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Lord Williams of Elvel: I am sorry to intervene. I am sure that the noble Lord is as familiar with Committee procedure as I am. He is perfectly entitled to move his Amendment No. 39 in the place in which it appears on the Marshalled List. All the usual channels can do is to try to fit things in. If the noble Lord, like any other Member of the Committee, decides to move his amendment in its place in the Marshalled List, he is certainly entitled to do so.
Lord Lucas of Chilworth: I am grateful for that confirmation. I feel that it would be more helpful to the Committee for me to extract an amendment that deals with costs and cost benefits away from those amendments which deal with sustainable development. The two subjects just do not fit. Perhaps my noble friend can tell me whether that is as convenient to him as it is to the rest of us.
Viscount Ullswater: I was hoping, after hearing the interchange between my noble friend Lord Lucas and the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that my comments on these amendments would satisfy my noble friend and he would not feel the need to draw attention to them when they arise in their normal place. Whether he wishes to
Baroness Hamwee: Perhaps I may come back to Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 in the names of my noble friend Lord Beaumont and myself, and in the context of a debate on sustainable development and on behalf of my noble friend I can accept the slightly guarded compliment paid to him on the definition which appears towards the end of this Marshalled List, though any compliments should perhaps go to Mrs. Brundtland and not to my noble friend.
I draw to the attention of the Committee our recognition of the need to keep matters under continuous review. That is an issue with which we dealt quite specifically in Amendment No. 34. I hope that an approach which involves the development of a list of indicators is one which will commend itself to the Government. It is very much the way in which they suggest other agencies should set about assessing their own success. But it is not merely the development of that list and the keeping of indicators; it is also a review of those indicators. As the Committee will recognise, this is a developing and progressing area.
It would have been preferable if that guidance had been available at least to Scottish Peers because substantial parts of the Bill deal with Scotland. It would have been helpful if we could have had the same services as all other Members of your Lordships' Committee. To add insult to injury, the only reference to Scotland at point 1.2 has been blanked out and I cannot even read it.
Viscount Ullswater: These amendments relate to the role of the agency or SEPA in the achievement of sustainable development and the guidance on aims and objectives for which Clause 4 and Clause 29 for the Scottish agency provide. Many seek to replace or reinforce the Bill's existing provisions by giving the agency or SEPA a statutory objective or duty to promote or achieve sustainable development, including through development of a national sustainable development strategy or indicators.
My noble friend Lord Marlesford is right to point out that the words "sustainable development" originate from the Rio Summit. Therefore we cannot go forward without using them and without keeping that specific phrase; otherwise we shall experience a lot of difficulty. The existing Clauses 4 and 29 place a duty on Ministers to give the agency or SEPA guidance on their aims and
We recognise that the aims and objectives will properly be a matter of considerable interest and discussion, and in the note on the scope and the guidance which I have already made available to the Committee we set out our initial view that the overall aim of the agency should be to help promote sustainable development through high quality, integrated environmental protection management and enhancement.
In Amendment No. 6, which I notice the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, said she moved without particular enthusiasm, and Amendments Nos. 34 and 162, the noble Baroness and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lords, Lord Beaumont and Lord Carmichael, seek in various ways to give the agency or SEPA a statutory purpose related to sustainable development. In addition, Amendment No. 6 requires the agency to develop a national strategy for sustainable development, and Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 would require it to develop and publish indicators of sustainability. My noble friend Lord Crickhowell brought to our attention the correct division of responsibility between the duty of Ministers and the duty of the agency and drew attention to the difficulty he saw in asking the agency to develop the national strategy. Amendment No. 164, from the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, attempts a somewhat shorter definition of the scope of the guidance to be issued to SEPA. Amendment No. 351 seeks to insert a specific definition of sustainable development into the legislation.
These amendments all touch on a key issue. It is indeed vital that the agency should contribute significantly towards the achievement of sustainable development. Sustainable development is the cornerstone of our environmental protection and economic development programmes. And that is what the existing Clauses 4 and 29 will do.
We believe that the amendments are inappropriate. First, they would suffer from the problem, which I have already touched on today, of trying further to specify the purposes of the agency and SEPA in the Bill. This problem is exacerbated by the difficulty, and indeed the danger, of seeking to define in legislation the main principles of sustainable development. For example, Amendment No. 162 appears confused on this point. It refers explicitly to the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle. The UK strategy on sustainable development already starts from the premise that it incorporates both concepts. Yet the amendments repeat the first as a principle that needs specific definition as part of sustainable development and the second is added as an additional objective, as if it were somehow separate from sustainable development. Moreover, the amendments are silent on such issues as the need to consider changes in man-made capital and in renewable and non-renewable natural resources and on how to reconcile our aspirations for these two kinds of wealth.
