|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Therefore, we have two positions. First, we do not think that the amendment could achieve its aims. Secondly, if it were to do so and under judicial review it was established that a piece of secondary legislation was incompatible with the aims of the Bill, we would be in the extremely difficult position that such secondary legislation would be quashed. All Governments, properly, both for themselves and for their successors, seek to avoid in legislation any dangers of that kind. I am not denying the intentions of the noble Lord; I am saying that Amendment No. 224 is either dangerous or ultimately futile because of the way in which a Government could phrase their arguments. In either case, it will be understood by the House why the Government reject it.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, one can sense one is after the break, so to speak, when adjectives such as dangerous and futile are used to describe what to my mind is a relatively modest measure. I am disappointed that the Minister is resisting the amendment. It proposes a new clause that is designed to ensure that there are no waifs and strays of secondary legislation creeping out of the Bill, and it tightens up the Bill as a framework Bill. It has all sorts of provisions within it. All this amendment seeks to do is to make sure that any secondary legislation that originates from this Bill, when it becomes enacted, is properly for the purpose of the Bill and the Bill alone.
I know that all Governments look at such legislation and think: this is restricting elbow room; this is restricting freedom of manoeuvre; this Bill is perfectly workable without this amendment in it. In other words, it adds nothing to the utility of the Bill as an agency of government. However, the amendment makes sure that the Government, whatever Government, focus properly on the operation of the Act. It requires that anything that is done is necessary for the operation of the Act. It also requires that it is compatible with the purposes of the Act, the principal aim of the Act. Some might say it is an overreaching target. The fact that the Government are rejecting the amendment suggests that it is too far for the Government to go. That is regrettable. The Bill would be better were this clause included. But, given the fact that the Government are not happy to accept it, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(1) If it appears to the Secretary of State that it will not be possible to lay a report under section 62 in relation to a pilot area before the end of three years beginning with the day this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament an interim report in relation to that pilot area before the end of that period.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Rooker, I rise to move Amendment No. 225. I hasten to add that if the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, thought that we were post-dinner and that therefore the Government were being unduly aggressive, I apologise for that tone. Secondly, I have now got an amendment in which I can be conciliatory. Therefore, I hope to work my way back into his good books. When we discussed the waste provisions issues in Committee, my noble friend Lord Rooker said that he would look again at the whole issue of engaging Parliament in the evaluation of pilots. We had a short debate before dinner on some of these issues. We recognise that the previous drafting left some noble Lords with considerable concern that pilots could carry on for long periods of time without any flow of information back to Parliament on their progress. Amendment No. 225 addresses those concerns. The amendment will require that the Government have reported back to Parliament on all of the pilots within three years of Royal Assent to the Climate Change Bill. So, for any of the pilots on which we have not provided a final report within three years, we will at least lay before Parliament an interim report on their progress to date.
In this situation, we would seek to provide as comprehensive an interim report as possible, reflecting the extent to which a pilot had progressed in the time that it had been in operation. The structure would follow as closely as possible the structure of the final report, as can be seen in subsections (2), (3) and (4) of our amendment. In particular, any report must describe the scheme and explain how it differs from schemes operating in other pilot areas. It must also contain a copy of the designation order. In the case that a scheme has not begun when the interim report is laid, the report must describe progress towards implementation. But if the pilot is already under way, the report should assess the progress towards meeting objectives that far.
The value of Amendment No. 225 is in making absolutely sure that Parliament and the public are kept well informed about, and closely involved with, the pilots as they progress. On this basis, and as explained by my noble friend in his factual briefing note which he circulated on 20 February, we are hopeful that we can have a debate in both Houses of Parliament, if and when the Government wish to roll out the powers to all English local authorities. I hope it will be recognised that this amendment is a step to meet concerns expressed in Committee. I beg to move.
The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, this amendment goes some way to answering questions put by a number of noble Lords concerning the start time, the duration and expected end of the pilots, in that we now see that three years from the date of the Act being passed is the overall time span. There will of course be no reason why one or more pilots should not have been completed within two years but this overriding span is none the less of interest.
The Minister gave a good explanation in response to another question; he said that the interim reports will be out within three years if it is not possible to produce the full report. That is a great help to the House. When we earlier got into problems that might arise with devolved legislation, the Minister was good enough to explain the arrangements and agreements made with, for instance, the Scottish legislature to bring into action the carbon reduction commitment in a parallel state to that operating in England. I realise that these provisions do not apply to Scotland but does the Minister have any indication whether the Scots will try to deal with waste through future legislation or are they in the happy state of being able to ignore it?
