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Lord Howie of Troon: I support the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, in Amendment No. 187. I shall also give an example of how it might be important. In quarrying, one sometimes quarries up on a cliff, and sometimes underground. Drainage becomes important, of course, when one is quarrying underground. However, one might be contemplating quarrying up on a cliff and then to move down. One would have to apply for a de-watering licence at the beginning. It might be years before de-watering is necessary. The licence will by then have expired, and it will be necessary to apply to my noble friend Baroness Young for a kindly consideration of a renewal or extension, which may be given. However, the licence may not be renewed, although substantial capital may have been invested in developing the quarry. That is why Amendment No. 187 is necessary.

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Amendment No. 187A is much shorter. Clause 95(4) allows the Secretary of State to pay compensation to anyone who,

    "before 31st July 2002 was carrying on any activities",

as a result of which they have to apply for a licence, when either no licence has been granted or it has been granted subject to restrictive conditions. There is no help in the Government press release of 19th February about what the phrase "supply of water" means in that regard. If it does not include the drainage of a quarry, my amendment is relevant. Amendment No. 187A would ensure that the de-watering of the quarry was included in the provisions.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Where any previously exempt activity is unable to continue as a result of the introduction of any new controls by the Bill, Clause 95 already provides that regulations can deal with the payment of compensation. Amendments Nos. 187 and 187A seek to ensure that the mining, quarrying and engineering construction industries are included in the arrangements. However, all such cases will be provided for by the regulations.

Payment of compensation to any person in those circumstances would apply, in line with the principles for compensation set out in Section 61 of the Water Resources Act 1991. That would take due account of abortive expenditure incurred and any loss or damage sustained by reason of the inability to continue the abstraction. Expenditure abortively incurred may also include the preparation of plans for the purposes of any work, and any similar matters preparatory to that work. I hope that that reassures noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood.

The principles on which compensation may be claimed are already established in legislation. I would expect future regulations governing the payment of compensation in transitional cases to be broadly consistent with Section 61 of the Water Resources Act 1991. With that reassurance, I hope that the noble Lords will feel that they do not need to press the amendments.

My noble friend Lord Howie of Troon raised a further issue. We recognise that in some instances existing quarrying operations will not require an abstraction licence for de-watering until after the coming into force of the provisions of the Bill. There is a possibility that such a licence will not be granted, or be granted on a restrictive basis, and that would not benefit from the currently proposed compensation arrangements. We are considering how to address that potential gap and hope to complete that consideration between now and later stages of the Bill.

It is not possible for anyone to apply in advance of the Act. The Environment Agency will consider all applications during the transitional period, so the issue of first-come-first-served does not really arise. I hope that I have covered all the genuine concerns raised by the noble Lords, Lord Sutherland and Lord Howie. I should stress that the withholding of licences would not happen for some perverse reason; it would happen

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because there were severe grounds for concern about the impact. Much as I enjoy, respect and understand the knowledge of quarrying possessed by my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon, I also understand the points made by noble Baroness, Lady Young. However, I am sure that I have satisfied his concerns.

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: I thank the Minister for those words of comfort and reassurance and I shall certainly reread the wording of the 1991 Act to see how it applies—or how we would regard it as applying—in this situation.

The issue of first-come-first-served is not simply transitional, however. There may be a good reason to introduce quotas in a particular area or catchment, as the availability of water and the sustainability of that catchment area unrolls over the years to come. One question from the industry, which is not formally raised by the amendment but which I should like to leave with the Minister for consideration, is to what extent the industry's long-term plans will be part of the horizon that settles the question of quotas and, in due course, the allocation of licences within a particular catchment area.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, will not be surprised by my response, which is that it is impossible to answer a totally hypothetical question as to what could happen at some date in the future in circumstances that I do not know about. I would never do that without advice. If I can write to him on that, I shall do so.

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: I would not say that it was at least worth trying to ask the question, as clearly it was not. On the other hand, I am voicing a legitimate concern about what might happen to the long-term plans to which investment has been committed if a particular form of dispensing licences comes into play. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 187A not moved.]

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 188:

    Page 119, line 14, at end insert—

"( ) Within 12 months of Royal Assent, the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a report on the state of the water legislation, together with a timetable for a consolidation programme covering the water legislation and a draft consolidation bill covering this Act and previous related Acts."

The noble Baroness said: The amendment speaks for itself. As we have debated the Bill in Committee, we have gone from frustration to greater frustration and greater difficulty, as we have had to look back through so many different Acts, then look at Butterworths to see if it has been updated, then table amendments to ensure that our interpretation was correct. The Water Industry Act ran to some 400-plus pages and the Water Resources Act to 600-plus pages. There have also been various changes made over the years. We believe that it is time to consolidate some of the various water Acts.

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If we who have parliamentary support to back us up have difficulties, one can only imagine what it is like for the ordinary person outside trying to gain the sort of information he needs. I hope that the Government will say that the amendment is very sensible, as this is something that needs to be done. Earlier, I slightly goaded the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, who is no longer in his place, about extra regulations being introduced. We could do with a whole Session of Parliament to deregulate and get rid of some regulations, or at least consolidate them.

I understand that ignorance of the law is no excuse for not complying with the law, but owing to the way that the law is presented at the moment, ignorance may become mandatory. I say that slightly jestingly, of course, but I am concerned that it is increasingly difficult for people to know what their responsibilities are or where they can find out the information that they need. The time has come to say, "Enough is enough". It is time to address this topic, especially with regard to the Water Framework Directive that will be introduced after the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: The Minister will not be surprised that I support the spirit of the amendment, although it might have been strengthened if the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, had mentioned the Water Framework Directive in it.

In the course of the Committee stage, I have made a few notes of the aspects on which the Water Framework Directive may require primary legislation that are not contained in the Bill. The Minister will probably tell me that they can all be done by secondary legislation, but I press the point that this is a missed opportunity.

I shall give the Committee some brief examples. First, the river basin management plan, which has been much quoted and is much needed, will have no force in statute. The planning Bill that we shall debate shortly in this House could be a mechanism for the statutory changes that would be needed to give the appropriate powers or duties to planning authorities that the Water Framework Directive would need. However, this Bill would have been a more appropriate place, as the changes have to do with water.

Secondly, this Bill gives no legal powers to adapt the water charging regime, which might be required by the Water Framework Directive. I accept that that is a bit in advance of its time, but it is certainly something that we need to consider.

Thirdly, the Bill makes no alteration of the definitions in the Water Resources Act 1991. That is mundane, but it is very important. For example, there is "polluting matter" and "pollution", "coastal waters" and "transitional waters". The first definitions are from the Water Resources Act and the second from the Water Framework Directive. That will cause considerable confusion. Defining what is meant in legislation is important. If we have altered the Water Resources Act in this Bill, we should have altered it in a way that anticipates a directive that we will bring into force by the end of the year.

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I support the spirit of the amendment, and look forward to the discussions on Report about how we shall take this further.

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