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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 180A:

In subsection (1) (discrete waters) of section 221 of the WRA (general interpretation) for paragraph (b) there is substituted— "(b) any which are constructed for the sole purpose of water storage;"."

The noble Baroness said: This is a quick amendment to probe the Government on the meaning of "discrete waters". An occasional body of water, such as a dew pond, has neither an obvious way of feeding in or

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feeding out. Would it fall within the definition of "discrete water"? I would welcome the Minister's comments. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: In using the term "discrete waters" in this context, we are not trying to exempt all discrete waters by including all waters that do not flow into a wider system. We are not necessarily seeking to exempt all of those. Discrete waters are either single reservoirs or ponds and lakes that have no outlet or are a series of interconnected lakes that have outlets to each other but not to any other inland waterways separate from that group of lakes. There may be scope under the Water Framework Directive and so on to exclude them not only from the abstraction controls but from other controls.

The noble Baroness's amendment, which would bring them into abstraction regimes and provide an exception that way, would not necessarily provide the kind of desired outcomes for the particular ecological systems that might develop in such discrete waters. However, DEFRA and the Environment Agency are considering the way in which we treat such ponds and lakes and how we might exempt them from some of the other controls under this Bill and other legislation.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for his explanation. It was useful, and, in the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 78 [Control of water from coal mines]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 181:

    Page 90, leave out lines 39 to 42.

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 181, I shall speak to the other amendments in the group.

Amendment No. 181 is a purely technical amendment. Early drafts of the Bill reserve the ability of the Secretary of State to determine by regulation additional powers for the Coal Authority in relation to entry onto premises affected by or at risk of being affected by mine water discharges.

Prior to introduction, we took the view that the range of powers explicitly set out in the Bill was sufficient, and the power to confer others was excised. The provisions relating to the manner in which the regulation-making powers may be exercised has been rendered obsolete, and the amendment would clarify that.

Amendment No. 185B is a substantial amendment. It will revise Schedule 6 to the Water Resources Act 1991 to account for the fact that only the Environment Agency would be able to apply for orders to change thresholds under new Section 27A and to establish registers of protected rights. The amendment, which is quite lengthy, will replace the previous Schedule 6 to the Water Resources Act.

Amendment No. 185A makes it clear that, when the Secretary of State intervenes because the exercise of some functions by the National Assembly for Wales might have serious environmental effects in England, that intervention must be made in order to make

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changes to the small exemption threshold but must not relate to orders relating to registers of protected rights in the wider sense. It is a clarification, rather than a substantive issue.

Amendments Nos. 189, 190 and 191 give effect to the recommendations of the report of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform on the Bill. The committee recommended that a statutory instrument that amended or repealed primary legislation should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, rather than the negative. We signalled, at Second Reading, that we accepted the committee's recommendations. The amendments give effect to the recommendations. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith: Perhaps I may ask a question on Amendment No. 185B, which produces new Schedule 6. Paragraph (4) states:

    "Not later than the date on which the notice is first published in pursuance of sub-paragraph (2) above"—

we must bear in mind that this is a notice about abstraction of small quantities of water and compulsory registration of protected rights—

    "the Agency shall serve a copy of the notice on—

almost everyone who has an interest in water. However, a significant category is left out; that is, any person holding an abstraction licence. I found myself wondering why that was and whether it should be included. Will the Minister be very kind and undertake to do so?

Lord Whitty: As far as I am aware, while this part of the amendment limits the requirement to the Environment Agency, it does not alter the timetable for having to serve notice or the number of people to whom notice is served. It does, of course, require the Environment Agency, in so doing, effectively to publish the notice, and therefore anyone who was affected by it would have access to it. I can confirm that we are using the existing schedule formulations on this. Whether the noble Lord will find that a satisfactory answer, I am not entirely sure. But we are not changing anything in that part of the amendment, and there is access to the information.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am slightly pleased to hear that the amendment is not changing anything, but the fact remains that there seems to be a significant omission. If we are not changing anything, this at the very least gives us an opportunity to change something if it ought to be changed. I have not really heard the Minister give a reason why holders of abstraction licences should be excluded. Let us look at who is included—every local authority, joint planning board, national park authority, any relevant water undertaker, internal drainage board and navigation authority. These are all bodies that have interests in water. The other classification of people who have interests in water are those who hold abstraction licences, yet they are specifically excluded.

