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Viscount Mills: As an employee of the NRA, I have some experience of catchment management plans. Indeed, at present I am part of a team involved in drawing up such a plan for the River Ribble in Lancashire. I endorse fully what the noble Lord, Lord Moran has said. Catchment management plans are proving to be effective in helping to direct the work of the NRA; in bringing together all its functions; and in ensuring that the NRA consults with other river users. In short, those plans are an integral part of the NRA's strategy for improving the water environment.

However, the responsibilities of the proposed environment agency will be considerably wider than those of the NRA. The catchment management plans developed for the management of the water cycle may require radical changes to accommodate the additional responsibilities of the environment agency.

In addition, certain other problems may arise if catchment management plans are based on a statutory basis. For example, rights of appeal would be required. Some flexibility may be lost in the way in which catchment management plans are carried out. At present there is room for flexibility according to need across the country.

I believe also that statutory catchment management planning may rival the existing town and country planning system which decides land use and planning issues. In summary, catchment management planning is successful on a non-statutory basis. It is very much to be hoped that integrated water management will be continued into the new agency. However, to make it a statutory duty may compromise the future work of the agency, and for that reason I cannot support Amendment No. 77.

Baroness Nicol: My noble friend Lady David regrets that she is not able to be here this evening, although her name is to the amendment. It pursues a point made by my noble friend and many others on Second Reading.

I too support the view that ICMP is the most effective unit by which to plan for and deliver environmental protection. I am sorry to hear someone from the NRA apparently drawing back from the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, at an earlier stage when he seemed to support the idea that that should be done by the agency.

I understand that the hour is late and I shall try to be brief. However, I should like to give Members of the Committee one example of the effective working of the NRA in the Anglia region which has attracted a good deal of attention this evening. In the Anglia region, the NRA does much more than simply pay due regard to conservation. Conservation is at the heart of project and catchment management planning.

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In the Fenlands of East Anglia, the NRA has been involved in conservation projects that have great significance for endangered species. I shall not go into too much of the detail, but I must tell the Committee that the authority has succeeded in almost rescuing—and I hope will soon completely rescue—a very important site in which the fen raft spider, which is almost extinct, has been preserved. I should not like to see any change in the management of that area which would result in an end to that particular project.

The NRA is part of the working group that is halting this slow "death by drying" through much of East Anglia. It is working with Suffolk Water, Suffolk Wildlife Trust and English Nature to relocate boreholes and to restore the River Waveney. I hope that nothing that we do in the process of passing the Bill will interfere with the work that the NRA has been doing. I support the amendment.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Renton: At first sight, I was interested by the amendment. I was rather impressed by the desirability which the noble Lord, Lord Moran, explained to us. However, perhaps I may speak from practical experience of what the position was in the fenland area of my old constituency of Huntingdonshire. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Moran, and indeed my noble friend the Minister to consider the application of the proposed new laws to the fenland drainage boards. There are many such boards in that particular part of the world; for example, there is the North Level, the Middle Level and the South Level.

Let us take the Middle Level, which is the one that I know best. In that respect, we come up against a difficulty as regards the definition of the word "catchment" in subsection (2) of the proposed new clause. The section says that catchment,

    "means the area drained by a single surface water system and any associated groundwater".

The Middle Level is, I suppose, drained by the Middle Level Commission, which is a single surface water system. But it is fed by the Great Ouse, the Cam and the Nene rivers, together with a number of other minor streams.

When considering the new clause, we need to consider the present responsibilities of the drainage boards in those fenland areas. I see that the noble Lord wishes to intervene. I give way.

Lord Williams of Elvel: I apologise for intervening during the noble Lord's speech. However, as I am sure the noble Lord realises, we have reached a late hour in today's proceedings. In the interests of the staff, it has been agreed through the usual channels that we should try to finish the business of the day by about 10 o'clock. From the Opposition, I do not wish in any way to inhibit the noble Lord, but I believe that the Minister will support what I have said. If we could get on with the

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proceedings, I am sure that we would all be most grateful—and that includes, if I may say so, the Doorkeepers.

