Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The noble Lord makes a point with Amendment No. 27 about the importance of site-specific determinations. However,

15 Feb 1999 : Column 511

there are some sectors where operators are particularly homogenous and where it makes sense to develop standard permit conditions. It would allow for a quicker determination of "best available techniques" in those sectors and should lead to a lower cost of regulation. The proposals have been welcomed by respondents to our consultation exercises who might benefit from them.

Nevertheless, the site-specific principle will remain paramount and the use of standard procedures will always be optional on the part of both regulator and operator. There will also need to be a certain level of support within a particular sector for standard conditions to be considered. These safeguards will ensure that they are only ever used when appropriate.

As the Bill currently stands, the sub-delegation power in Clause 1(4)(a) which was considered earlier would confer a discretion on the regulators to come up with conditions which are appropriate in each case and to use standard conditions only where appropriate. I can assure the noble Lord that the Bill protects the current flexibility of the regulators to determine permit conditions, which we both wish to retain. In urging the noble Lord to withdraw Amendment No. 27, we will obviously consider carefully before Report stage the detailed points he has put forward.

The Duke of Montrose: Perhaps the Minister will clarify at this stage what the introduction of these permits will mean to people on the ground. As has been drawn to your Lordships' attention earlier, this is a skeleton Bill--and perhaps I am going into rather more detail than I should at this point--but can the Minister say something about how the permit implementation might be introduced?

The notes on the Bill say that it will take the place of Part II of the Environmental Protection Act. As a farmer, I have to declare an interest in rural and agricultural pollution. The Department of the Environment is currently issuing permits using the previous legislation under the ground water regulations. It is suggested that authorisation gained under this ruling might be accepted as a permit under the new IPPC regulations when they are introduced. Is it the Government's intention that this method of excluding the necessity for further application should be carried forward? Another question for those involved in an industry as complicated as farming is whether multiple disposals require multiple permits.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: If Clause 1(4)(a) were removed from the Bill, which has been pressed on the Government as a response to the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation, we would need to amend Schedule 1 carefully to retain the flexible approach which has been sought in the consultation with industry. With regard to the specific question on the application for farming and whether a groundwater permit will count for IPPC, no, it must cover all modes. That is my understanding, but if that is incorrect I shall

15 Feb 1999 : Column 512

write to the noble Duke. In the light of those replies, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able at this stage to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I am grateful to the noble Baroness, who seems to be as forthcoming as her colleague in undertaking to consider what we have said. I can understand that all the respondents are pleased with the way that this is being carried out in general, but it is up to us to make sure that we get exactly the right words. The noble Baroness used the word "appropriate" three times in her speech, indicating that "appropriate" really is the most appropriate word. However, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 28:


Page 5, line 6, leave out ("Restricting") and insert ("Controlling").

The noble Lord said: We are dealing here with changes in operations or changes to plants. Article 12(2) of the directive lays certain duties on member states, including the duty to take steps to ensure that,


    "no substantial change is made without a permit".
By using the word "restricting" in the corresponding paragraph of the Bill the draftsman is implying that changes are bound to damage the environment and that therefore they have to be restricted. In practice, of course, many changes may well reduce emissions or improve the quality of discharges or even eliminate some emissions altogether. If we were ever to move to an effective system of tradable permits, many changes would achieve just that. Therefore, to use the word "restrict" would not be appropriate in the circumstances. Of course a fresh permit or a permit variation would be required but that would not be to restrict the making of changes. It would be part of a system of controlling changes.

The main purpose of the directive, of the Bill and of the regulations is to protect the environment. Appearing to restrict beneficial innovations would be bizarre and counterproductive. That is why my amendment proposes the word "controlling" instead of "restricting". I hope that the Government may feel able to take a sympathetic view. I beg to move.

Lord Renton: It is not often that one word replaced by one other word has such vital importance. I warmly support my noble friend on his amendment. I think it is worthy of support from the Government.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I must resist this amendment. The directive, for good reason, requires that a regulator should have the power to restrict, if necessary, changes which an operator wishes to make to an installation. This is not a new power. It is also an essential tenet of the current system which must be maintained. The directive requires that no change can take place without the regulator first being notified. For substantial changes to the substances or amounts emitted from an installation the operator must first obtain the regulator's authorisation to change the permit conditions.

15 Feb 1999 : Column 513

Having said that, it is not the intention that the pollution prevention and control system should handicap industry by imposing unnecessary delays or restrictions. The flexibility of the system means that any proposals for changes can be assessed sensibly and on a case-by-case basis. The general presumption in the vast majority of cases is of course that, if a change is compatible with best available techniques, it can go ahead. That would be overridden only if there were some other good environmental reason for preventing the change; for example, if it would result in a breach of European Community environmental quality standards, such as the standard set for local air quality.

We must remember that we are talking here about a fundamental feature of pollution control which the noble Lord's amendment would remove. The regulator must be able to decide whether to allow a change to proceed which would have an effect on the environment. If an operator is not prepared to offer to carry out a change in a manner compatible with best available techniques, the regulator must have the ability to refuse to allow the change. The amendment is not compatible with our obligations under the directive or with a credible system of pollution control. Therefore, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw it.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I shall want to study that reply rather carefully. I can see no reference to the word "restrict" in the Council directive. It may be there. It is a long document and perhaps I have not looked at the right paragraph. The noble Baroness is right to say that the regulator must have the power to refuse a permit for a change. None of us would quarrel with that. However, I still maintain that there is an unhappiness about the word "restricting" which "controlling" does not convey. There may be a better word still. I shall want to study with my advisers what the noble Baroness has said and see whether we can come up with a better solution. In the meantime--

Lord Renton: Before my noble friend withdraws his amendment, I would just mention that the word "restricting" is entirely negative in its effect, whereas the word "controlling" can be positive if necessary.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I do not know whether it will help the noble Lord, Lord Renton, but the sentence included the words "have the power to restrict" rather than "always restrict".

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I shall study the noble Baroness's words. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 29:


Page 5, line 24, leave out from ("substances") to ("how") in line 25 and insert ("and of").

15 Feb 1999 : Column 514

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, perhaps I may speak also to Amendment No. 34. We now come to the question of charges on operators for the cost of regulation. Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Part I of the schedule deal with schemes for charging fees and charges to cover the cost of the regulation process. Paragraph 23 in Part II is supplementary in requiring, inter alia, that the fees and charges shall cover specified expenditure. These two paragraphs raise a serious issue which deserves airing in a substantially more populated environment than we have today.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 there are already powers to make changes to charges of this kind, so the power which is being sought in the Bill is not of itself new in principle. However, in the past few months, if I may coin a phrase, under this Government, arguments have broken out over what costs it is proper to cover by charges to operators and what costs should be met from public funds. Clause 8 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 was limited and quite specific. It states:


    "The Secretary of State may ... make ... a scheme prescribing--


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page