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Earl Peel: I, too, broadly speaking support the amendment. I do so in the context to which I drew your Lordships' attention at Second Reading. I am personally involved with a scheme in north Yorkshire on the River Ure. The original purpose of the scheme was to try to overcome what we regarded as being over-extraction of water during the summer months by Yorkshire Water. I am pleased to say that that was ultimately resolved through the good offices of the Environment Agency. On the back of that developed a programme designed to secure a more comprehensive structure of the river catchment area that would deal not only with the question of water supply and water quality, but also of the surrounding land with all the conservation and environmental implications.
Through the Environment Agency, we identified the main problem areas and how best they could be tackledin theory, at any rategiven the various schemes and resources and funding that were available. But there were too many voids, so it was abundantly clear to us that such a scheme was unlikely to work successfully given the conditions at the time.
Somewhat inevitably, we hit major snags. One of our major objectives was to try to secure a project manager. That was clearly essential if the project were to be taken forward in a cohesive and effective way. I suspect that that has not come about simply through there being a lack of funds available to the Environment Agency.
One helpful development was that we commissioned the services of a local ecologist and his equally well-qualified wife to undertake a full survey of the wildlife of the river, which I believed would provide a useful baseline in order to establish any future trends in the river's ecological status. Surely, that should be undertaken in all river systems if we are to be able to understand the changes that are likely to take place in future.
I bring the case forward as an example of a well-intentioned scheme, which is struggling through a lack of co-ordination and the inability readily to identify sources of finance. There was a great willingness to succeed, but the whole scheme needs lifting to a higher plane, with the proper enabling framework.
I appreciate that it is the Government's view that the Water Resources Act 1991 gives a wide range of powers to the Environment Agency, including the control over water abstraction from rivers. I also believe that the Environment Agency has powers to instigate the baseline monitoring of river systems. However, I should be most grateful if the Minister could explain whether this is a statutory obligation or simply a power and the extent to which it is occurring, or will occur, throughout the river catchment areas of England.
Will the Minister also explain whether it is the Government's intention to see such monitoring schemes being translated into action, thus ensuring that comprehensive river basin management schemes are put in place to ensure that each system has a good supply of water, both in terms of quality and quantity? The important point I want to make is that that should be accompanied by environmentally sympathetic land management schemes.
I am aware of the all-embracing objectives of the Water Framework Directive to which the amendment refers and the high degree of subsidiarity attached to it. That is a welcome change among most European directives. But the question remains: will the Government be able to achieve a comprehensive river catchment management system through a combination of this legislation, previous legislation and the Water Framework Directive?
I therefore welcome Article 14 of the directive that requires that members states shall encourage the active involvement of all interested parties in its implementation, in particular the production, review and updating of the river basin management plans. But can the Government genuinely meet these objectives through regulations? Does the Environment Agency have the power to enter into management agreements with owners and occupiers? If not, I do not see how proper catchment area management will be achieved.
Furthermore, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, that I am not certain that Amendment No. 1 addresses the issue. I hope she will say that it does, but I am not entirely certain. And inevitably, I must ask: will the resources be made available for such a national undertaking?
I therefore hope that the Minister will be able to assure me that at the end of debates on the Bill we will have in place a scheme which will be able to deliver the kind of requirements I have outlined.
Lord Carter: I want to speak briefly not about the merits of the argument but about the words "General purpose of this Part". This is a purpose clauseonly for this part of the Bill and obviously not for the whole Bill. However, over the years, there has been long debate on such clauses, which were used a great deal. Gradually, they have fallen into disuse because they can lead to many legal problems on interpretation.
The noble Baroness should bear that in mind when considering the proposal. In laying down the purpose, it must be absolutely right because there could be much debate about the meaning of the various words used. I shall also be interested to hear from my noble friend whether having this purpose for this part of the Bill will have any effect on the rest of the Bill.
The Duke of Montrose: I, too, want to speak briefly in support of the amendment. The Bill covers regulation of quantity rather than regulation of quality of water. It would be good if a larger emphasis could be put on quality, a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. Because we are dealing with water, one has a vital link with the other: the more concentrated the water becomes, the worse the pollution.
The Water Framework Directive contains a logic which I like and it would be nice if our legislation followed the same pattern. It first sets the standards for water; it then sets out regulation for discharges of polluting substances; and then goes on to ensure that the rates of extraction are sustainable.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, mentioned, the Scottish Parliament has passed the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003. Interestingly, that is enabling legislation which will be followed by subordinate legislation. The question being asked earlier was whether we have the legislative framework to which the secondary legislation that is being proposed will be attached. I should be interested to hear to which part of our legislation it will be attached.
