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The Earl of Onslow: I should like to support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Marlesford as regards one particular point. I refer to the reuse of aggregate and hard core. I have a hole in the ground which was dug by my forebear a long time ago as a chalk pit. People became most excited about it because it was a disused quarry which they rather liked. In fact, I obtained planning permission to fill it in with grade 1 hard core. Most of the latter comprised lumps of concrete and road scrapings. All of that can be used if it is subjected to a certain industrial process.

However, the industrial process of smashing up concrete is incredibly noisy and rather expensive. Across the road from my hole in the ground is someone else's hole in the ground. Someone applied for planning permission to put a concrete breaking plant into that hole. Everyone in the local community was up in arms objecting to that environmentally sensible process because it would be noisy and smoky. Therefore, as a consequence, the stuff is dumped quietly in another hole in the ground and not used, while another hole, a fifth hole—and I am running out of holes—has to be dug to make up the concrete. I did not intend to intervene until my noble friend made his last comment. I believe that what I have said is apposite and germane to the matter under discussion.

Lord Wade of Chorlton: I should like to express my support for the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. Although I understand the reason for my noble friend bringing forward such an amendment, I believe that the matter needs to be treated with considerable caution. Experience has shown us that central planning of the use of resources is about the most inefficient way of dealing with them that can possibly be decided upon. The resources that we have in this country and how we use them will change. My noble friend referred to the fact that land is being destroyed. Land is being used in a different way and in a way that, at present, is of greater benefit to the majority of the people. Surely that is something that ever ebbs and flows.

Therefore, although I understand the point that my noble friend is trying to make, I believe that we have to consider what is right for the nation and not necessarily what might suit our own particular needs. I hope that the Government will treat the amendment with considerable care.

Lord Desai: I rise to support the amendment. However, I believe that something additional is

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required. I like the amendment because it is comprehensive in its coverage of the sort of things that we need to conserve. It is especially important that water conservation should be mentioned. Water will be one of the big problems of the coming century; indeed, that is quite clear from global trends. In fact, water may prove to be much more important than climate quality in the years to come.

Unlike my noble friend Lord Howie—and we seem to be disagreeing more than we normally do—I like the fact that the amendment starts by referring to "reducing the demand". As my noble friend pointed out, there is a clear conflict. Some of those conflicts have so far been implicit. It is rather good that they have now been brought to light.

When we talk about reducing the demand for renewable resources or for other such resources, obviously some people will be affected. Some industries will be affected if the demand is reduced. However, there are two ways of reducing demand: one may reduce it by changing the product mix that one uses or one may change the process by which something is produced. If one changes the process but not the product mix, one might be able to reduce the environmental cost of an activity without actually reducing the economic activity.

While I find the amendment to be very good—unlike the clause which it aims to amend and which runs into two pages —I should have much preferred the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, to spell out in greater detail the economic background. I have in mind the fact that all this ought to be done in the context of a sustainable development strategy so that we do not lose sight of the economic development angle. Obviously, there are very tough problems that have to be faced. At the same time, I should have liked the noble Lord to have spelt out more fully the kinds of things that he would like the Secretary of State to do. As regards what the noble Lord, Lord Wade, said, it need not involve central planning; indeed, it could involve all sorts of incentives, compatible prices and subsidies. That needs to be spelt out more clearly. Something like the noble Lord's amendment will have to be put into environmental policy either implicitly or explicitly. If it is not there, the policy will not make any sense.

Viscount Ullswater: I have so often listened to noble Lords sitting on the same Benches as the noble Lord, Lord Desai, criticising the Government for not building more and more houses. They want more and more houses and they say that all that the house builders want is more and more land upon which to build them. My noble friend would indicate that there is plenty of land; for example, there is plenty of land in city centres that can be built upon. But that is not actually sufficient for the number of houses which it is projected will be needed in the next 15 years.

My noble friend Lord Wade said that we need to approach the matter with considerable caution. It is a question of putting land to alternative uses. On the other hand, my noble friend Lord Onslow has a hole at one moment and then, at another moment, he wants to fill it up with something else. That is an alternative use of the same piece of land. He may do so with energy-intensive

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concrete breakers, for which he would have to obtain planning permission and which would be unfriendly to many people. I believe that the Government need to steer a clear path through the middle of both those respectable ideas. Sometimes I feel that I am straying into a debate of the Flat Earth Society; but then I pinch myself and realise that I am still here.

We are discussing important issues. However, I would like to stress the fact that the Government have them all in hand in the context of taking forward their sustainable development strategy. Therefore, the amendment is unnecessary.

The amendment would require the Secretary of State to produce something called a "resource management strategy", which would be a statement of policies for the conservation of minerals, energy, water, land and soil resources. The Secretary of State would include in it his policies for reducing the demand for those resources and encouraging more efficient use of them, for substituting renewable resources where that would bring a net environmental benefit and for enhancing their environmental value. The amendment would further require him to consult interested parties and to establish appropriate bodies within government where necessary.

The first point that I should like to make is that the different resources referred to are not all of the same kind. If any resource management strategy is needed, it may rest on different grounds for one of the natural resources than for the others. The list includes minerals, as I have mentioned, and also energy resources—such as gas, oil, coal and, conceivably, biomass. Those resources raise wholly different considerations from those on managing our surface waters, or from those on land, which are looked after in the land use planning system. If resource management strategies are needed, they need to be considered separately in their own terms or in the much wider context of the complete sustainable development strategy.

The Government's approach to those problems has already been set out as part of our sustainable development strategy. It looked at the different environmental media and resources, including minerals, fossil fuels, water, land and soil. That strategy pointed to the problems and opportunities that lie ahead and set the framework within which government policy should develop in the different sectors of the economy, including agriculture, minerals extraction, energy supply and development.

To supplement the strategy, the Government have already set out their policies in detail in many of the areas listed in the amendment. I take as an example minerals. Last April we issued Minerals Planning Guidance Note 6 which aims to ensure that the construction industry receives an adequate and steady supply of material at the best balance of environmental, social and economic cost. The Government have also recently published draft guidance on silica sand and peat extraction. Devising a full resource management strategy requires knowledge of the state of the environment. In 1995 the Government intend to set up a new unit within the Central Statistical Office to develop a set of national satellite environmental

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accounts. These will include estimates of resource depletion, as well as the impacts of pollution and expenditure on environmental protection by sectors of the economy. They will allow impacts of resource depletion to be taken explicitly into account in developing sectoral economic policies.

Your Lordships will realise that all this is a long term goal. The methodology is still being discussed by international experts and no consensus has yet emerged. In the shorter term therefore we are developing indicators of sustainable development to highlight and summarise key trends and the links between economic development and the environment. These will cover resource depletion.

Finally, I must refer to the requirement to set up new bodies within government, though the precise number and functions of such bodies is not specified. I believe that it is wholly inappropriate to seek to specify such arrangements in legislation in this way. Any such bodies would either require their own specific legislation or would fall within Ministers' existing powers to establish new arrangements within government departments. I hope that in the light of what I have said my noble friend will agree to withdraw his amendment.

5 p.m.

Lord Marlesford: I thank my noble friend for assuring me that all of the objectives that I hoped would be encompassed in my amendment would arise anyway. All I can say is that I shall have to see whether or not that is the case. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


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