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Lord Walpole: My Lords, I thank the Minister for what in fact was a very helpful reply. We shall certainly note it. I am sure that many of the local authorities, advisory people, land managers, local societies, wildlife groups and the rest will read in Hansard what he said. I am sure that they will be delighted with the Minister's reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon moved Amendment No. 246B::


After Clause 81, insert the following new clause:

("Consultation before making or modifying certain subordinate legislation of Wales

.—(1) The Secretary of State for Wales shall consult the bodies and persons specified in subsection (2) below before—
(a) making any legislation to which this section applies (other than a modification of any such legislation);
(b) modifying any such legislation in a way which changes the purpose of the legislation in question; or
(c) modifying any such legislation in a way which modifies, in a respect which he considers material, any conditions subject to which grants or other payments are payable under that legislation.
(2) The bodies and persons mentioned in subsection (1) above are—
(a) the Countryside Council for Wales;
(b) CADW.
(3) The legislation to which this section applies is—
(a) any order under section 18 of the Agriculture Act 1986 (orders establishing environmentally sensitive areas);
(b) any regulations under section 80 above;
(c) any statutory instrument which concerns the management of land and whose primary purpose is the promotion of—
(i) the conservation or enhancement of the natural beauty or amenity of the countryside (including its flora and fauna and geological and physiographical features) or of any features of archaeological interest there; or
(ii) the enjoyment of the countryside by the public.
(4) This section applies in relation to any legislation only so far as relating to land in Wales.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I do not intend to go over the arguments again about the importance of consultation which we have been discussing in relation to the previous amendment. This amendment was put forward at Committee stage. As regards what was said at that time, the Minister pointed out that CADW was an executive agency and not a separate statutory body. Therefore, it is perhaps not appropriate that CADW should be part of the consultation mechanism. But that does not apply to the Countryside Council for Wales which is, like English Nature and the Countryside Commission, a separate statutory body. Therefore, it is appropriate that it is consulted.

In view of the recent criticism of the Secretary of State for Wales as regards his response to environmental matters, I should have thought that at least it would be a tactful point to include this provision on the face of the Bill in order to make it clear that in future the

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Countryside Council for Wales at least will be consulted before there are changes to legislation under this particular part of the Bill. I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, for moving this amendment which, as she said, seeks to impose upon my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales a requirement to consult the Countryside Council and Cadw before making or modifying certain subordinate legislation. It intends to mirror the consultation requirements imposed on my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food under the existing Clause 81.

The subordinate legislation to which the consultation requirements would apply would be orders establishing environmentally sensitive areas; regulations under Clause 80 of the Bill allowing grants to be made for purposes conducive to conservation; and statutory instruments concerning the management of land with the primary purpose of conservation of the countryside or enjoyment of the countryside.

The Government do not consider that consultation arrangements similar to those in Clause 81 need to be extended to Wales, because institutional arrangements are different from those in England. The Countryside Council for Wales is already defined as the statutory adviser to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales. It is funded by the Welsh Office and, as a consequence, the two organisations work closely together. If the Secretary of State were to fail to consult the Countryside Council for Wales, it would draw that to the department's attention. Whatever the informal arrangements that might be made, CCW will still have the formal right to offer advice to the Secretary of State. There is accordingly no need for a specific statutory provision requiring such consultation to be undertaken.

As the noble Baroness pointed out, Cadw is an executive agency of the Welsh Office and a requirement for my right honourable friend to consult Cadw would not make sense because it would, in effect, mean his having to consult himself. I hope that that explanation is helpful and that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, he has not fully covered the point that English Nature and the Countryside Commission are exactly on all fours with the Countryside Council for Wales, in that they also have a statutory duty to advise the Minister. However, it is being laid down that the Minister should consult them before changing the legislation. That is exactly on all fours with what is being suggested here for Wales. I do not understand the Minister's explanation as to why Wales should be treated differently from England.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness. My advice is that the institutional arrangements between the two departments are different, in that the Secretary of State for Wales is both an

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Agriculture Minister and an Environment Minister at the same time. Therefore, the two situations are not exactly parallel.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that explanation. We shall have to look carefully at this before Third Reading and consider whether it will be necessary to table another amendment. In the meantime, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon moved Amendment No. 247:


After Clause 81, insert the following new clause:

("Deposit of radioactive waste

. Where the Secretary of State varies his directions under section 23 of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 to allow the Chief Inspector to grant an application to authorise a contractor to deposit radioactive waste at a site licensed under section 36 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, in granting the application the Chief Inspector shall have regard to the principles underlying section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as though the radioactive waste were controlled, and to the effect the deposit would have on determinations made by the licensing authority under section 39(5) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is intended to be essentially a probing amendment to ascertain how the Secretary of State intends to use his powers under the Radioactive Substances Act in relation to the use of licensed landfill sites for radioactive waste. Radioactive waste is not a controlled waste as defined in the Environmental Protection Act and therefore falls outside the ambit of local authority waste regulation powers. The control is exercised by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution. That body has, on the whole, a rather poorer record of control than local authority waste regulators, as it has fewer staff, more remote offices and generally does not have such an all-inclusive 24-hour call-out service. Furthermore, it is not locally accountable to directly elected local councillors.

The purpose of the amendment is to ascertain the Government's intentions and in what way the Secretary of State intends to use his powers under the Radioactive Substances Act. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, I am most grateful for the considerable thought that has gone into Amendment No. 247, which was moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton. I am very willing to look at the policy in relation to the burial of low-level radioactive waste. I should emphasise to the House that we are talking about low-level waste of limited toxicity. Nevertheless, the amendment reflects the level of interest in a subject about which there is, as I am well aware, much concern.

Disposal of low level radioactive waste to landfill is regulated by means of authorisations granted under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993. These place a legal duty on the person authorised to ensure that disposal takes place in accordance with the limitations and conditions set out in the authorisation.

Any waste producer intending to dispose of radioactive waste to landfill must therefore obtain an authorisation from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of

9 Mar 1995 : Column 507

Pollution which stipulates the nature of the waste for disposal, limits on levels of radioactivity, the name of the site and the operator to which it is to be sent, and other conditions placed on its disposal. Those conditions apply, among other things, to the detailed methods of containment and burial that are to be used. Contravention of conditions is a criminal offence. The terms under which authorisations are granted constrain the person responsible for creating the waste, rather than merely the person hired to take it away. That is clearly the right way to ensure that they are effective.

The conditions applied by the authorisations are carefully considered by HMIP in order to ensure that were disposal by each producer to occur at the maximum authorised limits, there would be no adverse impact on man or the environment. However, the physical disposal of the waste is still in the hands of the operator of the landfill site. In response to concerns raised by noble Lords and to make quite sure that there is effective regulation of radioactive waste from creation to disposal I will, therefore, be considering the case for separate authorisation of the landfill operator under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.

This will also help to meet the concerns expressed in the amendment. The Environment Agency will eventually have to consider whether the condition of the site, and any risk of pollution it may or may not pose, warrants surrender of the site licence. It will, by that time, have on its records the authorisation certificates granted to the operator and the records of disposal of radioactive waste.

The background to this matter is that officials are considering all the responses to the preliminary conclusions of the Government's review of radioactive waste policy, some of them addressing this issue. The Government aim to be in a position to announce any change in policy, together with any new legislation which may be needed, as early as possible in another place. It would be premature to make any change in the legislation until that point is reached.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for tabling the amendment, but I hope I have managed to reassure her that we are looking at the problem that she has identified and that she will feel able to withdraw it.


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