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The Earl of Balfour: Before my noble friend sits down, I think he will find that the grouping of amendments includes Amendment No. 146 in the name of my noble friend Lord Ullswater. I presume that it is purely drafting but he did not say anything about it.

The Earl of Lindsay: My noble friend is correct: it is a minor drafting amendment.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Before the noble Lord, Lord Williams, rises, which I know he is bound to

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do, I would say to my noble friend that I did not know he was going to make the announcement that local government will be statutory consultees in relation to SEPA. That is precisely what I was trying to get at when I asked him to tell the Committee—I was waiting for an answer in his speech—how the functions of local government and of SEPA which overlap will be taken care of. It seems to me that that is a good solution to the problem. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, is pleased; I certainly am.

Lord Williams of Elvel: The noble Earl has made the important announcement in response to the amendment that local authorities will be statutory consultees and that the Government will bring forward, I think he said, some statutory instrument to that effect. That is not only in the case of Scotland—as I understood the noble Earl to say—but also in the case of England and Wales. If I am wrong perhaps the noble Earl will correct me now. However, as I understood it, he included England and Wales as well. That is a very important announcement. I find it rather odd—perhaps I should address the noble Viscount here—that this important item comes in the middle of a debate about the Scottish environment protection agency. Leaving that aside, I assume that the Government will bring forward some sort of amendment at a later stage in the Bill to implement what we have been told. If I am wrong, the noble Earl, when he comes to speak again, will tell me.

I hope I may ask a question of the noble Earl relating to Amendment No. 145. I am not an expert in Scottish affairs. I have never pretended to be an expert in Scottish affairs. However, I am advised—as the noble Earl, I think, said—that air pollution powers were given to district and island councils quite recently. They have trained officers, and the new controls came into effect, I understand, on 1st April 1992 following a great deal of preparatory work. Apparently—I say "apparently" because I am open to correction—there has been no criticism of those local authorities in their carrying out of the work. It is rather odd, having given them all these powers and trained all the officers, that the functions should now be transferred to the new agency.

There is a second question to which I would ask the noble Earl to respond. He rightly says that air pollution is to be a matter for SEPA rather than local authorities in the future if the Government have their way but that this is not the case in England and Wales. He declared that Scotland in some way was different to England and Wales. I am not quite certain that I follow his argument as regards in what sense Scotland can be said to be different from Wales other than the fact that they are at different ends of the United Kingdom. The problems in Wales are more or less analogous to the problems in Scotland. Are we to take it, as a result of the noble Earl's arguments, that the Government are now prepared

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to accept Amendment No. 264, which we shall deal with later, which sets air quality standards for the rest of the United Kingdom apart from Scotland?

4.15 p.m.

The Earl of Lindsay: The noble Lord, Lord Williams, asks a number of questions. As regards the two announcements made today, both of which I regard as being of great importance, one will involve regulations which will be brought forward. That is the one whereby local authorities in Scotland will be statutory consultees for the prescribed air pollution processes which they currently regulate. The other, I believe—if I am incorrect, I shall make sure the noble Lord receives the correct information—involves powers which already exist under Part I of the EPA Act 1990. To repeat, it allows local authorities in Scotland, England and Wales to become statutory consultees for IPC processes from this April. That is a duty they will enjoy both from April and through the EPA. The difference between Scotland, and England and Wales, on air pollution control is very marked. While Scotland has between perhaps 1,000 and 1,200 air emission processes which fall under the scope of the regulations, England and Wales have some 14,000. Therefore the scale of the problem and the management of the problem are rightly being handled in a very different way.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: First of all I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I will look at what he said. It may well be that something has been missed in the Bill. I am sure that that has happened before. I shall certainly consider the matter.

The situation would have been rather different if the announcement had been made earlier, but perhaps the amendments that we put down jogged the Government into providing a little more democracy. We are increasingly disturbed by the growth in the number of appointees. I believe that the country as a whole is becoming disturbed about the fact that there are these bodies which have such control over people's lives but which are accountable to nobody but the Secretary of State. People are conscious that these services are vital. We believe strongly that there should be contact with somebody on the board who can do something about those anxieties. What the noble Earl said may be helpful.

It seemed to me that the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, was rather against local authorities and CoSLA for pushing these points through. I know that CoSLA is troublesome, but it is meant to be. The fact that its members are predominantly not members of the party opposite makes the matter more difficult. I suspect that some of the antagonism directed towards CoSLA is not at what it does but to its members.

I thank the Minister for giving us that information, even if it is rather late in the day. We shall study the regulations very carefully when they are available. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 132 to 135 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Elliott of Morpeth): I have to tell the Committee that if Amendment No. 136 is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 137.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 136:

Page 134, line 38, leave out sub-paragraph (1) and insert:
("(1) The members of SEPA shall elect, from amongst their members, both a chairman and a deputy chairman.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 136 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 137 to 139, 141, 159 to 161 and 173.

This group of amendments represents another strike for democracy. We want SEPA committee and board meetings to be open to the public. Most local authority committees are now open to the public. They attract a reasonable attendance because people are interested. The amendment would ensure local and general public accountability of SEPA's performance. It is also consistent with the Government's commitment under the European Union directive on freedom of access to information on the environment. I wonder whether the Government were aware of that when they prepared the Bill. That is the general tenor of this group of amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Monkswell: I rise to support Amendment No. 136 in particular. I believe that we could learn a lesson from the way in which this Chamber itself conducts its business in that we are all equal and we can all contribute to debates. When we come to a decision it is either a consensus or a democratically-determined decision. We are all part of that decision.

One of the difficulties of having the chair and deputy chair of SEPA appointed by the Secretary of State is that effectively it raises two members of that collective body into superior beings who are answerable to the Secretary of State, who has nominated them. That will devalue the other members of SEPA and what should be the collective nature of its decisions.

I implore the Government to think again and to bear in mind the positive benefits that would accrue from accepting my noble friend's amendment. As I said, we can seek no better example than the operation of our own Chamber.

The Earl of Lindsay: I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, seeks to strike for democracy once again. In drafting the Bill I hope that the Government have anticipated some of the anxieties which the amendments raise.

The purpose of Amendments Nos. 136 and 137 is to take responsibility for the appointment of SEPA's chairman and deputy chairman away from my right honourable friend and place it in the hands of the agency board itself. The noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, also focused on that area. I remind the Committee that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is in any case responsible for all the appointments to the SEPA

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board. Therefore, any difference would be marginal should the chairman and deputy chairman be elected rather than appointed.

The critical issue is that the chain of responsibility from the chairman to the Secretary of State and through him to Parliament is kept intact and is not diminished in any way.

The chairman of SEPA is also likely to have a high public profile. That is another reason why, for strategic reasons, his appointment must be made in line with the wider scheme of SEPA's operations.

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