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Baroness O'Cathain: Over the past 15 minutes or so we have been given some documents from the Environment Agency about the time-limiting of licences. They specifically state that the normal renewal period for time-limited licences is 12 years. For each catchment area in England and Wales there are published dates when the time-limited licence will come into effect. The documents also state that, in exceptional circumstances, a time limit for a period longer than 12 years will be considered.

The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, said that there was no reference to a period of 12 years and that there was no time limit. I simply want to place on the record that this information comes from the Environment Agency for circulation and is headed:

Lord Borrie: I do not know where the disturbing comment made by the noble Baroness comes from. She is privileged in a way that I am not. The information may have been sent to some Members of the Committee but it was not sent to me. Therefore, I am puzzled by those remarks.

Earl Peel: Perhaps I may help the noble Lord. It is a document published by the Environment Agency entitled, Time limiting of licences: Guidance for stakeholders. It is in the public domain.

Lord Whitty: That concerns a matter to which we referred earlier. I am not sure what the point is, but we said that the Environment Agency had indicated that the period of 12 years relating to two review periods would seem to be the most appropriate, as my noble friend Lady Farrington said. That piece of paper, which I have not seen—I am sure that I have seen it at some point but I do not have it before me today—reflects the Environment Agency's view that, in reference to the Water Framework Directive, the double six-year period would lead one to conclude that the normal period would be 12 years.

However, first, that is not on the face of the Bill, and we are not proposing to put it on the face of the Bill because we require flexibility. Secondly, even the extract which the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, read out indicates that there is flexibility in that 12-year period, as my noble friend said. I believe that we are two clauses away from considering the subject of time limits again, but at present I am not clear whether we shall reach it tonight. However, I am not sure that that alters what my noble friend said to the Committee at an earlier stage.

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Baroness O'Cathain: I was left with the distinct impression that there was no 12-year time limit. Perhaps I am the only one in this Committee who has been left with that impression.

Lord Howie of Troon: I wonder whether I could add just a threepenny bit to the question. I have not seen the interesting document referred to, but I was interested in my noble friend's comments on flexibility, which may mean an extended period. That throws a certain doubt into my mind, and I suspect that my amendment, Amendment No. 54A, is beginning to look a little otiose.

Lord Whitty: My noble friend is rarely, if ever, otiose.

The record should show that my noble friend Lady Farrington referred to the double six-year period as being the norm proposed by the Environment Agency, but that there was flexibility. In any case, nowhere in the Bill does it refer to a specific time limit, and we are not intending so to amend the Bill or to agree to amendments that agree to that directly or indirectly. We spoke on that matter several times.

Amendment No. 53 deals with the duration of the licence on a case-by-case basis. The minimum criteria required by that amendment and by Amendment No. 54 would achieve what we are not intending to do, which is to place a fixed period in the Bill.

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The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, asked about derogations in other countries. I cannot tell her about them in detail, but I am not aware of any derogation as sweeping as the exclusion of the whole of agriculture or horticulture. I would be surprised if any member state was intending to transpose any part of European legislation in that respect. However, that deals with matters beyond the issue of the Water Framework Directive, while not dealing with all the issues covered by it. A direct analogue with what other countries are doing is not necessarily the best guide, but I am not aware of any such derogation. If I am wrong, I shall write to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Byford: I thank the Minister. In his last few words, he has shown again how difficult it is to deal with a Bill that deals with another Act, which in turn dealt with several other Acts. However, time is up, as they say.

I thank the Minister for his courteous response to our queries. We are simply trying to ensure continuity, success and sustainable development. That is what it is all about. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 54, 54A and 55 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld): The Committee stands adjourned until Thursday 3rd April at 3.45 p.m.

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

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