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Viscount Ullswater: Amendment No. 350 would require guidance issued by Ministers, such as on sustainable development or on contaminated land, to be subject to negative resolution in this House and in another place. It would also require guidance issued by the agencies to be produced in writing and to be published. I believe that the amendment is unnecessary. It would hinder the effective work of the agencies as they develop into centres of scientific excellence and expertise.

We have already had lengthy debates in the early days of Committee on the guidance to be issued on sustainable development. As can be seen from the draft scoping document we issued, the guidance will be lengthy and technical and we are committed to wide consultation with the agencies and other experts in the area. The proposed amendment would not help to improve the drafting or the scope of the guidance. It would merely act as a delay for at least 40 days, and much longer while Parliament is adjourned, with the final sanction of a veto. One can conceive of cases where it would be harmful to the work of the agency to stop Ministers from issuing guidance (with which all parties were content) for an extended period over, say, the Summer Recess.

The last subsection of Amendment No. 350 raises a different set of problems which could impede the effective day-to-day working of the agencies. It would require any guidance issued under the terms of this legislation, or any draft of such guidance, to be in writing and to be published.

In many instances, the appropriate response by the agencies could be speedy advice by telephone rather than a formal written response. The effect of the amendment could be to prevent that, thereby preventing the agencies' expertise being made available to others in the best manner, by introducing the rather artificial requirement that any guidance they produce must be written and published.

I believe that we have it about right and I hope that in the light of what I have said, the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Williams of Elvel: We must be speaking at cross purposes. Clause 103, to which my amendment relates, refers to any directions given to the agency or to SEPA,

My amendment is directed at that provision.

In a previous amendment to this effect (on a previous Marshalled List), I used the word "guidance" but, on advice, changed it to "directions". I wonder whether the Minister is using a brief that relates to a former Marshalled List rather than that which is before the Committee at the moment.

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If we are to follow the implementation of Community directives (or whatever) by a "direction" to implement those provisions, it must be right for Parliament to see and discuss such provisions. That is what the amendment seeks to achieve.

Viscount Ullswater: I have to confess to the Committee that neither I nor my advisers spotted that change of word. I apologise to the Committee because I feel that my reply was inadequate in that I dealt with "guidance". I shall certainly read carefully in Hansard what the noble Lord has said.

Lord Williams of Elvel: I am most grateful to the noble Viscount and shall not pursue the matter now. Perhaps we could discuss this at a later stage, by which time the noble Viscount will have read the amendment on the Marshalled List. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 103 agreed to.

8.45 p.m.

Clause 104 [General interpretation]:

[Amendment No. 351 not moved.]

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 351A:

Page 112, line 8, at end insert:
("(2) The amendment by this Act of any provision contained in subordinate legislation shall not be taken to have prejudiced any power to make further subordinate legislation amending or revoking that provision.
(3) In subsection (2) above, "subordinate legislation" has the same meaning as in the Interpretation Act 1978.").

The noble Earl said: This is a technical amendment which clarifies the fact that any amendment made by the Bill to subordinate legislation does not prejudice the power to amend those provisions by further subordinate legislation. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 104, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 105 [Short title, commencement and extent]:

Lord Nathan moved Amendment No. 352:

Page 112, line 16, leave out ("on such day") and insert ("at the end of a period of two years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed or on such earlier date").

The noble Lord said: This is the last clause of a long Bill. Subsection (2) provides that Part III, which relates to the national parks provisions,

    "shall come into force at the end of the period of two months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed",

with one minor exception. After dealing with some not very important matters, subsection (3) provides that the remainder of the Act,

    "shall come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may specify by order made by statutory instrument",

and so forth. That means that the Government may never bring into force the provisions which have been so fully discussed, as we can say now, towards the end of this seventh day of the Committee stage of the Bill.

The amendment conforms closely to the recommendation of the 12th Report of 1993-94 of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. It provides that,

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instead of there being no limit of time within which the provisions of the Act are to be brought into force—that is the position that I have outlined—the provisions of the Act shall come into force,

    "at the end of a period of two years",

from the date of the passage of the Act unless brought into force earlier by a government order. I believe that your Lordships' House should be firm in requiring that the Government carry out provisions which have been enacted after such careful and detailed discussion.

