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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, in thanking the Minister for his courtesy and patience throughout our discussions on the Bill. In Committee I felt that the Government's ear was not quite as open as they professed it to be, and that turned out not to be so. The Government have brought forward many welcome amendments, althoughand it is inevitablethey have not always gone as far as we would have liked or perhaps not in quite the right direction.
It has been a pleasure finding points of contact around the House from all corners, and sometimes a little unexpectedly. I too thank the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay. I believe that the noble Earl and the Minister have maintained their good humour later into the night than any of us had any right to expect.
I share some of the disappointments that have been mentioned. Like the noble Lord, Lord Williams, I welcomed the Bill initially, but having thought about it further during its course, I have become increasingly disappointed in relation to the limitation of its functions, even though that has been improved over the course of the past few weeks.
I shall not at this hour rehearse again all the topics for fear of taking us on to another late night, but I wish to mention in particular my welcome for the Government's acceptance of the need to include within the Bill the matter of air quality. I look forward when the Bill returns here from another place to seeing how that has been dealt with. I also wish to thank very particularly those from outside the House who have helped us to improve the Bill. I hope that we have managed to do justice to the expert and energetic briefings that we have received from so very many agencies and organisations.
Lord Renton: My Lords, I was surprised to hear the noble Baroness say that she regretted the limitations of the new environment agency because, quite frankly, I think that it will have more and wider powers than any other public body within my long recollection. We all welcome the Bill and it is splendid that we do. It is a most complicated, long, far reaching and at times controversial Bill. My noble friend Lord Ullswater has handled it with consummate skill and has shown not only the courtesy and patience to which the noble Baroness referred but has above all been open minded about it. On some very controversial points the Government have tabled acceptable amendments. My noble friend Lord Lindsay showed great skill on his first venture of this kind.
It is a greatly improved Bill but, of course, Members of another place will consider it in the light of their own constituency interests and problems. We can expect to have some further amendments resulting from their initiative. We shall want to see it improved in the various ways which some of your Lordships have suggested. I alight on two points in particular. Speaking as one who years ago had responsibility for health and safety at 300 coal-mines and went down many of them, I remember so well how surprised I was to find not the contaminationone expected thatbut that in nearly every mine one went to water that had to be pumped awaysometimes at not very deep levels. That water was going eventually to find its way to the surface and contaminate brooks and rivers. So we need to pay much more attention to Part II of the Bill dealing with contaminated land and abandoned mines. We really have to get it right.
On national parks, the noble Lord, Lord Williams, properly referred to the phrase "quiet enjoyment", which was carried by a majority in the House, in my respectful opinion wrongly. It is a matter which the Government will have to have attended to, no doubt on the advice of Law Officers, in another place. I think this is a very important Bill but we still have a lot to get right and I wish the Government well in all the efforts to do so.
Lord Norrie: My Lords, I cannot let this occasion slip without mentioning Part III of the Bill. This represents a major step forward for national parks. I am delighted it provides for the creation of new national park authorities along the lines of my Private Member's Bill last Session. The Bill also updates national park purposes as recommended by the Edwards Report, and I welcome the inclusion of wildlife and cultural heritage among the qualities that are to be conserved. I also welcome the fact that the Bill makes it explicit that the type of enjoyment national parks should promote should be quiet.
Progress has also been made in making all public bodies more involved in national park purposes. My noble friend Lord Ullswater and the Government should be congratulated on including those provisions in this Bill. Finally, the debate on this Bill has demonstrated yet again that the well-being of national parks is of concern to all political parties. I should like to place on record my personal thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, and those many other Peers on all sides of this House who have worked unstintingly to get the Edwards Report recommendations on to the face of the Bill.
Lord Lucas of Chilworth: My Lords, when we had the Second Reading in December of last year, your Lordships gave a warm general welcome to the Bill which had been some long time in coming. Undoubtedly the creation of the agency will prove to be of
I have been very critical over many issues during the passage of the Bill. The criticism has not been levelled at my noble friend the Minister or indeed my noble friend Lord Lindsay and other colleagues. It was more a criticism of that which was put before them to deliver to your Lordships. That the Government have made a number of concessionsand indeed there are a number of outstanding issues upon which the Government have made promises to be effected in another placeto me illustrates how ill thought out many parts of the Bill were, particularly Part I. Here my complaint remains the same. The agency advisory committee, as it currently is, does not, I believe, show strength of knowledge across all those areas that have to be dealt with. I refer to no one particular person, but to me there seems to be a weakness here, although the Government have said that this is a strategic working unit and the expertise will be found in the advisory committees yet to be appointed.
Part II of the Bill deals with contaminated land. From all sides of the House, and in comments representing a number of different views, criticism has been levelled and is still being levelled on this matter. To me that shows that there has been a lack of either knowledge of how some parts of the industry work or a reluctance to accept the practicalities that are contained in the Bill. There remains yet more work to be done. As regards parts of Part IV, again a number of amendments have been put down from various quarters in your Lordships' House demonstrating the concern that still remains as regards the ancillary and supplementary regulations.
The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, drew attention to some procedural matters. I concur with many of his remarks. It has been almost impossible to draw some of our debates to a meaningful conclusion, whatever that conclusion should have been. Therefore, inevitably, more work will rest with another place. Your Lordships have always prided yourselves on sending Bills to another place in a more complete form than they arrive in this House, from wherever they come. In this instance I do not believe that we have been able to do our job as well as usual. That is regrettable.
Against that somewhat critical background there has been, as other noble Lords have said, the unfailing courtesy and patience of the Government Front Bench. With that in the back of my mind my more severe criticisms can be kept in check. I have been somewhat mollified by their attitude and helpfulness. When the Bill returns to this House in later months we shall have to see how far the Government have been able to address the real concerns that have been raised.
This is an important Bill. The fact that it will undoubtedly become law in the fullness of time is to be welcomed. I hope that in another place some final adjustments will be made to make the Bill even better.
Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, it has been a pleasure working on the Bill for many of the reasons already mentioned by your Lordships, including the courtesy of the Minister, the good cheer and helpfulness of the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, outside the Chamber
I should like to mention first Kay Jenkinson and Barbara Edwards of the Coalfields Communities Campaign, who waged an excellent public campaign which has brought to the attention of the nation the problems of the coalfields communities and of mine water pollution. I regret only that we have not managed to do more for them. Perhaps as they continue their campaign in another place they will be able to achieve a change in bringing forward the date on which the responsibility for mine water pollution will be more clearly allocated.
I should also like to pay a tribute to Karen Bate of the World Wildlife Fund, who suffered a close bereavement during the passage of the Bill but nevertheless managed to continue to provide me with excellent briefings, particularly on ponds. I continue to regret that I have failed to sway your Lordships to my enthusiasm for ponds and that they do not rate equally with hedgerows. However, I shall continue in the years ahead to fight the battle on their behalf.
We are particularly grateful for the many briefings and amendments we have received from Mary Wimbury on behalf of the AMA and ACC. Many of those amendments have found a place in the Bill in a transmuted form in government amendments, although perhaps not going as far as we would wish. However, many of those on consultation and open government have now found a place in the Bill. Without those many excellent briefings on many of the amendments that we have put from this side of the House we would not have coped with this extremely complex piece of legislation.
Finally, I should like to pay a tribute to our researcher, Robert McGeachy, who has managed to remain supportive and cheerful despite the many pressures that have been placed upon him over the past few weeks.