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Lord Shepherd: The truth is that over the years the Select Committee has progressively broadened its parameters. I doubt whether, when we first met under Lord Rippon, we would have dared to put the proposal which is in this report. We would have thought it well beyond our competence; but that is the nature of this House and the strength of our committees.
I cannot help but be reminded of our discussing the purpose clause many years ago. There has always been a wish for that, even though delegated legislation was infinitely less in those days than it is today. The Lord Chancellor of the day, Lord Gardiner, came forward with a proposal that there should be a preface to the Bill; in other words, there would be in the preface an indication as to the purpose of the legislation. If it were in the preface it would therefore not be subject to that part of the Bill, or Act when passed, of which the judges would take cognisance. My understanding is that the judges take a view not on what Parliament has intended but on what Parliament has in fact passed. Your Lordships found the proposal interesting but in the end rejected it. It was too revolutionary.
If there is a wish to find a means of overcoming the matter of a purpose clause--I understand that there could be difficulties in limitations being placed not so much on this House but perhaps on another place if there were such clauses--one of the solutions might be to look at the proposals which were made by Lord Gardiner.
Lord Whitty: The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, chided me for not replying directly to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. That may have been appropriate at that point, but it is probably better that I reply to all the points that have been raised in this debate.
I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, and other noble Lords for their kind words regarding the Government's flexibility. I also recognise the role that the Delegated Powers Committee has played not only in this context but in others, which I believe will be appreciated particularly by this House and by this Committee. I appreciate the indication by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that noble Lords are only trying to be helpful. But there is a degree to which helpfulness goes a little too far as far as the Government are concerned. The desire to accept not only the letter but also the spirit of the Delegated Powers Committee's comments seems to us to have been met, and more than met.
The Delegated Powers Committee referred to the transfer from the face of the Bill to regulations. It noted it and did not comment or make a recommendation. Where it has made a recommendation, we are meeting all of the points and more.
On the purpose of the Bill as such, the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, is right that if we were to accept the noble Lord's amendment and my amendment we would in effect have two purpose clauses. I ask noble Lords to look at the effect of my amendment, which changes subsection (2) of Clause 1 to define the general purpose of the Bill as regulating activities which cause environmental pollution and controlling or preventing pollution emissions. Subsection (1) would restrict the purpose yet further to making regulations for the matters listed under Schedule 1, as I indicated.
The result is that the Secretary of State cannot act outside the scope set out in Schedule 1. Anything he does within the scope of that schedule must be done for the general purpose set out in subsection (2). In other words, my amendments create a purpose clause. The
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, raises the alternative approach which relates to changing the Long Title. I am advised by the Lord Advocate--who is no longer in his seat--plus taking other expert advice, that once the Bill has been introduced the Long Title can only be amended once an amendment has been passed which alters the nature of the Bill and makes amendment of the Long Title appropriate--
Lord Whitty: I believe that the noble and learned Lord misheard what I said. I did not say that it could only be amended once; I said that it can only be amended once--whatever form of speech that is--after the Bill itself has been amended so that an amendment to the Long Title became appropriate. It is therefore premature to consider amendment of the Long Title. That is my advice and Members of the Committee may wish to consider the matter later. However, at present we are dealing with the amendments now before us.
It is not only the case that I naturally prefer my new purpose clause to that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, it is also the fact that, were we to adopt the noble Lord's amendments, certain consequences would flow. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked whether the purpose clause would restrict the subsequent clauses of the Bill. The answer is, yes, it would. The answer to the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, is that if we had two purpose clauses clearly some ambiguity would arise if both were adopted. I give way to the noble Lord.
Lord Skelmersdale: I am grateful to the Minister. I said that I saw these clauses as alternatives. Therefore, I could not possibly have pre-supposed, as he has twice suggested, that I saw both of them as being able to be written on the face of the Bill.
Lord Whitty: I accept the noble Lord's clarification. However, perhaps I may address the substance of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. The Government's proposals and the Bill as it stands are not adequately described in the purpose clause he proposes. As the noble Lord, Lord Renton, knows only too well, we are not seeking to strengthen the pollution control regime established under the 1990 Act; we are seeking to replace and improve it with something based on the IPPC directive. In doing so, we are making a number of relatively minor changes, not all of which would be regarded as strengthening; in fact, a number of our changes are deregulatory. Therefore, in its current form, the noble Lord's amendment would not allow us to follow that course.
I refer again to the letter received by myself and some other noble Lords from the noble Lord, Lord De Ramsey, the Chairman of the Environment Agency. That letter refers to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. The noble Lord says:
"have tabled would effectively limit the scope of the Regulation-making powers ... I wonder whether the purpose clause is necessary or desirable". We are taking the opportunity to do more than simply implement the IPPC directive. We also intend to improve the offshore environmental regime, for example, by implementing coherently the requirements of the OSPAR agreement on the use and discharge of chemicals offshore and the recommendations of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, on pollution incidents involving offshore installations. Those matters were not dealt with in the 1990 Act regime nor indeed in the IPPC directive, and so would not be permissible under the noble Lord's new clause as drafted. I am sure that that was not the noble Lord's intention but, nevertheless, that would be the effect.
While I am on my feet, perhaps I may respond to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, as regards the tabling of groupings. We are moving into a new procedure. Frankly, it would of course be most convenient for the Government if we were to have Marshalled Lists and groupings issued a lot earlier than is currently the case. Nevertheless, that is a matter for the authorities of the House rather than for me.
Lord Dixon-Smith: Before the Minister sits down, will he perhaps consider, as I do, that the difference between us is probably not much more than the thickness of a cigarette paper--that is, if anyone knows what a cigarette paper is in this modern age. I always accepted that our amendment might not be sufficiently well drafted. However, the issue is whether or not the purposes of the Bill should be set out at the beginning or should in fact appear somewhat further on within it.
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