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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 450TB:

Page 150, line 12, at end insert--
("( ) such non-governmental organisations as the Mayor considers appropriate,")

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 450UB. Amendment No. 450TB seeks to add NGOs to those who must be consulted before the mayor produces a state of the environment report. Although I am aware that the Government are likely to argue that he already has the power to consult any person he considers appropriate, that gives the mayor a considerable comfort

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blanket. In relation to the state of the environment, he might not want to hear what the NGOs have to say and for that reason in particular it is important that he is required to consult them. They are often in the vanguard of indicating problems and their advice is often too radical to take on board, particularly by someone who is coming up for re-election. But even if their advice is uncomfortable and the mayor may not want to hear it, we believe that it is worth having it on record together with the mayor's reaction.

Amendment No. 450UB is a simple amendment to add to those who must be consulted before the environment report is produced. It lists the Health and Safety Executive, the Food Standards Agency and the regional Director of Public Health. I accept that it is likely that the mayor will consult them, but they are important statutory bodies and I believe that the mayor should be required to consult them. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: Again, I must commend the Liberal Democrat Benches on their consistency. Clearly, had we pursued the earlier amendment relating to the requirements of the environment strategy, it might be logical to require the bodies listed in Amendment No. 450UB to be consultees. However, in that debate I argued that we should allow the mayor some discretion on what is included, particularly as regards the issues over which he has no direct executive powers, and that is also the case in relation to whom he should consult. The present requirement is that he is required to consult the Environment Agency, each London borough council, the City and any other person whom he considers appropriate.

That is a fairly wide discretion, but to prescribe these particular bodies and NGOs would not be appropriate. That would be going too far, particularly in the light of the Government's position, which is that we would not prescribe within the environment strategy areas for which the mayor has no direct executive responsibility. If the mayor wants those areas to be covered, it would obviously be sensible and logical for the bodies set out in Amendment No. 450UB to be consulted, but that is a matter for the mayor.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for his reply. I believe that by not including these amendments we are leaving the mayor with too great a comfort blanket in place to hear only what he wants to hear, in some cases. However, in the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 450UB not moved.]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): Before calling Amendment No. 450VB, I must inform the Committee that if that amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 450C.

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Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 450VB:

Page 150, line 16, leave out subsection (5)

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 450VB I shall speak also to the other amendments within this group. Amendment No. 450C seeks to broaden the scope of the information that the mayor must include in the section of the report on road traffic. The Bill, as currently drafted, requires the mayor to include information on the number of vehicles, the length of journeys, and the places where, and length of time for which, road vehicles park in Greater London.

The amendments tabled by the noble Baroness would require the mayor to include information about the type, as well as the number of vehicles. My honourable friend, Glenda Jackson, made a commitment in another place to review the need for Clause 281(5), and, in particular, to consider whether it is absolutely necessary to place upon the mayor these fairly stringent requirements. We are still considering that.

Our overall approach to the GLA is to avoid imposing unnecessary burdens. For that reason, we have taken the view that it is more sensible to allow the mayor some discretion over what information should be included in the road traffic section. Amendment No. 450VB achieves that by deleting the subsection altogether. The other amendments in this group would have the opposite effect of imposing additional burdens on the mayor. The Government would not be prepared to accept that.

There are two other amendments in this group which also seek to define closely what information should be provided. Amendment No. 450D would require the mayor to include information on domestic and non-domestic production, recycling and disposal in the section of the report on waste. Amendment No. 450F would require the mayor to include information on specific pollutants.

I understand the reasons behind the amendments. I am sure that much of this would be covered by the mayor in any such strategy. Nevertheless, I believe that our approach of allowing more rather than less discretion and prescribing less rather than more on the face of the Bill is appropriate in these circumstances. It is appropriate to give the mayor a little "elbow room" in determining the priorities within the strategy required from him. I hope that those amendments are not pursued. However, in the mean time, I beg to move Amendment No. 450VB.

Baroness Hamwee: I am happy to see the Government's amendment. The Minister described Amendment No. 450C as broadening the scope of the provision. We tabled that amendment because the clause is already fairly broadly drawn. We felt it was necessary to add a little more to cover the ground.

