerows are to be dealt with, and the many other matters which I have raised including socio-economic factors in national parks. Like the noble Lord, Lord Renton, I am not quite so happy on the question of quiet enjoyment. It is not that I fail to understand the intention; I understand it well. It is simply the sheer difficulty of defining the term in a manner which satisfies all legitimate interest.

I wish the Bill well in another place. No doubt it will return to this House with amendments to be considered. However, I wish the Bill well. I hope that it has a safe passage.

The Earl of Kintore: My Lords, perhaps I may join in the thanks for the courtesy and patience with which we have been heard. I thank the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, for the improvements that we have managed to make for Scotland.

9.45 p.m.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, first, I should like to respond to the very kind words which have been uttered around the House on the handling of the Bill both by my noble friend and myself. I do not believe that I could have managed the Bill so adequately (if adequately is the word) without the support of my noble friend. He has been cheerful and supportive throughout.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams, indicated that he had had problems with the timetabling of the Bill, with which I agree. He indicated one or two of the concerns, which I shared, regarding the unbundling at Committee and Report stages of groupings of amendments. I find that quite difficult to cope with. However, noble Lords had difficult problems with which to deal. They wished them spoken to and therefore we had to respond in that way. My noble friends behind me moved many amendments which they wished me to accept. If I have not been able to respond to them with amendments, I hope that I have been able to reassure them and noble Lords opposite on some of the matters.

However, I much appreciate the constructive approach of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Hilton of Eggardon and Lady

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Hamwee, to the Bill. It has been an interesting experience for me and I have enjoyed dealing with it. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, indicated that there were areas of anxiety which we needed to address in another place. He mentioned that Clause 54 is still a bit of a mess. As noble Lords will know, there will be certain government amendments to try to sort out the difficulties which the noble Lord has in mind and I hope that we shall improve the Bill in another place before it returns here.

I should like to mention two areas before I conclude. One is air quality. As I indicated to the House in Committee on 9th February, our proposed amendments on air quality will provide for the Government to establish a national strategy for maintaining and improving air quality. That strategy will include clear standards and targets for the important pollutants. The amendments will also establish a new system for managing air quality at the local level under which local authorities will have a duty to assess regularly the air quality in their area. Where it is found to be poor, they will have a further duty to take the necessary remedial action to ensure that standards and targets are met. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, were interested in that.

Finally, I should not let the occasion pass without indicating that at a previous stage we extensively debated the issue of old mineral permissions. The minerals industry is of considerable importance to the economy and is to be commended on the steps which it has taken to improve environmental standards. However, not everyone in the industry works to the

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same high standards. My noble friend Lord Addison raised the issue at Report stage. I then undertook that the Government would bring forward amendments in another place to resolve the problems created by old mineral permissions, which typically have few, if any, modern working and restoration conditions attached to them. Therefore, we shall work on the amendments in another place.

I concede that there is some work still to do and that it will have to be done in another place. The Government have undertaken to bring forward measures as necessary on air quality, as I mentioned, on contaminated land, mineral permissions and also on fisheries, both to implement government policy and to meet further concerns that have been impressed upon me in this House.

Overall, I believe that the measures now included in the Bill, subject to our commitments to bring forward further amendments, provide an excellent approach to environmental protection across the whole range of government policy—an approach which will provide strong measures for the protection and management of the environment. The Bill and the interest in it, as well as the valuable contributions which it has attracted in the House, reflect the importance of environmental protection and the longer term outlook which sustainable development demands. It should enable environmental protection in the UK to continue to improve as we approach the new millennium. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

        House adjourned at seven minutes before ten o'clock.

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