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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I do not think my Answer was at all complacent. We are well aware of the great importance of these proposals to all the people affected--not only Caribbean producers, but farmers and processors in this country and in the LDCs involved. It is important to realise that we are talking about countries with an average income per head of 200 dollars a year. That level of income makes even the Caribbean countries look very wealthy. I am not at all complacent. The Government will take account of all interests in their response. I do not agree that it is obvious what the impact will be. It depends critically on the supply response from the LDCs, which is not at all clear given that they are net importers of sugar. As to the final point raised by the noble Baroness in regard to the Cotonou agreement, I am sure she is well aware that in Article 37(9) it is anticipated that by 2000 the Community will start a process which, by 2005 at the latest, will allow duty-free access for essentially all products from all LDCs, building on the level of existing trade provisions of the fourth ACP-EC convention. That was anticipated in the agreement.

Lord Palmer: My Lords, what plans are there to encourage ACP farmers to diversify into non-drug-related crops?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the Government's position is clear. We shall await the

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outcome of the impact studies and the action taken as a result. We shall then look at the consequences which flow from that and decide what action should be taken.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I declare an interest as vice-chairman of the British-Caribbean Parliamentary Group. Perhaps I may refer the Minister to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, about the effect of the proposals on the Caribbean. Has he seen the comments of the Guyanan Foreign Minister, who says that the proposals are virtually a knock-out blow which Guyana cannot sustain? If the proposals go through, it will effectively become impossible for Guyana to export rice, sugar and rum. As those commodities account for 44 per cent of Guyana's total exports, this will force Guyana into becoming one of the poorest countries in the world. Can my noble friend give some assurance that the interests of the Caribbean will be properly looked after?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I hope I have made it clear that consideration of the interests of the Caribbean islands is foremost in the Government's mind. May I also remind my noble friend of the point I made in my original Answer. The impact of this will critically depend on what the supply response is from these very poor countries, which, as I said, are themselves importers of sugar.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, is the Minister surprised that I was surprised by his original Answer when he said that these new measures were welcomed by the Caribbean countries? That is not at all the situation. I back up entirely what his noble friend Lord Faulkner said. Is not the Minister aware of the very serious situation facing the Caribbean countries in regard to their primary products of bananas, sugar, rice and rum, which will be devastated by the "Everything but Arms" initiative? It will also have an effect on sugar beet producers in this country. Is he really not aware of the existing situation?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I hope that I referred to the ACP countries, which are spread far wider than the Caribbean islands and include many other countries. They welcomed the proposal but wanted to see its impact. We are conscious of the potential impact on the Caribbean islands. We all know that they have suffered serious consequences on crops such as bananas--which are crucial to their economies--and obviously any further blow would be very serious. But I should emphasise that that will depend on the response to opening up the EU market to the other countries.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that a report from the European Union Select Committee of this House on the workings of the WTO was somewhat critical of the ACP agreement, which spoke about "essentially all goods" in the context of free trade, and advocated that it should refer to "all goods"? That is the broad position taken in this House.

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Does my noble friend agree that the Cotonou agreement requires extensive consultation with those countries that are adversely affected? Does he further agree that that should include the Caribbean; and that there should be a willingness to negotiate transitional times and arrangements--not necessarily of long duration but in order to mitigate the worst effects?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Yes, my Lords. Clearly, consultation is extremely important. I remind my noble friend that it is part of the proposals that they should be progressively phased in over three years. That takes in the point that he raised.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I always buy Commonwealth bananas, particularly Caribbean bananas? I hope that all other noble Lords do the same.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I have to admit that I was not aware of that fact, but I am now better informed! I join with the noble Baroness in her appeal to other noble Lords.

Flood Losses

2.52 p.m.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What recompense they propose to offer to those in flooded areas who have lost homes or businesses in cases where warnings from the Environment Agency and other public bodies have not been heeded.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, under current guidance local planning authorities are advised to consult the Environment Agency on any proposed development in the flood plain. LPAs need to consider the agency's advice alongside other material considerations in deciding whether planning consent should be given. The LPAs' decisions will in most cases turn on the agency's advice. They may, for example, refuse permission, or allow it to go ahead provided that the developer undertakes measures to mitigate flood risk as advised by the agency. However, current case law indicates that neither the agency nor the local planning authority is liable for individual losses suffered as a result of such a decision to grant planning consent.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, first, perhaps I may congratulate the noble Baroness, following yesterday's announcement that she has become a Privy Counsellor.

I declare an interest in this Question as a resident in the new Sussex archipelago! Is the Minister aware that, three weeks ago, the Prime Minister visited the capital city of West Sussex, Chichester, and warned its residents that, thanks to climate change, they could

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expect storms more frequently in the future? What is the Minister persuading the Government to do in order to ensure that the Environment Agency has the resources to deal with this huge challenge? Does it have the money and the staff? What can be done to ensure that bureaucratic delays are broken? At present, a flood protection scheme that has been designed and improved is often delayed for years before being implemented.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his congratulations.

I recognise the deep distress that has been caused to a large number of people by the recent flooding and their concern for the future. We obviously need a co-ordinated response. We have already announced more immediate help for local authorities dealing with the aftermath of flooding and more resources to ensure that flood defences are strengthened where appropriate. We shall also have to examine the effects of recent flooding on existing local defences to see whether any work needs to be undertaken. Equally, looking ahead and recognising the possibility of climate change creating more of these situations, we need to strengthen guidance to local planning authorities on developments in the flood plain and make sure that improved information about flood risk is available. We are taking action on all those fronts.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I support my noble friend in his concern. I declare an interest as I live in the flood plain. Is the Minister aware that everyone living in and around Lewes knew perfectly well that there could be flooding and were waiting for it to happen? I live between the Ouse and the Winterbourne, both of which flood regularly. Is the Minister further aware that planning permission was given to build 20 houses on the flood plain in what was the old cattle market? Is the Minister further aware that the lock gates on the Ouse were opened to save Uckfield with the result that Lewes was absolutely inundated? Does the Minister agree that there must be some form of government control?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am aware of a great deal of what the noble Lord suggests. I understand that most of the development in Lewes that was flooded pre-dates the existing planning system, although two recent developments were involved. In both cases they were brownfield sites developed in accordance with current planning guidance. The Environment Agency's agreement to the development was subject to strict conditions being imposed, including the raising of floor levels. The Environment Agency believes that, even though there has been experience of serious flooding, where the agency's advice was taken flood damage was greatly reduced.

The town of Lewes has not expanded outwards for 20 to 30 years because of the constraints imposed by the flood plain along the River Ouse and the South Downs area of outstanding national beauty--now a prospective national park. That presents real

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difficulties. I agree that it is important that we take into account the best possible advice on the risk of flooding and that we ensure that prospective buyers, for example, receive that advice. There are ways of achieving that.

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