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Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 119:


Page 20, line 13, after second ("the") insert ("safe and environmentally beneficial").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 119A in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I shall speak to that after she has introduced it if the Committee gives me leave to do so.

Amendment No. 119 returns in a way to an amendment moved on Monday by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. Subsection (5)(d) relates to the need to promote the use of the river. The wording on the face of the Bill is:


The phrase we seek to introduce into consideration of desirability is "environmentally beneficial." Modern craft are not only large. They are also noisy. That is not particularly evident to those standing on the river bank. But noise is important from the point of view of anything that lives in the river. Those concerned with the environment of any river must perforce take some account of both flora and fauna; some consideration must be given to that aspect. In the case of small boats, whose exhaust is often not only washed but silenced by the waters of the river, we could have a difficult situation.

Those are the reasons for the amendment. I hope that the Government will consider it seriously.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, Amendment No. 119A, in the name of my noble friend Lady Hamwee, is

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included in this group. It proposes to add to the transport uses of the River Thames, to which the clause makes specific reference, the word "waste", so that the river will be used for the transport of passengers, freight and waste.

I am sure all noble Lords are aware that waste is already transported along the River Thames. The amendment looks forward to our Amendment No. 451A to Clause 283. That amendment requires the word "transportation" to be added to those aspects of waste management which the mayor shall include in his waste strategy. I am in a slightly difficult situation. The amendment has not been grouped with the ones before us, and it is probably better if I do not go into great detail but deal with it when we reach it.

Basically, the problem is that the transport of waste is governed by different legislative regulations from those governing other aspects of waste management, such as how it is disposed of, how it is treated, or how it is recovered. We want to ensure that there is no block to the mayor's ability to cope with this aspect of waste management, which is very important, especially in the City, and to make sure that the river continues to be available as an important route for the disposal of waste.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is right. We must bear safety in mind. No one wishes to do anything to threaten the safety of those who work on the Thames or travel on it. That goes without saying.

As to the question of the environment, I do not disagree with the noble Lord's amendment. But "environmentally beneficial" is always a matter of balance. There is no doubt that if all London's waste had to be carried through the streets of London over long distances there would be an enormous disbenefit to the citizens of London in terms of noise, pollution and congestion. Therefore, the role that the river currently plays in the transportation of waste is, I would say, on balance, beneficial, and it is in that light that we put forward our amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: With the leave of the Committee, I should declare what is now a non-interest, as a former chairman of Essex County Council and someone who had to spend a great deal of time, unsurprisingly, dealing with the problems of London's waste. Essex used to take, and, I think, still does take, of the order of 37 per cent of all of London's waste. Of course, consideration of the use of the river is significant in that respect.

Fortunately, the requirement has now reduced somewhat. Dumping at sea is no longer permissible. We should all be extremely glad that that is so. After a long battle, the point was finally conceded. The need for waste to be transported by river has therefore reduced. However, a proportion is still moved in that manner. Much also comes to Essex by land and will continue to do so, I suspect.

If one considers the river for the transport of waste it will be seen that nothing can be carried upstream because it would have to stop at Teddington weir. That means we are dealing with one-way traffic and implies

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that there are adequate facilities in either Essex or Kent sufficiently close to the coast to dispose of the waste. That has been for many years the continuing problem.

I do not think we should debate what I would call the possibilities of the waste strategy at this point of the Bill. That would be wrong. But since the issue has been raised, and raised in relation to river transport, we need to recognise that if we use the river to transport waste we are forced to assume certain other conditions can also be met. Not only are they met at the expense of other communities; they diminish the capacity of those communities to dispose of their own waste. Those factors should be considered as part of the general issue.

Baroness Hamwee: Our amendment is not intended to address the issue of disposal or of the waste hierarchy, starting with reduction, use, and so on. It merely makes the point about the facility which runs through the centre of our capital. The contrast between that type of highway with the other congested highways is a point to be made.

The first time I saw in graphic form what happens to London's waste, I realised how much London dumps in a literal way on the counties surrounding it, including the noble Lord's county.

I believe that these two amendments illustrate the difficulties that we are bound to have and the time that we are bound to spend dealing with detail because of the prescriptive nature of the Bill. I doubt whether anything in subsection (5) needs to be spelt out. We have talked about consistency with extant legislation and with national obligations, and consistency of strategy between one and the other. The subsection also deals with resources. The question of the Thames is dealt with elsewhere. It illustrates the pity that the Government have seen it necessary to be so prescriptive and so detailed; and we get drawn into further prescription and detail.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I assure the noble Lord that I share fully the sentiments underlying the amendment. He is right. It is important to encourage the safe and environmentally beneficial use of the river. Indeed, the authority will have the improvement of the environment of Greater London as one of its principal purposes. I hope that I can persuade him that the amendment is unnecessary. We cannot conceive of circumstances in which any mayor would seek to promote the use of the river in a way that did not accord with the terms of the amendment. That is not because we have a naive faith in the good intentions of all future mayors of London, but because the authority's general purpose enshrines the improvement of the environment at the heart of everything that the authority does. Also, it is hard to imagine any situation in which taking traffic off the roads and onto the river would have no environmental benefit; or to imagine circumstances where the mayor would feel obliged by this provision of the Bill to promote something that was unsafe.

Therefore while we applaud and support the intentions of the amendment, we do not believe that a change to the Bill is necessary. I hope that in that context the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment No. 119A includes a specific reference to the desirability of using the river as a means of transporting waste. It is our intention that that should apply to the transport of waste within the provision because, as the noble Baroness said, over 20 per cent of London's municipal waste is currently carried on the Thames, saving hundreds of lorry movements a day, and we would wish to see this figure maintained and if possible increased. It is one of the reasons behind the provision in the Bill.

Our advice is that the term "freight" includes waste. Freight in its normal sense means any goods or cargo other than people carried for money. Waste would fall within that definition. While we agree with the thinking behind the amendment, I can assure the noble Baroness that it is not necessary. I hope that she will withdraw the amendment. I shall not deal with the other areas covered by a later amendment.


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