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The Earl of Balfour: I am much comforted by my noble friend's response. However, I should like to read carefully what my noble friend said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clauses 26 and 27 agreed to.

Clause 28 [Records held by SEPA]:

[Amendments Nos. 159 to 161 not moved.]

Clause 28 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 162 not moved.]

Clause 29 [Guidance on sustainable development and other aims and objectives]:

[Amendments Nos. 163 to 165 not moved.]

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 165A:

Page 25, line 27, at end insert:
("(4) The Secretary of State shall consult the bodies and persons specified in subsection (5) below before giving guidance under subsection (1) above.
(5) The bodies and persons mentioned in subsection (4) above are—
(a) SEPA;
(b) Scottish Natural Heritage;
(c) Historic Scotland;
(d) Scottish Enterprise;
(e) Highlands and Islands Enterprise;
(f) the East of Scotland Water Authority;
(g) the West of Scotland Water Authority;
(h) the North of Scotland Water Authority;
(i) such bodies, representing industrialists and the owners and occupiers of land in Scotland, as the Secretary of State considers it appropriate to consult; and
(j) such other persons as he considers it appropriate to consult.").

The noble Earl said: Clause 29 deals with sustainable development and other aims and objectives. All we seek by way of the amendment is to ensure that the Secretary of State,

in the proposed subsection (5), including SEPA, before issuing any guidance. I am certain—indeed, it has been my experience in every walk of life—that, if consultation takes place between all parties, we manage to compromise and that makes life very much easier. I beg to move.

The Earl of Kintore: Paragraph (j) of the amendment is intended to include organisations which have advanced from being mere pressure groups to holding a useful fund of local knowledge.

26 Jan 1995 : Column 1224

Amendment No. 170A is included in this group of amendments. It deals with Clause 30 which does not appear at present to mention farming, forestry and the rural economy. Those aspects are essential for the preservation of the countryside and of local communities. Amendment No. 170A seeks to rectify that omission. Its wording is taken from Section 3 of the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 1991 which sets out the duty of Scottish Natural Heritage to take account of certain matters in exercising its functions.

Scottish Natural Heritage has been successful in its work for the environment in Scotland. Its balanced approach is widely regarded as being fair and successful. There is at least as great a need for SEPA to have equivalent balancing duties. It would be logical for the agency to have, so far as possible, the same balancing duties as those of Scottish Natural Heritage.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Howie of Troon: I do not wish to detain Members of the Committee for any length of time, but we are dealing with a very miscellaneous grouping of amendments which contains my Amendments Nos. 169, 170, 171, 172 and 174. Those amendments are very narrow and have nothing whatever to do with sustainable development, and so on.

I should like to say how agreeable it is for me to see the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, sitting on the Government Front Bench. I had not noticed his promotion and had therefore neglected to congratulate him. The noble Earl and I meet from time to time on railway matters. I believe that he strengthens the Government substantially; indeed, that is probably why they have advanced in the opinion polls during the past few days.

I have little to say about the amendments which are almost identical to those I moved last week on Clause 7 which deals with England and Wales. I referred to them in detail, so I need not elaborate too much. My general argument can be found in the Hansard report of the debates.

Basically, when considering the preservation of artefacts, especially in relation to waterways, railways and so on, Clause 30 of the Bill provides that SEPA must,

    "have regard to the desirability of protecting and conserving buildings, sites and objects of archaeological, architectural or historic interest".

I am really saying that if things can have architectural interest—which they certainly can—there are also many things which can have engineering interest, which is quite separate and different. That fact should appear on the face of the Bill.

I wish to outline a situation which is somewhat fanciful. If we desired to preserve, for example, the Forth Bridge on some future occasion, it would be because it is a great engineering achievement and one on which no architect laid a hand. At present, it would be rather good if the Forth Bridge received a coat of paint; but that is a totally different matter.

Perhaps I may refer to a less fanciful situation. Clearly, the Forth Bridge would be preserved under some guise. For example, let us suppose that under privatisation the railway line (which the noble Earl will

26 Jan 1995 : Column 1225

know well) up to Mallaig were to be abandoned. It is quite feasible that it could be. Not many people travel on the line. In that case, we would have to consider the Glen Finnan viaduct, a great mass concrete structure which is not architectural, historical or archaeological. It is, however, of great engineering interest. It was built by Sir Robert McAlpine whose grandson is a Member on the Benches opposite. If that viaduct were to be preserved in the future—as, indeed, it ought to be—the reason would be its great engineering significance and not any other. I see that the noble Lord, Lord McAlpine, has entered the Chamber. I hope that the noble Lord takes his seat so that I can congratulate his grandfather, "Concrete Bob". I am glad to see that he has done so.