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I agree substantially with the comments of the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose. I will not interfere with his comments on Scotland; I do not consider myself an expert on thaton this issue at least. This is a helpful and welcome amendment, which goes some way towards clearing up the considerable confusion felt in Committee about what would happen when the pilots finish and how they will be dealt with and rolled out. I am not sure that it goes as far as we would want in order to clarify the situation but it goes some way.
The Minister pooh-poohed the idea that the House of Lords would want to know much about this or get involved in it until the affirmative instruments were introduced. There are means by which Members of this House can debate things if they really want to, and we may want to do so even if the Government do not think that it is terribly important. Some of us are very interested in this.
The amendment suggests that the contents of the interim reports will be very much the same as those of the final reportsapart from the concession that they are interim. One assumes that the assurances given in Committee about what the reports will includesome of us tried to make the legislation much more detailedwill apply. I assume that that is okay.
There is still concern about the process getting quite messy. Let us assume, for the purposes of this debate, that there will be five pilots; some of us think that there may be a different number in the long run. If there are five pilots, they may take place over different periods of timeone may be longer than another or start later than anotherthey may finish at different times, and some of them may run over the three-year limit within which an interim report has to be provided. It is not clear how the rollouts will operate. Suppose that there are several three-year schemes and a two-year scheme, which finishes and is a great success, and it is thought that the provisions of that scheme should be rolled out across England. That can be done while the other pilots are still taking place. When the other pilots reporton an interim or final basiscan there be a rollout of a different scheme? Is that possible under this legislation or would it mean that the orders rolling it out would be amended to encompass different things? For example, there could be a highly successful sack-based scheme and the Government could say, This has really worked well in the Cotswolds, we want to roll it out across the country. What would happen if further information comes through six months later about a successful weight-based or volume-based scheme somewhere else? Would there be amendments to the statutory instruments, to the affirmative orders, or would there be different orders from which local authorities could choose? There seems to be scope for messiness, certainly confusion, over what is possible and what is not, after a series of reports.
Equally, if an interim report comes back within three years, and there is a rollout on the basis of that, can the authority carrying out that pilot continue with it, even though it is different from what has been rolled out? On the basis of the interim report, the Government may modify and amend the scheme and then roll out that amended scheme. What would happen to the pilot scheme in the remaining period of time? Would it continue to the end, when we would get the final report? I am not sure that all the detail has been thought out properly. There is plenty of timethis has to go through the House of Commons, and Members there can enjoy themselves talking about it. The government amendment is an improvement but they are not quite there yet.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, my response to the noble Lord, Lord GreavesI hope he will accept that it is based on unexceptionable principleis that pilots plus independent local government means variety. He seems to be asking whether we have thought through how prescriptive we can be to get one uniform position, but the whole concept of pilots is that there are varied potential strategies. It will be for local government to decide, if a pilot has achieved some success, whether they choose the result of that exercise. They may await the outcome of another one coming along a little later or, if there are two pilots, they will have to choose. Local government will be able to make decisions within the framework of the ideas that are being rolled out.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I agree with all the Minister says. I am asking what the Government, not local government, are going to do if a scheme is rolled out on the basis of a pilot. Is there then the provision for
18 Mar 2008 : Column 232
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, these issues have to come back to Parliament anyway. I am trying to explain that I cannot be prescriptive about how the Government are going to address each of these pilots and their consequences. All I can indicate is the principle that the legislation envisages, which is the unexceptionable principle I have adumbrated. The noble Lord said he agreed with the sentiment behind it. That ought to do. I also accept his point about this House or Parliament debating these issues. Certainly it will be necessary for Parliament to have a say. Whether this House debates the issues will, of course, be for business managers to decide at the time. But as the noble Lord has indicated, if an issue is of significance to noble Lords, there are many and varied ways in which it can appear before us in terms of the business of the House. I have not the slightest doubt that that requirement will be fulfilled.
