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Lord Howie of Troon: I did mean it. I am not up to irony. I thank my noble friend for her comments and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 [Amendments relating to section 7]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 32 and 33:

    Page 10, line 12, leave out "(5)" and insert "(6)"

    Page 10, line 13, at end insert—

"( ) In section 21 (minimum acceptable flows)—
(a) in subsection (9), the words from "and in that subsection" to the end are omitted,
(b) after subsection (9) there is added—
"(10) In subsection (5) above, the reference to land drainage includes—
(a) defence against water (including sea water), irrigation (other than spray irrigation), warping and the carrying on, for any purpose, of any other practice which involves management of the level of water in a watercourse; and
(b) the provision of flood warning systems.""

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 35:

    Page 11, line 29, at end insert—

"(8) This section is subject to section 114 of the 1995 Act (delegation or reference of appeals)."
( ) In section 114 of the Environment Act 1995 (c. 25) (power of Secretary of State to delegate or refer in connection with appeals), in subsection (2)(a)(v), for "or 191B(5)" there is substituted "191B(5) or 199A"."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.

5.15 p.m.

Clause 9 [Power to provide for further exemptions]:

The Duke of Montrose moved Amendment No. 36:

    Page 12, line 29, leave out "cumulatively with" and insert "separately from"

The noble Duke said: The amendment is in some ways a probing amendment. It would remove "be counted cumulatively with" and insert "separately from". What is meant by "cumulatively with"? Does it mean cumulatively in time or in amount? What are the possible combinations and permutations? I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: In the context of the clause, "cumulatively with" means in relation to amount. Under the clause, the Secretary of State would have the ability to make regulations to introduce further exemptions from licensing, which would lighten the regulatory burden. Those propositions could either be counted cumulatively with or separately from, so an amendment that changes one set of words for the other does not make a huge amount of difference. A particular proposition may be counted cumulatively with, in terms of calculating an amount, or it may have to be dealt with separately. The amendment, which appears to state the opposite from the Bill, does not

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alter the ability to approach each proposed new exemption on either basis. Therefore, I hope that the noble Duke will not pursue the matter.

The Duke of Montrose: It begins to sound to me as if the amendment should read both "cumulatively with" and "separately from" to cover all possibilities. However, in view of the Minister's reply, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Orders under section 33 of the WRA, etc]:

The Duke of Montrose moved Amendment No. 37:

    Page 12, line 38, after "made" insert "prior to the commencement of this section"

The noble Duke said: In moving this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 38 to 40.

The problem to which Amendment No. 37 relates is that "any order made" may refer to any tense—past, present or future. Even the Explanatory Notes do not clarify the situation. The amendment would at least identify one possible tense, as it limits the time to,

    "prior to the commencement of this section".

Will the Minister explain to us whether there are other areas in which the Government wish the clauses to have effect? My comments also cover Amendment No. 38.

Amendment No. 39 is a probing amendment. The difference in wording between subsection (4)(a) and (4)(b) needs to be explained. Does the latter mean that local and private Acts will be ignored from now on in relation to "underground strata"? Some businesses depend heavily on extraction from underground strata, and it would be detrimental to those businesses if the clause were to create uncertainty as to source of supply.

Amendment No. 40 is a probing amendment. Subsection (5) allows the Secretary of State to use the clause as authority to act as he would were he taking action under Section 27A(1) of the WRA. The subsection allows the Secretary of State to close the circle by using it to revoke something already done under Section 27A(1).

My problem may be that my brain has become waterlogged, because I live in a part of the country in which our winter rainfall has risen by 40 per cent and our overall rainfall has risen by 25 per cent, so that we are suffering from over 70 inches of rainfall per year or, in round terms, two metres plus. However, the combination of sections would almost qualify for the elimination heats for the plain English campaign. Will the noble Baroness explain the meaning?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Clause 10 gives the Secretary of State the power to remove exemption orders made under Section 33 of the Water Resources Act 1991 and to impose a threshold for abstraction licensing. It also repeals Section 33. Amendments Nos. 37 and 38 would not have any practical effect because Section 33 is to be revoked, so no new orders will be

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made anyway. Neither is it proposed to make any other orders before then. I hope that assurance satisfies the noble Duke.

The noble Duke spoke to Amendment No. 39 as a probing amendment. We welcome the way in which the amendment deals with issues that we would like to consider. It appears that the amendment would remove a limit to the application of the new clause that would make it difficult to operate the clause effectively. We shall take the amendment away and look at it.

Amendment No. 40 would set a threshold that could not be varied in future, which would seriously inhibit our ability to set an appropriate threshold for licensing in future should the availability of water reduce or, as the noble Duke said, increase as it has at times in various parts of the country.

We hope that, with those assurances, Amendments Nos. 37, 38 and 40 will not be pressed to a Division. The Government will take Amendment No. 39 away for careful consideration.

The Duke of Montrose: I thank the Minister for that reply. We are grateful for her clarification when speaking to Amendments Nos. 37 and 38. It is also useful that the Government are prepared to reconsider the subject of Amendment No. 39. I should like to read the Minister's comments on Amendment No. 40 in Hansard. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 38 to 40 not moved.]

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Who may apply for a licence]:

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 41:

    Page 14, line 9, at end insert—

"( ) he has a water efficiency programme which is regarded by the Agency as encouraging best use of the water resource;"

The noble Baroness said: The amendment would restrict those who can apply for licences to those who have an efficiency programme in place. That programme should be,

    "regarded by the Agency as encouraging best use of the water resource".

That would leave room for the programme to be proportionate, depending on the size and scale of the user. The agency has some discretion in that matter. It should be a basic requirement of licence applicants that they have some form of programme in place.

I was encouraged in my thinking on this matter when I read the "Water Efficiency Awards", published by the Environment Agency and Water UK. Those awards show what can be done when sufficient thought has been given to the matter. We have discussed horticulture and agriculture in our debate. In that context, an award was given to Osberton Grange Farms, where efficient ways were developed for watering pot-grown shrubs. That reduced water

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consumption by 60 per cent and increased profits by 20 per cent. Of course, that scheme also introduced associated environmental benefits.

On the same page of the publication, there is reference to a nursery that achieved an,

    "84 per cent reduction in mains water use through rainwater recycling".

The nursery cut its water consumption by 58 per cent an acre. The scheme improved the whole regime and the quality of the nursery's business.

The case for such programmes has been well made by those who have been motivated and brave enough and who have received awards. It should be a basic requirement of licence applicants that they produce some form of plan about how they intend to use the water efficiently. If they have nothing much in place in that regard, there might be a requirement for a year-on-year improvement. That may seem a little onerous to them in the beginning. However, the examples of businesses that have had efficiency programmes, of which I have quoted only two of many, show that considerable cost savings may result. That is what is known in the jargon as a classic win-win situation.

I remind Members of the Committee, although they may not need reminding, that under the Bill small users will be excluded completely from the abstraction requirement. The Bill applies only to larger users, which are the ones that we hope will start to consider efficiency savings. Therefore, the amendment is important. I beg to move.

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