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Greater London Authority Bill

8.39 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Clause 317 [The Mayor's air quality strategy]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 544WA:

Page 176, line 34, leave out ("likely") and insert ("predicted").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I will speak also to Amendments Nos. 544XA and 544ZA. This small group of amendments relates to air quality strategy. Two of them are relatively unimportant but one is most important.

Clause 317(3)(a) states that the London air quality strategy shall contain information about

The word "likely" is imprecise and we would prefer it changed to "predicted". This is one of those debates about the meaning of words that the Minister and I will continue to have over the years, if we are both blessed and spared.

Amendment No. 544XA would remove the words

    "to be encouraged by the Mayor"

from Clause 317(3)(c), so that it would read

    "the measures which other persons or bodies are to take for the purpose of the implementation of the London air quality strategy."

That is more positive than measures that the mayor encourages people to take. Some people might take adversely to encouragement from the mayor. If that provision is removed, they will be obliged to take such steps, which would be a good thing.

Amendment No. 544ZA is more significant than the previous amendments--which, it could be argued, are a matter of taste in the English language. Clause 324 deals with consultation by local authorities with the mayor. Those mentioned are

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    "(a) any local authority in Greater London,

    (b) any local authority whose area is contiguous to the area of Greater London."

In any prolonged period of high pressure during the summer, one of the most polluted atmospheres in the country, surprisingly, is coastal Suffolk. That pollution arrives from the Ruhr because in continuous, relatively still conditions and high pressure, that is the way pollution drifts.

If the atmospheric conditions are right, much of the sulphur that is deposited on the ground or is present in the atmosphere in this country arises in the south of France and northern Spain. Again, that is due to atmospheric drift.

Anybody who took the trouble to examine the maps that were produced with great accuracy after the Chernobyl disaster will be aware that radioactive dust from that particular hiatus travelled huge distances, sometimes at heights not far from the ground. Where that appalling dust finally landed was very much a lottery.

Atmospheric movement is unpredictable, so we thought it appropriate to add to Clause 324,

    "any local authority other than those mentioned...which shall be otherwise affected."

The result of the movement of atmospheric pollution from London has not yet been sufficiently studied. We can be reasonably confident that it does not stop at the boundaries of those authorities that are contiguous with London. We can be absolutely certain that pollution spreads much further than that.

I accept that there are difficulties in deciding where that boundary might lie, but authorities that may be adversely affected as a consequence of atmospheric movement, when more is known about it, should not be prevented from having a say in matters in which they could have a direct and positive interest. I ask the Minister seriously to consider Amendment No. 544ZA, whatever he does with the two other amendments in the group. I beg to move.

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, Amendment No. 544YA enables matters that the mayor considers should be drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State to be included among the information that the air quality strategy may contain.

In Committee, my noble friend Lady Hamwee pointed out that the mayor might discover during the course of research matters that it would be useful for the Secretary of State to know, and that it would be useful for the public to be aware that the Secretary of State would know about them. The Minister was sympathetic to that suggestion and asked for the opportunity to consider it, with the possibility of returning to the matter at a later stage.

Although the Government have not chosen to take up that opportunity, they have accepted the principle that there might be instances where such a provision would be useful. As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, air moves and is in no one's particular domain much of the time. Often, there may be issues

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that are more relevant to decisions that the Secretary of State can make but the mayor needs to feel that he or she can exert some influence. I look to the Minister for further explanation as to why the Government have not felt able to incorporate an amendment for which they previously had some sympathy.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, each amendment raises a different issue. Amendment No. 544WA would require the strategy to contain information about "predicted" rather than "likely" air quality. If something is likely, it has a high probability of occurring but is not absolutely certain. If something is predicted, that, too, is supported by evidence--so the difference is not that clear. The wording in the clause is the same as that used in the Environment Act 1995, which refers, as does the Bill, to "likely future air quality" in the context of local authorities' air quality management duties. So it is for consistency that we have used the word "likely" in this provision. I have not been convinced that there is any need to change it.

The second of the noble Lord's amendments would require the mayor's air quality strategy to contain information about measures which persons or bodies are to take for the purpose of implementing that strategy, rather than information about measures which the mayor encourages them to take. The Bill already requires the mayor's air quality strategy to contain certain information. Some of that information relates to measures which are to be taken by the authority, by Transport for London, and so on. The words "are to be taken" reflect the fact that in that set of circumstances the mayor can influence the actions of those bodies. In contrast, the amendment would require the strategy to contain information about measures to be taken by persons or bodies over which the mayor has no influence but only the ability to encourage. That is therefore a different category from those relating to the functional bodies of the authority. I trust that, on reflection, the noble Lord will agree that the amendment would be inappropriate.

Amendment No. 544YA, tabled by the noble Baroness, would require the mayor to include in the strategy such matters as he or she considers should be drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State. The noble Baroness is correct to say that my noble friend indicated that she thought that there was perhaps an issue here and we took the matter away for consideration. We have taken legal advice and, while not dissenting from the objectives presented to us by the noble Baroness, we believe that the amendment is unnecessary.

We entirely accept that the Secretary of State will need to be informed of progress in managing air quality in London. But Clause 317 of the Bill already requires the London air quality strategy to include information which will be relevant to the implementation of the strategy, including information relating to the measures that persons or bodies are to be encouraged by the mayor to take for the purposes of such implementation. That provision will allow the mayor to include information about the measures that he or she would like the Secretary of State to take for

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the purpose of the implementation of the strategy or information that might be needed by the Secretary of State in order to take measures himself to support the strategy. Therefore, the existing provision in Clause 317 covers the point sought by the noble Baroness.

I understand rather better than I did when I read it in black and white on the page the intention of the final amendment. I am not sure that it is in fact geared to the noble Lord's objectives. I understand both the argument that it is not necessarily boroughs within London or authorities immediately contagious to London--I should say "contiguous" to London, although in this context they would possibly be contagious as well! I was not quite sure whether the noble Lord sought to extend the number of boroughs that must consult the mayor to the Ukraine, as appeared at one point. Certainly, pollution arises on the Suffolk coast, for example, which may affect London; and pollution in boroughs down-wind of London may affect authorities beyond London.

But the obligation in this clause is on boroughs which must consult the mayor, not boroughs which the mayor must consult. Clearly, if implications arise from the mayor's air quality strategy that affect other local authorities throughout the UK, the mayor should consult those authorities. He may wish to consult authorities whose situation he believes may detrimentally affect his strategy. But this is a requirement on those authorities to consult the mayor. I am not necessarily suggesting that the noble Lord should think up another amendment at this stage in the Bill, but I believe that he is approaching the matter the wrong way round. I hope, therefore, that he will not pursue the amendment.

I hope that in the light of these explanations, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment and that the other amendments will not be pressed.

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