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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendments Nos. 177 to 179:

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 180:

    Page 207, line 26, at end insert—

    "Metropolis Water Act 1852(c. 84)Section 1."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendments Nos. 181 and 182:

    Page 208, column 2, leave out lines 32 to 34.

    Page 208, line 46, at end insert—

    "National Assembly for Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 1999 (SI 1999/672)In Schedule 1, in the entry relating to the WIA— (a) in the paragraph relating to functions under sections 2, 5 (etc), the references to section 2, sections 18 to 22, sections 68 to 70, section 93A and section 205, (b) the paragraph relating to section 28(4)."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 94 [Specific transitional and transitory provisions]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 183:

    Page 118, line 7, at end insert—

"( ) Any person who—
(a) before the coming into force of any provision of this Act was not required under Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the WRA to have a licence in respect of any abstraction, but
(b) following the coming into force of this Act does require such a licence in respect of that abstraction,
shall make an application for the licence within two years of the coming into force of section 7 of this Act, and the licence will be deemed to be granted on the terms of the application until the final and lawful determination of the application."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, I formally move the amendment. It was considered worthwhile doing this in order to get the Government's reaction. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, Amendment No. 183 deals with transitional matters relating to applications that will need to be made for licences, where activities are coming under control for the first time.

What is being proposed here affects all such activities and sets out in principle what the Government intend to happen anyway. We have stated as much in Taking Water Responsibly. However, legal advice is that such matters are not necessary on the face of the Bill and that the proper

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place for these is in the transitional regulations that are provided for under Clause 95 of the Bill. I can assure noble Lords that appropriate provisions comparable to this amendment will be incorporated within transitional regulations that will be placed before Parliament in due course.

Amendment No. 185 seeks to ensure that the mining, quarrying and engineering construction industries will be included in compensation arrangements should a licence not be granted. As I said when this issue was raised in Grand Committee, where any previously exempt activity is unable to continue as a result of the introduction of any new controls by the Bill, Clause 95 already provides that regulations can deal with the payment of compensation.

We recognise that in some instances existing quarrying operations will require an abstraction licence for dewatering only once the Bill has come into force. We also recognise that under the current clause compensation may not be possible in those circumstances. We are still considering how to address this potential gap and will table a suitable amendment at Third Reading. With those reassurances, I hope that noble Lords will feel that the amendments need not be pressed tonight.

There is one other related issue to which I must draw attention. In considering the nature of the risks and harm or damage leading to what is to be classed as an "emergency abstraction" by quarries, and so on, we have identified the need to amend the provisions of Clause 7. That, in turn, has led us to consider further the scope of environmental damage in Clause 27. I take this opportunity to inform noble Lords that we shall bring forward amendments to both clauses at Third Reading.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, I can only say a very heartfelt "thank you".

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I also add my thanks.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.30 p.m.

Clause 95 [Powers to make further supplementary, consequential and transitional provision, etc]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 184:

    Page 118, line 19, after second "the" insert "Environment"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 185 not moved.]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 186:

    Page 118, line 32, after second "the" insert "Water Services Regulation"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

24 Jun 2003 : Column 279

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 187:

    After Clause 96, insert the following new clause—

Within one year of the date that this Act receives Royal Assent, the Secretary of State shall publish a draft Bill for consultation, consolidating the legislation relating to water."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we return to the issue that we raised in Committee when we stated very clearly that we were all having difficulty in working through the many Acts which have been revised along the way. Therefore, Amendment No. 187 states that, following Royal Assent, the Secretary of State will consolidate the Bill with previous water-related Acts to form a composite body of legislation on water-related topics.

On 28th May on the "PM" programme on Radio 4, it was reported that Romano Prodi had commented that the draft European constitution document was a wasted opportunity and that it was, in effect, too bland and anodyne. The programme's presenters interviewed Patricia Hewitt. They began by suggesting that those comments justified the Government's refusal to allow a referendum on the subject of the draft constitution. Miss Hewitt's response was that the draft was merely the putting together of four different treaties and that the action was "modernising" and "clarifying". Her whole attitude was that this draft represented some form of common sense and good practice.

We are led by a Government who utter "education, education, education". Another mantra is the oft-repeated one concerning "joined-up government". When the subject of consolidation of water legislation was discussed in Committee, the Minister was dismissive. He stated at col. GC 179:

    "Indeed, the convention is that the priority for consolidation Acts is determined by the Law Commission rather than by a government department".—[Official Report, 29/4/03; col. GC 179.]

This is not a government department. This is—or I hope that it will soon be proved to be—the will of the House. Anyone who has tried to follow the responses from the Benches opposite, let alone the wording of the Bill, will be only too aware of the muddle that water legislation is in already. On top of that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller said, we will have the Water Framework Directive.

The water industry is regulated by the following Acts, which are mentioned in Schedule 9 to the Bill: the Reservoirs Act 1975, the Water Act 1989, the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the Water Industry Act 1991, the Water Resources Act 1991, the Competition and Service (Utilities) Act 1992, the Environment Act 1995, the Competition Act 1998 and the Utilities Act 2000. That says nothing of the changes

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that were made in between. If one then goes through the record of changes that have been made to, for example, the 1991 Water Resources Act, one finds that it is derived from a further set of laws including the Water Act 1989, the Water Resources Acts 1963 and 1968, the Water Act 1973 and the Drought Act 1976. That is quite a mouthful. At this time of night, I say, "Well done, Hazel, for getting that mouthful together!".

That is confusing and I am glad to see that the Minister is slightly amused. Even the army of civil servants who are employed in their various ways and at different times on this Bill—we have been well supported by civil servants throughout our debates on the Bill—have found it difficult to point us quickly to the correct source or reference. I believe that it is part of our duty as a revising Chamber to ensure, so far as we are able, that the law is clear, understandable and enforceable. I cannot in all conscience say that of this body of legislation. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I am pleased to support the amendment and must say, "Well done", to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, for listing all of the Acts to which we have had to refer during the course of the Bill. Ultimately, it is not for our convenience if there is a consolidation Bill but it is very much for the convenience of the eventual users of legislation, be they industry, individuals or consumers. It would take some time and effort on the part of civil servants to consolidate the Bill but that would be a service. In this country we are not good at making our legislation comprehensible to the general public. We must improve on that; it would be extremely good if we started with water, which is of such general interest to everyone. For those reasons, I am pleased to support the amendment.

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