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Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: I was not in a position to move them, I spoke to them.

The Earl of Lindsay: Yes. The amendments seek to increase SEPA's borrowing limits to bring them more

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into line with those of the environment agency. I suggest to the noble Lord that there is no need to do that since the environment agency's limit applies to both temporary and long-term borrowing. It includes any capital loans relating to flood defence. Since SEPA will not have the responsibility for flood defence works, it is not appropriate for its borrowing limits to be as high in equivalent terms. I am satisfied that the proposed limits are adequate.

In response to the noble Lord's specific question, the borrowing limits of existing bodies is disregarded for the purposes of the borrowing limits in Clause 45. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendments.

Baroness Hamwee: I thank the noble Lord for that reply and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 223A to 223B not moved.]

Clause 45 agreed to.

Clauses 46 and 47 agreed to.

Clause 48 [Provision of information by the new Agencies]:

[Amendment No. 224 not moved.]

Clause 48 agreed to.

The Earl of Lytton moved Amendment No. 224ZA:


Before Clause 49, insert the following new clause:

("Corporate plan of the Agencies

.—(1) Before the end of each financial year each new Agency shall prepare and publish a corporate plan setting out—
(a) its assessment of the overall effectiveness with which the Agency operates;
(b) its assessment of its performance against its objectives and targets;
(c) its proposed overall strategy for the forthcoming and two subsequent financial years, including the emphasis and resources which it proposes to devote to different areas of its work;
(d) the level of performance which it expects to achieve during the forthcoming financial year.
(2) In preparing the corporate plan referred to in subsection (1) above, each new Agency shall consult such persons and organisations as it considers to be appropriate.").

The noble Earl said: Published with the Bill was a draft management statement which set out many important criteria relating to the Government's expectations for the agency in England and Wales. It is felt by the CBI and others that many of the criteria are too important to be left simply to non-statutory regulatory or guidance purposes. In particular, there is a requirement in the draft management statement to prepare a corporate plan. The first point is that the document referred to in my amendment is already provided for in the draft management statement.

It seems to me that it is important that the new agency sets an example which can be assessed and appreciated by all those in the industry and elsewhere who have to implement its provisions. They include many stakeholders—the public, businesses and environmentalists. They all look to the provision of a

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body which provides a clear framework of priorities. In particular, it is important that it demonstrates that it is giving value for money.

In its report Environment Costs, the CBI shows that companies were better able to integrate environmental performance into their business strategies where they were making decisions based on a clear, externally set framework of priorities. So I feel that this is important. It is a probing amendment to find out what the intentions of the Government are. Are we going to have a clear and effective statement of strategies? Is there to be cost-effective regulation? Is there to be a degree of freedom of information?

For all its apparent length, this amendment does no more than say that the agency should publish the report which, in accordance with the management statement, it is due to prepare anyway. So the additional costs should be limited only to the costs of publication. I say "only"; obviously I do not have any idea of what those might be. However, it seems to me that this is an important pointer. I therefore commend the amendment to the Committee.

Lord Moran: I should say a word about Amendment No. 224ZC, which has been grouped with this one. As Members of the Committee know, we have been engaged for a considerable number of hours over four days in debating this Bill; but so far we have been singularly unsuccessful in securing other than minimal amendments, and that is somewhat dispiriting. This is perhaps an amendment which, as I hope, the Government will be prepared to accept—or at any rate to consider very seriously and perhaps bring back their own version on Report.

This amendment is to Clause 49 on page 40 of the Bill. That clause requires each of the two agencies to prepare a report on their activities during the year which they must send to Ministers. It requires the Secretary of State to lay a copy of the report before Parliament and to arrange for it to be published. That is very sensible and desirable. My amendment would add to subsection (2) of that clause a requirement that the reports which are already provided for in the Bill should contain an assessment of the aspects of the environment that are dealt with by the agencies and—this is extremely important—a statement of the agencies' priorities for addressing pollution of the environment in the coming year.

It would be very valuable, both to Parliament and to the public as a whole, to be given an indication of what the agency, which will be perhaps the principal environmental organisation in this country, thinks about the state of the environment and about the priorities. If, for example, it thinks that air pollution is the number one priority, it would be helpful for everybody to know that so that we can concentrate on it and see what can be done about it. I believe therefore that this amendment would be useful and sensible.

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My noble friend Lord Nathan, who unfortunately cannot be here at the moment but who was here earlier on, authorised me to say that he fully supports this amendment.

8.45 p.m.

Viscount Ullswater: Amendment No. 224ZA, moved by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, would require the agency to prepare and publish an annual corporate plan. It would specify what that plan should cover and require the agency to consult during its preparation.

The corporate plan will be a key means by which the agency develops its future priorities, objectives and targets for consideration by Ministers. And we will indeed expect the agency to follow the NRA's practice by publishing its corporate plan. This will supplement the annual report on its activities for which the Bill already provides.

I believe, however, that the amendment is unnecessary and inappropriate: unnecessary, because corporate planning is a well-established practice for public bodies such as the agency, and the requirement to prepare a plan will be set out in the agency's management statement; inappropriate, because it seems inconsistent with the status of such plans. They are indeed plans, rather than final decisions on programmes and activities. They are submitted to departmental Ministers some time before overall government decisions on the public expenditure survey, and may have to be adjusted in the light of those decisions. Putting the agency's plan on a statutory basis risks confusion of this principle. Indeed, this is why many bodies do not publish corporate plans, and why the NRA's published plan draws attention to the possibility that figures may change as a result of the survey.

Amendment No. 224ZC, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, seeks to introduce a requirement that every annual report produced by each of the agencies should contain an assessment prepared by that agency of those aspects of the environment which are relevant to its functions and a statement of the agency's priorities for addressing pollution in the coming year.

I fully appreciate the concerns that appear to lie behind this amendment. But in the case of the English and Welsh agency I believe it would represent a duplication of effort. The Department of the Environment publishes annually a digest of environmental protection and water statistics. This document presents a wide range of environmental statistics and explanatory text covering all areas of the environment, not just those for which the agencies will have responsibilities.

We would expect the new agency, like the NRA at present, to feed into these publications. But given the wide-ranging nature of the information provided, going beyond the areas of the agency responsibilities, we have concluded in the interests of efficiency and consistency that the department should produce the publication which gives an overview of the state of the environment and reports on progress and priorities. So far as concerns the agency, it will set out its priorities in its corporate plan.

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The situation in Scotland is somewhat different. The Scottish Office does not compile and publish environmental information on this scale. Because of that, the Government intends SEPA to publish an annual report on the state of the environment. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will use his powers under Clause 49(4) to require SEPA to publish as an annexe to its annual report a state of the environment report. That will be based on SEPA's duty to compile such information under Clause 31(2). Therefore, although we sympathise with much of what the amendment seeks to achieve, we do not believe that it is necessary. I therefore invite the noble Lords to withdraw their amendments.


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