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Lord Whitty: We are already involved in a substantial exercise of engaging the public in consultation on the transposition of the directive in relation to some of the procedures leading to the Bill. Also the Environment Agency is developing a public participation strategy and we are setting up a stakeholder communication group on the totality of water strategy. That will pave the way for developing effective ways of engaging people at the catchment area or river basin level. I agree entirely with the Select Committee that that is a desirable process.

However, the noble Baroness and the amendments jump from there to saying that while we need to engage people in the comprehensive basis of what we are doing about water management, which I accept, we also need a single piece of legislation that covers all those aspects. Effectively that would mean producing a consolidated Bill that includes all the regulations, all the old legislation and all new legislation. No doubt that would detain us in Grand Committee in the Moses Room for considerably longer than the five days allocated for this Bill.

Given that much of that legislation already exists, we are consulting on much of the legislation coming from the directive. We have a perfectly adequate way of transposing that—as we normally do. The amendment suggests a novel way of dealing with a European directive and a novel way of dealing with policy. Whether ideal or not, almost every area of public policy has different pieces of legislation, of whatever status, and at the same time extant. Were the Committee and its equivalent to spend their time trying to consolidate everything, we would lose focus and not be able to make changes that are imposed upon us by the environmental challenges or by European directives.

Moving away from the procedure on environmental directives and other directives for their transposition under the European Communities Act would be a difficult step for Parliament to take. I accept some of the criticisms of the inadequacy of scrutiny, but there are some aspects of primary legislation that may not be scrutinised in the most optimal way. I believe that people understand that. People have to apply the legislation and those affected by it understand that once we have a European directive, it is transposed in a particular way into UK legislation.

There are exceptions to that but in the amendment the noble Baroness suggests that the totality of water legislation, past and present, should be before us today

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in a single Bill. That would be a novel and a rather over-radical change in the procedure of the House and of Parliament as a whole and would seriously delay some aspects of the transposition of what is desirable in the European directive.

Other issues were raised, such as the resources that the Environment Agency has to deliver its part of the Bill and related matters. There has been a significant increase in the resources available to the Environment Agency. The figure has risen from 620 million in 1999 to just short of 800 million this year. The grant in aid from the department has increased from 103.7 in 1999 to 116.7 in 2002–03 and a proposed increase for next year will bring it up to 128.4 million. That is in recognition of a number of additional obligations that have been imposed on the Environment Agency and against a background of other areas of DEFRA and government expenditure not receiving anything like that degree of support.

In addition to references to the Select Committee and its rather tentative conclusions, there is also a reference to Scotland. Unlike some noble Lords, I am always willing to learn from Scottish examples, and sometimes they are good examples. In this respect, Scotland started from a different starting point. The structure of the water industry is entirely different in Scotland—effectively it is still in public ownership—and the state of legislation in Scotland is entirely different. Prior to the new Scottish Act, for example, the powers to control abstraction in Scotland were extremely limited. In a sense that reflects the climatological situation in Scotland, but our framework is much more developed than the pre-existing framework in Scotland. In addition, the Scottish Act does not put everything into primary legislation; substantial aspects of it are being dealt with in the Scottish Parliament by secondary legislation.

I do not believe that we can point to the Scottish example as being the one to follow here in the sense that the amendments suggest. Therefore, while we have had an interesting debate—no doubt the issue of the Water Framework Directive will rightly be touched on at various stages during our deliberation—I urge the noble Baroness not to return to this procedure. It would set an undesirable precedent and it is not the most appropriate way of dealing with the various requirements of water management with which the directive and environmental challenges present us.

Earl Peel: I took heart from the Minister's commitment that the Government intend to go down the route of river basin management schemes, although I find the timescale rather distressing. If such management schemes are to be effective, clearly they will require a certain amount of land management negotiation. Water quality and water quantity are inevitably tied up with the management of the land within the river catchment areas. Who will negotiate with the landowners and the farmers, if that is necessary—in many cases it will be necessary—and who will have the responsibility and the power to enter

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into the management agreements? Without that, I do not understand how there will be effective river basin management schemes.