When we debated the matter last week, the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, looked pretty kindly on my amendments. However, I believe that he thought I was slightly churlish in my reception of his response. I hope that I can reassure the noble Viscount that that is not so. I hope also that the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, will be at least as accommodating so that we can reach some agreement along the lines I have suggested. I believe that that would greatly enhance the Bill and greatly please the engineering profession.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: The noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, has given the Committee a most interesting trip around the historic engineering sites of Scotland. I wonder whether the noble Lord knows (again, this is a diversion) that within the Glen Finnan viaduct, there is, not a human body, but that of a horse, which fell in while concrete was being poured in. Unfortunately, it was not possible to get the animal out. That is one of the stories I have heard; no doubt, the noble Lord will be more familiar with it.

I endorse some of the remarks that have been made. Perhaps I may first deal with Amendment No. 166 which is tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Ewing of Kirkford. The purpose of the amendment is to give a duty to further conservation across all the functions of SEPA. The duty proposed for SEPA in the Bill is to,

    "have regard to the desirability of conserving and enhancing".

This strikes me as being a rather weak duty. I am advised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds that Scotland should be able to do better. This amendment, which is put forward by that body, and which I and my noble friend Lord Ewing of Kirkford are only too pleased to submit to the Government, would give the agency a duty to further wildlife heritage demands rather than just have regard to them. We seek to make this duty more positive rather than a purely passive one.

The effect of Amendment No. 167 is again to give a duty to further conservation across all the functions of SEPA. It is a brief amendment to Clause 30 and will strengthen the environmental duty for SEPA. The proposal to give SEPA only a weak duty in relation to the natural heritage of Scotland is not convincing or too satisfactory. The duty to have regard to the desirability of doing that is rather weak. I would suggest that the words of the amendment are preferable.

26 Jan 1995 : Column 1226

We shall reach Amendment No. 186 later. It is grouped with the amendments I have been discussing. This amendment removes an unnecessary burden on Scottish Natural Heritage to provide SEPA with predictions as to why important sites might be vulnerable to SEPA's activities. I will move these amendments when the time comes.

The Earl of Balfour: I feel that I must apologise to the Committee for not bringing into my original remarks Amendment No. 170A. However, I am very glad to say that the noble Earl, Lord Kintore, did bring it in. Equally, I feel that unless this Bill and SEPA help farmers, foresters and fisheries, urban rules and regulations will kill rural industries and development. I also very much support the principle behind Amendment No. 173 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael. I feel that, if we can have statutory rights of access to information held by SEPA, I personally shall feel that the situation is better.

Lord Monkswell: I rise in this debate to support the amendments that have been tabled by my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon. I must advise the Committee that when a similar amendment was discussed earlier in the Committee's proceedings it was rather late at night and it would not have been useful for the Committee to hear more speakers at that time of night. However, tonight—thank goodness!—we are discussing this matter a little earlier and it gives me great pleasure to support my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon with regard to his amendments.

The Committee needs to be aware that, although the previous debate held in Committee involved only the one speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, that does not signify that he was the only one who felt the subject was important. I would remind the Committee that earlier today we discussed at Question Time a Starred Question which concerned the importance of science and technology. There was support for what was proposed from all around the Chamber. I was going to suggest—however, there was limited time—two of the things that the Government could do, bearing in mind the shortage of engineers in both Houses of Parliament. First, the Government could promote the idea among all political parties that they should select for election to the other place candidates who were engineers. Also, as regards the membership of this Chamber, whenever the powers that be consider conferring peerages, the qualifications of engineers should also be highly regarded in terms of elevation to the peerage.

As regards the consideration of this Bill, one of the ways in which we can give support to the very important role in our society and our lives which is played by engineering and engineering structures is to support this amendment. I believe it would send a message not only to the engineering community in this country that its work was supported and recognised, but also to the public at large that Parliament felt that the contribution of engineers, and of these engineering structures that we

26 Jan 1995 : Column 1227

are talking about, is important. With those few words I hope that the Government will look sympathetically on these amendments.

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