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Lord Dixon-Smith: The Minister has had a pretty good shot at replying. I need to study his observations with care. Although we are dealing initially with Clause 283, this is a series of probing amendments. I have spoken to all the following clause stand part amendments, and I do not intend to raise the issue again this evening. I must decide whether or not to raise the matter on another occasion.

Clause 283 agreed to.

Clause 284 [Directions by the Secretary of State]:

[Amendments Nos. 451Y to 451ZD had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 451ZE not moved.]

Clause 284 agreed to.

Clause 285 [Duties of waste collection authorities etc.]:

[Amendments Nos. 451ZF and 451ZG had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 285 agreed to.

Clause 286 [Directions by the Mayor]:

[Amendments Nos. 451ZH and 451ZJ had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 451ZK:

Page 152, line 30, leave out paragraph (b)

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 451ZK, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 451ZKA in the name of the noble Lord, Lord

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1509

Dixon-Smith. Amendment No. 451ZK proposes the omission of paragraph (b) of Clause 286(1). That paragraph would allow the mayor to give a direction that required a waste collection or disposal authority not to exercise a function. Perhaps the Minister can give an example of how that power might operate. I assume that the function in question would be a statutory one. I have been trying to think of a regal analogy. Perhaps this is not a Henry VIII clause because the Secretary of State does not put himself in that position, but, as I read the provision, someone is promoting the mayor to that position by allowing him to stop a waste collection or disposal authority from exercising a function. It is not immediately obvious to me what circumstances would give rise to that, and I should be glad if the Minister could put some flesh on the bones. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Amendment No. 451ZKA involves a slightly different matter. Clause 286 deals with the question of the mayor giving directions with regard to the disposal of waste and municipal waste management in relation to his municipal waste management strategy. The amendment requires him to have some regard to the costs of what he is proposing to regulate on and the effect of those costs on either the disposal authorities or the collecting authorities--the boroughs.

The question of costs in waste disposal is significant. The cost of disposal through incineration, with energy recovery and an element of waste recovery, is very high. Nonetheless, I suspect that that will have to be the main means of disposal for London's waste in future. London's waste which is sent to landfill now suffers a considerable fiscal penalty, quite deliberately to discourage waste from going that way and, more importantly, to try to encourage recycling. The recycling market is in a very bad state--in nearly as bad a state, I might say, as farming, if one wants a valid comparison. However, the amendment seeks simply to make costs an important consideration to which the mayor should have regard. The Minister will say that we do not need to tell him that, but I believe that the amendment was worth tabling and I look forward to his response.

Lord Whitty: The noble Lord will not be surprised that I regard the amendment as unnecessary. When preparing or revising a strategy, the mayor must have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State. That guidance advises that when choosing the waste management option to be followed, all authorities must be guided by the principle of using the best practicable environmental option, which, as I said earlier, was defined by the Royal Commission as a procedure which establishes, for a given set of objectives, the option which provides the most benefits or least damage to the environment as a whole at acceptable cost, in the long term as well as the short term.

Therefore, the question of acceptable cost will be covered by the guidance which the mayor will be following. Moreover, we are looking at the scope of the mayor's powers of direction in that respect, and we are looking at the impact that it will have on the London

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1510

boroughs and the waste industry in general. Constructive discussions are already taking place between ourselves and the London boroughs over those issues. Before the Bill finally leaves this House, I hope to write to the noble Lord and others setting out the proposals in that area. It is hoped that that will be before we reach Report stage.

The noble Baroness's amendment seems to me rather illogical. It seeks to remove the power to require an authority not to exercise a function, but it leaves standing the power to direct an authority to exercise a function in a manner specified in the direction. The amendment is therefore seriously flawed in that respect. The noble Baroness asked for an example where a direction might work. One example might be where a direction might seek to deliver good practice by directing an authority to adopt better methods of collection or processing which were currently being used by another authority, whether inside or outside London. That would provide the mayor with a power to direct an authority to operate a better practice which was already extant in another authority. I hope that the noble Baroness will not pursue the amendment.

