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Lord Luke: My Lords, this draft order covers several different areas. The general public will be happy to see questions being allowed with regard to spent convictions in certain cases. We support the order.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, we welcome the measures, which are designed to add to the list of

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exceptions to the regime for the rehabilitation of offenders under the 1974 Act. The draft order has our support.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Police (Northern Ireland) Bill [HL]

Returned from the Commons agreed to with amendments and with a privilege amendment.

        House adjourned at twenty-two minutes past eight o'clock.

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Official Report of the Grand Committee on the

Water Bill [HL]

(First Day) Thursday, 27th March 2003.

The Committee met at a quarter before four of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel): Before I put the Question that the Title be postponed, perhaps I may make one or two housekeeping points. The first relates to the microphones. The gentleman in the corner will switch them on and off, so Members of the Committee do not need to touch them. Secondly, there is a revised list of groupings which Members should have in front of them.

It may be helpful to remind your Lordships about the procedure for today's Committee stage. Except in one important respect, our proceedings will be exactly as in a normal Committee of the Whole House. We shall go through the Bill clause by clause; noble Lords will speak standing; all Lords are free to attend and participate; and the proceedings will be recorded in Hansard. The one difference is that the House has agreed that there shall be no Divisions in a Grand Committee. Any issue on which agreement cannot be reached should be considered again at the Report stage when, if necessary, a Division may be called. Unless, therefore, an amendment is likely to be agreed to, it should be withdrawn.

I should also explain what will happen if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting. The Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division bells are rung and then resume after 10 minutes.

Title postponed.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 1:

    Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause—


(1) The purpose of this Part is to make provision for, or in connection with, protection of the water environment, including making provision, and enabling provision to be made, for, or in connection with, implementing in England and Wales Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23rd October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy (referred to in this Part as "the Directive").

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(2) In this Part "protection of the water environment" includes, in particular—
(a) preventing further deterioration of, and protecting and enhancing, the status of aquatic ecosystems and, with regard to their water needs, terrestrial ecosystems and wetlands directly depending on those aquatic ecosystems,
(b) promoting sustainable water use based on the long-term protection of available water resources,
(c) aiming at enhancing protection and improvement of the aquatic environment through, amongst other things, specific measures for the progressive reduction of discharges, emissions and losses of priority substances and the cessation or phasing out of discharges, emissions and losses of the priority hazardous substances,
(d) ensuring the progressive reduction of pollution of groundwater and preventing further pollution of it, and
(e) contributing to mitigating the effects of floods and droughts, with a view to contributing to the achievement of the aims specified in subsection (3).
(3) Those aims are—
(a) the provision of a sufficient supply of good quality surface water and groundwater as needed for sustainable, balanced and equitable water use,
(b) a significant reduction in pollution of groundwater,
(c) the protection of territorial and other marine waters, and
(d) achieving the objectives of international agreements, including those which aim to prevent and eliminate pollution of the marine environment, in relation to which measures are adopted under paragraph 1 of Article 16 of the Directive in pursuance of a proposal under paragraph 3 of that Article."

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of the amendment is fundamental to the Bill. It is to put the principles of the Water Framework Directive into the Bill. It will ensure that the implementation of the directive is timely, appropriate and maximises the opportunities that are offered by it. I am aware that directives are always transposed by secondary legislation and I ask the Committee to consider whether this may be the time to consider changing that. Perhaps they should not always be transposed by secondary legislation.

Perhaps the lack of scrutiny is one of the reasons why they were often inappropriately or badly transposed and certainly often too late. It is a case of good European theory sometimes turning into bad practice. I believe that in this case we can transform the way in which the world of water and its management is undertaken by including the Water Framework Directive in the Bill.

That is not my opinion alone. I am sure that Members of the Committee will be well aware of the recently published report on the Water Framework Directive from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee of another place. I am tempted to read it almost in its entirety, but I will not. It is adamant that the Water Framework Directive offers the chance of giving real meaning to the nebulous concept of sustainable development, an issue I touched upon in my Second Reading speech. In the conclusions and evidence, it is striking to see how

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many different bodies from all sections of the community believe that the directive should be transposed into primary legislation. I refer to bodies as various as the National Trust, several of the water companies and the RSPB. The overwhelming evidence is that the directive should be in the Bill.

Is it a question of timing? I do not believe that it is. The directive must be transposed by the end of the year. We are considering the Bill in March and by the time that another place has considered it, it will almost be the end of the year. I believe that the opportunity could have been taken to include it in the Bill at this stage.

