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Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, is it not a fact that the polluting effects of the "Brent Spar" would have been negligible compared with those of a large number of ships which have sunk in the same waters? Is it not ironical that the Germans of all people should be making trouble about the issue when one recalls that U-boats littered these waters with sunken ships?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, there is more metal at the bottom of the Atlantic than in the "Brent Spar" installation. Certainly, the North Atlantic is not to be regarded as a garbage dump of infinite capacity. However, on a case-by-case basis, some rigs may be suitable for disposal. Perhaps the noble Lord noticed with interest, as did I, that Nature magazine of 29th June indicated:


Earl Russell: My Lords, is the short answer to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, to say that two wrongs do not make a right?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I am not aware of any scientific evidence or argument which indicates that the decision taken by the United Kingdom following the application by Shell was wrong. While there have been a number of reactions from Europe, so far as I am aware no one has come forward with a serious scientific basis on which to reject the proposal to which the United Kingdom agreed.

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Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: My Lords, in view of the global implication placed before us so effectively by the Minister, to what extent is the matter now being discussed by the United Nations?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, the decision that we took was in accordance with international law and the conventions to which we are signatories. They apply on a global basis. The noble Lord may be aware that recently a number of European countries suggested that there might be a moratorium on the disposal of such installations in deep water. Those who proposed it did not have offshore installations. Both the United Kingdom and Norway, which clearly have to deal with a difficult problem often in complicated circumstances, declined to reach that decision. There is a set of guidance notes in which we are indicating that as we review the matter we shall act in accordance with the International Maritime Organisation guidelines which apply on a worldwide basis.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that "Brent Spar" is not a rig or a platform but is unusual in that it is a loading container buoy? Its disposal on land will produce more environmental problems. Has he noted the reported comments of a technically qualified member of the Advisory Committee on the Protection of the Sea, which has international membership and which I chaired for four years, to the effect that to aim for publicity only at the expense of facts and sensible decisions is a disservice to the whole environmental movement?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I strongly endorse that. My understanding is that it may be six times more dangerous to try to dispose of "Brent Spar" on land. It is of such a size that it cannot be brought into United Kingdom coastal waters in a vertical position. If it is to be disposed of on land, a clever engineering solution will have to be found to the problem of getting it onto a horizontal plane.

Family Planning: Overseas Aid

3.3 p.m.

Viscount Craigavon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made following the declaration of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker): My Lords, we have made excellent progress through the overseas aid programme since the Cairo conference. Total new commitments in 1994 and 1995 for family planning and reproductive health will reach £150 million by the end of the year. That exceeds the target we set a year ago and will have a major impact by enabling large numbers of women and men in developing countries to choose if and when to have children; to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; and by reducing the risks associated with childbirth.

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Viscount Craigavon: My Lords, I am grateful for that Answer. As distinct from all the other Ministers who have been congratulated on their new posts, perhaps I may say that some of us are extremely relieved to find that the noble Baroness retains her portfolio. Does she agree that, despite the genuine success of the Cairo population conference, it is an urgent issue? Does she accept that the figures that she has just given show a remarkable increase—something like a doubling in support over five years? How does she intend to enthuse others—namely, NGOs and other countries—so that they share her enthusiasm in the field of reproductive health?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount and your Lordships' House for the rather welcome endorsement of my remaining in place. Of course, the issue is still urgent because 254,000 children are born each day; that is, 176 each minute. That means that our current world population of 5.6 billion will increase by 1,000 million in the next decade and then increase further. Therefore, in the next century, the world population may triple. That is why the matter is so urgent.

We are doing more than we had expected and I am glad that it will not be at the expense of other projects in the social field but will be from savings made and money diverted to that very important task. I shall continue to enthuse as many people as I can wherever I go because the world food stocks simply will not meet even the current needs of the population in overcrowded countries. As those numbers increase, the situation, pressure and perhaps person-to-person violence will get worse unless we take real action on family planning.

Baroness Seear: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that it is generally understood that the education of women is probably the most important single item in improving the population situation? What are the literacy rates for women in India, Pakistan and sub-Saharan Africa? How much money is earmarked for that purpose in the aid programme?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I should love to be able to give those figures to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, but I do not have them in my population and family planning file. I do not wish to misinform her. I shall write to her and put a copy of the letter in the Library.

