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Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, I am grateful for a generally encouraging answer to what were intended to be helpful and constructive suggestions. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 275B and 275C not moved.]

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 276:


Page 215, line 37, at end insert:
(" . In section 161 of that Act (regulations and orders) in subsection (4) (which specifies the orders under that Act which are not subject to negative resolution procedure under subsection (3)) after the words "does not apply to" there shall be inserted the words "a statutory instrument—
(a) which contains an order under section 78H(3) above, or
(b) by reason only that it contains"").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I spoke to Amendment No. 276 with Amendment No. 140. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 277:


Page 218, line 37, leave out from beginning to second ("this") in line 38 and insert:
("( ) In section 24—
(a) in subsection (1)—
(i) for the words "a river purification authority" there shall be substituted the words "SEPA"; and
(ii) in paragraph (a), after the word "on" there shall be inserted the words "SEPA or"; and
(b) in subsection (9)—
(i) for the words "a river purification authority or" there shall be substituted the words "SEPA or a"; and
(ii) in paragraph (a), after the word "by" where it second occurs there shall be inserted the words "SEPA or".
( ) After section 26 there shall be inserted—

"Meaning of SEPA.

26A. In").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Lindsay spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 259. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 278 to 280A not moved.]

Lord Moran moved Amendment No. 281:


Page 224, leave out from beginning of line 46 to end of line 5 on page 225 and insert:

9 Mar 1995 : Column 541


("90A.—(1) Where an application is made in accordance with this section the Agency shall—
(a) publish notice of the application, at least once in each of two successive weeks, in a newspaper or newspapers circulating in—
(i) the locality or localities in which the places are situated at which it is proposed in the application that the discharges should be made; and
(ii) the locality or localities appearing to the Agency to be in the vicinity of any controlled waters which the Agency considers likely to be affected by the proposed discharges;
(b) publish a copy of that notice in an edition of the London Gazette published no earlier than the day after the publication of the last of the notices to be published by virtue of paragraph (a) above.
(c) send a copy of the application to every local authority or water undertaker within whose area any of the proposed discharges is to occur; and
(d) in the case of an application which relates to proposed discharges into coastal waters, relevant territorial waters or waters outside the seaward limits of relevant territorial waters, serve a copy of the application on each of the Ministers.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like to speak as briefly as I can to Amendment No. 281 and to Amendment No. 287 which is grouped with it. First, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for meeting me and members of the Salmon & Trout Association and for a very helpful discussion of these two amendments and Amendment No. 283.

The purpose of my Amendment No. 281 is to restore the existing regime for the advertisement of applications made for consents to discharge. At present, subject to the National Rivers Authority's right to waive the requirement for minor applications where it believes that there will be no significant impact on the receiving water, there is an obligation on the authority, at the applicant's expense, to advertise all applications in a local newspaper and in the London Gazette.

Through these advertising provisions, the Salmon & Trout Association at present monitors, for the protection of all riparian interests, all such applications made to the NRA. Copies of these notices go to their 52 branch water resources officers concerned, who cover the whole country, and to the Anglers' Conservation Association, the National Federation of Anglers and the Welsh Salmon & Trout Angling Association among others. These regulations of where and how to advertise are on the face of existing legislation; namely, the Water Resources Act 1991.

It would appear that new Section 90A(1) proposes to abolish the current provisions so far as discharges are concerned and to leave the advertising requirements to the Secretary of State to decide from time to time. I have recently been advised—rather late in the day, I fear—that a further clause, Clause 143, substitutes a new Schedule 10 to the Water Resources Act and similarly places at risk the work of the Salmon & Trout Association in this field. I have it in mind therefore to propose an amendment to that clause at Third Reading.

The Salmon & Trout Association is concerned that, should the obligation to advertise applications in the London Gazette be removed, there will be no practical way in which the association's service to angling and riparian interests can remain effective without

9 Mar 1995 : Column 542

knowledge of these discharge applications. The regulations for advertising have not yet been published and, even if they contain similar provisions to the existing regime, there is nothing to prevent the Minister at a later date publishing amended regulations that would dilute them.

