Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Howie of Troon: I have found myself in substantial agreement with many of the comments made by those on the Opposition Benches. I agree with the idea lying behind the amendment, especially insofar as it asks for a consolidation Bill.

As we often do in the House of Lords, I shall speak from personal experience. One great virtue of this House is that there are people here with experience of a wide variety of matters, and when they speak they frequently know what they are talking about.

My experience in this matter goes back to the period of my life when I was a publisher of engineering magazines, one of which was called World Water—although that is not apposite to this discussion. This was the period when the then Government, starting with Jim Prior, were reforming industrial relations. Part of my activities in those days was to negotiate on matters such as salaries and conditions of work with the NUJ and SOGAT. That was always interesting and sometimes amusing.

As Members of the Committee will remember, during that period there was a succession of Acts reforming industrial relations, each of which meant that one had to go back to the previous Act, cut out bits of it and paste it in. By the end of that period, when there were four or perhaps even five successive Acts, the NUJ was bamboozling me and I was bamboozling it. That was not quite the best way of going about business, and I am perfectly sure that that is true here. The Bill that we are now discussing amends other parts of existing legislation. I merely put in a mild plea to gather it together and make a consolidated Bill—if not now then at some time in the reasonably near future.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty: I can tell noble Lords present—the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and I dealt with the Greater London Bill, as did my noble friend Lady Farrington—that this is a straightforward, completely comprehensible Bill. I do not know what people are complaining about.

However, clearly there is a principle here which goes rather wider than the Water Bill—that is, whether, when a number of pieces of legislation relate to one subject, Parliament as a whole should provide time for making consolidation. Frankly, I do not believe that we can deal with that matter on the basis of one amendment to one Bill. Indeed, the convention is that the priority for consolidation Acts is determined by the Law Commission rather than by a government department.

I can certainly give noble Lords the assurance that we shall draw attention to the views expressed here in relation to the consolidation of water legislation, both existing and prospective, in relation to the Water Framework Directive and the secondary legislation that we are proposing in that respect. However, I do not believe that we can carry that on the basis of an

29 Apr 2003 : Column GC180

amendment to one Bill. It rather goes to the heart of the unsatisfactory nature of our proceedings and the complete incomprehension of them outside, and we shall not solve that tonight.

Baroness Byford: "Shame", says my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith. I believe that we all accept the thrust behind the amendment and I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Howie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. The noble Lord tempts me to sit in on every Bill and each time to seek to insert one of these clauses at the end. If enough pressure were exerted on all the Bills every time, perhaps something might be done. However, I digress.

I have to say to the Minister that this is an issue to which I believe we shall return and, indeed, we shall probably tie it up with some stronger wording on the Water Framework Directive. I do not believe that just because the directive is not included, that is an excuse for it not to be considered. I believe that it is something worth doing. However, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 95 agreed to.

Clause 96 [Regulations and orders]:

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 189 to 191:

    Page 119, line 17, at end insert—

"( ) A statutory instrument containing an order or regulations—
(a) made by the Secretary of State under any provision of this Act except section 10 (but including section 97), and
(b) which contains (or contain) provision amending or repealing any enactment,
shall not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament."
Page 119, line 18, at beginning insert "Otherwise,".

    Page 119, line 22, leave out subsection (3).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 96, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 97 [Interpretation, commencement, short title, and extent]:

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 192:

    Page 120, line 11, at end insert—

"( ) Before bringing any Part of this Act into force, the Secretary of State shall make a statement declaring that its provisions are compatible with those of Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23rd October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy."

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 192, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 193. Having just heard the response to my previous two amendments from the Minister, I do not believe that he will like these any better. Nevertheless, I believe that they are important and should be moved.

We know that the Water Framework Directive, or parts of it, must be implemented by the end of this year. We feel that much of it would have been dealt with more appropriately within the Committee stage

29 Apr 2003 : Column GC181

and within the handling of this Bill. Indeed, that sentiment has been reflected by other noble Lords at various stages and on various days.

We have just spent our sixth day—I believe that we shall just about finish tonight—of the Committee stage on a Bill which I suspect the Government originally thought was small and would go through on the nod. I believe that its complexity has been highlighted by the many amendments put forward by noble Lords from all sides of the Committee.

As I said in debate on an earlier amendment, I believe that it will be the summer before the Bill goes through both Houses. Therefore, we feel very strongly that the implications of the directive should have been considered and that we should have had a chance to debate them fully.

As I said earlier, statutory instruments are all very well, but we do not get a chance to debate them in the way that we have been able to do in relation to this Bill. So far as we are concerned as legislators, they are frustrating and they are even more frustrating for those with businesses and interests outside the House who find the way that we do our business even more confusing.

In addition, I believe that not using the Bill in the way that we should have done will place extra time demands and resource demands not only on the Government themselves but also on all the businesses which employ people. They must go through the statutory instruments to ensure that they are up to date and running with them. I do not believe that that helps to keep costs down; I believe that it puts costs up. Therefore, that is my reason for tabling these two amendments.

As I said earlier, we are very disappointed. From the speeches from all sides of the House at Second Reading, it was clear that it was decided to push ahead without implementing the Water Framework Directive with the Bill. I believe that I have said enough because so much has been said on this issue. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I do not believe that at this stage the length of my speech will indicate the depth of my feeling about this matter. Therefore, I say simply that I look forward to returning on Report to the issue of the Water Framework Directive and its inclusion in the Bill. We end the Committee stage as we started it—by discussing the directive.

Lord Whitty: With the promise of returning to this matter, I suspect that noble Lords will not accept the fact that we have not included the Water Framework Directive within the Bill. However, clearly we have already started on the process of its transposition, and that should be completed by the end of this year. As I said earlier, that is the normal way of proceeding with European directives.

What I object to in this amendment is that, given that we have discussed the subject and do not see eye-to-eye on it, nevertheless, even if noble Lords are

29 Apr 2003 : Column GC182

completely happy with the rest of the Bill, they want to delay it. That is not appropriate and I do not believe that I could ever accept a delay in commencement issued in those terms. I believe that it would also establish a difficult precedent on future occasions. Therefore, I am afraid that I cannot accept the amendment.

Baroness Byford: The Minister will not be surprised that I am not surprised by his answer, nor that I am disappointed. The Minister has just said that this is the way that we would normally proceed with Bills. I accept that but, as I said previously, we have an opportunity—perhaps once in 20 years—to get everything together but we cannot do so. I believe that my words, as reflected by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, indicate great disappointment. However, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 193 not moved.]

Clause 97 agreed to.

In the Title:

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page