Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My noble friend Lady Hamwee and myself would not like it to be understood that just because we have not given vent to the notice which is on the Marshalled List of our intention to oppose the Question that Clause 4 shall stand part of the Bill, we therefore consider Clause 4 a good thing. We believe, however, that this is probably not the moment to challenge it and that the Government should be given time to think in the light of all the various criticisms that have been made in different parts of the Chamber.

Viscount Ullswater: I say initially to my noble friend Lord Renton that I guarantee that I shall consider very carefully all the representations made to the Government during the course of this Bill whether at this stage or any future stage. I have listened carefully to the arguments. I have indicated to my noble friend that I think Clause 4 goes beyond the normal arrangements for non-departmental public bodies in which the aims and objectives are usually set as part of the management's statement because it places a duty on Ministers to provide the guidance.

On the first day the noble Lord, Lord Williams, challenged me as to whether the Government would consider a strategic amendment when we were considering the first amendment. He challenged me as to whether my mind was closed against what he referred to as a strategic amendment. I believe he was quoting from my noble friend Lord Marlesford. At that stage I said that my mind was not closed but I was not prepared to give him any commitment that I would return at Report stage with an amendment. I said that I would certainly want to consider everything I had heard. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, that the guidance will of course be published. I believe it would probably even be available under the environmental information regulations. I note also that he agrees that the agency will be involved in those consultations. I believe that Clause 4 has a part to play in this legislation.

Lord Williams of Elvel: Before we leave Clause 4, the noble Viscount delivered himself of some rather delphic words about a strategic amendment. He said his mind was perhaps not altogether closed. Then he moved on to another subject. Can he clarify for the Committee exactly what he intends before we come to Report stage? Is his mind still open? Can we produce or negotiate something which is acceptable to all sides of the Chamber, or is he simply saying that all is said and done on the matter?

Viscount Ullswater: I indicated on Tuesday that I heard what the Chamber had to say. The noble Lord challenged me to say whether I was against having any form of strategic amendment. I said at that stage that my mind was not closed and that I would consider whether

19 Jan 1995 : Column 778

some form of strategic amendment would be possible between now and the next stage. But I did not commit myself to bringing forward such an amendment.

Lord Moran: I did not quite understand what the Minister said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, about consultation. He talked about the environment agency being involved in the consultations. What I mentioned when I spoke earlier was that there should at any rate be full consultation with the environment agency and with all other appropriate bodies before the guidance is issued and that there should then be an opportunity for Parliament to consider it. Will the Minister be able to look at those two points before the next stage of the Bill?

Viscount Ullswater: At the moment the agency is not in existence. I think what I said on a previous occasion was that it would consult with the advisory committee which is in existence. As I have indicated, the guidance is draft guidance and those consultations would take place with a much wider selection of interested people. We would especially listen to the views of your Lordships and Members of another place.

Lord Crickhowell: I am sorry to pursue the matter but I think all that the noble Lord, Lord Moran, and I are asking for is something quite simple. I do not see the difficulty here. I am grateful for the undertaking that the agency, or the advisory committee rather, would be included in the consultation process before the initial guidance was issued. I think I interpreted the somewhat delphic words of my noble friend in response to a question from the Front Bench opposite that from time to time it might be possible for the guidance to be altered in the future. All I would like to see is what appears in Clause 38, which is concerned with directions; namely, a statement in the Bill that the agencies will be consulted and that the guidance will be published. If it is to happen anyway and if it can be included under Clause 38, I cannot think why it cannot be included under a redrafted Clause 4. It would make the matter unquestionably clearer and would perhaps avoid misunderstanding and difficulty on a later occasion.

Viscount Ullswater: I shall certainly look carefully at the words of my noble friend and see what can be done.

Clause 4 agreed to.

5 p.m.

[Amendment No. 42 not moved.]

Clause 5 [General functions with respect to pollution control]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 43:

Page 5, line 43, leave out ("exercisable") and insert ("exercised").

The noble Baroness said: When I first read the Bill my eyes passed, without lingering long, to the first line of Clause 5 and the word "exercisable". The phrase reads:

    "The Agency's pollution control powers shall be exercisable".

Then the purposes are set out. Having found a different term in Clause 6, I returned to that term and wondered what the nuances of "exercisable" might be and why the

19 Jan 1995 : Column 779

Government had chosen—if they did so consciously—not to use the term "exercised". In other words, is the agency not to have a duty to prevent, minimise, remedy or mitigate,

    "the effects of, pollution of the environment".

I am confirmed in my concern because it has been drawn to my attention that in the rubric to Clause 5(1) a previous draft referred to "duties", but it now refers to "general functions" with respect to pollution control. I therefore put down the amendment with a view to seeking the Government's explanation as to the level of energy to be put into the function by the agency and whether it is to have a duty or merely a discretion. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Elvel: The noble Baroness introduced her amendment in a rather modest manner because it goes to the heart of what some of us were discussing on Second Reading. It concerns whether the agency has a duty in pollution control rather than a power in pollution control. If the words, "shall be exercised" are substituted for the words "shall be exercisable", it seems to me that there shall be a clear duty on the agency to use what powers it has,

    "for the purpose of preventing or minimising, or remedying or mitigating the effects of, pollution of the environment".

That is the duty for which we have been asking and for which we will continue to ask. I very much hope that, in responding to the amendment, the noble Viscount will explain in as full language as he feels appropriate why there should be no duty on the agency to prevent, minimise, remedy or mitigate the effects of pollution, when there are duties imposed on the agency in other matters.

I hate to go over old ground, but I wish again to quote the terms of Amendment No. 147 which I regret that the Committee failed to favour. It states—and this is government guidance—

    "The overall aim of the Agency shall be to help to promote sustainable development through high quality, integrated environmental protection, management and enhancement".

The amendment continues:

    "The main objectives of the Agency shall be",

to reduce pollution. Either the agency has a duty which is enforceable in law, or it has a power which is exercisable at the discretion of the agency. The two matters are wholly separate and wholly different in their effect.

As I said on Second Reading, I strongly support any amendment which imposes a duty on the agency as opposed to simply giving it a power to do something and it can use its power if and when it wishes. I strongly support the amendment rather modestly moved by the noble Baroness.

Lord Howie of Troon: I support the amendment on the following grounds. The first line of Clause 5(1) mentions the agency's pollution control powers. They are to be either exercisable or, if the amendment is successful, exercised. We then turn to subsection (2) in which, as I understand it, the agency is supposed to carry out its pollution control functions.

19 Jan 1995 : Column 780

I am in some difficulty over understanding how the agency can carry out its pollution control functions under subsection (2) without exercising its pollution control powers under the first line of Clause 5. I support the amendment.

Viscount Ullswater: Perhaps I may first deal with the point put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Williams. I am advised that the word "functions"—the word in the margin—covers both "powers" as well as "duties". Therefore the two are subsumed into the word "functions".

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page