It is, in my view, extremely important that riparian interests should have the opportunity to object to applications that affect them and the environment generally. I am sure it is right that this important part of the checks and balances on which the protection of the environment depends, and which has worked well up till now, is not lost in the rush to deregulate everything. It is essential that this right is protected in primary legislation.

I turn to the second amendment, Amendment No. 287. Since the Water Act 1989, the National Rivers Authority has had the power to review a consent to discharge effluent not less than two years after it has been granted. This power is a discretionary one, and in the vast majority of cases reviews are not carried out for considerably longer periods.

The Government propose in the Bill that this protected period should be extended from two to four years. There are inevitably cases where consents are granted but, because of a change in prevailing circumstances that might not have been anticipated when the grant was made, result in the discharge having a damaging environmental effect. If that is the case, a four-year period before a review can be carried out seems too long. I am not aware of any prejudice to agriculture or industry, or financial burden that has been placed on them, during the past six years when the two-year rule has applied. At present, the status quo is being changed, seemingly for the worse. That would be put right by this amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, I speak to Amendments Nos. 285, 286 and 287, which are grouped with the original amendment. The purpose of these three amendments is to retain the existing regime rather than vary it as proposed in the Bill. Amendment No. 285 would retain the present right of established objectors to appear before hearings set up by the Secretary of State in respect of controlled water discharge consents.

Amendment No. 286 would give the agency the duty rather than the power to review discharge consents, in the same way as is currently an obligation upon the National Rivers Authority. Amendment No. 287, to which the noble Lord, Lord Moran, has already spoken, would retain the present two-year cycle for reviews of discharge consents to controlled waters.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, Amendment No. 281 moved by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, would introduce on the face of the Bill detailed requirements for the procedures to be followed in respect of advertising applications for consents under Sections 89 and 90 of the Water Resources Act 1991. However, I believe that the noble Lord may have intended to deal with consents under Section 88 of the 1991 Act.

So far as consents under Sections 89 and 90 are concerned, we have not previously laid down any procedures for making applications. New Section 90A

9 Mar 1995 : Column 543

does so, including provision for advertising of applications in accordance with regulations to be made by the Secretary of State. The Bill, therefore, represents a development on previous legislation.

As regards applications for consents under Section 88, we have replaced the old Schedule 10 of the Water Resources Act 1991 with new provisions. These include a requirement for applications to be advertised in accordance with the provisions of regulations to be made by the Secretary of State. Thus, the provisions relating to consents under Sections 88, 89 and 90 are closely aligned.

I appreciate that the purpose of the amendment is to retain the current provisions specifying certain detailed provisions relating to advertising of applications and that such notification of applications is important. However, I should be reluctant to lose the flexibility in these matters afforded by the power in the Bill to defer them to detailed regulations, which would, of course, be subject to the normal parliamentary scrutiny. That being said, and while I cannot pre-empt the Secretary of State's consideration of the regulations, I should say to the noble Lord that the provisions that have been in force to date would be very much in the forefront of our mind in framing those regulations.

Amendment No. 285, spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, would give objectors to an application the opportunity to appear at any hearing held into that application. The provision which this amendment seeks to reinstate is repealed under the Bill as one of a number of measures to speed up the granting of consents once decisions have been reached. We have recognised the need to notify objectors that a consent has been granted. Objectors also retain the right to make written representations to the Secretary of State at any time. However, we consider that streamlining these procedures will remove unnecessary delays and bring them into line with standard practice in relation to planning applications.

Amendment No. 286, also spoken to by the noble Baroness, would impose on the agency the current duty on the NRA to review discharge consents. We have specifically proposed that this should become a power, so that the agency could perform such reviews when it considers such action to be warranted in the light of its responsibilities for river management and pollution control. We remain of the view that it is preferable for the agency to be able to set its own priorities rather than be required to undertake reviews, which in many cases will be unnecessary.

Amendment No. 287 specifies the minimum period for review of consents as two years. We have proposed a minimum period of four years—which, as regards the majority of consents, has in practice been the minimum—with the aim of enhancing stability for dischargers, allowing them greater security in investment planning and potentially reducing the cost of that investment as well as administrative costs. The Secretary of State does, of course, retain the power to direct the agency to review a discharge consent at any time.

9 Mar 1995 : Column 544

With those reassurances, I hope that the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, will feel able to withdraw their amendments.


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