Lord Whitty: The Environment Agency would be the strategic body bringing together all the interests. Some of the arrangements may be between the water companies and the landowners and some between the Environment Agency and the landowners, or between different landowners and other users of water. The strategic and catalytic role would be played by the Environment Agency.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: On the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Peel, many of the provisions required to implement the Water Framework Directive have nothing to do with water; they concern land management and development in the widest sense, including planning, agriculture, forestry and a huge range of issues. If we were to bring all those points into a Bill called the "Water Bill", that may be a step further than the Minister has indicated. I would be interested to hear his reason.

Lord Whitty: The noble Baroness and the noble Earl are right. But there are many matters outside the direct area of water management—what the water companies and the owners of water do—that will affect the way in which we fulfil the responsibilities under the Water Framework Directive. I do not believe that either the noble Earl or I were suggesting that the Environment Agency should have total planning control over all those activities. I am unsure whether the noble Baroness will be relieved or disappointed about that. We are talking of bringing together the various forces that give a coherent way of managing particular water basin and river catchment areas. In most circumstances, the Environment Agency would have a lead role in such a situation, but it would not have a management or a direct regulatory role.

4.30 p.m.

Earl Peel: When I next stand in Masham town hall, in front of those who are interested in bringing together the River Ure management scheme, what am I to say? I shall tell them that the Minister has said that the Environment Agency may have a role; that it may do this and it may do that. Among a whole range of people there is a great willingness to bring the situation together in an effective way. I do not expect the Minister to answer me now, but perhaps in writing he could explain how best such a scheme could effectively be administered and taken forward. There is a great willingness among people to do it, but there is a lack of steerage and, at times, commitment. Unquestionably there appears to be a lack of responsibility.

Baroness Byford: I shall respond to a couple of comments made by the Minister and then I shall ask him to answer some questions that I put to him. Returning to the secondary legislation issue, the Minister said that the Select Committee report did not say that primary legislation was essential. He

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mentioned that it was a possibility. The report stated quite clearly that until the administrative arrangements which will enable the Environment Agency to function as the constant authority have been properly explored, DEFRA cannot be certain that primary legislation is not required. That is what the committee said. I cannot agree or disagree with that. That is what the report says and I think the Minister is pushing that statement away a little too quickly. That is unlike him, because normally he is very generous.

The Minister said that a third stage of consultation is taking place later this year. When will that end and when shall we have a response to the consultation? If it does not happen until later in the year, we may not receive the results until next year, and the time for the directive will have overrun and the Bill will have completed its passage through the House.

I ask the Minister to think seriously about the important point made by my noble friend Lady O'Cathain that people should be made more aware. Clearly people should be brought into this process and should have better information. I record my thanks to the Minister for eventually helping us to find our way through four Acts. It was nearly impossible. Many noble Lords may wonder why we have tabled certain amendments, but they were tabled to find out certain matters. I am sure it was a challenge to the Government as well.

If it is said that the Government want the general public to understand and to take part in the system, the public will not wade through four Acts and try to look at Butterworth. My noble friend has raised an important point that I hope the Minister will address with greater seriousness than he may at the moment feel is necessary.

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, said that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, may have difficulties with her amendment as it stands. I do not believe that that detracts from what she is trying to achieve. It would be wrong of me to put words into her mouth, but she may want to reconsider it. I hope that this debate will add to what she is hoping to achieve.

I want to raise two other matters with the Minister. The Minister answered the first question raised by my noble friend the Duke of Montrose, but not the question of cross-river basin management. I would be glad if he would do so. And I did not receive a response on the Water Resources, England and Wales, statutory instrument, 2003, No. 164, to which I referred in great detail. Perhaps the Minister could respond to those points. In that document it clearly states that some small changes may take place and an environmental assessment will be carried out on all agricultural projects. The Environment Agency will judge whether it is likely to have a significant effect on the environment. I would like such matters clarified because they are not in the Bill.

The NFU is anxious to give guidance to its members on the regulations that take effect from 1st April, which is not many days away. The Minister did not respond to that. Could he also mention the cost of the impact on trickle irrigation?

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I also understand that there is a slight change in statutory instrument No. 164 of 2003. My understanding is—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—that originally it did not include areas of less than one hectare. One hectare does not sound much, but it is two-and-a-half acres. One can carry out a lot of horticulture on two-and-a-half acres. I believe it slipped the Minister's mind to answer my question on statutory instrument No. 164.

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