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Baroness Byford: I shall add a couple of comments. I hope that the Minister will not say that the amendment is not necessary, although I imagine that he will. I should not prejudge what he says, but the Government may be reluctant to add to a Bill of more than 200 pages.

The noble Baroness gave good examples of how efficiency programmes could aid in saving water and help businesses. My comment is in the form of a question. I had presumed that such a programme would be required by the agency as part of the proposed system. That is why I wondered whether the Minister might be saying no. We support the better use of water resources. That is key for all of us. The more water we can save, conserve and re-use in other areas, the more it will help not just local communities, but the wider community. Does the agency already require that? I think I am looking at the Minister, although I am also looking at the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I am not sure who will respond. I think it will be the Minister.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: I support my noble friend Lady Miller. The use of scarce resources is becoming an extremely important issue. There are computer programmes that will help. We have seen them used for energy saving. Water is a very scarce resource in

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some parts of the United Kingdom. The amendment encapsulates that making best use of the resource is a desirable objective.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I do not want to inhibit the discussion in any way, because the knowledge that everybody brings is valuable, but I remind Members of the Committee that a member of an agency cannot in any way be asked questions. All questions must be directed at the Minister.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, for that interjection. It is important for all of us. I recognise that I am not here to respond on behalf of the agency or to usurp the position of the Minister. However, I should like to contribute briefly on the amendment.

First, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for her kind words about the agency's water efficiency awards. However, I shall incur yet again the wrath of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, in similar terms to the wrath that I incurred in the previous Committee sitting on the Bill. We are going to talk about water efficiency at a number of points throughout the Bill. As I said on the previous water efficiency amendment, this one expresses an admirable sentiment. We all want water to be used more efficiently for a variety of reasons—for the environment, but also so that there is water available for all the many and varied needs of water users.

The amendment addresses the technical point of whether an application is made by an entitled person—I do not mean Members of the House of Lords; I am talking about whether the application is properly made. That is not the right point on which to be considering water efficiency. It would be more appropriately considered when we are discussing general issues of whether the licence should be granted, rather than simply whether the person making the application is the right one to do so. The amendment would add bureaucracy without necessarily delivering the water efficiency benefits that we are all looking for. The issue will come up on a number of occasions. There are other points in the Bill when water efficiency will be far more pertinent and could be more successfully delivered.

Lord Whitty: We all recognise that when the Environment Agency is determining a licence application it will need to assess whether the applicant has a reasonable requirement for water. That requires an assessment of the efficiency of the use of that water. The amendment would make an undefined water efficiency programme a precondition. More clarity about what that means would be needed were we to amend the Bill in that way. Because the efficient use of water is a key element, we need to make sure that what we put on the statute book is the appropriate way of dealing with the issue.

I suspect that we shall return later to how water efficiency is judged and the duties of the Environment Agency in considering licences. The amendment is not appropriate in its present formulation. It could lead to arguments about what is and is not a water efficiency

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programme rather than allowing the Environment Agency to make a judgment on how the abstractor was likely to use the water. I would not like to pursue the amendment in this form at this point in the Bill.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank noble Lords who have spoken and the Minister for his reply. By having several different amendments, we are at least narrowing it down to a point in the Bill where the issue will be acceptable. Maybe I have been misled by the titles of the clauses. I wanted to define who may apply for a licence with this amendment. I hear the argument of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that it is better to consider whether the person has a programme of water efficiency later when their licence is being considered. I remind the Committee that we are talking about larger users, not all the small ones, who have been removed from the Bill. It is more appropriate for that to be considered as the first thing before the licence is applied for. That is why I tabled the amendment at this point in the Bill.

By Report I am sure we will have honed down the perfect place for the perfect amendment to achieve what many of us want. I hope that we shall also define a water efficiency programme. I am sure that the Government might feel inclined to help us with that task. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Applications: types of abstraction licence]:

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 42:

    Page 15, line 16, at end insert—

"( ) the willingness of the applicant to have regard to efficiency and sustainability in their use of water;
( ) the likely effect of any abstraction on soil management."

