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Lord Whitty: First, I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and regret very much that the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, cannot be with us for tragic reasons. The good wishes of all sides of the House go to her.
As to the debate, it is somewhat at odds with the Second Reading debate when, in general terms, the objectives of the Bill were well received on all sides of the House. The idea that we should have a comprehensive and systematic approach to all aspects of pollution control was broadly accepted. We are now talking about the means of implementing the Bill. The idea that we need to go back to the drawing board and redraft the entire Bill completely misses the objectives of the Bill, to which all parties in the House were committed.
I obviously recognise and respect the views of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. It has given us something to think about. We have thought about parts of it--and amendments will come later this afternoon which deal with that. There are other parts which we will need to consider further, and we will also need to consider the remarks of noble Lords. I hope that we will allay most of the anxieties at a later stage.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has already indicated, the slightly Byzantine way in which we reach groupings--and I am not complaining; it usually benefits me--means that there are no government amendments in the first grouping. Therefore, strictly speaking I could not participate earlier in the debate. I would have preferred to have responded to the totality of the views of the Select Committee prior to noble Lords making their views known. With the leave of the Committee, I will do that now.
In its report, the committee invited the House to consider, in particular, whether to limit regulations under the Bill to matters listed in Schedule 1, and whether to limit the ambit of power which might be sub-delegated and the category of person to whom it might be sub-delegated.
First, I shall deal with the scope of the Secretary of State's powers to make regulations, which is the crux of this clause. Those issues are also the subject of Amendments Nos. 1 to 5 in this group. I reiterate what the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, has just said about the genesis of this legislation. Contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, has suggested, the scope of the Bill is not to confuse but to clarify. We were bound to introduce a new regulatory system which meets the requirements of the EC directive, agreed by the previous government, on integrated pollution prevention and control. Although in normal circumstances one could argue that that directive could have been implemented under the European Communities Act 1972--which of course, whatever one thinks of that procedure, would have meant rather less parliamentary accountability than we are proposing under this Bill--if we had done that, it would have meant that the new system arriving from Europe would be operating alongside and over-lapping our current system of integrated pollution control, our local authority administrated local air pollution control and waste management licensing. The noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, reminded me that I had described that as a potential dog's breakfast. It would lead to bureaucratic confusion. At the very least, the Committee should recognise that the government objective is to
The genesis is that we were aiming to ensure a consistent and flexible system applied across the board. That requires that sufficient powers must be delegated to enable the new regulations to be applied and adapted in a coherent way, not only to those activities under the directive, but also to those which fall outside the directive and are currently covered by the existing UK regime.
In so far as Clause 1 allows for any polluting activity--I will not go into great detail about the definition of "pollution"--the whole approach is not dissimilar to the powers on pollution provided under Section 2 of the Environment Protection Act, which the Bill replaces. We are using very similar language to that used in the legislation introduced by the previous government.
Amendments Nos. 2 and 4 deal with significant pollution activities, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has already referred. If we were to go down that route, I fear that Amendments Nos. 2 and 4 would not be compatible with the EU directive. We would therefore fail in our ability to transpose that directive. The directive must apply to all the installations listed in its annex, whether or not those installations discharge significant pollution, however defined. I can reassure the Committee that we have no intention of applying pollution controls to installations with trivial emissions, any more than is required by the directive. We have proposed in the draft regulations to retain a test of triviality for those installations to which the directive does not apply.
To obtain a proper view of the powers proposed in Clause 1, taken together with Schedule 1, it is quite common practice--certainly in a number of pieces of legislation, in this field and others, produced by the previous government--to set out a general enabling power, followed by a without prejudice list of specific powers, as we have done in Schedule 1.
Lord Renton: This all started with the Clean Air Act 1956. I mention that not because I was a junior Minister helping to pilot it but because it laid the foundation of our attempts ever since to prevent pollution, especially in our large towns and cities. It was very necessary legislation because of the smogs that were killing cattle and people. But that did not merely state intentions for Ministers to fulfil; if the Minister looks at that Act he will find that Parliament directed immediately what Ministers should do.
Lord Whitty: I will consult the context of that particular piece of legislation. However, I was relying in my remarks on slightly more recent pieces of legislation which relate to environmental pollution and other matters, where very wide, specific powers, and the ability to delegate such powers, are specified. We are not creating an enormously new precedent in this field.
I hope the Committee will recognise the sincerity of our intention in that respect. I believe that some of the more hostile remarks made this afternoon will be, in part at least, ameliorated when we come forward at the next stage of the Bill, with general consent, with a proposition along those lines.
Lord Whitty: The nature of the Bill has involved substantial consultation on regulations. We promised that at Second Reading. We have circulated those draft regulations. We have as yet not fully taken on board the results of that consultation, which may itself impact on the former Schedule 1. There are a number of aspects, to which no doubt noble Lords will refer at later stages of the debate, which likewise could impact on Schedule 1. If we were to make the change to the clause without altering Schedule 1 we would be subject to greater criticism if later in the progress of the Bill we were to make subsequent amendments to Schedule 1. I therefore think it is more logical for us to present the totality at a later stage of the Bill.
Amendment No. 6, which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, would delete certain words from the Bill which make it clear that it may apply to installations which deal solely with waste management--municipal waste incinerators, landfill sites or those sites which dispose of hazardous waste. We have a legal obligation to include them in the new regime. Therefore, were the noble Lord to press his amendment it would be contrary to the intentions of the EU directive, so I ask him to consider withdrawing his amendment.
Perhaps I may go a little further on the issue of sub-delegation and the subjects raised by Amendments Nos. 10 and 11. As noble Lords have indicated, the new system needs to be applied to a wide variety of installations and activities. That ranges from oil refineries to soft drinks' makers. It is important, therefore, that the regulatory system has some flexibility to be specific, appropriate and, above all, fair in differing circumstances so that it can be enforced efficiently and by the appropriate bodies with the understanding of the sectors concerned.
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