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Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 2:


Page 1, line 12, after ("first Agency") insert ("or, in Welsh, Asiantaeth yr Amgylchedd").

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, whom I know to be an excellent Gaelic speaker, for his correction of the amendment.

The intention of the amendment is very simple. It is to provide for the England and Wales agency as a public body a name which has a Welsh language version. That is in accordance with the Welsh Language Act passed by this House. I state my interest as chairman of the statutory board charged with implementing that piece of legislation.

The issue was raised earlier at Committee stage (Official Report, 31/1/95; cols. 1418-20), when the noble Viscount responded. He indicated that full consideration will be given to the position of the agency under Section 6 of the Welsh Language Act and its designation as a public body.

However, I move this amendment to raise the specific question, and indeed the general principle, of how the Government intend to treat public bodies which are now being created following the establishment of the new principle of treating Welsh and English on the basis of equality, as set out in the Welsh Language Act; to deal with the subsequent requirement for all public bodies in Wales to implement that principle where reasonable and practicable in the circumstances, taking into account the guidance and advice given by the board in its recent draft guidelines—which it is to be hoped will come before this House later this year—that public bodies should have a distinctive corporate image in Wales where they provide a service which is bilingual for the people in Wales. That is particularly important in the case of this agency. Having turned down one of the original possibilities of establishing an environment agency for Wales on the basis of SEPA in Scotland, there is a danger that this agency may not be seen to be fulfilling its obligation to the public in Wales if from the start it does not adopt policies in tune with both the culture and the environment of the Principality.

The further principle applies to all public bodies which will come into existence from now on to serve the people of Wales. There are a number of ways in which the Government can bring about conformity with the Welsh Language Act. One way is to use Section 25 of the Welsh Language Act 1993. However, it seems to me that, rather than having to make orders to include public bodies under the terms of that Act, a much simpler exercise would be to ensure that every new body created that could come under the terms of that Act is so designated from the start as a bilingual organisation in terms of name. That could be done through miscellaneous provisions in the legislation, or alternatively in the way that I suggest in this amendment; namely, that the name of the body corporate is included in the legislation.

There is a precedent for that in the Welsh Language Act itself which established both the English language name and the Welsh language name in legislation; and

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also precedent in the Local Government (Wales) Act, which established names in Welsh and English for the new unitary authorities. I beg to move.

Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I have a good deal of sympathy with what has been said. I shall be interested to hear the Government's guidance on the matter. I had not given much thought to the point, but I had assumed that the whole arrangement was satisfactorily covered by the Welsh Language Act and there would be a set of arrangements in place. But the noble Lord reminded the House that the Welsh name has been included in previous legislation and therefore I can see no grounds in principle for it not to be done on this occasion.

I rise at this moment partly to say that I hope that we shall not become too fixed on this particular name. I could have tabled an amendment in this House but I hope that in another place someone will put down an amendment to change the name to "Authority". I know that that is wished and desired by my noble friend Lord De Ramsey who has discussed the matter with me and shares my view that that would be a much more effective name for this organisation. I am simply taking this opportunity to signal that, in my view, the Authority would be a better name. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, will tell us in due course what the appropriate Welsh version of that would be.

Viscount Mountgarret: My Lords, I am a little puzzled by the amendment. I sympathise enormously with the noble Lord. Welsh is a very beautiful language which should be extensively supported. However, I feel that the amendment goes a little too far in asking that certain sections of Bills should also be printed in the Welsh language. We could have every Bill with a Welsh alternative.

It may well be that when the Bill becomes an Act it might be printed in the Welsh language. But why stop at the Welsh language? Why not in the Gaelic language and so on? An all-embracing Bill should be in the "British" tongue. I should not like to set a precedent but perhaps in a Bill specially relevant to Wales it would carry a more valid point.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment, as the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said, is to confer a Welsh name on the England and Wales agency which the agency could use as appropriate to its Welsh region. I agree fully that the agency should be given a Welsh name. However, as the noble Lord himself admitted, powers exist under Section 25 of the Welsh Language Act 1993 to confer Welsh names on public bodies by order. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State will confer a Welsh name on the agency in that way. There is no need for that to be done through primary legislation and I ask the noble Lord, therefore, to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, before I accede to that request I should like to respond briefly and to put on record the point of principle that in my view it is acceptable in this House that we produce legislation in English as the working language. However, there should be no objection to the inclusion of proper names for

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bodies or organisations on the face of Bills, as we have done in other cases, particularly in relation to the Local Government (Wales) Act.