On the question asked by the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, this is English legislation. In fact, it is pretty close to becoming almost English local government legislationpace the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. Therefore I have nothing to say about Scotland as far as this part of the Bill is concerned. Just as local authorities will look at the pilots for indications of how they can organise their schemes locally, I do not have the slightest doubt that Scottish local authorities could benefit from such activity. Knowing the Scots, they will choose wisely and well from the best of English examples.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 225A, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 226A in the same group. I will not spend much time on Amendment No. 225A, which would require all the pilots to run for the same time and end at the same time. We have discussed this today. It is clear that the Government do not agree but envisage a series of pilots, perhaps of different lengths and perhaps starting and finishing at different times. My view is that this is messy and will lead to problems, but I will not pursue this further today.
Amendment No. 226A would require at least three months to elapse following the laying of reportsthis would probably apply to interim reports as wellbefore a scheme was rolled out. That would allow sufficient debate inside and outside Parliament. It is a fairly simple point. We do not want reports, whether interim or final, to be produced on pilots, or rollouts to appear very quickly without adequate thought and time for discussion. I think, from what the Minister has already said today, that I have had satisfactory assurances in principle on this matter, but I would be grateful for them again now. I beg to move.
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I will do my best to satisfy the noble Lord on Amendment No. 226A. I understand his desire to ensure that the rollout is fully thought through, but I do not agree that the amendment would be the right way to do it, particularly given the benefit to local authorities of being able to respond to the pilots in a timely fashion. We may have enough evidence to proceed to rollout before three months after the last report is laid. If we do, we would be doing local authorities a disservice by holding back the powers. Again, as my noble friend put it more politely, getting fixated at this stage on timetables and dates is not helpful to anyone. It is not helpful to local government. It fails to recognise the situation on the ground and to appreciate that we in government are quite serious about ensuring that we will take a decision on rollout only when we feel that we have collected enough good quality evidence from the pilots. This has to be sold to the public, after all.
Admittedly we want to move quicklywe make no apology for thatbut we want to move in the right direction, so we will not rush decisions based on partial evidence. That is an important point. It is not possible to be absolutely precise at this point about the actual timetables.
This goes back to the basic worry that the scrutiny of this legislation, which could be rolled out across the country, is being done on the basis of five pilots. There is a fundamental problem in that we are looking at how the pilots could work when, in practice, if one or two of the pilots are successful, the Government will be given considerable powerssubject to parliamentary consent, I agreeto amend the schemes and roll them out in a way that ideally should be done during consideration of primary legislation. Having said that, I am grateful for what the Minister has said, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 226B concerns an issue we discussed in Committee, which was not resolved satisfactorily. What happens when a collection authority completes its pilot? It may consider that it has been successful and want to continue; the report has been sent to the Government, but they have not yet issued the orders and regulations to roll it out. The concern is that the whole local refuse collection system would be disrupted because the pilot would have to stop and perhaps start again in three or six months time.
I think that the Government will say that the amendment which they have just moved on interim reports will go some way towards solving this problem in some places. If an interim report is produced before a pilot finishes and the roll out of that as it is, or as it is amended, takes place before the pilot finishes, that authority would be able to continue in the same or an amended way. But in other ways it will not.
In Committee, the Minister said, A pilot is a pilot. It is time limited and it finishes. But that does not match common sense in the real world. If an authority is to be encouraged to take this seriously, it will need to invest a considerable amount of money£200,000 has been suggested as a reasonable amount to set the system up. It will have to set up the necessary structures and organisation to carry out the pilot, and will involve employing staff and changing the ways of working and administrative systems. To expect it to stop, even if it has been successful, is not common sense and is not the real world. This amendment would do what the Government say they want to do; that is, it gives flexibility and assistance to local authorities and gives them the ability to decide for themselves.
In Committee, we discussed the linked issue of whether the rollout would be compulsory or voluntary. The Minister referred to the Climate Change Bill briefing paper 15, the second factual briefing note on waste reduction schemes. Paragraph 13 sets out very clearly that rollouts will not be compulsory; that local authorities will be able to choose from a variety of schemes; that they will be free to determine the areas and households; and that they will be able to make their own decisions within the parameters of the Bill. That was an extremely useful briefing from the Minister. It answers all the problems and fears that were raised on this matter in Committee, particularly by me. I beg to move.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, the noble Lord has been commendably brief in moving this amendment and I shall be equally brief, if I can, in responding. I understand where the noble Lord is coming from, but there are some problems with the legal drafting of the amendment. It will bring me to my conclusion if I go through the two of them. First, at the end of the period in which the authority has been designated, the authority must already terminate its pilot scheme as the power to operate the pilot will lapse, so there is no need for a further clause to permit termination.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|