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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 20:



"(2A) For the purposes of section 61(4A) below—
(a) every full licence under this Chapter which is for a term exceeding twelve years shall; and
(b) any transfer licence under this Chapter which is for a term exceeding twelve years may,
specify a minimum value for the quantity referred to in subsection (2)(a) above."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 20 makes minor changes to the drafting of Clause 21. The changes specify that the provisions relate only to licences of a term exceeding 12 years. The reason for the change is to make clear that there is no need for additional bureaucratic steps in a situation where the provisions to which the clause relates cannot apply. The clause relates to the occasions under Clause 27(3) when the volume of water set in a licence can be reduced without compensation. The safeguards in that clause ensure that that cannot apply to licences of a duration of less than 12 years.

Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 make minor technical changes to the drafting of Clause 23. Amendment No. 24 removes the power of the Secretary of State in new Section 51(1D) of the Water Resources Act 1991 to make regulations as to the grounds of appeal against an Environment Agency decision relating to the

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revocation of an impounding licence. Such provision is unnecessary because the grounds for appeal are already set out in new Section 51(1C).

Amendment No. 25 is consequential on that change, making it clear that the regulations governing how a notice may be served apply to the notice served upon the Secretary of State under new Section 51(1C). I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 21:


    After Clause 21, insert the following new clause—


"RENEWAL OF LICENCES
After section 46 of the WRA there is inserted—
"46ZA RENEWAL OF LICENCES
(1) Licence renewal will be subject to three tests, namely that—
(a) environmental sustainability must not be in question;
(b) the need for the licence is demonstrable;
(c) the water extracted under the licence is being and will be used efficiently and effectively.
(2) If the conditions of subsection (1) above are met, the regulator may negotiate changes to the licence but will not normally refuse renewal.""

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment is slightly different from the one presented on Report. We have lost count of the representations we have received on the subject of licence renewal. The issue is causing great concern to many people and businesses. The Minister is most reassuring on the subject, and we are reassured, but his words are not a satisfactory replacement for print on the face of the Bill. It may sound odd, but this Bill may have to last for 20 or 30 years. It seems wrong to ignore the possibility that the concept of an unwritten presumption of renewal will be lost in those years. Every industry that abstracts or impounds water has a vital concern in this issue. We must not let it go by default. I beg to move.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, during the Bill's passage noble Lords opposite have persistently but with moderation sought an amendment of this kind. I myself have occasionally intervened because I thought that water companies expending considerable sums on structural change need some sort of reassurance about the future extension or renewal of the licence. Noble Lords opposite have again put forward an amendment with moderation. The use of the word "normally" in the penultimate line is particularly moderate. I hope that the Government will look kindly on the amendment.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I regret that we cannot look on it that kindly. The current and future operational policy of the Government and the Environment Agency have been made clear. However, there are at least two serious problems about stating that on the face of the Bill, even in what I recognise is a very moderate and flexible amendment. First, it is difficult to anticipate in sufficient detail, and sufficiently narrowly, the circumstances for the presumption. In practice, therefore, it will fall to the agency to set out its judgment. We need to preserve that flexibility.

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Secondly, and in a sense more importantly for primary legislation, the practical effect of the proposal could be to favour the position of existing abstractors at the expense of new ones, or indeed of the environment. Any reduced flexibility in interpretation is likely to make it more difficult, for example, to negotiate with an existing licence holder on his future needs under the most efficient conditions of use and thereby possibly to reduce his level of abstraction. That might of itself preclude another licence being granted or make it more difficult to secure environmental improvements. The provision therefore gives rise to questions of both equity and the environmental effect which need to be taken into account.

This is a matter for clear policy guidelines. We are therefore prepared to issue a direction to the Environment Agency wherever clarification is required as to the importance of this operational policy. That should give us the scope to frame an appropriate set of circumstances for non-renewal while allowing us sufficient flexibility to cope with future uncertainties. That takes us a step further in relation to what the noble Baroness seeks in the amendment. However, the restrictions implied in including the measure on the face of the Bill in these terms are not acceptable to the Government.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, that has disappointed me. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, for his support. We have tried to come up with a measure that is shorter, simpler and relevant. I am deeply disappointed that the Government have not managed to meet us along the way. The Minister said that the Government would introduce guidelines. That brings me back to square one. I keep saying from this Dispatch Box that when we are taking forward legislation that is likely to last for 20 or 30 years it is not acceptable that so many provisions are put into guidelines or regulations over which this House has no control at all.

I repeat that I object to the way in which this Bill is being dealt with. I suspect that the Minister will not be surprised by my comments. Having noted on the recent Division that the Government have many supporters I shall not divide the House, but I urge the Government to think seriously about the matter. I hope that it will be raised in greater detail in another place. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood moved Amendment No. 22:


    After Clause 22, insert the following new clause—


"COMMENCEMENT AND EXPIRY OF LICENCES
After section 46 of the WRA there is inserted—
"46B COMMENCEMENT AND EXPIRY OF LICENCES
(1) A licence granted under this Chapter to abstract water—
(a) to prevent interference with any mining, quarrying or engineering operations (whether underground or surface); or
(b) to prevent damage to works resulting from such operations ("de-watering abstractions");

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shall be stated to take effect and to expire simultaneously with any planning permission or any extension or amendment to any planning permission granted for such mining, quarrying or engineering operations instead of a specific date, or dates, in the licence for the de-watering abstraction itself.
(2) In all other respects, reference in this Chapter to the date on which a licence is stated to take effect and on which it expires, insofar as a licence for de-watering abstractions is concerned, refers to the commencement and expiry dates comprised in any planning permission authorising the mining, quarrying or engineering operations relevant to the de-watering abstraction.""

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the issue at stake was well rehearsed at earlier stages of the Bill and I do not propose to repeat all the arguments. I simply remind your Lordships that it concerns bringing together the length of a licence and length of planning permission to allow sensible investment plans to be drawn up by quarrying companies. As I indicated on the previous occasion, the investment involved is very significant indeed.

I add only one argument in response to a question asked by the Minister, I believe in Committee. The Minister asked about the extent of the Bill's effect on the quarrying industry if it were to go through in its current form. I can now provide some figures in that regard. I stand by these figures, which are conservative rather than optimistic. If the Bill goes through in its current form, 176 quarries will be affected after 2011. After 2017, at least 130 quarries will be affected. In terms of tonnage that will effectively sterilise, after 2011, between 1.5 billion and 2 billion tonnes of aggregate. That is a very large figure—the average annual turnover is 200 million tonnes—and is the equivalent of eight to 10 years' supply of aggregate. That is the tonnage that will be directly affected by the Bill if it is passed in its current form.

I remind the House that as recently as yesterday the Secretary of State for Transport issued a Statement on additional road building. Yesterday at a meeting of the Association of Parliamentary Environment Groups the relevant Minister told that gathering that the Thames Gateway was the largest brownfield building site in Europe and would require very significant infrastructure. I leave with the Minister the question of how that can be dealt with in the form of joined-up government and others bringing to fruition those fine plans if the quarrying industry finds itself with eight to 10 years' sterilisation of its assets. I beg to move.


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