As things stand, the legislation is optional. The Government can either bring it into force or not, as they wish. It may be thought that the possibility of the Government doing such a thing is fanciful; but experience in the environmental context shows that that is not so. I refer to Part II of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 which was central to the provisions of that Act and to the purposes of Parliament in enacting it, and related to water. That part of that Act did not come into force for 10 years after enactment.

Another example is closer to the Bill: Section 143 of the Environmental Protection Act and related sections were enacted in 1990. They related to contaminated land and were discussed exhaustively both here and in another place. The Government apparently decided not to bring those provisions into force, and now under the Bill seek to repeal and replace them. There is no certainty that after all the time and effort spent considering the provisions of the Bill that they will be brought into force within a reasonable time, or, indeed, at all. That is wholly unacceptable.

Of course I accept that there are some provisions where it is wise to leave to government the choice of time for bringing them into force. It would be foolish to require that all provisions should be brought into force on the passing of the Act or within, let us say, two months. A period of two years, which is the period that following the report of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee I have chosen to insert in my amendment, is ample for that purpose. I believe that most provisions should come into force within months of the passing of the Act, as the provisions relating to National Parks will do as the Bill at present stands. Possible delays may be specified to apply to designated provisions, and those periods of delay can be identified with particular clauses or parts of the Bill.

It is a matter of deep regret that such an approach has not been adopted here or in many other Acts. For the sake of simplicity, I propose in my amendment that all the provisions, other than the National Parks provisions and the other minor provisions referred to in Clause 105, should come into force at the expiration of two years, unless previously brought into force by order. I beg to move.

Lord Crickhowell: I have listened to the noble Lord with considerable interest and a great deal of sympathy. We are repeatedly placed in an extraordinary position in Parliament where we are asked to spend long hours—and indeed days—passing legislation. We are told that the legislation is important, and then it is never implemented by government. At the very least I believe that it would be a good idea if Ministers were forced to

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come back to Parliament to explain why they are not introducing the legislation which they had previously said was important.

When the legislation that set up the NRA was introduced, we were told that the keystone to that legislation was the system of statutory water quality objectives; five and a half years later we do not have one statutory water quality objective, despite strong representations made over the period by the NRA. The difficulty of course is that departments, for very good reasons, can always find difficulties about introducing something: life is never simple and straightforward. For the very best possible reasons—I do not question their motives—cautious civil servants always identify the problems. There is always a good reason for not introducing something.

We always go on looking for perfection in an imperfect world. That process can go on almost indefinitely until we reach the point when the argument is advanced that of course the world has changed, and things are not what they were thought to be when the legislation was passed five, six or seven years previously.

I have just received such a letter from the Secretary of State about statutory water quality objectives. I am told that the life of the world is very complicated and very different, and we therefore have to move cautiously. I am glad to say that we have been told that the Secretary of State now at least intends to proceed to the point of a first cautious putting of a toe into the water by allowing the NRA to have a small trial run with about half a dozen SWQOs. There is a rather hopeful indication that we may take some time in coming forward with our proposals. If anyone is listening from the department, I can disabuse him of that suggestion. We shall come forward swiftly with proposals because we have been preparing them for a long time. We happen to think that they are important. But the toe is only just being dipped into the water, with a clear indication that it is hoped that the shock will be so great that it can be swiftly withdrawn.

I suppose I do not mind, because the world changes; but we have a situation where Ministers, instead of not proceeding with something that was at the heart of a Bill, should come before Parliament to explain why it is they are not implementing the legislation. What is intolerable is that important Bills should be passed in which great sections are introduced but never implemented, either because the system rolls so remorselessly on in its search for perfection that no decision is ever taken, or because Ministers find it all so difficult and complicated that they would rather not do it.

It may be that there are very good reasons for not doing things from time to time. I am sure that in the days when I was a Minister I often thought there were good reasons for not implementing legislation; but there is an increasing tendency to ignore Parliament in all this. If we are to have legislation on the statute book, it is a good idea to have some timetables, and so I strongly support the amendment. We shall have to have some

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rather better excuses than those advanced in the past for not doing something like this if we are to drop this proposal when the Bill returns at a later stage.

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