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Lord Monkswell: I thank the noble Earl for giving way but he will appreciate that there are nine categories, or aspects, of development listed in the Bill. I suspect that these will be the categories that Her Majesty's Treasury will consider when making financial disbursements. It would seem sad if the Treasury was not to provide grant aid to developments which have as
Earl Ferrers: I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, need worry his head too much about that, because the whole purpose of sustainable development is to economise on energy and to make the best use of what resources we have. Just because that is not mentioned as one of the nine items in the Bill does not mean that anyone who tries to produce a scheme which includes measures which are conducive to energy saving will not have his scheme considered in the same way as others.
Lord Monkswell: The noble Earl suggests that sustainable development is important and is something that would meet the various criteria we are looking at. However, that is not stated in the Bill. Are the Government thinking that they will adopt--perhaps not in the wording that has been suggested by my noble friend Lord Williams of Elvel--wording to suggest that sustainable development is important and would benefit the Bill if it was written into it?
Earl Ferrers: As I tried to explain when I replied to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, sustainable development is right at the top--as he put it--of his agenda, and indeed of the Government's agenda. We have published White Papers and documents on it. Sustainable development is an important matter. If one included it in a Bill, someone like the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, would then ask us to define sustainable development. Then we would become involved in a fearful rigmarole. I do not think that that is desirable. Everyone knows--within reason--what sustainable development means. The Government have explained what they intend to do. Various measures have been set out in guidance notes, in planning guidance policies, in regulations and so forth. Not everything has to be included in a Bill. I suggest to the Committee that it would be best not to include sustainable development in the Bill, as I believe we would get ourselves into more of a tangle than if we did not include it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked whether, if there were environmental objectives on the face of the Bill, that would not help. I shall certainly consider what the noble Baroness has said. However, I come back to the same argument. I believe that Bills and statutes concern what the law is and what the law states. We should try not to include too many explanatory details as to what the law is supposed to be doing. However, I shall certainly consider the point that the noble Baroness raised.
Lord Renton: I support what my noble friend Lord Ferrers said about sustainable development. It really would be absurd to try to define it, with all its ramifications. It is bound to vary from place to place according to circumstances. That is another reason why it cannot be written into a statute in detail.
As Amendment No. 218 implies, I should like to see some provision in subsection (1) of Clause 122. It is the primary subsection in the clause. It is the primary subsection in this part. I should like to see a provision which does not simply contribute to the regeneration or development of an area. I wish to see a contribution to,
I hope that the Government will further consider the matter before the next stage of the Bill. If they are serious about putting sustainable development, however defined, at the top of their agenda, this is the clause in which that provision should be put. I hope that the noble Earl will agree to consider the issue to see whether both our agendas can be met.
Earl Ferrers: Of course I shall consider the matter. I agree with the noble Lord that it is an important part of the Bill. It is important that we get it right. We have put in what we consider the most appropriate definitions.
Having said that, I would not die at the stake and say that this is the only possible form of wording. However, I am concerned that the provision should not be too diffuse and woolly. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, I wonder what the courts would think of the words in Amendment No. 218,
Of course I shall consider the matter, including Amendment No. 220 which refers to preventing land becoming derelict, contaminated, neglected or unsightly. I shall certainly consider all those points. I cannot give a guarantee that we shall necessarily find that those are the best words or the most suitable to be incorporated, but I shall certainly consider them.
Baroness Hamwee: Without going into the definitions, the environment and the environmentally sustainable concept are at the top of the Government's agenda. It is an objective in the challenge fund bidding. Will the Minister inform the noble Lord, Lord Williams, and myself how that objective is described to those who bid? Since the Government must have defined their objective in some way, we should be able to come together on wording which reflects the reality but also puts the provision on the face of the Bill.
Lord Williams of Elvel: The noble Baroness is right. I am perfectly happy with the noble Earl's complaints about woolly wording or whatever it may be. Nevertheless, I believe that there should be some provision in subsection (1) which will help local authorities and others and which will be properly interpreted. The Government can put what interpretation they wish. I believe that environmentally sustainable development should be at the top of the agenda rather than in subsection (2). The Government have to think again. They are committed to the concept, as I understand. There is no difference of intention. We believe that the provision should be on the face of the Bill.
Earl Ferrers: There is nothing between us on what we seek to achieve. Where we disagree is as regards the force of the wording. This is a personal observation. I retain a deep apprehension about putting the words "sustainable development" in the Bill. Whenever I hear those words, or whenever I use them, I have to stop to consider what they mean. If the noble Lord drives his car in a certain way, is he driving it in an environmentally sustainable way or not? I believe that it would be terribly difficult to put such wording into a Bill which would then have to be operated on in a court
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