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Baroness Hamwee: The noble Baroness is right to draw our attention to what I think is a rather curious clause. It must be absolutely right that the agency should be at the forefront of the development of new techniques. After all, the relationship between new technology and care for the environment is a very important one, and I would hope that the agency would not merely follow but show the way.

I confess, now I come to look at it again, that I am not really sure what is meant by "follow" in this context. It is capable I think of meaning either "shall be aware that these developments are going on", "shall come along afterwards acting on them", or almost "shall listen to them as one would to a radio which was on in the background". It is a very strange statement.

Having said that I believe the impact that new technology can have on the environment is a very important one; nevertheless, if we are to have guidelines this topic is one which perhaps is appropriate. I also find its place in the Bill a little curious.

6.15 p.m.

Viscount Ullswater: Amendments Nos. 65 and 66, tabled by the noble Baroness—perhaps in the

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alternative—propose that the agency's duty to follow developments in technology and techniques should be amended so that it becomes a duty to promote such developments and their use, or at least to have regard to them.

Clause 5(4) provides an expression of the agency's duty to keep up-to-date with the technology and the techniques in order to be able to discharge its functions effectively. It cannot be seen merely as an academic exercise.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that those with a knowledge of the work of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution will be familiar with its current duty to follow developments in technology and techniques for preventing or reducing pollution of the environment due to releases of substances form prescribed processes (Section 4(9) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990), and this underpins its role in ensuring the use of BATNEEC (the best available techniques not entailing excessive costs).

So far as promoting developments themselves, elsewhere in the Bill (Clause 35), the agency is placed under a duty to make arrangements for the carrying out of research and related activities by itself and others in respect of its functions, and that duty could cover the development of new technologies and techniques where appropriate. The NRA, for example, has used its research and development programmes to follow developments in discharge and environmental monitoring and to develop and promote new technologies for those purposes. The legislation as drafted gives the agency all the powers it needs in that respect to carry out its functions effectively, and that to require it to promote developments in technology and techniques would go too far in imposing on it a poorly defined role in promoting technological developments which is more properly the concern of others, and I therefore invite the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: It is disappointing that the agency cannot be given a more positive role in promoting technological developments. The agency will be in the forefront of knowledge of systems dealing with pollution and will, I imagine, have at its fingertips the results of research and development throughout the world. I should have thought that it would play a useful role in helping to develop technologies in that field.

I continue to think that the word "follow" sounds incredibly passive. In many places elsewhere in the Bill the agency is required to "have regard to", and it would be an acceptable amendment to change "follow" to "have regard to", which sounds slightly more positive and requires the agency to involve itself more directly in up-to-date research rather than merely to be aware of it, as the noble Baroness Hamwee has suggested, as a sort of background radio noise that it does not have to listen to if it does not want to. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 66, 67 and 68 not moved.]

Clause 5 agreed to.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 69:


After Clause 5, insert the following new clause:

("Availability of information to non-governmental agencies

. It shall be the duty of the Agency to make available and accessible to any non-governmental agency the data and information necessary for that agency's effective contribution to research and to the design, implementation and evaluation of programmes conducted by the Agency.").

The noble Baroness said: My noble friends and I have been wondering whether the amendment should have been grouped with the earlier group of amendments relating to open government. It is, after all, allied to subjects that we have already discussed. But the delay has enabled me to make one additional point which has occurred to me.

We talked in the earlier debate about publication, and I think there we meant "publish" in its normal sense, its commonly used sense, of something quite active. The amendment deals with "publication" in the more passive sense of "making available". It is intended to enable the Government to comply with its commitment under Agenda 21. I am advised that it is Chapter 27, paragraph 27.10(f). I am aware of the environmental information regulations, and by putting down the amendment we are seeking to encourage the Government to be as open as possible in this important area. I beg to move.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: We support the amendment. There are interested groups which would make good use of information supplied by the agency.

Viscount Ullswater: Amendment No. 69, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, seeks to insert a new clause placing a duty on the agency to make certain information available to non-government agencies.

It is of course right that the general public and organisations outside government should have access to information about the environment agency: As we have discussed, the Bill already contains important specific provisions concerning the information which the agency may, or must, provide. In addition, each agency will be required, under Clause 49, to produce an annual report which must be published. That will provide people with a broad description of the work undertaken by the agency during the year. Clause 35 specifically confers power on the agencies to make available the results of any research which they carry out, either free of charge or on payment of a fee. Further, the agencies will be required to keep public registers of information in relation to their pollution control functions and to ensure that those are available for inspection free of charge and that, on payment of a reasonable fee, copies of entries in those registers may be obtained.

The agency will also, as we have discussed, be subject to the Environmental Information Regulations 1992 which the noble Baroness mentioned. I believe that the provisions of these regulations, in addition to the powers and duties in the Bill, will be sufficient to enable non-government agencies to have access to all the

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information they need from the agency to enable them to make an effective contribution to research or to evaluate the agency's role.

I therefore think that Amendment No. 69, which seeks to introduce a new clause to that effect, is unnecessary, and I ask the noble Baronesses to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: As the Minister said, Clause 35 provides that the agencies may make the results of their research available in return for payment of a fee. If the Minister would prefer us to debate the matter under Clause 35, we can do so. As we are on the subject, he might like to explain—I should be interested in his comments—whether this should not be a higher obligation—a mandatory matter rather than discretion, as it appears at present in the clause—on the agencies, unless he plans to tell me that the agency must make its results available, and may charge a fee for doing so. I do not believe that that is what the clause says at the moment.

Viscount Ullswater: I sought to indicate the number and variety of reports and publications which the agency will make available. I was not drawing specific attention to Clause 35. I mentioned it in passing as one of the areas where the material would be available. I also mentioned the annual report and the entitlement to other material through the environmental information regulations to which the agency will be subject.

Baroness Hamwee: I am grateful to the Minster for that explanation. It is a matter to which we must return, because I am becoming a little more alarmed and not less. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 69A not moved.]

Clause 6 [General provisions with respect to water]:

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon moved Amendment No. 70:


Page 6, line 41, leave out from ("Agency") to the end of line 42 and insert ("to further").

The noble Baroness said: This is another of the great omnibus group of amendments. They have a unifying theme in that they seek to increase protection for various aspects of the environment and to strengthen the agency's role in that respect. Thus Amendment No. 70 will ensure that the agency's general duties with respect to water are clarified and strengthened.

The present wording of Clause 6 requires the agency, only to the extent to which it considers desirable, to promote the conservation of natural beauty and amenity of inland coastal waters. The amendment seeks to reinforce that protection.

Amendment No. 82 seeks to strengthen protection for historic buildings and archaeological sites. Amendment No. 87 is a slightly different style of amendment in that it seeks to preserve current freedom of access to woodlands and other places of natural beauty. Similarly,

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Amendment No. 88 seeks to maintain current freedom of access to historic buildings, architectural and archaeological sites.

A number of amendments have been tabled by other noble Lords. Having fallen into the trap of rather explicitly making it clear that I did not understand the previous amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, I shall not at this stage attempt to interpret them, but say merely that my impression is that I thoroughly support them. They are attempts to extend the agency's roles and responsibilities. For example, the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, extends them to include estuaries and sea areas, to ensure that the agency's role is made explicit.

There are also some amendments which ensure that local authorities notify the agency of areas within their ambit which are particularly sensitive or which may be affected by works or activities carried out on that land by the agency. In that sense, these are all attempts to increase the agency's protective duties, to increase its general environmental and recreational duties, and to provide protection, conservation and access to buildings, sites, objects, and areas of natural beauty, such as woodlands, mountains, moors and heaths. I beg to move.


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