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Lord Renton: The Government have got themselves and Parliament into a very unfortunate position by putting forward this Bill. It has for centuries been a part of the sovereignty of Parliament that, when passing Acts of Parliament, we state the principles in the clauses of the legislation and then, if there are any details which require direct parliamentary approval so that the Bill can effectively be put into operation, they are put into schedules.
Here we have a Bill in which quite frankly the intentions are obscure, as is pointed out by the Delegated Powers Committee. Personally, I would have preferred to see this Bill totally recommitted so that the Government could think again in the light of what my noble friends have said. I fully agree with the amendments moved by my noble friend Lord Peyton to the extent that they make a modest improvement in the Bill and to some extent bring it within the ambit of what the Delegated Powers Committee would prefer. However, I must say I would have preferred to see this Bill completely redrafted. One knows the Government's desire to put this very important matter forward in a way that will enable the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish executive to deal with it. However, I really think in view of what has been said, and in view of the inadequacy of the Bill, that the Government should do what I have said. I shall, of course, listen to what the noble Lord has to say in reply to these amendments, but I hope that he will be as accommodating as he possibly can.
The Countess of Mar: In the absence of any support or criticism from this side of the Chamber, while I do not align myself with his party I ask the noble Lord to listen carefully to what has been said by the Benches opposite. I think that they and the scrutiny committee have highlighted some large defects in this Bill. I tend to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that the Bill should be taken back and rewritten.
Lord Lucas: I hesitated to rise earlier because I was hoping that someone would appear from the Government Benches. In my day as a Minister civil servants treated this Chamber with respect because they knew that on my Back Benches I had the likes of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, who would give me a great deal of trouble if I started trespassing in the way suggested in this Bill. I am astonished that the Benches opposite, which throughout this debate have held some distinguished Members, do not find themselves moved in the cause of liberty of the citizen or the rights of Parliament to make any comment on this extraordinary Bill.
I merely want to add one note to what has been much better said, principally, by my noble friends, and that is to draw attention to the extraordinary width of what we are dealing with in this Bill. The definition of pollution is not included in this Bill. I take it to mean something which in earth, water or air is out of place. But that, apparently can include too much carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a perfectly natural constituent of the air, so it can mean anything which alters in some minor way the
Lord De Ramsey: I should like to comment on the amendments which have been spoken to by my noble friends Lord Dixon-Smith, Lord Jenkin and Lord Peyton, concerning the width of powers conferred by the Bill. First, however, I must declare an interest. I have been the chairman of the Environment Agency of England and Wales since its formation in 1995. This agency will be responsible for much of the regulation foreseen by the Bill. My observations are based on my experiences during this time.
The amendments take into account the points raised by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. Under these circumstances I can quite understand probing amendments being put forward. None of us wish to see regulations made under the powers of this Bill which go beyond legitimate environmental protection. However, I see no dark motives in the Bill before us, and I welcome the purpose behind it. First, the Bill is to provide a sound legislative platform for the implementation of the European Community's directive on integrated pollution prevention and control--or IPPC, which is yet another acronym to try to remember. This directive was negotiated by the previous government and is modelled to a large degree on the British system of integrated pollution control, or IPC, which was also introduced by that government. It is an example of Britain leading the way in pollution control in Europe. In fact we are in danger of becoming the clean man of Europe.
The powers provided in the Bill should enable Britain to maintain this lead by implementing the directive effectively. Needless to say the agency is fully behind this. For example, a quarter of the team in the European Community's IPPC bureau, which is producing the reference documents for the whole European Union, is seconded from the Environment Agency of England and Wales. It is a good example of how to ensure we get the best out of EU legislation instead of standing
We need a regime which is powerful yet flexible enough to take account of many factors together, ranging from the broad goal of sustainable development, through to the pursuit of detailed environmental quality standards, such as those set by the national air quality strategy. The Pollution Prevention and Control Bill must provide the means to achieve this. The UK system of IPC has brought about a significant advance in the way that much of British industry thinks about pollution control, seeing it now as part of its business, not something added on as an afterthought. It is based on the sound principle that if waste is minimised at source, there is less waste to pollute the environment. Equally, saving waste and energy is never bad for business. However, we cannot rest on our laurels. The new system of IPPC is the next stage in this evolving process. It offers advantages over the present regime, as it deals with energy efficiency, noise and site protection.
As noble Lords know, the details of the directive will be brought into operation by regulations made under powers provided by the Bill. The Government have been open about their intentions here. They have published two consultation papers asking for comments on their plans for IPPC. We now have a third, as we have already heard, which explains how the Government intend to use the powers in the Bill and ask for comments on the remaining issues involved, including the content of draft regulations which might be made under the Bill. A further consultation paper is promised in the spring.
This Bill provides a sound foundation for protecting our environment in the future. It will make sure that we can benefit to the full from the European Community's IPPC directive by providing for a sound system of regulation that is efficient and easy to understand. But, at the same time, it will also provide a flexibility for the system to respond to and work alongside other important developments. As we consider these amendments, it is essential that we retain sufficient flexibility in the Bill to allow us to meet the environmental challenges that are undoubtedly ahead of us.
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