Clause 281(3)(b) refers to "road traffic levels". Will the Minister confirm that, although the word "levels" is used, distinctions between different types of vehicle can be made? It is important to ensure a more analytical approach to the issue by accepting, for example, that

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private cars, bicycles, delivery vans and other vehicles raise different issues and there is different information to be gleaned about them. I hope that the phrase "road traffic levels" as distinct from road traffic does not restrict the report more than we all want.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I was interested in what the Minister said about Amendment No. 450VB and the others in the group, which include my Amendments Nos. 450D and 450F. It is not surprising, although it sometimes seems paradoxical, that whenever we propose a requirement for more information to be provided the Minister opposes it, but if we suggest that the Bill is too prescriptive we usually find the Minister proposing the opposite. That may be inevitable given the nature of debates in Committee.

We were seeking to increase the information available about waste and, perhaps more significantly, about the main atmospheric pollutants, which are a significant part of any serious environmental report. I accept the Minister's argument that it is highly likely that such matters will be reported on in the state of the environment report, but they might not be. We have tabled amendments because we think that they should be included in the report. I shall study what the Minister has said.

Lord Whitty: The mayor can and no doubt will wish to add the details on traffic to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred. We are not prescribing precisely how the issues would be analysed. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, the same is true of our overall approach. The issues will be covered in broad terms. The precise terms will be down to how the mayor assesses his or her priorities. That is the right balance and I hope that the other amendments are not pressed.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 450WB, 450XB and 450YB had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 450B:

Page 150, line 21, at end insert--
("( ) A copy of each state of the environment report shall be kept available for the appropriate period by the Mayor for inspection by any person on request free of charge at the principal offices of the Authority at reasonable hours.
( ) A copy of each state of the environment report, or any part of such a report, shall be supplied to any person on request during the appropriate period for such reasonable fee as the Mayor may determine.
( ) In this section "the appropriate period" in the case of any state of the environment report is the period of six years beginning with the date of publication of that report pursuant to this section.")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 450D not moved.]

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1497

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 450E:

Page 150, line 21, at end insert--
("( ) The Mayor shall publish an action plan for London on the basis of the state of the environment report.")

The noble Lord said: The amendment forms an odd coupling with Amendment No. 451ZAF. Amendment No. 450E deals with the state of the environment report, while Amendment No. 451ZAF is intimately involved with waste. I shall cover them in the same speech, although I shall deal with them separately.

Amendment No. 450E would require the mayor to publish an action plan as a consequence of the state of the environment report. It is, of course, entirely proper that the mayor should be required to report on the state of the environment. But, paradoxically, although indirectly throughout the Bill he may be taking actions which will have an impact on the environment, there is no requirement on him to produce an action plan as a consequence of producing the report.

It may be argued that such a report will sum up work that is being done elsewhere on the face of the Bill. But it would be no bad thing for the mayor to be required to produce an action plan on the state of the environment report. It would make the system more open, more accountable and in general would prove to be more satisfactory to everybody.

Amendment No. 451ZAF was slipped into this group. I must admit that I did not pick it up when the groupings were suggested and they normally work out reasonably coherently. The amendment relates to page 151, line 13, and to the way in which we deal with the question of waste. One can see why the amendment was slipped in because, again, we call for an action plan, but this time on the question of waste.

We have a paradox with regard to the mayor and what is to be done in London about waste. Apart from what is in the Bill--we shall in due course be questioning whether this provision should be here at all--the mayor has no responsibility with regard to either the collection or disposal. There is a sense, therefore, in which this is so much hot air. But if the mayor is to have anything to do with waste, clearly he should have to have an action plan.

Some fundamental problems exist in relation to the disposal of London's waste. As we have discussed before in this Chamber, London's waste disposal arrangements are coming to a point of crisis. Many of the existing facilities are running out of either space or time. A further problem is that there is a greater inclination on the part of the European Community to regulate in the field of waste disposal and to require that waste is not disposed of to landfill. That will impose huge problems, not just in relation to management, but also technical and financial problems, and, primarily, the problem of overcoming the NIMBY factor.

One of the most difficult issues with which an authority has to deal is persuading a community how to dispose of its waste. Disposing of waste can usually be achieved, but it is not easy with a community that is used to disposing of its waste elsewhere. Therefore, if this measure is to be in the Bill, there should be an action plan and that is why Amendment No. 451ZAF

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was included in this grouping. The amendments are an odd coupling as to subject, but with regard to intention, they are identical. I beg to move.

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