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"( ) Any such intention on the part of the Secretary of State shall be advertised in the appropriate places and be made no sooner than six months after the placing of such an advertisement."

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 21, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 21A. Amendment No. 21 seeks to address the situation in which the Secretary of State has decided to make an order to vary the small quantity threshold. There may be good reasons for that—there should be if he is to vary the order. He can do so for a small geographical area or for a class of water and so on. It may produce a confusing situation to small abstractors. They may not be aware of the variations and so be in breach of them. So Amendment No. 21 seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State's intention is well publicised.

Amendment No. 21A deals with small abstractions that could significantly damage the environment, not by themselves, but in a combination. The intention of subsections (c) and (d) is to ask the Minister what provisions have been made for small abstractors. In one area of the country they may not have a particularly great effect, but in another they may. In particular subsection (d) addresses that situation. I do not understand how the agency is required to construct a register of small abstractors. When the Secretary of State considers making an order, on what information would he make it? The purpose of the amendment is to find out how that information will be gathered so that the Secretary of State can make an order based on real information. I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: We understand that Amendment No. 21 is intended to increase the period of notice that abstractors will have of any change to the local threshold for licence control. I reassure the noble Baroness that that is unnecessary.

Any order amending the threshold for abstraction licence control will be subject to the Schedule 6 procedure. That already requires notice of the draft order to be published and provides the opportunity for

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representations or objections to be made. If necessary, the Secretary of State may hold a local inquiry into those objections. If approved, the order itself must then also be advertised. That process could take a substantial time—rightly so, given the potential complexities and complications. Any such order could also take effect from a date that would recognise any further period of notice deemed necessary for the change of threshold to come into force.

We therefore believe that abstractors will be given sufficient notice of any changes that may affect them and the opportunity to participate fully in the adoption of any such order. Having put that on record, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel satisfied that we have met her concerns.

Turning to Amendment No. 21A. we recognise the intention behind the amendment. The first paragraph, would enable the agency, in setting a new threshold for small abstractions which would be exempt from licensing, to make different provisions for different areas, water or underground strata if cumulative small abstractions were giving rise to significant environmental damage. The agency would already have power to make such provision. The purpose of the provision includes the ability to anticipate precisely the circumstances covered by the amendment. I can therefore reassure the noble

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Baroness that in just such circumstances, the agency would act. The Bill already permits it to do so. I hope that I have reassured the noble Baroness.

As for the register, we are more wary. I reassure the noble Baroness that the agency will know the conditions of water resources in any area, as its duty is to monitor carefully and frequently. A function of the small quantity threshold is to reduce bureaucracy; we think it unnecessary for the agency to establish such a register. I hope that that reassures the noble Baroness. If not, I am sure that she will respond on the issue.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for her reply. Having said what I said earlier, I certainly would not want to be seen to be trying to increase bureaucracy, so I shall rest on her assurance that all those matters will be taken into account. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 21A not moved.]

Clause 6 agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: This may be a convenient moment for the Committee to adjourn until Tuesday 1st April at 3.30 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne): The Committee stands adjourned until Tuesday next.

        The Committee adjourned at twenty-seven minutes before eight o'clock.

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