My noble friend Lord Peel mentioned the problem of how one will designate the responsible agency. It seems we shall run into an additional problem. Even in the second consultation paper on the Water Framework Directive, the issue of the cross-Border river basin districts has not been resolved. Who does
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for moving the amendment. I am even more grateful that she did not read out the whole of the Select Committee's report. We are faced with the basic question. These amendments propose that we can depart from our basic procedure and transpose directives from the EU by primary legislation. That is not unprecedented but it is unusual.
The key issue today is not whether the Water Framework Directive is desirablemost contributions indicate that it isbut whether we should give it legal effect via the Bill or follow our intention to do so by secondary legislation under the European Communities Act 1972. That is the normal way of doing so and we have already begun the consultation period.
A number of noble Lords raised the matter at Second Reading and I wrote to them. Following the example of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, I shall not read out the letter, compelling though it is. Part of the issue is that some of the directive already exists in English and Welsh legislation. Some of the existing legal framework therefore already exists for the transposition of the directive and some of the provisions in this Bill will help the transposition. However, other parts can be transposed in the normal way and some may not be transposed even were the amendment to be accepted. Although in moving the amendment it has been stated that it will put the framework directive into primary legislation, in practice it will not.
I want to return to the position on process. We have already carried out two major consultations on transposition of the directive and a third is planned this year. In that third phase, we will want to put forward the proposed draft regulations and an updated regulatory impact assessment. In relation to the first consultation, we asked for views on precisely the issues raised by the amendments and our use of secondary legislation. Responses to that consultation generally supported our approach.
My noble friend Lord Carter has asked whether a purpose clause is appropriate here. The purpose as described in the amendments would not be fully carried out. Because one would not be transposing the totality of the directive, it is a flawed purpose clause. However, it also raises general issues to which my noble friend referred.
That has allowed us to have a debate on the provisions of the directive and it has raised a number of related issues, some of which are raised in the Select Committee report. On the central issue, the report is rather tentative on primary and secondary legislation and does not come down in favour of either route. While it raises the issue, Members of the Committee cannot call it in support of what they propose in these amendments. However, it makes recommendations about assessing the legislative implications of the
A number of related issues were raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, raised the issue of joined-up DEFRA; whether people working on the Water Framework Directive and people working on this Bill are sufficiently cohesive. The answer is that they are. They are working on the same policy structure and they actually sit next to each other in the same offices in the department. In terms of ministerial responsibility, they are all accountable to my colleague Elliot Morley for delivering water policy in general. I do not believe that that is an issue. They deliver different aspects of the same policy in different ways.
The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, raised the issue of whether we should start from an assessment. I believe that the noble Earl, Lord Peel, also wondered whether we should start from an assessment of the status of water. The directive requires us to do that by 2004, to monitor it through to 2006 and at various stages to set objectives through to 2008. That is all in the directive and it will be transposed from the directive, but it is not appropriate to deal with that within the scope of the Bill because it can be dealt with in normal transposition. Nor is it the intention of the Government to gold-plate that transposition, unless there are circumstances of which I am not yet aware, where the benefits hugely outweigh the costs of such gold plating.
A number of other issues were raised in relation to the approach to water management and water quality. Many of the water quality requirements and procedures, referred to in the directive, are already provided for in earlier legislation. Therefore, the Bill is primarily about quantity and quantity controls and the way in which we approach those matters. This is not the place to deliver the precise management structure operated by the Environment Agency and other agencies, but the combination of the Bill, existing legislation and the regulations that are to be transposed will give the basis for comprehensive management as required by the directive and as referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Peel. To develop comprehensive river catchment management is a big challenge. We certainly intend to go down that road. There are technical and operational challenges to be faced to take us up to 2015 and beyond.
Baroness O'Cathain: As I understand the position, the Minister is suggesting that we do not need the Water Framework Directive in the Bill. However, in simple terms he is saying that we shall have the new Water Bill, the Water Framework Directive and the other regulations. One point made in the EFRA Select Committee report was that it recommends that DEFRA should take action on engaging the public in the Water Framework Directive. It recommends that DEFRA should involve local government and industry in discussions on the implications of the Water Framework Directive. In effect, it says that it should have the widest possible exposure so that not
It seems to me that this will be extremely complex. If one wants to achieve greater comprehension of all the long-term needs and structure of the industry, surely there is greater merit in doing precisely what the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has suggested, as supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford; in other words, try to sort out the situation in one go. Or am I completely wrong?
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