The noble Baroness said: We are on the same subject again, although in a different context. The amendment would insert in Clause 13 a similar requirement that an applicant should be willing to have regard to efficiency and sustainability in their use of water.

The amendment is slightly different from the previous one in that it refers to the sustainable use of water. I am testing whether this is a more appropriate place in the Bill for such an amendment.

The second part of the amendment is slightly more specialised, referring to,

    "the likely effect of any abstraction on soil management".

That is a reference to some of the thoughts in the Water Framework Directive. For example, an applicant's management of their soil may have compacted it to such an extent that it does not retain water well and needs more irrigation as a result. Whatever is sprayed on to the soil runs off fast. The direction of the ploughing and any subsequent way in which soil can be managed after that all leads to a need for ever more water to be abstracted and sprayed on to the soil to achieve ends that, were the soil managed properly, would require much less water. We have not debated

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those soil management issues so far, but I believe that we should do so. Were the Water Framework Directive part of the Bill, we would most certainly be debating them at length. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford: I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 43 and 44, which are in this group. Through the Minister, I shall also respond to the quiet rebuke of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for my reaction to her comments at the previous sitting. The amendment then was not about efficiency, but about conservation. There is a great difference between conserving water and using it efficiently. They often run side by side, but there is a distinct difference that we shall return to.

Clause 13 provides for three forms of licence—transfer licences, temporary licences and full licences. Following an application for an abstraction, the Bill allows the agency to decide which licence type is most suitable for the applicant. The implication of Amendment No. 43 is that, in deciding the most suitable licence type, the agency should have regard to the needs of the business requesting the licence. The NFU considers it vital that the Bill ensures that the agency has regard to the operational needs of the businesses and the likely effect of any variation in licence when deciding which type of abstraction licence will be the most suitable.

On Amendment No. 44, I understand that the Water Resources Act gave national parks special rights relating to appeals against decisions on applications, which would be of special concern, according to page 41 of Butterworth. The clause seems to suggest that these special rights will not extend to appeals on the agency's decision on the types of abstraction licence. If so, why the change?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Clause 13 allows the Environment Agency to decide the type, number and groupings of licences that should be granted, based on the likely effect of the abstraction. That is the only issue relevant to that decision. Amendment No. 42 would add additional factors relating sustainability to those that the agency may consider in those circumstances. However, the type or groupings of licences are not relevant to matters of sustainability. When finally determining an application, whichever type is eventually issued, the agency must already have regard to sustainable development, which would include soil management where relevant. It must also take costs and benefits into account. Water efficiency is an essential element of considering the reasonable requirements of an applicant.

I hope that the intention of the amendment is therefore fully met and that, with those assurances, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw it.

The factor mentioned in Amendment No. 43 is already considered by the agency. In any case, the applicant will have a right of appeal against a decision on the type of licence if he believes that it will adversely affect his business interests.

The national park authorities are currently involved in the appeals process for licensing decisions in their area. That is right, because the licensing decisions can

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have implications for water resources in that area and, in turn, for the nature of the local environment. However, their involvement in decisions on the type of licence, as proposed by Amendment No. 44, would have no direct bearing on that and would involve the national parks in additional effort to little effect. I hope that clarification satisfies the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford.

Amendment No. 42 would add subjective matters to the determination of licence type, such as the willingness of applicants to use water efficiently. If the agency considers that water efficiency conditions should be imposed, it will impose those conditions and the abstractor will have to comply with them. I hope that reassurance satisfies the noble Baroness, Lady Miller.

The Environment Agency must have regard at all times to relevant considerations. The potential relationship between the water and soil to which the noble Baroness referred, such as absorbency and potential run-off, will be relevant considerations.

5.45 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for her reply and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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