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Earl Peel: I am not certain where the figure of 12 years came from. It may be a recommendation that emanated from some government advisory document.

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I suggest that, if 12 years is written down somewhere, it should be removed, and some flexibility should be built into the guidelines.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I believe that it is two review periods that are indicated. As I said, there is enormous scope for variation in the licences issued. Each case must be considered on its merits.

Earl Peel: I accept that, but the point that I am trying to make is that the flexibility on which the noble Baroness puts such stress—I concur with that—is being undermined by the figure of 12 years that seems to have emerged. We seem to be getting stuck on it. Can the noble Baroness assure us that that figure can be eliminated?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: There must be a deemed review period, in order for people to have a working strategy. There is enormous value in not going through the Bill and trying to dot every "i" and cross every "t", which is what would happen if there were a presumption of a fixed term for all types of licence or for all types of licence in a particular area, such as quarrying.

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: Before the noble Baroness sits down, I wish to press her on my question about the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Howie. If a quarry is granted planning permission for the extraction of a certain volume of minerals where the work might continue for 20 years but, say, 12 years later it has its application for an abstraction licence denied and cannot extract the material for the remaining eight years, who is liable to pay compensation?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Obviously, it comes from the pool of money available from the proceeds of abstraction. Such a situation would occur where there has been a radical change in water availability. A refusal of permission to continue abstraction would not be an arbitrary decision. An abstraction licence would be refused because the impact of changes to the water resource in the locality was so great that the quarry could be denying any water at all to others with abstraction rights.

Lord Howie of Troon: I am grateful to my noble friend for her kind remarks and for her invitation to return to the Committee. I have tabled further amendments, so I shall return. It will be interesting to hear the diversity of views. But the Minister must realise that I have been in the Labour Party for 50 years and am quite used to a diversity of views. I have seldom heard anything else, so there is nothing new in that.

I take some encouragement from what the Minister says, but I impress upon her that water abstraction in quarrying is different from water supply. I assume, therefore, that the Environment Agency, which has kindly been in attendance throughout, will observe the

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difference. When the agency grants licences with the flexibility that my noble friend mentions, she will realise that the difference is acute.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I would not like my noble friend to interpret my remarks as meaning anything other than that the Environment Agency must have regard to all the individual factors on a case-by-case basis. There may be occasions when the inference drawn by my noble friend is deemed correct; equally, there may be instances when it is not.

Baroness O'Cathain: I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Howie, that he should not think that he will sleep well over the next few weeks. He ought to go further into the Bill, where he will find that there are many other problems. I support his points, but I also support those of the Environment Agency. There are ways and means of getting over the problem. We are talking about sustainable development, environmental impact and all such issues, but sometimes we cannot see the wood for the trees. The situation is not as easy as the noble Lord says. I do not think that he has received any sort of satisfaction from the Minister.

Lord Howie of Troon: Sometimes you cannot see the trees for the wood.

Baroness Byford: I thank everyone who contributed to this crucial debate. On a lighter note, the Minister said that it was interesting to hear many differing views from all sides of the Committee—that is what democracy is supposed to be about. The Minister did not suggest otherwise, but the comment made me smile wryly, because that is exactly why we are here.

It is lovely to see the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, in his place. The Committee was aware that he could not attend our deliberations last week. He highlighted a problem mentioned by other noble Lords—a lack of willingness to invest if the time-scale is too short. The noble Baroness said that she felt there was no need for that consideration because there was a presumption of renewal. If there is such a presumption, it should be in the Bill. If the Government are not willing to include it, I, and, I suspect, many other noble Lords, would infer that there must be some reason for its absence. I wish to establish that immediately.

The question of whether the period is 25 years, 15 years or whatever is important to different industries, as we discussed. I am sure that the Environment Agency will take that into account. I support the suggestion of several noble Lords that a degree of flexibility is needed. However, the Committee faces the challenge of writing into the Bill provision for flexibility on the one hand and long-term investment on the other. We shall definitely return to the issue on Report. It is important to realise that certain industries require longer-term investment. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howie. We reflected during our deliberations last week that planning permission and licensing for quarries is perhaps a sensible approach. It may well be the same for water companies, but I do not wish to deal with specific areas at this stage.

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Everyone who spoke agreed that the timescale was a problem. The Minister acknowledged that also, but she said that a presumption of renewal was already taken into account. Most members on all sides of the Committee would like to see that written into the Bill. If the Committee could divide, I would ask that it do so on this amendment. The wording may not be perfect, but the principle has been established today and was reflected last week. I hope that the Government will think about the amendments and return on Report with a way to meet the concerns that were so clearly expressed.

On the 12-year licence, no Member on this side of the Committee questions the requirement of the need to review. Nobody objects to a six-year renewal period or whatever it is. But, within that, there is no use in creating uncertainty. It may be pointed out to a company in the review that there is a growing concern about water availability or climatic change, for example. But businesses must be able to make long-term plans. I hope that I have reflected that clearly. My noble friend Lord Peel and others rightly said that flexibility was needed.

The most important aspect to emerge from the discussions on these amendments is timescale. A balance must be struck as regards what is possible or what is not possible. I have not seen anything written down, as far as the Government are concerned, to suggest that they are looking at 12 years. But the difficulty is that "12 years" has been picked up in the general domain and therefore people and businesses are looking for a 12-year cycle. So if the Minister could in some way clarify that there is nothing about 12 years, that would be sensible and would, as I hope that I have indicated, show that there is a degree of flexibility and an acknowledgement that reviews need to be held.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I stress that 12 years is not fixed—other periods are allowed. I hope that that reassures people.

Baroness Byford: It is immensely helpful to have that recorded again. I hope that the Government will look at the amendments to see whether they can return on Report with suitable words to reflect the concerns expressed by the Committee. We seek a common-sense ability for long-term investment, a degree of flexibility for those who do not require as long a period as others, and a presumption in favour of renewal. Had I not had a more satisfactory answer from the Minister, and if the Committee could divide, I would have called for a Division on this amendment. I will be grateful if those few words spur the Government to meet some of our concerns. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth moved Amendment No. 49:

    Page 19, line 7, at end insert—

"(4) In subsection (3) after paragraph (b) there is inserted "; and
(c) meeting the established needs of abstractors not previously subject to licensing.".""

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The noble Lord said: We wish to know whether businesses and users not subject to licensing at present can expect, when granted a licence, to have their established needs met. Trickle irrigation is an example. The Bill does not appear to specify the whole gamut of abstractors to be brought into the licensing system. Many affected businesses have made investments and use specific amounts of water to sustain their businesses. If the quantity of water that businesses may use is reduced their viability may be adversely affected. Will the Minister publish a list of abstractors who will be brought into the purview of the Bill? I beg to move.

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