Amendments Nos. 164 and 351 suffer from the same difficulty. It would be dangerous to seek to overspecify on the face of the Bill the full contents of the guidance. A long list might appear exhaustive but not cover all issues on which, in future, Ministers might need to give guidance to the agency or to SEPA. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, acknowledged that the Scottish Secretary had published in parallel the draft guidance for SEPA today. I can only apologise to him that he somehow was unable to receive a copy of that, which I am sure he would have found interesting. We would be reluctant to see the principles set out in Amendment No. 164 fixed in legislation, for the reasons I have explained.
As for Amendment No. 351, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the definition it proposes is indeed one which is familiar. It is based on the Brundtland definition, but it is not one which has general recognition in international law. My noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith is quite right to query the validity of this definition and the difficulties that such a definition, if put into legislation, might pose in the long term.
Baroness Hamwee: Does the Minister agree that if we are using the term "sustainable development"there seems to be quite a consensus, with notable exceptions, that it is a term to be usedit ought to be defined for precisely the reason that he has just given?
Viscount Ullswater: The draft guidance is making a determined effort to try to draw the various strands together. Whether it will come out with a hard and fast and legal definition may be the difficulty. I am not trying to skate round the difficulty. There is one, and I think everyone recognises that. But it is the duty of Ministers to advise the agency on that basis.
I am saying to the Committee that we should agree therefore that sustainable development requires a complex reconciliation of the pursuit of economic development and environmental protection. It is difficult to express that succinctly in legislation without risking giving undue emphasis to some aspects or implying that others are not normally part of sustainable development and so need to be listed separately. The formulation in Clauses 4 and 29 avoids the problem.
My second difficulty with a number of these amendments is that they assume that the agency and SEPA can on their own achieve sustainable development and decide what it is. The agency and SEPA will make, as I said before, a major contribution towards achieving sustainable development in Britain. But many others must act to achieve sustainable development. Government themselves must take decisions about economic development and environmental protection. It cannot therefore be right for the agency or SEPA to take charge of national policy
The same applies to the issue of sustainable development indicators. These will need to cover issues, such as land use planning, resource use and energy efficiency. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, would need to give the agency considerable power if it was to encompass all that he wanted it to. He identified his interest as being that of Wales. There is an advisory committee for Wales and the Secretary of State has appointed one of the members of the advisory committee. So, a good many of the things the noble Lord wishes are being undertaken by the agency. Indicators are, therefore, for the Government to take forward, although in doing so we are consulting extensively with outside bodies. I am pleased to report that we expect to publish a preliminary set of indicators by the end of the year.
I sum up by saying that defining the meaning of sustainable development, and the contribution the agency and SEPA is to make to it, will be a complex but fundamental task for government. We recognise that. That is why we made available the outline of the scope of the guidance under Clause 4 and intend to expand the note in a more detailed draft for wide consultation when the Bill is considered in another place. As I said at Second Reading, it is right to take time and to involve a wide constituency in the preparation of the guidance. I do not feel chastened by my noble friend Lord Mills because I reiterate that the guidance is in draft and will be refined as the parliamentary process takes its course.
My noble friend Lord Crickhowell asked whether the agency will be consulted. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State made clear in another place, the Government will wish to seek the views of the environment agency advisory committee and the agency itself, once established, in producing guidance under Clause 4. I would stress that we want to get the guidance right and will consult widely on it.
Amendment No. 39A, in the name of my noble friend Lord Mills, and Amendment No. 163, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, would require guidance to be issued within 12 months of the Act coming into force. I have to tell noble Lords that this is currently our intention but we see no need to specify it on the face of the Bill. As drafted, Amendment No. 163 would also confuse as it does not reflect the intention that the guidance will be revised from time to time.
Amendment No. 40, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, seeks to remove the duty under Clause 4 for the agency to have regard to guidance issued by Ministers. I am bound to say that this appears to make a nonsense of Clause 4. There will be little point in requiring Ministers to give guidance to the agency if it were not in turn required to have regard to that guidance.
Amendment No. 47 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, proposes that one of the purposes for which the agency shall compile information relating to pollution under Clause 5 shall be that of attaining the objective of
Clause 5(2) (b) already gives the agency powers to collect all the information that it needs to be able to form an opinion about the general state of environmental pollution. It is not obvious that more could be collected to take a view on sustainability.
Amendment No. 80 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, removes reference to sustainable development in the existing conservation duty under Clause 7. On the face of it, the amendment suggests that the noble Lord and the noble Baroness consider conservation to be a matter which somehow falls outside the scope of sustainable development. Yet sustainable development underpins the whole of environmental and economic policy. I cannot see how conservation is excluded.
I believe that I have attempted to indicate some of the difficulties that we run into when considering a number of these amendments. To a certain extent I was heartened by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, who said that she moved the amendment without particular enthusiasm. I hope that I have dampened her enthusiasm even more, to the stage where she may feel willing to withdraw it.
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