Lord Renton: My Lords, Amendment No. 134C raises important issues. It is interesting that Amendment No. 134, the new clause, introduces something which I have not seen in statute before; namely, a requirement upon the Government to prepare and publish a statement to be referred to as "the strategy". That is a fine concept.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is fully entitled to ask, as she did, whether, as part of that strategy, the extra costs to be borne by local authoritiesthat is
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inevitableshould be a stated part of the strategy. My noble friend Lord Ferrers may say that the amendment is not necessary because the clause as it stands is quite far-reaching and, in any event, the Secretary of State is obliged to publish a draft of the strategy before it becomes effective.
The noble Baroness has performed a useful service by asking the Government to consider this matter and I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend says.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Renton is correct when he said that I may say that the amendment is not necessary. That is what I do say.
Costs are always a problem. First we say that there is terrible pollution and that we must do something about it; then we produce a Bill to say what must be done, and certain responsibilities are placed upon local authorities. Then everyone screams that local authorities do not have any money and the Government must provide it. But of course the Government are always trying to curtail their expenditure. We tend therefore to go around the houses.
If we are not prepared to take action, then nothing will ever happen. We must settle down to the business of saying who will provide the service and where the resources will come from. We recognise that the new system of air quality management is bound to have cost implications for local authorities. It is the Government's aim to obtain the best possible estimate of those costs and of the potential cost to othersfor instance, industry. It is difficult to be able to say what the costs will be. We want to obtain as reasonable an estimate as we can. We are already in extensive discussions with local government and are setting up a formal liaison group to take forward the implementation of the new provisions. Costs will be an important topic for discussion as we prepare the draft strategy for consultation.
We must accept that it will not be possible to provide accurate figures which may be implied by a statutory requirement at the outset of a new and complex system and one which must not only be set up, but also be able to adapt itself. We shall therefore be working closely with local government at all stages of the implementation. We shall be revising and refining the cost estimatesfor example, as we prepare the regulations. Those estimates will be taken into account when we consider local authority resources in the normal way.
We shall be directing central government activity towards implementation of the new system. We shall encourage councils to make use of the extensive local and national data already available and many will be able to rely largely on that for their national reviews of air quality. We are expanding the networksthe new government stationsand we are funding the integration of some existing local authority equipment so that it can operate to national standards. We are paying for detailed emissions inventories for some of the largest conurbations. Those are an essential tool in an air quality management system. We will be looking to what else should be developed nationally as the system comes into operation.
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These are fairly large undertakings. The system is in the process of being put into place. Costs are important. We cannot give a guarantee as to exactly what they will be but the noble Baroness can be assured that we shall do this in close consultation with the local authorities. I hope she will consider that, if nothing else, her amendment has provided me with the opportunity to say what the Government are doing. I rather fancy that that was the purpose of her amendment in the first place.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the purpose of my amendment was to make it clear that the Government, while producing one sort of bill, recognise that there is another sort of bill and that there is a responsibility to meet the costs. I do not make an apology for drawing this matter to your Lordships' attention. Inevitably, this is an issue where immediate costs will fall on one set of shoulders and the long-term savings, quite apart from personal savings, may well be in another area. I refer to expenditure on health. After all, that is a lot of what this is about.
I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. I am pleased to hear what the Government are doing and I shall be pleased over the next few months and years to hear more. It is an important area. However, it is also important to recognise that there are savings to be made over a longer period and that those will require an investment in the shorter period. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment No. 134C, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 134, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 134D not moved.]
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Functions of the new Agencies
135After Clause 75, insert the following clause:
'.(1) In discharging its pollution control functions, each new Agency shall have regard to the strategy.
(2) In this section "pollution control functions", in relation to a new Agency, means
(a) in the case of the Agency, the functions conferred on it by or under the enactments specified in section 5(5) above; or
(b) in the case of SEPA, the functions conferred on it by or under the enactments specified in section 31(5) above.'.
136After Clause 75, insert the following clause:
Local authority reviews
'.(1) Every local authority shall from time to time cause a review to be conducted of the quality for the time being, and the likely future quality within the relevant period, of air within the authority's area.
(2) Where a local authority causes a review under subsection (1) above to be conducted, it shall also cause an assessment to be made of whether air quality standards and objectives are being achieved, or are likely to be achieved within the relevant period, within the authority's area.
(3) If, on an assessment under subsection (2) above, it appears that any air quality standards or objectives are not being achieved, or are not likely within the relevant period to be achieved, within the local authority's area, the local authority shall identify any parts of its area in which it appears that those standards or objectives are not likely to be achieved within the relevant period.'.
137After Clause 75, insert the following clause:
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Designation of air quality management areas
'.(1) Where, as a result of an air quality review, it appears that any air quality standards or objectives are not being achieved, or are not likely within the relevant period to be achieved, within the area of a local authority, the local authority shall by order designate as an air quality management area (in this Part referred to as a "designated area") any part of its area in which it appears that those standards or objectives are not being achieved, or are not likely to be achieved within the relevant period.
(2) An order under this section may, as a result of a subsequent air quality review,
(a) be varied by a subsequent order; or
(b) be revoked by such an order, if it appears on that subsequent air quality review that the air quality standards and objectives are being achieved, and are likely throughout the relevant period to be achieved, within the designated area.'.
138After Clause 75, insert the following clause:
Duties of local authorities in relation to designated areas
'.(1) Where an order under section (Designation of air quality management areas) above comes into operation, the local authority which made the order shall, for the purpose of supplementing such information as it has in relation to the designated area in question, cause an assessment to be made of
(a) the quality for the time being, and the likely future quality within the relevant period, of air within the designated area to which the order relates; and
(b) the respects (if any) in which it appears that air quality standards or objectives are not being achieved, or are not likely within the relevant period to be achieved, within that designated area.
(2) A local authority which is required by subsection (1) above to cause an assessment to be made shall also be under a duty
(a) to prepare, before the expiration of the period of twelve months beginning with the coming into operation of the order mentioned in that subsection, a report of the results of that assessment; and
(b) to prepare, in accordance with the following provisions of this Part, a written plan (in this Part referred to as an "action plan") for the exercise by the authority, in pursuit of the achievement of air quality standards and objectives in the designated area, of any powers exercisable by the authority.
(3) An action plan shall include a statement of the time or times by or within which the local authority in question proposes to implement each of the proposed measures comprised in the plan.
(4) A local authority may from time to time revise an action plan.
(5) This subsection applies in any case where the local authority preparing an action plan or a revision of an action plan is the council of a district in England which is comprised in an area for which there is a county council; and if, in a case where this subsection applies, the county council disagrees with the authority about the contents of the proposed action plan or revision of the action plan
(a) either of them may refer the matter to the Secretary of State;
(b) on any such reference the Secretary of State may confirm the authority's proposed action plan or revision of the action plan, with or without modifications (whether or not proposed by the county council) or reject it and, if he rejects it, he may also exercise any powers of his under section (Reserve powers of the Secretary of State or SEPA) below; and
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(c) the authority shall not finally determine the content of the action plan, or the revision of the action plan, except in accordance with his decision on the reference or in pursuance of directions under section (Reserve powers of the Secretary of State or SEPA)below.'.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 135 to 138.
Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 135 to 138.(Earl Ferrers.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.