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Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I certainly agree with the noble Earl that our beaches and coastline are great national assets and that we need to protect them. It was for that reason that my right honourable friend Mr. Michael Meacher called on the Environment Agency and the water companies to take urgent remedial action in the kinds of instances which the noble Earl described and to report on the prospects for compliance with the directive and on the action needed in the case of persistent failures. The Government will not be satisfied until we are regularly achieving close to 100 per cent. compliance.

As regards investment, we are looking at the possibility of providing more to improve bathing waters under the current periodic review of water

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company price limits. Other measures which would help to improve compliance are the completion of the bathing water improvement programme; the urban waste water treatment directive programme, and the EA policy introduced last year requiring design and guideline standards where secondary treated effluent may impact on bathing waters.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that when I was a Member of the other place, the whole of the Durham coastline fell within my constituency, and much of my time was spent dealing with the fact that the golden sands--which they were in those days--were being transformed into a black mess because of the dumping of coal waste into the sea? All the pits have now closed, but the problem does not seem to be improving. Can the Minister say whether any research has been done into this matter? If she does not have the answer to hand--which she probably does not--would she care to write to me about it?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I shall certainly write in detail to my noble friend. I know that the beaches around Easington certainly had the problem that he described and was concerned with when he was the constituency Member. I understand that there is a reclamation scheme to clean up those beaches. The cost is being met through millennium funding. I understand that it is being brought forward by a consortium of local partners. The Environment Agency is advising on the proposals and their environmental impact. The aim is to reclaim those beaches and perhaps give back to the noble Lord his golden sands.

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, is the Minister aware that European Union structural, cohesion and regional funds are being used by other countries for that very purpose: to clean up their beaches and to make sure that raw sewage is pumped further out than one mile from the coastline? As that is the case, is there any merit in suggesting to the Minister's right honourable friend either that application be made to the EU to get funds for this particular area of the United Kingdom--most of the United Kingdom does not qualify for such funds--or that application be made to the EU that this particular area of responsibility should be taken outwith the structural, cohesion and regional funds and put into a certain fund to which the United Kingdom can apply for this purpose rather than have it fall on the water companies?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I shall certainly consider that suggestion. My understanding is that moneys from the regional development fund are not available simply to meet the requirements of directives. However, as I said in my Answer, a variety of projects are funded under the ERDF, including infrastructure projects which might involve tourism. It

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may be possible through such funding to take action to improve bathing water standards. I shall investigate the issues raised by the noble Baroness.

Baroness David: My Lords, can the Minister please give us any reassurance about what seems to be an absolutely appalling situation in the Fal Estuary at the moment and, with the summer coming and children and everybody else using many of the beaches around the Fal estuary, can the Minister tell us whether South West Water is really going to have what seem to be several months to try to get the matter right?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I saw the reports, which were confirmed yesterday, that the Falmouth and Truro Port Health Authority served an abatement notice on South West Water requiring the company to cease to discharge sewage effluent from the new outfall at Blackrock on the grounds that the port health authority considers the discharge to be a nuisance and prejudicial to health within the meaning of the law. As I understand it, that is now an issue for the courts to resolve. It is for South West Water to show whether it has used the best practical means to prevent or counteract the effects of any nuisance which may have been caused. If bathing waters are affected, the Environment Agency will obviously have an interest in this.

Lord Mottistone: My Lords, does the Minister agree that in relation to its total coastline the Isle of Wight has the cleanest beaches in the United Kingdom?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I understand the loyalty to the Isle of Wight which is displayed by the noble Lord. However, last year there was quite a serious problem--

Noble Lords: Ah!

Baroness Hayman: --with leakages between foul sewers and drains contaminating the bathing water. However, action is being taken and I hope that it will resolve the problems that were experienced last year, lead to further improvements in the future and to the reinstatement of the high quality to which the noble Lord referred.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, although beaches need to be cleaned up as soon as possible, given the loot that has been acquired by those who own the private water monopolies, could we not ask them to pay for this to be done rather than fund it from public sources?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, that is exactly the issue under consideration in the periodic review of water company price limits. My right honourable

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friend the Secretary of State will be giving advice on the extent of the environmental improvements that he expects the water companies to make.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords--

Noble Lords: Next Question!

Association of Chief Police Officers

3.23 p.m.

Lord Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To what form of accountability they consider the Association of Chief Police Officers' resolutions relating to matters of public interest should be subject.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, the Association of Chief Police Officers is not part of the Home Office. It is not accountable to the Secretary of State for the Home Department or any other government department. As I have explained previously, the association is a provider of professional policing policy advice. It is a useful source and has a very constructive relationship with the Home Office. It is only one source to which the Government turn for advice. Policy determined by ACPO is not binding on individual chief constables.

Lord Norton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. ACPO Limited passes resolutions which affect potentially every man, woman and child in the country and I should like to draw the Minister's attention--

Noble Lords: Question!

Lord Norton: My Lords, I apologise. May I draw the Minister's attention to a policy adopted by police forces concerning the insurance industry, with which I have a connection? With the leave of the House, I shall read that policy. On 12th January 1978--20 years ago--ACPO's policy recommendation was that the supply of routine information relating to theft, loss and burglary would no longer be given to insurance companies and that that co-operation would be discontinued. Does the Minister think that that is in the public interest?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, there may have been such a resolution 20 years ago. I am not aware of whether that is still ACPO's policy. I repeat what I have already said: if ACPO comes to a certain conclusion, that is a matter for ACPO. It is entitled to its views. Whether we all agree with every one of those views is another question. I repeat that ACPO's policies are not binding on individual chief constables, who remain locally accountable under the existing arrangements.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, is the Minister aware that some of us are puzzled by this Question? Is it not obvious that it is highly desirable

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that the Home Office and, for that matter, the public deserve the frank opinion of the leaders of the police service and that anything that is done to inhibit chief officers from giving their advice would be extremely injurious to the national interest?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am a little puzzled about this Question--and I am even more puzzled by many other Written Questions which are answered at substantial public expense and at considerable official inconvenience, but I answer them. I cannot alter my Answer from day to day because it remains the same: ACPO is a body with substantial, independent, informed expertise. We value its co-operative assistance, as do many other bodies.

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