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Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, first I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, for her support. We are both of the same view that there is a problem with water scarcity and that the safety net must be in place for disadvantaged people.
If I have made a classic mistake in thinking that this provision was included in the legislation rather than set out in regulations, then I apologise. However, I was not aware that that was so. It is not a case of my being a Janus, looking in two directions at the same time. The whole point of the amendment is to address the importance of ensuring that we achieve the best possible management of scarce water resources.
I hope that I can take the hint, the coded message, from the Minister saying that there might be a warmer acceptance of the proposal in another place. At this point I certainly do not intend to divide the House, but I shall take the helpful suggestion from the Minister that I should get in touch with my colleagues in another place and hope that they may progress the matter there. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment and Amendment No. 40 relate to a significant matter which we have already debated in various forms; that is, the need for very long-term planning in the provision of water resources and in particular the need for long-term investment.
I can best illustrate this by citing two examples which may be coincidental. The first refers to the designs of the Minister's right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister for the Thames Gateway and Essex area to have another 200,000 houses. Unquestionably those houses can be provided and to my mind they can be supplied with waterbut not, of course, from the existing provision of resources and arrangements.
I have before me a different study dealing with the expansion of Stansted airport. I cite it because it relates to Stansted, but the implications are probably similar, although they may vary somewhat in degree depending on where the airport decisions are taken. I say that because there may be a greater pool of existing housing at Heathrow, which would help. This study, a serious undertaking backed in part by the studies already completed in relation to airports in the South East, although it takes into account certain other factors, postulates that if Stansted 4that is, Stansted airport with four runwaysis constructed, it would give rise to 128,000 additional houses.
Of course this may be a classic example of joined-up government for once. It may be that the Minister's right honourable friend in another place was anticipating something when he came up with his figure, although he could not say why he had arrived at it. That would be a very fortunate coincidence. However, the Department for Transport has not yet taken any decisions on airports, so we have to assume that these may be separate matters.
This clause deals with the preparation and review of water resources management plans. The important point I seek to make in tabling this amendment is to add two paragraphs to subsection (7). The subsection states that:
The planning period for approved development plans as they exist, or for the approved structure plans as they exist, takes us up to something like 2011. One more review periodanother five yearswill take us up to around 2015. But given all the time that it takes to prepare for public consultation, to obtain planning permission and to get structures into place, the planning period needed for a major water infrastructure development is probably in excess of 20 years.
I accept that we do not yet have a decision in regard to the airports in the South Eastalthough one may be arrived at fairly soon. The Minister may well argue that I am baying at the moon, but you cannot begin to
This is an important amendment. The Minister may be able to reassure me in his response that he has this kind of period in mind. I am prepared to accept that there may be a degree of uncertainty about some of these matters at the present time, but we know that really major development in the South East will occur. We do not make good use of our water resources in this countryas I have said before, we use quite a small proportion of the water which falls in Englandalbeit areas such as the South East, which are much more densely populated, have a more acute problem and make much better use of their water resources.
If the water problems are to be solvedI am absolutely confident in my own mind that they can be solvedwe will need a long planning period in which to solve them. That brings me back to the issue of water resources management plans and ensuring that they are based on a sufficiently long period to enable us to deal with the major projects that are bound to go ahead as far as one can see. There may be some dispute about the scale and we may make a mistake with over-provision of water resources that may cost water consumers a little, but I have always argued that that will not matter half as much as if we fail to provide adequate resources and these developments are constrained or have to take place in an environment where water is severely restricted. That is a sufficiently strong argument for suggesting the 25-year period.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Lord is right. Potential large developments such as the Thames Gateway and the various options on the airports will place huge requirements on water resources and need to be taken into account. But the first amendment is too rigid. It effectively states that the planning period, which currently is normally 25 years on a non-statutory basis, would never be less than 25 years. I believe that, in certain circumstancespartly because of the uncertainty of the futurewe could need a shorter planning period in relation to a particular area or a particular development. I would not like to be tied down to that degree.
Moreover, the government amendment we have already discussed but not yet reached, Amendment No. 41, places on all statutory bodies a statutory duty to take into account water resources. That obviously includes all planning authorities, including government departments, involved with such large-scale developments. Therefore, the noble Lord's
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, if this was an earlier stage of the Bill, I would be very happy with that reply; I would say that I would take it away and study it and perhaps come back at a later stage. We do not have that happy option, however, so although I think I am reassured, the amendments are down in part to make sure that the point is taken, particularly by the Government. I think I have succeeded in that ambition at least. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"WATER CONSERVATION BY PUBLIC AUTHORITIES
(1) In exercising its functions and conducting its affairs, each public authority shall take into account, where relevant, the desirability of conserving water supplied to premises.
(2) In subsection (1), "public authority" means any of the following
(a) a Minister of the Crown (within the meaning of the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975 (c. 26)),
(b) a Government department,
(c) the Assembly,
(d) a local authority (within the meaning of section 270(1) of the Local Government Act 1972 (c. 70)),
(e) a person holding an office
(i) under the Crown,
(ii) created or continued in existence by a public general Act, or
(iii) the remuneration in respect of which is paid out of money provided by Parliament,
(f) a statutory undertaker (being any person who, by virtue of section 262 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (c. 8) is a statutory undertaker for any purpose), and
(g) any other public body of any description."