Lord Renton: I am grateful for the noble Lord's advice. I was only going to continue for about a further minute and a half, which would have expired by this time.

Nevertheless, in considering the matter, we should not ignore the effect that it would have on the present responsibilities of those drainage boards.

Viscount Ullswater: There is no doubt that catchment management planning is valuable. With the support of the Government, the NRA already employs catchment management planning as the main tool to achieve integrated environmental management. A river, and the land, tributaries and underground water connected with it, is treated as a discrete unit or catchment.

The catchment management plan is drawn up in consultation with all interested bodies and the public. All the bodies which the agency would be required to consult under the proposed new clause would in fact be consulted by the NRA under the present arrangements. From that description, it is clear that the only difference between our view and the proposals in the amendment is whether or not the management catchment plans should be statutory. It has always been our view that the National Rivers Authority should have a good deal of flexibility and discretion in the way that it carries out its responsibilities for river management and pollution control. Local circumstances can vary and change quickly.

All the processes which control the implementation of a catchment plan—abstraction licences, discharge consents and so on—have their own statutory consultation procedures. We think that, coupled with the commitment to the use of catchment management plans that already exist in the NRA, and which we would wish to see continue, is sufficient to ensure a proper foundation for the work of the agency. I noted that the noble Lord, Lord Moran, in moving the amendment, said it was a probing amendment. I hope therefore with this assurance of the importance which we attach to the use of non-statutory catchment management plans, the noble Lord will be able to withdraw the new clause.

Lord Moran: I am grateful to all the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I think my main concern was that as the new agency will include responsibilities for air and for land as well as for water, that perhaps this concept might have become less urgent and in some way got buried. But I am greatly encouraged by what the Minister said and by his magic words that the Government would wish to see this practice continue. That is exactly what I wanted to hear and I am grateful to him.

With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said, he knows much more about the fenlands than I do; but I think the answer simply is that circumstances vary greatly in different parts of the country and therefore this must be dealt with—as it is, and has been—on a regional basis by people who know the circumstances

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of each part of the country. Having said that, I am grateful to the Minister and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 [General environmental and recreational duties]:

[Amendments Nos. 78 to 82 not moved.]

Lord Howie of Troon moved Amendment No. 83:

Page 8, line 38, after ("buildings,") insert ("engineering structures").

The noble Lord said: In speaking to this group of amendments, I wish to draw attention also to Amendments Nos. 169, 170, 171, 172 and 174 to Clause 30, which is in the "Scots" part of the Bill. I do this because those amendments are identical to the group which I have been asked to speak to now and I do not wish to bother the Committee by speaking to them again when we reach Clause 30. I need do no more than refer to them at this point.

The point I am raising here in this group of amendments is a very narrow one; but I do not think that it is an insignificant one. The aim is to ensure that in the Bill architecture and engineering are seen to be of equal importance and of equal status in the duties which fall upon the various boards concerned. Engineering has climbed the social ladder in recent years a little. What was once the Science Research Council later became the Science and Engineering Research Council which was a step forward. I think I am right in saying that it has now become the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, but I stand to be corrected on that. This is a matter of importance to engineering.

I have raised matters of this kind several times before in the past, as the Committee may recall. I raised this matter as long ago as 1988 during the passage of the copyright Act. On that occasion, where a similar problem arose, the word "building" was defined to include fixed structure somewhat in the manner of the present Bill which defines "building" to include structure. I do not think that that method of dealing with the problem is really helpful as it is only after turning to the definition in the first part of the Bill that one realises that "building" includes structure, and not everyone would be inclined to do that. That is far too oblique an approach. I am really asking that the Bill should be direct. I wrote to the Minister outlining my arguments and what I am about to say this evening will be closely based on the letter that I wrote to him.

