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Lord Crickhowell: I am grateful to my noble friend for that assurance. When confronted with contradictory advice by lawyers I always withdraw hastily and ask them to look at the matter again. I shall certainly ask my lawyers to look at it again. As long as they are satisfied with the answer given I shall not need to return to the matter again. However, if I am not satisfied that the point is fully met I shall want to return to it.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, as regards the publication point, it seems that what my noble friend is saying is this: "Yes, everything should be published, but we are not going to make it compulsory". Therefore, under what circumstances can he foresee that something would not be published and why would somebody not want to publish? If they do not want to publish, then it almost seems that, in those circumstances, it should be published.

Viscount Ullswater: I am sure that the new agency, in operating all kinds of functions which it may undertake, needs to compile various reports which it will need to circulate within the organisation. Those reports may be commercially confidential. Therefore, I believe that the duty to publish everything that it commits to paper would be entirely wrong.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: I am partially comforted by the Minister's response in that he says that the practice has been to publish reports extensively. It is the growing excuse of commercial sensitivity which worries me. It seems to be used increasingly by agencies, quangos and so on, as a reason for not publishing reports. I share the feeling of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that it is particularly those things that are not published that are the most sensitive and disturbing and about which we should know. However, in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 49 to 60 not moved.]

6 p.m.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon moved Amendment No. 61:


Page 6, line 19, after ("the") insert ("environmental, economic and social").

The noble Baroness said: We come for the first time to the problem of cost-benefit analysis. On Second Reading, I expressed some of my reservations about that because my limited experience is that while it sounds very analytical, objective, scientific and as though it deals with hard facts, it usually depends on a whole series of subjective judgments about what one puts into the formula and how one weights the various benefits and costs. Since making my Second Reading speech, I have been inundated with lobbying from the world of business, industry and those who are concerned with financial costs who insist that the provisions relating to

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cost-benefit analysis should remain in the Bill. There is clearly a contrary point of view from environmentalists who share my concerns that those provisions will be weighted heavily in favour of industry and against cleaning up our polluted environment.

The current application of the "polluter pays" principle means that when industry causes pollution, it should pick up the cost. That clearly disturbs industry which wants to be sure that its costs are balanced against the benefits which are sometimes much harder to assess. One of the great difficulties is that the benefits of environmental clean-ups are often very long term, sometimes stretching as far ahead as the next century, while the pollution affects us now and the costs are always immediate and within the current year's balance sheet. That is clearly one of the reasons why industry is keen that cost-benefit analysis should remain a major plank of the provisions relating to the consequences of pollution.

The application of cost-benefit analysis is sometimes a prolonged and clumsy procedure. It is bound to constrain the work of the agency and to inhibit the exercise of its attempts to clean up pollution and to act as a regulator. Legal challenges by firms on the grounds that the agency has not properly taken the costs and benefits into account may tie it up in the courts for many years.

However, the cost-benefit approach offers an opportunity. It implies that the benefits will at least be considered and that they will not be dismissed out of hand because of the possible costs. It means that there will be some attempt to weigh the one against the other. The amendment suggests that the "environmental, economic and social" benefits should be considered as well as the financial costs. That would ensure that the balance was tilted slightly in the direction of the benefits when the agency exercised its powers as a controller of pollution. I beg to move.

Lord Crickhowell: I do not believe that there is any real need for the amendment. The fact of the matter is that any agency that considers the costs and benefits is bound, if it is an environmental agency, to seek to evaluate just those aspects that are described in the amendment. In fact, a great deal of work to evaluate environmental benefits has been, and is being, done in, for example, the NRA under the wise leadership of Professor Kerry Turner, who is one of the country's leading authorities on the subject. Such work has been carried out widely for a considerable time in relation to the cost-benefit analysis of flood defence schemes. The practice is being developed all the time. Those involved are already doing the work that is suggested. My concern is not that they will not have the power to do it or that they will not do it, but that the Bill does not necessarily provide the mechanisms and instruments that would allow them to get at the necessary information. I referred earlier to having statutory quality objectives which provide a route by which one can discover the costs and discuss them with those affected.

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Therefore, I would argue that the existing wording is perfectly satisfactory. I believe that everything that the noble Baroness wants is already being widely done and I cannot believe that the agency will have any difficulty in doing what she wants.

Lord Elton: In order that the rest of us can follow the argument a little more closely, I wonder whether my noble friend can advise us, or get advice for us, on the precise meaning of the words "costs" and "benefits" in law as they now appear in line 19. Does "costs" mean only money or does it mean the other costs that are specified in the amendment? Does allying that word with "benefits" change its meaning? Although the Bill may already say what the noble Baroness would like it to say, that may not be apparent to us because we do not know the effects of those words in law.

Viscount Ullswater: I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Crickhowell for giving us the benefit of his opinion and of his experience over a number of years as chairman of an organisation which has to weigh up such costs and benefits.

In Clause 5(3) (b) we are talking about the agency preparing a report on options for,


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

and specifying that that should include,


    "the costs and benefits of such options".

Amendment No. 61 proposes that the costs and benefits to be covered should be the "environmental, economic and social" costs and benefits. I agree that, where appropriate, they should be included, but I believe that the Bill is drafted widely so as to include them. I shall, however, take advice on whether the legal interpretation of the words "costs" and "benefits" includes the environmental, economic and social costs and benefits. I believe that it does.

Using the phrase "environmental, economic and social costs and benefits" will not mean that we include all costs and benefits. Therefore, to a certain extent the amendment would be restrictive. I do not believe that that is what the noble Baroness intends. Perhaps she will be prepared to withdraw the amendment when I say that when drawing up such reports, we certainly want the agency to include all costs and benefits.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: I am partly comforted by what the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said. I agree that the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has not been sufficiently elucidated. It is not clear whether "costs" includes environmental costs and whether such costs can be placed on that side of the balance or whether "costs" merely means financial costs. That is a very important point because we should be thinking about the costs to the environment as well as the benefits of cleaning up the environment when considering possible future courses of action.

We are all in favour of efficiency and of doing things as cheaply as possible, but that does not mean that something should not be done simply because it is very expensive. I hope that at a later stage, when we shall return to the subject of cost-benefit analysis, the

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Minister will be able to give us a clearer indication of how "costs" and "benefits" may be defined. However, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 62, 63 and 64 not moved.]

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon moved Amendment No. 65:


Page 6, line 21, leave out subsection (4) and insert:
("( ) The Agency shall promote the development and use of technology and techniques for preventing or minimising, or remedying the effects of, pollution of the environment.").

The noble Baroness said: I propose to talk to Amendments No. 65 and 66, but largely as a conceptual matter rather than as a precise drafting matter.

The amendments seek to encourage the agency not just to be fully up-to-date with what is intended and what is happening in the technical world, but to promote the development of new methods of technology for cleaning up pollution, and for preventing, minimising or remedying the effects of pollution.

Amendment No. 65 would ensure that the agency was able to encourage research and development. There are, for example, some interesting new ways of cleaning up polluted soil by the use of fungi, and so on. There are interesting developments. It is not just a question of using more solar energy or windpower to reduce energy use; there are other ways in which pollution can be cleaned up. The amendment is intended to be helpful and positive and to give the agency an encouraging and developmental role.

Amendment No. 66 is intended to strengthen the agency to some extent by encouraging it not just passively to have regard to developments in the field but actively to follow them. Both amendments are intended to encourage the agency to take a practical and active interest in new technological developments for dealing with pollution. I beg to move.


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