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Lord Moran: I am very grateful to the Minister for his reply to my particular amendment. I have no difficulty at all about the Department of the Environment rather than the agency being the body which publishes and submits to Parliament the assessments of the environment and priorities. However, the digest, although very valuable, is perhaps not the vehicle that I had in mind. Goodness knows, we all have a vast amount to read; and what we really want is something that highlights the view on the current state of the environment and above all the priorities for action. Although they may be there in the agency's corporate plan and in the Government's digest, if some way could be found to bring them vividly across to Parliament and to the public it would be very much in the public interest.

The Earl of Lytton: I thank the noble Viscount the Minister for what was a very helpful response. At least he confirmed that it is the intention that the agency will publish its corporate plan in some form, rather on similar lines to the NRA. It remains to be seen in what form that will come in. I very much echo the point that the noble Lord, Lord Moran, just made: it is to be hoped that this document will be meaningful and helpful. On the strength of what the Minister said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 49 [Annual report]:

[Amendments Nos. 224ZB to 224ZD not moved.]

Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 224ZE:


Page 40, line 27, at end insert ("including the publication of a report of the Agency's activities in Wales in a form which complies with the Welsh Language Act 1993").

The noble Lord said: The intention of this amendment is to pursue the debate that we had on 19th January about the specific role of the agency in Wales and the relationship between the England and Wales agency and its activity within the Principality, and in particular to highlight the need for a separate publication of the report of the agency's activities in Wales. Not surprisingly, I also propose that it should comply with the Welsh Language Act.

The intention of the amendment is to ensure that the environmental debate in Wales continues as a distinctive debate. That is because of two factors.

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The environmental role of the Secretary of State in the Welsh Office is clearly identified in the work of that department. Indeed, this very day the Secretary of State has published his environmental agenda for Wales which includes references not only to the natural environment and the need efficiently to maintain sites of special scientific interest and nature reserves but also to the whole issue of air quality, environmental quality and waste recycling. They are all issues which are relevant to the work of the agency and are all covered in different ways in the Bill. Therefore I should like to ensure that the agency itself makes a distinctive contribution to the level of the environmental debate within the Principality. As I indicated, that relates to an earlier attempt to strengthen the Committee for Wales. The Government were not prepared to accept that. However, I ask them to look at this matter and at ways in which the agency will provide information.

The second point requires me to repeat a declaration of my interest as chairman of the statutory Welsh Language Board. The board—certainly I—was concerned to see no reference to the 1993 Act in this Bill. We assume that the new environmental agency, being a new public body, is covered by the terms of that Act and that the policies for bilingual publication which were pursued very effectively by the NRA will continue. I know that it is preparing a language scheme which, it is to be hoped, will now be handed on to the agency. I should like confirmation that this area of environmental policy, like all other aspects of public policy, is covered. Is it the Government's intention that that should be so?

It is important that when new agencies are created it is made clear from the start that when they provide a service for the people of Wales, wherever they are placed, they provide that service within the terms of the 1993 Act. We do not want to repeat a situation in which additional costs may be incurred in "bilingualising"—I see that the noble Viscount likes that word—an institution which might previously have been unilingual. We do not want those additional costs to bear upon the administration of any new agency when they might have been absorbed in an integrated fashion from the start. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater: I can understand why the noble Lord, who is chairman of the Welsh Language Board, as he indicated to the Committee, should wish to emphasise the importance of the agency ensuring that reports on its activities in Wales are in the Welsh language.

I can assure him of the Government's commitment to the Welsh language in public life. I am sure that he will be aware that the National Rivers Authority, for example, already publishes its annual report in both Welsh and English. Through his position as chairman of the Welsh Language Board, he will also know that the board has issued for consultation draft guidelines on the use of Welsh by public bodies and that in due course a final version will be put by the Secretary of State for Wales before Parliament for approval. I have confirmed that the draft guidelines will be brought to the attention of the advisory committee of the agency.

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The noble Lord may also wish to know whether it is the Government's intention that the environment agency, when established, should be designated as a public body under Section 6 of the Welsh Language Act. In considering what bodies should be designated under that section, I can assure him that full consideration will be given to the position of the agency. If the agency is designated a public body under the Act, it will become susceptible to notification by the Welsh Language Board that it should prepare a Welsh language report. Doubtless the noble Lord will ensure that the agency's activities in Wales will be properly considered in that event.

In view of those remarks, I hope that the noble Lord will be reassured and will feel that it is not necessary to press the amendment.

Lord Elis-Thomas: I am indeed so assured.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 49 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 224ZF not moved.]

Clause 50 [Local inquiries and other hearings]:

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 224ZG:


Page 40, line 33, leave out ("a local") and insert ("an").

The noble Viscount said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I allow the noble Lord, Lord Moran, to address his amendment, Amendment No. 224A, which is grouped with this amendment. Then I can reply to him and also speak to the amendments in my name on the Marshalled List. I beg to move.

Lord Moran: I am grateful to the Minister. I can speak very briefly. At present, Section 213 of the Water Resources Act 1991 allows the Secretary of State to call for a local inquiry to be held in order, among other things, to prevent or deal with pollution of any controlled waters or in relation to any other matter relevant to the quality of any such waters. That is a very broadly worded provision. It allows the Secretary of State wide scope to call an inquiry where damage to the environment is threatened.

The Bill contains (on page 255) provision to repeal that section—Section 213 of the Water Resources Act 1991—and to replace it with Clause 50 of the Bill. Essentially, the new clause allows the Minister to call an inquiry in connection with any of the functions of the new agency or of his own functions in relation to the agency. I believe that that narrows the scope of the power to call inquiries in cases of environmental importance. My amendment adopts the broader wording in the Water Resources Act which I feel is better in the circumstance.

Viscount Ullswater: Clause 50 gives Ministers broad powers to hold local inquiries in connection with any of the wide range of functions of each new agency. It applies to such inquiries the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972, so that Ministers have powers to obtain papers, summon and cross-examine witnesses and deal with costs.

Amendment No. 224A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, seeks to extend those powers to cover an even wider range of environmental matters, so that

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Ministers could cause a local inquiry to be held with a view to preventing or dealing with pollution or in relation to any other matter relevant to the quality of the environment.

In so far as these matters relate to a new agency's functions, they will already be covered by the provisions of this clause. Since each agency has functions in relation to integrated pollution control, water pollution, contaminated land and waste, this will include a great many cases in which Ministers might consider that an inquiry should be held.

As far as concerns cases not related to the agency's functions, Section 96 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 gives powers to the Secretary of State to cause inquiries to be held with a view to preventing or dealing with pollution (other than air pollution) or noise at any place. Section 59(1) of the Clean Air Act 1993 makes a similar provision in connection with air pollution. Taken together, these provisions seem to me to give the Secretary of State all the powers needed to hold formal inquiries on environmental matters.

With that reassurance I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Moran, will feel able, in time, to withdraw or not move his amendment.

Amendments Nos. 224ZG, 224ZH, 224B, 224C and 224D all concern the provision for holding inquiries in connection with the functions of a new agency or the functions of a Minister in relation to a new agency. The amendments remove any doubt there may be as to whether the power to hold a local inquiry is wide enough to include power to hold a regional or national inquiry should that be appropriate to deal with any issue which arises in connection with the new agencies. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

9 p.m.

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 224ZH:


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