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Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 3:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should think that the Minister will be relieved to descend to a much more mundane and detailed matter. In Committee, he explained:

    "The temporary licences are intended to be used to cover one-off abstractions of a duration of fewer than 28 consecutive days where large volumes of water are needed for short periods".—[Official Report, 27/3/03; col. GC61.]

He then gave examples of what he called "episodic events". We have considered the matter. A full licence does not imply use on consecutive days, nor does a transfer licence. It is wrong to use the same form of words for a temporary licence if the intention is that it should be for consecutive days. Inserting the word "continuous" to describe the period of 28 days would make the position absolutely clear. Otherwise, there is an element of doubt in the Bill's wording. This is a small amendment, but we think it significant. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I was inclined to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, but I was strongly advised against it. In so far as the amendment would provide clarity in this context, it would provide "un-clarity" elsewhere. I am reliably informed that it is well established in law that the phrase,

    "a period of less than" means a continuous period. If we inserted "continuous" here, there would be doubt as to whether every other reference in legislation to "a period" continued to have that established meaning.

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    As usual, I take the advice of my learned friends seriously, and, with some regret, I must oppose the noble Lord's amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his tacit agreement with the principles that we are enunciating, even if he says that, for other, practical reasons, the amendment would be unwise. I do not want to be responsible for throwing the British legal and legislative system into chaos, so I accept the explanation and beg leave to withdraw the amendment. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth moved Amendment No. 4:

    After Clause 1, insert the following new clause—

    The Secretary of State in England and the First Minister in Wales shall have the power to refer planning applications for the creation of large reservoirs to a public inquiry." The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I thank the Minister for several contributions that he made during the discussion of a similar amendment in Committee. Having taken account of that, I have tabled a simplified version of an amendment that we tabled in Committee. The amendment relates to impounding to create large reservoirs and takes account of the impact that that will have on the social fabric of rural communities in the area of the reservoir and on the rural environment. Often, large reservoirs in the West and the North take up scarce flatland that, in fact, sustains the adjoining uplands. Often, it is the only flatland in the area. It is an important issue in Wales and the North of England, in particular, where such flatland is very precious. The planning process is at the heart of the amendment. In Committee, the Minister was able to allay my fears to a large extent. Applications will go through a proper planning process, using the planning powers of local authorities and national parks, where they are the planning authority. The Minister also said that it would be possible to make appeals to the Secretary of State in England and the First Minister in Wales. As it happens, the Secretary of State and the First Minister often announce the result of appeals made to them, usually through an inspector that they have appointed. I thank the Minister for stressing those points. The amendment takes account of all that, but it would insert a power—I would like it to be a duty—for the Secretary of State in England and the First Minister of the Assembly in Wales to refer planning applications to a public inquiry. That is the one point on which I need some satisfaction from the Minister. The ability to refer planning applications to a public inquiry is important. If there is an enormous reservoir that causes great destruction, there must be participation by the public, who should be able to make representations in a public consultation. That is particularly important for local representation.

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    There has been a series of tragic events, not only in Wales but in parts of England, with reservoirs being foisted on local communities. That does not happen these days, but I want to make sure that it will not happen, and we should have a public inquiry to ensure that. The public inquiry should include not only local representation but expert representation. There should, for example, be consideration of environmental impact assessments and the social impact of the loss of communities. In Wales, there is the question of the loss of the Welsh language, a loss that cannot be made good. There is the impact on farming, on the environment and on the communities themselves. If the Bill provides for a public inquiry, it will provide the necessary safeguards for public and local interests. The public will know that an independent inspector can reach an objective decision on such great disruption to communities and to the environment. In Wales, the creation of large reservoirs has become a political cause celebre. I know that it is not entirely legal to quote in the Welsh language in this place, but I must say that the phrase "Cofiwch Dryweryn"—"Remember Tryweryn"—is plastered over walls throughout central and north Wales as a rallying call against the oppressors. If we could have a public inquiry, there would be no oppressors. Justice will be seen to be done, not to be something that occurs behind closed doors. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, when public participation was introduced into planning, the grounds for doing so were that it would satisfy the public's concern about major planning decisions—even small planning decisions—because everyone would have an input into the decision-making process. Of course, the consequence was that the public proposed a multitude of solutions. In the end, there can be only one decision. My gentle experience was that, on the whole, the public was, as a result of the process, more dissatisfied than satisfied.

We are dealing here with major, highly controversial planning changes, in the form of large reservoirs. We do not know what a "large reservoir" is. There is a definition of "small reservoir" floating around in the Bill—25,000 cubic metres—but there is no definition of a large reservoir. That should be determined. Whatever happens, the creation of a large reservoir will, inevitably, be controversial. For those directly affected, it is almost bound to be an intolerable imposition. That is the reality.

A public inquiry would permit all the issues to be thoroughly explored. It would bring everything out into the open, so that the public can, if necessary, assess the overall background. There can still be only one decision. I have a shrewd idea—it cannot be a certainty—that no water undertaking will put forward an application for such a major reservoir without having a strong case, driven by necessity, for so doing. It is inevitable that, in the end, one party or the other—the local community or the water utility—will be dissatisfied with the answer. Another dreadful reality in this circumstance is that relatively few sites are

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available for the construction of large reservoirs. Regrettably, communities can move and in the past they have done so.

Having said all that, I support the principle of the amendment, but I am fairly confident that I know the planning system well enough to believe that something of this nature could not be installed without a public inquiry. I have no doubt that the Minister will make that clear in his response.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Livsey described what happened when large reservoirs were created in Wales. Since then, there has been the introduction of the Aarhus Convention in the European Union, which is supposed to ensure that the public have a much greater say and more rights in terms of input into decisions of this kind. It would be very helpful if the Minister could make some reference to that in his reply.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I do not want to delve too much into the painful aspects of Welsh history or the merits or otherwise of public participation in planning decisions. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is right. I appreciate that this amendment has been changed somewhat, but it is unnecessary. In all those circumstances, there would be a public inquiry because planning permission for a new large reservoir would have to be sought from the local planning authority, as per normal. Indeed, there would probably be a compulsory purchase dimension as well. It is impossible to conceive of such a proposition that would be uncontroversial. Therefore, there would almost certainly be a public inquiry. Indeed, if the proposed reservoir were of regional or national significance, as it probably would be, the "call-in" powers would be used were there not to be a public inquiry. The Aarhus Convention, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, referred, relates to public participation in decision making, which, in the UK context, would mean public inquiry. Although it is not directly applicable yet, proposals are still in preparation to give effect to those principles. That also points to having a public inquiry. Therefore, in all circumstances, for a large reservoir—I agree that there is a definitional issue, but the noble Lord's amendment does not help us with that—it is inconceivable that there would not be a public inquiry. The amendment is therefore unnecessary.

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