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Lord Sutherland of Houndwood moved Amendment No. 186:

"( ) Upon the coming into force of section 7 of this Act, section 24 of the WRA shall not apply to abstraction of water to prevent interference with any mining, quarrying or engineering operations (whether underground or surface) or to prevent interference or damage to works resulting from any such operations for a period of 12 months or if later final and lawful determination of an application for a licence."

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 186 and 186A share quite a number of words. In fact, I accept that Amendment No. 186A, tabled by my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon, has the advantage of being five words shorter. At this stage in the proceedings, that is perhaps a merit. I should like to comment on the spirit which certainly informs my amendment and which I see reflected in Amendment No. 186A. The intention is to seek reassurance that, during the process of implementation of any legislation that follows from the Bill, companies already in business that are required to apply for a water licence will be able to continue in business until a determination has been made on the application for that licence. In other words, there will not be a hiatus in mining until the determination has finally been settled. However, having made that general point, I should be quite content to withdraw my amendment and leave it to my noble friend to place his before the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Howie of Troon: We return to the question of the relationship between the Bill, the quarrying industry and the construction industry. When we last debated this, my noble friend Lady Farrington asked the Quarry Products Association to write to her, which it did. I had no part in the writing of that excellent document which I am sure that Ministers have given an adequate and I hope a sympathetic reading.

I should like to remind the Committee about the distinction we are making here. In general terms, the Bill is about extracting water mostly for domestic or industrial purposes. It also deals with certain forms of industrial and domestic drainage. To include the quarrying and construction industries' activities in this is quite mistaken. What we are dealing with here is draining either a quarry or a deep excavation so that one can continue a technological process. It is in fact a part of a technology and a technological process. As the Committee will remember, what happens is that the water is drained from one part of a water system and then put back into the same water system. It is shifted from one place to another, but it is still in the

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same general vicinity. It has not been taken away and drunk or made into whisky or anything nice like that. It remains in the water system.

Quite frankly, the matter should not be dealt with in this Bill at all. It should be in another Bill which deals with construction or quarrying. But here it is, due to some malfunction in Whitehall. It is awfully difficult to deal with it if we do not make the distinction between these two processes.

Several hours ago, the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, raised the issue of sustainability. Various other Members of the Committee have mentioned sustainability. Nothing could be more sustainable than this method of drainage and replacement. I often have difficulty with the definition of sustainability, but this seems to be just about as perfect an example of sustainability as you could get. We have therefore tabled Amendment No. 186A to deal with the transition from a period when a company does not require a licence to a period when it does. A substantial period might pass in the course of negotiating the licence. Meanwhile, the quarrying, or indeed the deep excavation at a construction site, would have to continue, or alternatively would have to stop. I am not quite sure what would happen. However, the Bill must recognise that that transition period must be dealt with.

Our amendment proposes how that should be done. My noble friend had one set of words and I had another set. He has said that one is a little shorter. However, both say that the section of the WRA,

    Xshall not apply . . . to prevent interference with any mining, quarrying or engineering operations . . . or to prevent damage to works resulting from any such operations",

until the end of the period for determination of the licence has been reached. "Reached" is a better word than "set", which is in my amendment. This seems to be a fairly sensible and desirable amendment.

Baroness Byford: When the issue was raised earlier I was supportive about the difficulties expressed by the noble Lord. I think that we would all support his concern that there would be very damaging effects, perhaps mostly environmental, if the business were not allowed to continue. That is, of course, subject to establishing that the quarrying business is not damaging water or the environment, but I think that we are currently taking that as read. If that is so, the provision makes great sense. The noble Lords, Lord Sutherland and Lord Howie, have clearly explained how that water is used, drained, reused and returned to the same system. I am therefore happy to support the amendments.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: As I indicated in earlier debates, we, too, support this amendment. Clearly, quarrying is a continuing process. Any interruption to the process will cause great disruption to the business concerned. Such businesses are very often located in fairly remote areas and require support. As the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, said, as long as there is no

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serious environmental damage and water is merely being extracted, we would be perfectly satisfied with the amendment and support it.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: The Minister will no doubt give assurances on the transition arrangements which I hope will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. Before she does so, I should like—for perhaps the third or fourth time during our consideration of the Bill, in our customary exchange—to raise the issue of what is and is not sustainable in terms of water extraction in the quarrying industry. Even in the process which the noble Lord described as drawing water out and then replacing it, quarries can have quite substantial impacts on the environment. To say that it is automatically a sustainable process to remove very large quantities of water and then to return them is perhaps to over-egg the sustainability of the quarrying industry.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I thank both the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, and my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon—although my noble friend Lord Howie seems to think that there could even be some malfunction in Whitehall. I am happy to assure him that on this occasion, as I assume on all other occasions, I can give him the reassurance that he seeks.

These amendments, seeking special transitional arrangements for existing quarrying, mining and engineering operations, would be more restrictive than the published policy for transitional applications in paragraph 3.16 of Taking Water Responsibly. That proposed a period of up to two years for any transitional licence applications to be made, and a period of up to five years for them to be determined by the Environment Agency. Abstractions for existing operations would continue to be lawful during these periods. Clause 95(1) of the Bill already provides for the Secretary of State to make transitional regulations that will deal consistently with all such arrangements, including the validity of existing operations pending determination of applications and the granting of licences.

I hope that I have reassured the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, and my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon and that they will not feel the need to press the amendments at further stages of the Bill.

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: I am content to withdraw the amendment at this stage and I beg leave to do so.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 186A not moved.]

Clause 94 agreed to.

Clause 95 [Powers to make further supplementary, consequential and transitional provision, etc]:

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood moved Amendment No. 187:

    Page 118, line 37, at end insert—

"( ) at the coming into force of section 7 was carrying out the abstraction of water to prevent interference with any mining, quarrying or engineering operations (whether

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underground or surface) or to prevent damage to works resulting from any such operations or was contemplating carrying out such abstraction in pursuance of planning permission for the winning and working of minerals extant at that date,"

The noble Lord said: This amendment has two elements to it. When it was originally drafted it referred to one particular context, but there is a second to which I shall refer in a moment. The context in question is clearly the eligibility for compensation should there be real and significant loss to the relevant industry. The issue is that as quarries and quarry owners develop a project, considerable advance investment takes place. In Amendment No. 187, the key words are,

    Xor was contemplating carrying out such abstraction in pursuance of",

and so on.

The issue here is that as a quarry owner plans the future, he will have a time horizon within which a certain level of investment seems reasonable. It is a danger to such a time horizon if one simply restricts compensation to actual operations in place at the moment. The intent of the amendment is again to seek reassurance that in the event of any compensation being relevant, the level of investment and the policy and strategy documents of the company will be taken into account. I think that that is a perfectly reasonable request to make.

Since then—and this may be simply a point on which I need to be corrected—I have been led to believe that the Environment Agency will in fact issue licences on a first-come, first-served basis. If that turns out to be the case, there will be a very significant question for those who own quarries and those who operate them in the way specified whether they can apply in advance for licences that refer to work which they contemplate undertaking, as part of the policy or which has been the basis of investment for that company. In that case, I should seek reassurances that they could do so and that these licences will be allowed to lie unimplemented for some considerable period compatible with the investment horizon which led the companies to make the proposals. I beg to move.

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