11.15 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee: That example seems to fall squarely within Clause 286(1)(a) where the direction can require an authority to exercise a function in a manner specified in the direction. I do not seek to take out that provision. I had hoped for an example from the Minister where the direction tells an authority not to exercise a function.

I remain concerned. Perhaps it is arrogant of me to think that because I do not understand a provision, I should be concerned about it. Is it possible for the Minister to write to me following this stage to give me a practical example of how this power could be used?

Lord Whitty: I am happy to undertake to write to the noble Baroness. However, the example I was given would direct an authority to stop using a direction and to replace it by another method. Therefore, there is a direction to stop doing something, as well as a direction to do something. However, I shall try to find a specific example which may clarify the point.

Baroness Hamwee: I am grateful for that. I make a distinction between the function and the manner in which it is exercised. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 451ZKA not moved.]

Clause 286 agreed to.

Clause 287 [Interpretation of sections 283 to 286]:

[Amendments Nos. 451ZL and 451ZM not moved.]

Clause 287 agreed to.

Clause 288 [Waste recycling plans]:

[Amendments Nos. 451ZN and 451ZP not moved.]

Clause 288 agreed to.

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1511

Clause 289 [The Mayor's air quality strategy]:

[Amendment No. 451ZQ not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 451ZR:

Page 154, line 24, at end insert--
("( ) matters which the Mayor considers should be drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State.")

The noble Baroness said: This provision would amend the clause dealing with the mayor's air quality strategy. It seeks to include in subsection (3) information on,

    "matters which the Mayor considers should be drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State".

I make a distinction here between information, which is the subject of subsection (3), and proposals and policies which are the subject of subsection (2) where the mayor has the opportunity, as set out on the face of the Bill, to add to the short list.

Whether or not the mayor is specifically allowed to do so, I dare say that the mayor would wish to do so. However, I seek to ensure that the Secretary of State cannot say, "It is outside your remit to have views about specific types of information". For instance, the mayor or Transport for London might undertake research on attitudes to fuel, and the likely use of different types of fuel, such as liquid petroleum gas, or powering vehicles by electricity. It would be daft if the mayor could not pass on to the Secretary of State the results and information obtained. I refer, for example, to whether a level of tax might have an effect on the public's decisions about choice of fuel. If the mayor is aware of actions which could be taken, not necessarily by the GLA, but which could improve the air quality of London and are the responsibility of central government, I believe that the mayor should be able publicly to say so.

I hope that we can have an assurance from the Minister either that such an amendment would deal with the matter or that it is not necessary to have such an amendment because the points I make are implicit. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Amendment No. 451ZR would require the mayor to include in the air quality strategy such matters which he or she considers should be drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State.

In many ways, the Bill's provisions on air quality are among the most radical it contains. They effect a comprehensive devolution to the mayor of the Secretary of State's role in local air quality management, as defined by Section 85 of the Environment Act. The mayor will, through the air quality strategy, set a framework within which air quality is managed at a local level. And it is the mayor who ultimately will approve local air quality management plans.

The Secretary of State will retain responsibility for setting the national strategy and national targets, but it will be for the mayor to oversee its implementation in the capital. Of course, it is the integration of strategic responsibilities for air quality, planning and transport at the heart of the Bill which place the mayor in an ideal position to do it.

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1512

Having said that, the Secretary of State will retain an interest in what happens in the capital and in the effect that that might have on the rest of the country. And it is the Secretary of State who will be held responsible for ensuring that national targets and international treaty obligations in respect of air quality are met. That is why we have included provisions at Clause 290 enabling the Secretary of State to issue directions to the mayor in certain tightly defined circumstances.

I therefore accept absolutely that the Secretary of State will need to be kept informed of progress in the managing of air quality in the capital. Provisions in Clause 289 already set out a range of types of information which must be included in the London air quality strategy. We have been of the view that the provisions in subsections (2) and (3) covered all the kinds of information that the Secretary of State would wish to have drawn to his or her attention.

I am sympathetic, however, to the suggestions that there might be a particular class of issue which was so important as to merit being highlighted by the mayor as deserving the Secretary of State's particular attention. I would therefore ask for the opportunity to consider this suggestion, with the possibility of returning to it at a later stage. I hope that on that basis the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

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