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which is qualified by the word "harmful". What is that qualification expected to achieve? All it can do is exclude. There must be some contamination which, although it threatens serious damage to the environment, because it is caused by a "harmless" biological agent, it is intended to exclude by that word. I do not see that that word has any function except to raise doubts.
is threatening serious damage, by definition, it is harmful. The word "harmful" is not needed. It merely implies that there are some forms of contamination that threaten serious damage which are to be excluded from the Billnot that I can imagine what they are.
Amendment No. 3 would remove the word "oil". Oil is a chemical; it is subsumed in the word "chemical". I do not see a need for it to be separate. What is an oil anyway? What is the definition of oil that the noble Lord is using? Does he merely mean a liquid and relatively inert hydrocarbon? What is the difference between oil and wax under that definition? It seems entirely irrelevant to have it there. Any oil is a chemical. Again, it merely creates confusion having it in the Bill.
Lord Monson: My Lords, there is a lot of sense in the amendment. After all, the famous European wine lake may not be very drinkable, but I doubt that it is harmful. Nevertheless, it could cause a great deal of environmental damage if it burst its banks or if millions of litres seeped out from storage tanks. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has a good case.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I merely want to reiterate the same point. The word "harmful" is dependent on where a particular product occurs. Of course, the classic is yeast. Yeast in bread is wonderful and a great help to the quality of the bread, but a few yeast particles in a bottle of wine will ruin it as quickly as anything.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, picking up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, at the start of his remarks, I agree that oil is a chemical matter. However, we consider that there is merit in specifying oil in its own right in Clause 1(3)(a)(ii) rather than relying on the reference to "harmful . . . chemical . . . matter" in sub-paragraph (i) because oil is capable of posing a threat to the environment. It does not make sense to try to distinguish harmful oils from safe ones since I think that we can accept the potential for all
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forms of oil to be harmful under certain circumstances. While I hear what the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, says, even olive oil could pose a threat.
What determines whether an oil spillage actually does pose a threat of serious damage to the environment is the circumstance of the spillhow much oil is spilt, the location, the weather conditions at the time and so on. Rather than refer to "harmful" oil, we think that it is clearer and more helpful to responders if we refer simply to "oil". This does not mean that every oil spill will be an emergency. An oil spill will be an emergency only if it threatens serious damage to the environment.
The same is not true of other classes of chemicals. There will be cases where contamination with a chemical substance would not be capable of posing a threat to the environment. A spill from a water tanker would not do any damage and so things of that sort would not be covered. But we think there is merit in separating out "oil" and that it would be wise to retain the wording as it stands.
I appreciate the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, to keep things simple and strip out words when they are not entirely necessary, but under the circumstances, and given how the legislation has been drafted, the logic of the Bill suggests that we should leave the wording as it is.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, the noble Lord argues against himself in defending the sub-paragraphs. His arguments are logically inconsistent. Whatever its definition, nothing separates oil from any other class of chemical or biological matter. In some circumstances oil will be harmful and in others it will not. That is what is governed by Clause 1(1)(b). Because we are governed by that, we are talking about a harmful substance that is threatening serious damage to the environment. It would have to be harmful. The word "harmful" is the qualifier here and has no function, so oil does not need to be excluded from "harmful" because I do not want that word anyway. If oil needs to be excluded from the qualifier "harmful", so do many other things.
Farmers spread vast quantities of sewage on their land. Under those circumstances, the contamination of land with sewage is not harmful. If you did the same over Milton Keynes, it might be considered harmfulor might not. However, all this structure does is to create confusion; it does not alter the breadth of the legislation in any way.
( ) consult with voluntary organisations through the development of plans maintained under paragraphs (c) and (d) to such extent and in such manner as a person or body listed in Part 1 or 2 of Schedule 1 shall think fit."
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 6, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 41 and 42. The House will recognise these amendments from the Committee stage, when many noble Lords spoke on this subject. I said then and I say again now that Members on these Benches think it wrong that currently the Bill does not refer to voluntary sector organisations with regard to consultation. We were determined to correct this situation.
At this stage it would be otiose to repeat what has been said by many noble Lords about the fantastic work undertaken on a daily basis by our voluntary organisations. That was made clear in our debate on 15 September. Their work is enormously valued and highly regarded both in your Lordships' House and by all outside. Perhaps I read too much into what the Minister said at Second Reading and repeated in Committee. However, I felt then and continue to feel that there is a problem here in that voluntary organisations seem to be considered somewhat less than professional. However, noble Lords have succeeded brilliantly in illustrating the extent to which the voluntary sector is very professional, although people can mistake something that is voluntary for something that is amateur. I believe that our debate put that idea straight, and I wanted to ensure that it was put on the record.
However, I am extremely pleased that the Minister has listened to us. I know that since our debate in Committee the Government have worked with the voluntary sector in order to bring forward amendments of their own, although I am a little sorry that the Government were not minded to inform Members on these Benches of those proposed changes. Indeed, the voluntary sector itself was kind enough to copy to me a letter dated 27 October addressed to Virginia Beardshaw at the British Red Cross. It sets out the Government's reasons for their amendments and why they have not accepted our proposal to put in the Bill a duty to consult. Instead, the Government propose a duty to "have regard" to the activities of the voluntary sector.
"Of course, a Category 1 responder will not be able to 'have regard' to the activities of the appropriate voluntary sector bodies if he does not know what those activities are. So the duty to 'have regard' to the activities of the voluntary sector encompasses a duty to consult the voluntary sector to determine what it can contribute".
That is tremendously important and I hope that, when the Minister both responds to my amendments and brings forward the government amendments, he will repeat those words in order to assure us all that, notwithstanding that some of the inflexibility of the requirement to have a duty to consult might be removed, "having regard" is nevertheless an important safeguard to ensure that the views and expertise of the voluntary sector are taken very much into account when planning for civil contingencies.
However, we are pleased that the Minister is to bring forward government amendments. Our only concern at this stage, and certainly before I withdraw my amendment, is to question the noble Lord about the guidance to be produced. We believe that much of the meat in terms of the responsibilities to be placed on the voluntary sector and others will be set out in that guidance. If he is able to do so today, can the Minister explain a little further what it is to contain and when will we know more about it? Given that we are still waiting for the guidance to accompany the Licensing Act, which received Royal Assent around 15 months ago, I am very concerned that we may have to wait as long as that. We cannot have a recurrence of that sort of delay in terms of this Bill. I believe that a noble friend referred to our present situation as being a "phoney war". We must be sure that the guidance will be developed as quickly as possible so that all those who need to refer to it are provided with clear directions on how they are supposed to respond and exactly what will be their role. I look forward to the Minister's response.
I congratulate the charitable and logistical members of the voluntary sectorthe British Red Cross, WRVS, the Salvation Army, St John Ambulanceon their tenacious approach to the Bill. It has been well worth it. I beg to move.
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