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Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, following on from my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smithhe highlights how complicated this matter isI want to put a couple of points to the Minister. First, does any issue in this clause or in the Bill require legislation in Scotland? The Scottish Executive seems to have been notoriously sluggish in carrying out legislation that affects Scotland when it also affects England and Wales. This can be noted particularly over foot and mouth. I do not know what happened in Edinburgh today. There is an argument about GM crops, that the Government have consulted and have taken steps to allow limited development in England, whereas the Scots have not yet agreed except on a voluntary basis. We will vote on it today. Much depended on whether the Liberal Democrats were going to support the Scottish Executive, because they seem to be doing so in Scotland if they disagree here at Westminster.
My second point, which follows on from that, is on the word "consultation", which is in Amendment No. 24 and elsewhere in these amendments, which I am glad that the Minister has put before the House. How far does consultation mean agreement? As the Bill is written at the moment, Ministers in England could inform Scottish Ministers what they intended to do, and could go ahead and do it. Does the Scottish Executive have a veto, or must agreement be involved? If so, why is the reference only to consultation and not also to agreement? We want to be clear on these points, because it is amazing how simple things like this can
Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, like those noble Lords who have already spoken in this debate, I acknowledge the extraordinary complexity of the devolved arrangements. I simply wish to ask not how the Minister's conclusions have been arrived at, but what the practical impact is, particularly on the authority, if any, of the regulatory bodies in Scotland that are answerable to the Executive and not to the Secretary of State. I have in mind particularly the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as I indicated in my opening contribution, the issues are somewhat complex, and therefore I will have considerable difficulty in replying to the contributions that have been made in this short debate and in maintaining clarity. I will deal with the points of clarity first, and then I will try to meet some of the more difficult points later.
The question of consultation is obvious and best exemplified by the amendment that is concerned with the annual report. Consultation means consultation. It does not mean that the other side has a veto. It means that Scottish Ministers will be consulted about what should be contained in the eventual annual report. They do not have a veto on it, because they do not have parallel powers to the Secretary of State in that area. It makes sense that they should be consulted, and that is what the consultation areas of these amendments refer to.
Where the issues become more difficult is that the Scottish Administration, and the Scottish Parliament, have powers. We recognise that they have powers with regard to environmental protection. It would have been an odd state of devolution if we devolved issues to Scotland but we had not devolved environmental issues, so of course they have responsibilities with regard to the environment. The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, earlier invited me to consider the future of the community around Dounreay. The Scottish Administration and the Scottish Parliament will have considerable views on
Clearly there are powers for the Scottish administration there, and these powers need to be taken into account and recognised by the NDA when it is involved in its crucial decisions on national policy. All that I sought to emphasise in the amendments that I have spoken to in this short debate is that in areas where it is appropriate that consultations should take place, the amendments will ensure that they do so; and in areas where there are Scottish powers, then those issues for which the NDA is responsible will need to take account of where the boundary is between its powers and those properly devolved to Scotland in the 1998 Act.
The purpose of these amendments was to give effect to what the whole House will recognise as detailed and complex discussions over a number of months, so that we could arrive at this position on Report which was not previously the case. I could not give these answers in Committee but am in a position to do so now. The interests of Scotland need to be properly taken into account so that it is satisfied, while at the same time we reassure the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, that the broad thrust of this policyas he will recogniseis overwhelmingly a government policy which covers the whole of the United Kingdom.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, it is not the direction of government policy that concerns me; it is the direction of the construction of Clause 9(4). With respect to the Minister, he has not really answered that point. He might prefer to leave that to Third Reading when he will see with even greater claritybecause, by then, his amendments will all be on the face of the Billthat those particular words are unnecessary.
These amendments are a direct response to requests from noble Lords opposite to raise the profile of the environment in the NDA's responsibilities, particularly in the localities. Specifically, they emphasise that its function in encouraging and supporting activities that would benefit the social and economic life of local communities could be extended and include activities that would bring environmental benefits.
The Government recognise the concerns expressed in Committee, particularly by the Liberal Democrat Benches, that this was not clear and that it was important that projects for environmental benefits were included. We understand those concerns and that, on reflection, it would be useful to add that to the Bill. Therefore, Amendment No. 11 addresses that issue in Clause 7. The subsequent amendments are
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for bringing forward amendments which answer our question as to whether communities around stations to be decommissioned should be able to profit from environmental projects that are grant aided by the NDA, as well as social and economic ones. It is a particular pleasure to be able to agree with him today on something. I am very grateful.
"( ) The Secretary of State must also consult the Scottish Ministers before approving anything relating to proposals for the non-processing treatment, the storage or the disposal of hazardous materials if it appears to him that the proposals would have an effect (notwithstanding that they relate only to England and Wales)
(a) on the management of hazardous materials located in Scotland; or
(b) on the use of a site in England and Wales for the non-processing treatment, the storage or the disposal of hazardous materials that could be brought to that site from Scotland."
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