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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, will the test ban treaty which the Government propose to support have in it effective and enforceable verification provisions? If not, will the Government ascribe to it?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we have always said that a comprehensive test ban treaty must be enforceable; that means that it must be able to be monitored. I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, the House will have been interested to hear the Minister's supplementary answer in which she mentioned that the Government were working towards comprehensive nuclear disarmament and not one-sided nuclear disarmament. Perhaps I may press the Minister a little further on that

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point. During last week's Conservative Party Conference the Secretary of State for Defence appeared to suggest in his speech that the Conservative Government, with him as Minister of Defence, would hang on to nuclear weapons forever. May we have clarification of the Government's policy in that regard?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, not for the first time, the best answer that I can give to the noble Lord is to go back and read the speech again.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, I must be allowed to correct a couple of mistakes that have been made—

Noble Lords: Question!

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will be kind enough to resume his seat. If he could be sufficiently ingenious to state his facts by way of a question that would be acceptable.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, I shall study the noble Earl's reply.

Cheesemaking: EC Regulations

3.23 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ascertain the views of the French Government as to the reasonableness of European Community regulations governing farmhouse cheeses, and whether it is their intention strictly to enforce them or seek their amendment.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, derogations from the EC milk hygiene directive for traditional dairy products, including farmhouse cheeses, are currently under discussion in Brussels. We will seek to establish the views of the French authorities in the course of those discussions. In the meantime, makers of traditional dairy products may follow their present practices.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer, which was very welcome. Will he consider the plight of Mr. Errington, a Lanarkshire farmer who has had his product confiscated and condemned and who has been put to huge expense in defending his livelihood—and all that because of a supposition that bacteria which are probably present in most, if not all, farmhouse cheeses might some day, although they have not yet, cause someone a problem? Does my noble friend agree that the action of the environmental health authority amounts to overzealous bullying?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I do not wish to comment on this ongoing case. The regulations under which Mr. Errington has been brought to book, or taken to task, have been in existence for a long time. They are the old environmental health regulations. Current instructions to environmental health officers emphasise the need to act at all times making common sense a priority, taking

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action only as is necessary to safeguard public health and not paying undue regard to the minutiae of the regulations.

Lord Carter: My Lords, does the Minister agree with the statement of the British cheese producer quoted in the Guardian in April who said:

    "I have just returned from Normandy and the range of cheeses was fantastic. I wager they have never been analysed in their lives—heaven help the French cheese industry if the Clydeside Environmental Health Department were ever let loose!"?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I doubt that the Clydeside Environmental Health Department would ever be inflicted on the French since they are unlikely to have a Labour Government. Of course French cheeses are tested; the French indulge in an extensive range of testing for listeria. It is a matter of great concern to them and their cheese producers. I assure the noble Lord that the French are taking the listeria problem every bit as seriously as we are.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, would it not be a good idea if the Government were to consult the French Government and take their advice on setting up an administrative court for Europe whereby such regulations could be challenged? If the French model were followed, the court would be allowed to look at whether the regulations were properly advised on and also at their merits. In France if the court believes a regulation to be unreasonable it can quash it. Would it not be sensible to have a similar court available for Europe?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, what a fascinating idea. I shall draw it to the attention of my colleagues.

Lord Peston: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that this matter is not to do with the European Community but with our own regulations? Secondly, will he be good enough to ask his noble friend Lord Peyton whether Mr. Errington could get in touch with me in my role as chairman of your Lordships' Refreshment Department because ever since I heard of the case I have been keen that some of the cheese should be available to your Lordships? I do not believe that our lives would be placed at risk and it would be a good supportive gesture if people of our age showed how good the cheese is and how safe it is to eat.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord. In fact, I ate some Lanark Blue today.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, in order to put the matter into some kind of proportion, will the Minister give the annual average mortality and morbidity rates from listeria in cheese during the past five years?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I do not have the exact figures. They are not high but they are a great deal higher in France.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, for the sake of the accuracy of the record, may I be permitted to advise the Minister that in Clydeside we build ships—and we can do with more orders from the Government? The cheese is made in Clydesdale and not in Clydeside.