It is not the intention of this amendment or any other to change the language of this House or of Parliament and certainly not the intention to effect any specific change on the face of legislation. The amendment seeks to conform with what will be the legal case once the order is made by the Secretary of State in terms of the Welsh Language Act. I do not see why that cannot be done as a proper name for a public body on the face of primary legislation. The amendment relates to that point of principle.

It seems to me that it is much simpler, either at this stage of the Bill or later under miscellaneous provisions when reference is made to all other kinds of legislation, that reference should be made in primary legislation to the Welsh language title. That is particularly appropriate for a public body which functions for England and Wales as a unit and which has a Welsh advisory committee. Therefore at a later stage, when we discuss miscellaneous provisions at the end of the Bill, at Report stage, at Third Reading, or in another place, perhaps the Government will consider whether it is appropriate, as a matter of principle where an agency is an England and Wales agency, to provide a bilingual name from the start rather than to follow this process whereby the Secretary of State will be continually making orders in reference to public bodies.

I also have much sympathy with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, regarding the names "Awdurdod yr Amgylchedd" or "yr Awdurdod Amgylchedd". Both sound fine to me. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 3:


Page 1, line 12, leave out ("for the purpose of carrying") and insert ("whose objective shall be to conserve and regenerate the environment, and which shall carry").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I regret that I can only move this amendment in English. Amendment No. 3 is grouped with Amendments Nos. 4, 20 and, in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley, Amendment No. 22. At this point I shall deal only with Amendment No. 3. The purpose of Amendment No. 22 can best be dealt with when we debate the proposed new Clause 4.

I hesitated over the word "purpose" because I felt it was necessary to come to today's debate armed with definitions of the terms "objective", "aim", "purpose" and "functions". We had some difficulty in distinguishing between them at the last stage of the Bill. However, there was a large degree of consensus that, whether one described it as an "objective", an "aim" or a "purpose", certainly the underlying thrust, the fundamental objective of the agency should be spelt out early on in the Bill. It is for that reason that I tabled Amendment No. 3.

I hope that your Lordships will understand that it is not as ambitious a proposal as may appear at first sight. The objective is to,

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    "conserve and regenerate the environment".

I am not seeking to impose additional responsibilities or additional functions on the agency over and above those provided by the Bill, but merely to set the proper context for the work that the agency is to do; in other words, to spell out the purpose underlying its functions.

I am not wedded to the term "conserve and regenerate"; equally it could be "protect and enhance". I chose a term which suggests more than simply accepting the status quo in order to reflect anxieties expressed by many noble Lords at the Committee stage that the agency should set its sights higher than merely trying to ensure that matters do not get worse environmentally speaking and, if necessary, slowly, but I hope surely, to achieve improvement.

At the Committee stage, in responding to an amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, which had a similar purpose, the Minister said that he was concerned about,


    "the risk of attempting to encompass within a few select words the full range of functions of the environment agency".

I have not sought to do that; I have not attempted to describe the range of functions. I am seeking to spell out the purpose underlying those functions. The Minister also said that,


    "Any attempt to write overriding statutory functions and purposes on top of those existing provisions risks creating duplication or conflict".—[Official Report, 17/1/95; col. 548.]

Again, I assure your Lordships that that is not the thrust of Amendment No. 3. The Minister may say that the provisions of the proposed new Clause 4 effectively deal with the point. I believe that they do not. That is the reason I have not spoken to Amendment No. 22. The new clause, to which we shall come in due course, makes the aim of the agency subordinate to its functions. I believe that that is the wrong way round. I beg to move.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, bearing in mind the way in which the amendments are grouped, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 20 and 24, which I regard as being largely subsumed by Amendment No. 28 which has been tabled by the Government and relates to the new Clause 4. My primary objective was to ensure that the agency had an overall duty to exercise its powers to protect and enhance the environment. However, the Government have gone a good deal of the way—in fact nearly all the way—that I sought to go with my amendment, which I tabled before my noble friend tabled his. I had hoped that they would be grouped together but unfortunately they were not.


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