I was somewhat shocked to discover that within DEFRA there are two completely separate teams; one is working on the framework directive and the other on the Water Bill. Will the Minister tell the Committee who is the person co-ordinating the teams? I am surprised that the same team is not working on both measures.

I have asked myself why the Government have not chosen to implement the directive. Is it that they are not prepared, which having two teams may suggest? Is it that politically they do not want to include the directive in the Bill because it is complicated, or that there is a frightening effect that I do not yet understand? However, having spoken to all interested parties, I understand that it is a more cost-effective way of dealing with the management of water. Scotland has led the way in this—it has its water Act and it has already transposed the directive. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford: I support the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer. She beat us to it in tabling an amendment incorporating the directive into the Bill. Rather than having two amendments on the same directive, I am happy to support the principle of her amendment. Although I cannot anticipate his answer, I suspect that the Minister in response will say that it was all right in Scotland but it will not be appropriate for England.

I want to add to some of the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. I want to refer to several matters raised in the report of the Select Committee on the Water Framework Directive because I believe that they need to be put on the record. It is important to establish what we are talking about.

At page 13, it is clearly stated:

    "Perhaps the most important of these questions, at least initially, is that which asks what is the current state of water quality in surface and ground waters in England and Wales. Before decisions can be made about what policies are needed to meet the objectives of the Water Framework Directive, it is vital that a clear understanding is reached of the current status of these waters, as currently no comprehensive overview exists of the ecological state of waters in England and Wales".

I hope that the Minister will answer that question in his response.

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At page 22, the Select Committee deals with changes in land use. It states that limiting diffuse pollution will be a costly and expensive undertaking for industry,

    "and will impact on the agricultural industry which is already under severe pressure. It is likely to require changes in agricultural practice—perhaps even to the direction and the ethos of the CAP",

a matter which will be under consideration this summer. The report continues:

    "As such it is emblematic of the significance and wide-ranging impact of the Water Framework Directive".

Yet, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said, it is not included in the Bill.

Paragraph 57 at page 24 states that,

    "we recommend that a scientific Steering Group be set up to advise Defra and the Environment Agency on the science surrounding the Water Framework Directive".

My question to the Minister is: has it been set up? If not, why not?

Page 26 deals with resourcing. Paragraph 63 states:

    "Any failure adequately to resource the Environment Agency to perform its responsibilities under the Water Framework Directive would be wholly unacceptable".

Are the Government happy that they have put in adequate resourcing?

At page 27, it is stated:

    "We recommend that the Government examine concerns about possible conflicts of interest arising as a result of the designation of the Environment Agency as competent authority".

Later the report refers to a democratic mandate, an issue to which we shall turn later.

I move to page 31 and paragraph 78, which states:

    "In short, there is a palpable lack of urgency—perhaps even a sense of complacency—in the approach currently taken to making administrative arrangements to implement the Directive".

These are critical observations by the Select Committee.

Page 32 relates to costs and gold-plating, an issue which noble Lords often raise in the House. Paragraph 81, referring to agriculture, states that,

    "agriculture can ill-afford the significant expense that it would incur if that approach was applied to diffuse pollution. 'End-of-pipe' treatment is likely to prove expensive to water companies and their customers, and will not tackle the root of the problem".

These are important issues and I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for putting them forward today. The individual items should be discussed, rather than rushed through.

I turn to look at another piece of legislation to which the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has not referred. It is the regulations on Water Resources, England and Wales, 2003 No. 164. It was made on 30th January 2003, laid before Parliament on 31st January 2003 and comes into force on 1st April 2003. So far as I am aware, we have not debated it in the House. If I am wrong and we have done so, I apologise.

The regulation is important because it has an impact particularly on agriculture. I want to ask the Minister why, for example, at paragraph 3 is the requirement for an environmental impact assessment to be carried out only for the projects appertaining to agriculture, particularly irrigation projects. Is it because all other

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industries, interests or businesses are covered under some other heading? Why has this requirement not been included in the Bill? Why has it been separated out and why have we had no opportunity to debate it? I should be grateful for the Minister's comments on that.

Water resources are hugely important. We are anxious not only about how we use water, but about its quality. In supporting the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, in moving the amendment, I have tried to add greater body to her shorter introduction. These issues are important and the Committee needs to consider them. If one is not careful, it is easy at the beginning of the Bill to omit references to issues, particularly when the Select Committee has highlighted many of them. I look forward to hearing what other Members of the Committee and the Minister have to say.

4 p.m.

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