My argument is simply this. There are many artefacts which are worthy of being protected and conserved but which are not buildings in any sense of that word. That is especially true with regard to the waterways, where dams, water courses, locks, tunnels and other structures abound. Of course numerous engineering structures are also well worthy of protection, such as pumping engines, which have nothing to do with architecture or buildings in any sense of the word. A notable example is the Anderton Lift at Northwich, on the River Weaver. It is to be restored with the blessing of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and the Department of National

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Heritage. If ever an artefact ought to be called an engineering structure and not a building, the Anderton Lift is it.

There are many more examples and I notice that the principle at least appears to be recognised in Clause 35(9) of the Bill. That refers to "engineering or building operations", and it clearly distinguishes between the two different types of activity. If the activities are distinct and are so recognised in the Bill, it seems to me to follow that their results must be distinct and different as well.

It has been argued in the past in this House that such objects which I describe as being of engineering interest are already covered by their historic interest. Sometimes that may be true, though many of them are merely old rather than historic. The two words "old" and "historic" do not mean quite the same thing. In any case, that is also true of architectural objects. If an object or an artefact, as I prefer to call it, can have both an architectural and a historic interest, or an architectural interest instead of a historic one, it is obvious that another object could be worthy of preserving because of its engineering qualities, in exactly the same way as such an object might be protected because of its architectural qualities. There is no distinction between architecture and engineering in that case, so far as I can see.

To refer to it again, the Anderton Lift might possibly be of historic interest, but its engineering qualities are much more important than any historic qualities or age qualities which it might possess. It is for those engineering qualities that it is worthy of preservation.

It has been argued in this House—I must confess, a little to my annoyance—that the artefacts to which I refer are covered by their archaeological interest in the wording in the Bill, on the ground that archaeology includes industrial archaeology. I find that an amazing argument; I have been amazed by it before and I hope that I shall not be amazed by it again tonight. Archaeology clearly refers to ancient history and the study of antiquities. So far as industrial archaeology has any meaning at all, it is the study of industrial history by reference to its artefacts.

There again, if we study industrial history through its artefacts, those artefacts or objects, as the Bill would have it, might be architectural or they might be engineering in character. If architectural interests are to be considered as a separate item, in addition to or instead of archaeological, historical or any other interest, so should engineering interests. My minor proposal, to leave out line 42, seems to follow logically from that. If these arguments are sound, we do not need the definition on page 9.

An item might be preserved for a variety of interests. Let me put forward just one example. Let us consider, for instance, Tower Bridge, which is not terribly far from here and which we all know. It is barely a century old. I do not think that it has any historic significance. It certainly has no architectural interest; its architecture is quite grotesque. What it has is very substantial engineering interest—because of its structure and

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because of the nature of the bridge itself. Tower Bridge would be preserved for its engineering interest and not for any other.

There is a precedent here which can be followed. In Public Bills, I have not been successful in convincing the Government to follow my arguments, cogent, precise and desirable though they might appear. On the other hand, I did manage to convince the British Waterways Board in the British Waterways Act a couple of years ago and the precedent was accepted. Although that was a Private Bill, I think it has the same standing in law as a Public Bill. That precedent can be followed if we apply ourselves to precedent, as we often do in this House.

I received in the post today an extremely agreeable letter from the Minister in reply to my letter to him. In the course of the letter he said that I would receive a very full reply this evening. I do not demand a very full reply. I merely want a very short reply in which he agrees to accept my amendments. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Viscount Ullswater: In Amendments Nos. 83, 84, 85, 89 and 91, the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, seeks to ensure that architectural and engineering matters are treated equally and that engineering structures are properly protected. As the noble Lord said, I know that this is a matter about which he feels keenly, which he raised at Second Reading and on which he has subsequently written to me.

We agree that the Bill should provide for such protection and conservation where such structures or objects are of special interest. I have to say to the noble Lord that the provisions are broadly drafted in the Bill and it is not clear that the effect of his amendment would be to increase the protection of the kinds of engineering structure with which he is concerned. But I am advised that they would remove the protection from other forms of structure. They would therefore tend to limit rather than enhance the protection that is afforded under Clause 7.

The provisions in the Bill on these matters build on existing legislation. I do not believe that we should change them lightly. However, if the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment—

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