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Lord Lucas: My Lords, I stand educated. I had always thought that Clydesdale was a type of horse.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the sheriff at the ruinous hearing through which the Clydesdale hygiene police are dragging the hapless Mr. Errington said only last Friday that he thought they were guilty of harassment in the way in which they are conducting the procedure? Does my noble friend accept that there is some doubt as to his assurance whether Mr. Errington's problems come from the United Kingdom requirements as opposed to the latest EC directive on the subject which deals specifically with the matter of listeria? Could he finally comment on the assurance given to your Lordships' House on 23rd February this year by my noble friend Lord Howe, who said:

    "The Government are confident that British cheesemakers, irrespective of size, will not be adversely affected by the new rules"?—[Official Report, 23/2/95; col. 1247.]

How can that be so?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, to deal with the last matter first, it will be so because we shall ensure that it will be so. The French are just as concerned that their French cheesemakers should be looked after as are the Dutch. A sensible conclusion will be reached to the negotiations currently under way in Brussels.

As regards the earlier matter, I can confirm that the new EC regulations do not currently apply to any of the specialist cheesemakers in the UK. We have a derogation for them until the current negotiations in Brussels are concluded.

Gas Bill

3.30 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [General duties under 1986 Act]:

The Earl of Cranbrook moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 21, at end insert—
("(d) to contribute to the objectives of sustainable development").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, there has been an exceptionally long time between the Committee and Report stages of the Bill. That has given us a long interval for reflection. It has not been an eventless time. Among the material events which I wish to bring to your Lordships' consideration are the publication of the report by the Select Committee on Sustainable Development of this House and the commendably prompt reply to that report by the Government which was published last week. By what I say today, I do not wish in any way to pre-empt the debate on that report, which is to take place next week on 26th October.

Perhaps I may refer your Lordships to the remarks I made in Committee, to be found in Hansard at cols. 346 and 347 on 22nd June, which, in order to be as brief as possible, I do not intend to repeat. I was concerned on that occasion and on other occasions, that some noble Lords were still uncertain about the meaning of the term "sustainable development". The original core definition

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sprang from the World Commission on Environment and Development whose report was published in 1987. In that, sustainable development was defined as:

    "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

It may be that we need an up-dated version. Yesterday I attended a conference at which I heard an official repeat the Government's up-dated refinement of that concept. That is important in terms of our considerations today. It is the hottest off-the-press that I can possibly get hold of since, as I say, I heard it yesterday. The objectives of sustainable development were defined as:

    "To achieve economic development to secure higher standards of living now, and for future generations; to protect and enhance the environment now, and for future generations".

I should be most grateful to my noble and learned friend on the Front Bench if he will confirm that this is a current government definition to which we can work and which is well understood across the whole of government.

I hope also that, in the course of his reply, my noble and learned friend will confirm the Government's undoubted commitment to sustainable development. My own view is that it is a very explicit and strong commitment.

Perhaps I may outline briefly the grounds for that. First, I should mention the international commitments that have been entered into on behalf of the nation. Your Lordships will all be aware of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development at Rio in 1992 where the Prime Minister committed our nation to Agenda 21, the global process for implementing sustainable development. On the same occasion, again on behalf of the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister also signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change. Both of those are extremely important in relation to this afternoon's consideration of the Gas Bill.

Secondly, within the European Union there is legislation and commitment to which the United Kingdom adheres. The famous European Union treaty of 1993, commonly called the Maastricht Treaty, includes among the objectives of the Union:

    "to promote economic and social progress which is balanced and sustainable".

That same treaty also amended Article 2 of the Treaty of Rome to redefine its objectives as:

    "sustainable and non-inflationary growth respecting the environment".

That is what we are talking about in terms of sustainable development.

The Government have adhered also to the Fifth Action Programme of the Community which is entitled Towards Sustainability. That was approved by a resolution of the Council, at which, of course, the United Kingdom was represented, in February 1993.

Thirdly, on the domestic front, the national commitment to sustainable development was reaffirmed in the 1994 White Paper, Cm No. 2426 and the United Kingdom programme on climate change, commonly called CCP, was described in Cm No. 2427, both of

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which appeared in January 1994. Again, the Prime Minister indicated his firm support in an introductory foreword to each of those documents.

That is where I see the Government standing. I hope that my noble and learned friend will confirm that there is resolute determination to work towards the objective of sustainable development, which is shared right across the country and across all parties.

