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COMMONS AMENDMENT
18After Clause 40, insert the following clause:—

Incidental power of the new Agencies to impose charges

'. Without prejudice to the generality of its powers by virtue of section 35(1) (a) above and subject to any such express provision with respect to charging by a new Agency as is contained in the preceding provisions of this Chapter or any other enactment, each new Agency shall have power to fix and recover charges for services and facilities provided in the course of carrying out its functions.'.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 18. I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 6.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 18.—(Earl Ferrers.)


AMENDMENT TO COMMONS AMENDMENT No. 18
18AAfter ("recover") insert ("reasonable").

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 18A as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 18.

My Amendment No. 18A on the Marshalled List seeks to provide that the charges that the agency can recover are "reasonable" charges. This clause relates to charging for services and facilities provided by the agency in the course of carrying out its functions.

At earlier stages of the Bill there was a good deal of discussion about the level of charging by some of the present authorities. I was criticised for referring to an occasion when the National Rivers Authority had, I believe, charged £100 for a sheet of information. I was told that this was not merely a copying charge but that it reflected the research that had gone into preparing the

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fact sheet. Without going into the merits of that particular charge, I believe that it points very clearly to the need to have some sort of limit on charging. These are public bodies. Although their function is not to work for private individuals—for developers, and so on—it is nevertheless entirely right that the information that they hold should be made available to the public on a basis which allows the public real access, not access only if they can afford a substantial charge. This is a freedom of information point. It is for that reason that I seek to amend Commons Amendment No. 18 by providing that the charges that can be made shall be no more than are reasonable.

Moved, That Amendment No. 18A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 18, be agreed to.—(Baroness Hamwee.)

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the noble Baroness may be misguided in her attempt to amend the legislation in this way. However, I quite understand that she is concerned about the provision of information. My noble friends Lord Ullswater and Lord Lindsay gave fairly specific reassurances in Committee about both the provision of information and the agencies' powers to charge reasonable fees for providing specific information. I understand the concern that those fees should be reasonable. However, I think it would be unreasonable to consider that those fees would not be reasonable.

As regards provision of information by the agencies, the noble Baroness may be stretching the point a little. Both Commons Amendment No. 18 and her Amendment No. 18A are about the environment agencies' ability to charge for carrying out their functions. Clearly they ought to be able to charge; and clearly it would be quite intolerable if the agencies were not reasonable in the charges that they made. I do not believe that the noble Baroness's amendment to Commons Amendment No. 18 would be suitable.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I cannot pretend to be entirely happy with that answer, although I am not surprised either. Perhaps the best that we can do is rely on the good faith of Ministers who appoint members of the agencies in ensuring that, if the agencies are out of line in their charging policy and are making charges that are not appropriate in the eyes of the public, as the appointing Ministers, they bring that to the attention of the agencies and lean on them to behave reasonably. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment No. 18A.

Amendment No. 18A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 18, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


COMMONS AMENDMENTS
19Clause 41, page 37, line 44, at end insert:
'(2A) The appropriate Minister may, after consultation with the Treasury and a new Agency, give a direction to that new Agency requiring it to pay to him an amount equal to the whole or such part as may be specified in the direction of any sum, or any sum of a description, so specified which is or has been received by that new Agency.'.
20Page 38, line 5, leave out 'and (b)' and insert:
'(b) subsection (2A) above is subject to sections 118(1)

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(a) and 119(1) of the 1991 Act (special duties with respect to flood defence revenue and funds raised for fishery purposes under local enactments); and
(c)''. .
21Page 38, line 6, leave out from 'sections' to 'certain' in line 8 and insert '118(1) (b) and 119(2) of the 1991 Act (which provide for flood defence revenue and'.
22Clause 45, page 40, line 1, leave out '£2 million' and insert '£5 million'.
23Page 40, line 2, leave out '£5 million' and insert '£10 million'.
24Clause 50, page 42, line 18, leave out 'Subject to subsection (3) below,'.
25Page 42, line 29, leave out subsection (3).
26Clause 53, page 44, line 45, at end insert 'any of the following—'.
27Page 45, line 15, at end insert:
'(j) registration in respect of an activity falling within paragraph 45(1) or (2) of Schedule 3 to those Regulations,'.
28Page 45, line 18, at end insert 'any of the following—'.
29Page 45, line 30, leave out 'or'.
30Page 45, line 32, at end insert:
'(j) registration in respect of an activity falling within paragraph 45(1) or (2) of Schedule 3 to those Regulations,'.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 19 to 30 en bloc. These amendments have already been spoken to.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 19 to 30 en bloc.—(Earl Ferrers.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


COMMONS AMENDMENTS
31Clause 54, page 47, leave out lines 9 to 45.
32Page 47, line 46, leave out 'a closed landfill site' and insert 'any contaminated land'.
33Page 47, line 47, leave out from 'as' to end of line 48 and insert 'such a site by virtue of section 78BB(7) or 78BC(6)'.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 31 to 33 en bloc.

It may be helpful if, in moving these amendments, I also speak to Amendments Nos. 36, 39 to 43 and 70 to 75. On Report, in response to an amendment moved by my noble friends Lord Crickhowell, Lord Mills and Lord Lucas of Chilworth, my noble friend Lord Ullswater undertook to look again at the treatment of closed landfill sites in the contaminated land regime. These amendments had the effect of removing the requirement for the separate identification of closed landfills, as well as the extra regulatory steps that were formerly proposed to be required of those sites.

In the light of other changes made to these provisions, expanding the role of the environment agency and the Sottish Environment Protection Agency in giving guidance to local authorities, we no longer think there there is a need for particular treatment of closed landfill sites which are also contaminated land.

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These amendments also change the definition of special sites, for which the appropriate agency will itself be the enforcing authority. The descriptions of sites which will be required to be designated as special sites will now be set out in regulations and will not be restricted, as they were previously, to closed landfill sites which are likely to cause serious harm or serious pollution of controlled waters.

The procedures for designation have also been amended, so that in most cases designation will be made by the local authority concerned and not by the Secretary of State. The amendments introduce a machinery for ensuring that designations are appropriately made, giving the agency the right to provide advice and to appeal against any designations. I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 31 to 33 en bloc.—(Earl Ferrers.)

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, I ask one question for clarification in relation to Amendment No. 42. New Sections 78B and 78C require that where the agency and the local authorities cannot agree that land must be designated as special, the matter must be referred to the Secretary of State. But there is no time limit laid down by which the Secretary of State must make a decision. That could in fact just provide a recipe for prolonged delay. I wonder whether the Minister could advise the House on what would seem to be a reasonable length of time in which the Secretary of State should be required to make some decision on the designation of sites as special.


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