Baroness Flather: My Lords, the Minister is going to the Beijing conference. We know that there is a lot of pressure there to turn around the agenda from the Cairo conference. I believe that at the preliminary conference certain issues are to be taken up and earmarked to be debated which we thought had been accepted by everybody because they were the main issues accepted at the Cairo conference. Will my noble friend explain what would happen if the worst came about and some of those matters were turned around and not accepted at the conference in Beijing?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the main purpose of the Cairo conference was to promote sustainable development and slow population growth through strategies for better reproductive healthcare,

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including access to family planning. It is essential that all the gains that we have made at the Cairo conference are carried forward in Beijing. I have every confidence that people around the world will be sufficiently sensible to see that that happens.

I understand the anxiety shared by a number of noble Lords that some aspects of the Cairo conference may be slightly endangered. However, I can fairly say to my noble friend that there are enough people around who know the score. I shall not speculate about a negative possibility when I am working flat out for a positive outcome because that is what the women and men of the world want. They want access to family planning help and for women to be treated on a par with men. That is what we hope the conference at Beijing will deliver.

Environment Bill [H.L.]

3.9 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.

Perhaps I may say one or two things in general about this Bill on the subject of this Motion before we consider the Commons Amendments in full, as the list is fairly compendious.

I stand here with a certain amount of temerity. Some of your Lordships have had cause to be deeply involved with the Bill in its earlier stages. That has not been my good fortune so far, as I have been involved with other matters. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, will avoid the temptation of treading all over the "new boy" and inadvertently thereby over the Government as well. The noble Lord is a kindly person and I am sure that that would be far from his mind. But in case it did enter the inner recesses of his mind, I hope that he will exorcise it forthwith.

The list of amendments is pretty formidable. However, a very large proportion of them meet concerns which were expressed by your Lordships before. As a listening, caring government, we listened to your Lordships and took the opportunity of the Bill's passage in another place to table amendments to meet the concerns of your Lordships. I hope in that respect at least that we shall receive some brownie points.

Air pollution was an issue on which many of your Lordships felt strongly. The noble Lords, Lord Lewis of Newnham and Lord Nathan, and my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, among others, all spoke with much conviction. We have now brought forward important new clauses introducing an air quality strategy.

We have also introduced a new clause and substantial schedules on old minerals planning permissions, which I hope will meet the concerns expressed by my noble friends Lord Addison, Lord Glenarthur and Lord Campbell of Croy.

The contaminated land provisions have been substantially amended, and I think improved, in the light of comments and concerns which were raised by your Lordships. In particular, we have removed the separate

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identification and handling of closed landfills, as was suggested by my noble friends Lord Lucas of Chilworth, Lord Crickhowell and Lord Mills.

We have introduced arrangements for consultation and negotiation on remediation requirements, as was suggested by my noble friend Lord Coleraine; and we have refined the provisions relating to liabilities, which were the subject of amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and my noble friend Lord Kinnoull.

Other amendments address matters which were raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, on water conservation; by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, on spray irrigation; by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, on fish gratings, and by my noble friend Lord Wade on combined heat and power.

Having considered some of the points which were made by my noble friends Lord Crickhowell and Lord Mills, we have also made some amendments to the agency provisions. The Government have also accepted one of the two amendments on which your Lordships voted when the Bill was laid before your Lordships earlier, even though it was against the Government's preference. We have made further amendments in order to clarify the amendment which was originally tabled by my noble friend Lord Stanley and which was accepted by your Lordships, and also to bring the Scottish provisions into line with it.

In discussing these amendments, I hope that your Lordships will feel that the Government have come a long way to meet many of the desires of your Lordships and that the Bill will be much improved as a result.

I apologise for the list of amendments, which I am sure that many of your Lordships, as I did, found mildly daunting. But many of them are connected and we shall be able to speak to a great many at a time, according to the way in which they are grouped, if that is to the convenience of your Lordships. I point out that those are the reasons why the list is as long as it is.

Moved, That the Commons amendments be now considered.—(Earl Ferrers.)

3.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Earl for introducing what will possibly be a long debate. I shall be the first to congratulate the noble Earl on his début on the Environment Bill. We have had many debates and I am sure that the noble Earl in his new capacity has read through all of them with the greatest of interest. I have no intention at all of treading on any of the noble Earl's or the Government's corns or whatever.

However, I find 337 amendments coming before your Lordships this afternoon rather a heavy menu. Your Lordships may remember at Second Reading I described this Bill as a curate's egg—good in parts and bad in others. The putative curate—I cast the noble Earl in that role—may now be satisfied with the Bill he is putting before us. In so far as the amendments produced by the Commons satisfy the concerns of your Lordships' House, we shall give them a very fair wind. However,

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there are other amendments produced by the other place, which are contrary to the decision of your Lordships and the wind may not be so fair. Having said that, let me say from the Opposition that we wish to deal expeditiously with the amendments and not take up the time of the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


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