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Baroness Byford: Water suppliers.

Baroness O'Cathain: Water suppliers.

Lord Dixon-Smith: Water suppliers are also excluded. They may have been excluded in the past for historical reasons—I do not know why. But here, at the very least, we have an opportunity to do something about it. My noble friends beside me are both screaming "water suppliers" at me; they, equally, have a distinct interest. Therefore, I again press the Minister to consider whether there is not an issue that we should address.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The noble Lord ought to retract that statement—neither noble Baroness screamed.

Lord Bridges: There is a grammatical point in paragraph (4)(e) of Schedule 7, which refers to,

    "a relevant source of supply".

Ought not the words,

    "the Secretary of State for Transport"

to come first? It would read more clearly, but it is only a grammatical point.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I think we should welcome the first of the government amendments giving up the power to make regulations. We often complain that they take too many powers to make regulations, so I welcome their voluntary relinquishing of that one.

I see that our old friend the London Gazette appears copiously in the Government's next amendment, and the horrible thought occurs to me that there must be many people whose job is simply to read the London Gazette and see what happens in it. I sympathise with them.

My serious point about that amendment is that Bills are helpfully accompanied by Explanatory Notes. However, when the Government table amendments such as this later, we do not get Explanatory Notes at the same time, and it might help if we did.

Lord Whitty: We quite frequently try and explain why we are tabling amendments and notify at least the spokespeople. But in this respect we are simply replacing the existing schedule in another Bill with effectively the same words. I think the distinction is that there is a two-stage consultation process in that the bodies specified here, which have statutory duties in relation to water, are consulted on the draft. The proposal is then published and there is wider engagement at that point. However, rather than simply taking my word for it that we were not changing anything and that the old recommendations including the almost exclusive use of the London Gazette remain appropriate, as they were in 1991, I had better write to noble Lords and explain how we envisage this process operating. If some changes to the amendment would be appropriate, I will include those

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and bring them forward at a later stage. We need to take account of what people have said in the last few minutes.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am very grateful to the Minister for that last remark. I look forward to hearing from him in due course.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 181A:

    Page 91, leave out lines 18 to 24.

The noble Lord said: The Explanatory Notes state that Clause 78 provides powers to prevent or treat water pollution from abandoned coal mines. Subsection (8), which the amendment would remove, does not appear to have anything to do with preventing water pollution or treating water so as to prevent that pollution; it has to do with land ownership. In fact, it is even more peculiar than that. It gives the Coal Authority the power compulsorily to purchase private land to replace common land which might be so used and even open space. The provision even mentions,

    "fuel or field garden allotment".

I have tried to understand why the word "fuel" has been included in the provision but I cannot. Its inclusion is sufficient reason to move this amendment; and the same applies to garden allotments.

I am not sure that we are not in danger of establishing almost a new principle—that common land and open space are sacrosanct to the extent that they are superior and have rights over private land. It would be exceedingly dangerous if that were accepted. At the very least, that particular subsection should not be in the Bill.

The Question on clause stand part is grouped with this amendment. As I understand it, the clause provides new powers for the Coal Authority to operate its programme of works to rectify actual or potential environmental damage caused by coal mine waters. Those powers include the ability to enter land, to carry out investigations into pollution, and also to be able compulsorily to acquire land where pollution from an abandoned coal mine exists. We do not really understand why the compulsory powers are needed.

At present, as we understand it, there is a memorandum of understanding between the Coal Authority and the Environment Agency covering the management of such matters. To the best of our knowledge, that works. It may be interesting to hear whether it has not worked—we may have that opportunity. To the best of our knowledge, however, the arrangements have worked satisfactorily. We are therefore unconvinced of the need for this statutory framework.

I should be interested to hear from the Minister why it has been suddenly decided that these additional powers for the Coal Authority are deemed necessary.

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We were not aware that there was a particular problem in relation to this matter. That is why we have suggested that the whole clause should cease to be part of the Bill.

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