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Lord Williams of Elvel: I am sorry, but I must intervene at this point. The rubric is not part of the Bill and will not be part of the Act.

Viscount Ullswater: I thought that what the noble Lord was concerned about was the change of the word from "duties" to "functions", a change from the previous draft. If I heard him right, I thought he said that a previous draft had used the word "duties".

Lord Williams of Elvel: I must have spent a lot of time explaining myself extremely badly. To repeat what I said at Second Reading, I thought and we think that the agency should have a duty to exercise its powers,


The Bill as drafted states that,


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

In other words, it is a possibility that it may exercise those powers. The noble Baroness's amendment substitutes the word "exercised" for "exercisable" and clearly makes it a duty on the agency rather than simply an option. I am sorry if I was inexplicit or unclear in what I said previously, but that is what I was trying to say.

Viscount Ullswater: Clause 5 sets out the purposes for which the agency may exercise its pollution control powers. Amendment No. 43 moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, seeks to change that so that the agency's powers shall be exercised for the purposes of dealing with pollution control. This would suggest that all its powers must be exercised in every case; but some of the pollution control powers are, of course, discretionary, and necessarily so, such as the power to prosecute. The amendment would mean, for example, that the agency would have to use its power to prosecute at every opportunity, which would be both unworkable and counter-productive. The wording as it stands is designed to ensure that the purposes attach when and where the powers are exercised.

If the intention behind the amendment is to ensure that the agency uses its pollution control powers, it is misguided and unnecessary. Pollution control is one of the agency's core functions and it will, of course, act to control pollution wherever appropriate.

I shall have to study carefully what the noble Lord, Lord Howie, put before the Committee. I did not find any difficulty with Clause 5(2) in its relation to Clause

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5(1). However, if I find something, I shall certainly write to him. I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: Perhaps I should explain to the Committee why the manner in which I moved the amendment was, as the noble Lord put it, modest. The reason was that after putting the amendment down, I realised that there might be a place for the term "exercisable", although I still felt that this was not the place for it. It would be a great deal more helpful and would express the aims and objectives of Members of the Committee if the Bill were to spell out more clearly than it does that the agency shall have a duty to do the things which are referred to in Clause 5(1). Although it has pollution control duties—and we shall return to this matter later, particularly in the context of air pollution —as I read the clause, it does not have an overall duty to prevent, minimise, remedy or mitigate the effects of pollution. It would be a great deal clearer—we shall perhaps have to return to the matter on Report—if Clause 5(1) stated that duty, and the next clause said that its powers shall be exercisable for those purposes which have already been given the status of a duty. The debate has been useful and, having made those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon moved Amendment No. 44:


Page 5, line 43, after ("exercisable") insert (", without prejudice to section 4 above").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment falls into a discussion that we had on Tuesday and should have been addressed at that stage. I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 45, 60 and 67—again they relate to a semantic discussion about this particular clause and address the meaning of "mitigating". This is by way of a probing amendment: I hope that the Minister will explain to the Committee the exact meaning of the term "mitigating". As I understand it, the term can be used in many different ways, and very often involves some form of financial compensation. I wondered whether it was the intention here that if pollution has occurred somebody will be compensated for it. Or does "mitigating" merely mean the same as "minimising", which also appears in the clause? If compensation is available, on what basis would it be paid?

I also support Amendment No. 60 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. As I understand it, it seeks to make clear that the pollution would not just be serious pollution but would also include what might be defined as "light" pollution and it would therefore be the duty of the environment agency to deal also with that. The main thrust of this group of amendments is to ask the Minister to elucidate the meaning of "mitigating", to explain how it varies from "minimising", and whether it implies some kind of financial compensation. I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Marlesford: The grouping at this point is slightly awkward. My Amendment No. 46, which relates to light pollution, is not directly connected with

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the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton. However, as it is grouped here, perhaps I might be allowed to make now the points that I wanted to make. My amendment suggests that the words "including light pollution" should be added to Clause 5(1) of the Bill.

The concept of light pollution may not be wholly familiar to all Members of the Committee. But many forms of pollution are relatively new. Not so long ago we did not know about ozone pollution. There are many countries where pollution itself is only beginning to be recognised—for example, in the former Soviet Union, which is only now coming to recognise terrible forms of pollution. I do not believe that Members of the Committee will have any difficulty at all in recognising inappropriate light as a very real source of pollution.

Among the beauties of the world are dark skies and moon-lit and star-lit skies at night. Those of us who live deep in the countryside find the intrusion of light to be very polluting indeed to the areas in which we live. In a sense, it almost reduces areas of countryside to a form of suburbanisation, which is much to be regretted. I believe that, to some extent at least, it can be avoided.

Recently, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, of which, as noble Lords may know, I am the chairman, and the British Astronomical Society joined together to draw attention to and warn about the huge increase in lighting that has taken place in this country. If Members of the Committee will look, as I have done, at a satellite map of Britain at night on a particular night, and at a map for the same night 20 years earlier, the result is striking and distressing.

Lighting is used without due care and thought. I hope that the new agency will be able to give considerable attention to this matter. There are several examples that could be given, one of which is humble street lighting, which is often unnecessarily intense, particularly in villages. For example, in the small Suffolk village of Stratford St Mary the local authority proposed to put up 40 extremely bright street lights. The village is in Dedham Vale, an area of outstanding natural beauty. As a result of the intervention of the Dedham Vale Society, it was negotiated that it could have a perfectly adequate supply of light from 20 lights which were themselves of more pleasing design.

Secondly, although one fully recognises the need for security lighting, often it is unnecessarily bright and unnecessarily intense. Indeed, it can be counter-productive, by causing shadows which can in themselves be a threat.

Perhaps one of the most obvious areas where lighting is excessive and undesirable is on roads. One of course needs lighting on some roads; but equally, the lighting is often quite unnecessary, particularly in the countryside.

There was a time when road engineers felt that it was the spice of life to build roads where people did not want them. It was almost more fun to be doing so. In recent years public opinion has shifted so much that now great care is taken by the Department of Transport in the environmental design of roads. (That is not to say that all the roads are necessary.) I am afraid that that stage has not yet been reached as regards lighting. Authorities will gaily say that they must have very bright lights and often do not even consult. If Ministers

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are presumptuous enough to question their decisions, perhaps as a result of constituency pressures, they will often tell those Ministers that they will be risking the most terrible accidents and will have human death on their hands. Quite often that is simply not true. The effect of lights can be mitigated by their being downward rather than upward reflecting. Indeed there can be dangers from moving from a very brightly lit area to a dark area. Again, I believe that there is much scope for better lighting.

My noble friend Lord Cranbrook, who has unfortunately had to leave, had hoped to make the point that in many cases bright light, by attracting insects, can cause the death of protected species such as bats and nightjars, which are then struck by traffic as they pursue them. That is another disadvantage. All I am saying is that the impact of unnecessary lighting in this country has now become a real problem. It is one to which we need to turn our attention.

I do not know whether my noble friend would wish to include the words in the Bill, or whether he would be able to assure me that appropriate guidance would be given to the new agency to take account of the need for lighting; I look forward to hearing what he has to say.


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