I mentioned events that were important which have occurred between Committee and Report stages of the Bill. I should refer your Lordships to the origins of my own anxiety about these matters which I outlined in Committee. At that time, I told the Committee that I had gained perceptions on those issues as chairman of a small working group of the Round Table on Sustainable Development. There was a further meeting of the Round Table on 25th September. The minutes are public documents and are available publicly from the Secretariat in the Department of the Environment. Paragraphs 22 and 24 of that meeting are relevant and will indicate to your Lordships the strong support given by the Round Table and its two co-chairmen, one of whom is Mr. John Gummer, the Secretary of State for the Environment, the other being Professor Sir Richard Southwood.

Among other important events that have occurred between Committee and Report stages, I referred your Lordships to the publication of the report by your Lordships' Select Committee on Sustainable Development. In particular, I draw attention to paragraph 4.62 which contains the comment in emboldened type:

    "Privatisation has put in place a different legal and institutional framework which, together with aspects of the Government's thinking, requires a new approach to the implementation of at least a part of the Climate Change Programme. The decision to hand considerable discretionary powers to the utility regulators, without previously clarifying their role in relation to national environmental policy, is an issue that needs to be addressed".

That issue has been addressed very briefly but inadequately in the Government's reply, since it takes the Electricity Act as a model. Surely we should look forward beyond a past event. We should look at where we stand now on the issue of sustainability. Secondly, the Government's reply refers to the requirement for the regulator to take account of the "physical environment". In Committee, we deleted the word "physical" on a proposal from my noble and learned friend's predecessor on the Front Bench.

Paragraphs 4.60 to 4.66 are important in the Select Committee's report. They touched on the Government's Climate Change Programme and mentioned that that is:

    "arguably the most advanced and articulate part of the Government's sustainable development strategy, the principal measures of which were designed to accelerate the rate of investment in improved energy efficiency".

I now comment on the amendments. It is clear from what I said that the objectives of sustainable development have a strong economic and social content. Therefore, they are directly relevant to the role of the director as already defined in the Bill. In respect of a non-renewable resource such as gas the objectives of sustainable development are not to prevent its use but to promote its wise use and probably to extend its

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availability across generations, if possible, so that efficiency in use must be a most important element among those objectives.

As it was the conclusion of the working group to the Round Table to which I referred, including those most closely involved—that is to say, the generators and distributors of energy, including gas on that occasion, who had joined the group for the day—that market forces would not of themselves promote efficiency, it is clear that some intervention by someone will be needed. It seems to me perfectly clear in the context of the Bill, and in the context of the regime that has been established, that that person is the regulator and that that duty falls on the regulator.

If it is my noble and learned friend's opinion that the duty towards the environment which is already in the Bill clearly implies a duty to promote efficiency in the use of gas and that that duty clearly falls on the regulator, I hope that he will say so. I believe that could go some way towards resolving the issue. It is important that such things should be said because we know that what is said on these occasions is increasingly referred to in future circumstances.

I now refer to my amendments specifically. I have given considerable thought to the words that I have used in the amendments. I believe that I have achieved a much more realistic and acceptable form of words which I hope that my noble and learned friend will find is entirely in accordance with his own thinking. First, the amendments would require the director to contribute towards sustainability, rather than being in any way bound to secure its achievement, which is clearly something beyond the director's means. Secondly, rather than attempt to find a definition of "sustainable development" to write directly into the Bill, I learnt a great deal by listening to, participating in and reading what occurred during the debate on what is now the environment Act. Therefore, I have put in a form of words which follows the same line as that taken within that Act; that is to say, in exercising the duty to contribute towards sustainability, the director will follow guidance provided by the Secretary of State and will not of course himself attempt to define that duty.

I suppose that the amendment that I am moving formally is Amendment No. 1. I link it with Amendments Nos. 2, 5 and 10. I do not link it with Amendment No. 4 because that was my attempt to be a grammarian and I believe that it is grammatically unnecessary. It refers to a word "and" which could perfectly well stay in place unperturbed by anything that might happen this afternoon. I do not intend to move Amendment No. 4 as I believe it to be superfluous.

Clearly I have tabled almost exactly the same amendments in two possible positions. Again, I would be most grateful for comment from my noble and learned friend on the Front Bench. I consider that this is a primary duty which should appear in the position in which I have placed it in Amendment No. 1, but it is possible that it can or should be placed further on in the Bill as a subsidiary duty, as in Amendment No. 5. I beg to move.

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