§ Order for Second Reading read
§ [Relevant document: Second report of the Environment Committee of Session 1988–89, HC 22 (Toxic Waste), and the Government's reply thereto, Cm. 679.]
§ Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)
On a point of order, which is relevant to this Second Reading debate, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Government to pre-empt one of the most controversial aspects of this legislation by announcing today through the Scottish Information Office, rather than in a Statement to the House, the appointment of a chairman to a new Scottish conservation body which does not exist and cannot exist until the legislation is approved by Parliament?
I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that the decision by the Scottish Office to announce at this stage the appointment of Mr. Magnus Magnusson suggests that the special subject of the Secretary of State for Scotland might well be contempt of parliamentary procedure. It represents a declaration that he has no intention of allowing the nature of this proposed organisation to be influenced one iota by the procedures of Parliament. The House is a forum for debate in the process of legislation, rather than an ancillary to the Government's public relations machine.
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot see that there is anything out of order in what has been done. If something ultra vires is alleged, it is a matter for the courts, but it is not one for this debate.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My point of order is to do with the Bill. My information is that part VII, which deals with the break-up of the National Conservancy Council—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nature."]—Nature Conservancy Council; I stand corrected—is not complete and that certain parts of the Bill dealing with the Welsh agency aspect have not been finalised either. You will recall that the Government have often come along in the late stages of a Bill with as many as 500 amendments, causing considerable trouble. My information is that this Bill will be subject to hundreds of amendments, because it is not complete.
It has been drawn to my attention that a rival group of civil servants involving four Government Departments has been set up to deal with the Welsh agency aspect. It has been suggested that, to complete the Welsh agency parts of the Bill, those people will instruct the Minister to give a written Statement to Parliament—not one that is debateable but one that will probably form the answer to a written question by a Conservative Member—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. These are matters that the hon. Gentleman should raise during the Second Reading debate. It is the function of the House and its Standing Committees to amend Bills; there is nothing out of order about that.
§ Mr. Skinner
And it is the function of the Speaker—as long delays may otherwise arise on Report and thereafter 29 —to establish whether a Bill is complete before it starts on its merry road through the House. It would be a good idea if we knew whether the Bill was complete, and a good idea if the Speaker of the House knew whether the Bill was complete—
§ Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to raise a grave matter that will be of considerable concern to the House and the country. In December, I spoke to Mr. Ian Greer of Ian Greer Associates, who told me that he had been making payments not to one but to a number of Members of Parliament.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to allege something against hon. Members, on either side of the House, he must draw the matter to the attention of the Select Committee concerned. It is not a matter for me to deal with in the Chamber.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
It is not quite as simple as that on this occasion, Mr. Speaker. I understand that payments have been made not only by that company but by another public relations company. The payments were made as a commission on first-year fees for work carried out by Mr. Ian Greer's company. I am informed that a number of Conservative Members have been paid. They have used their position to tout for business. Frequently, the payments have not been declared.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is once again abusing the procedures of the House by seeking to make allegations against hon. Members on the Floor of the House. That is not part of our procedures. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that, if he has such allegations to make, he must make them to the relevant Select Committee. I am not prepared to hear allegations made in this way on the Floor of the House.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
I understand that, Mr. Speaker. But you will note that I have not named any hon. Members—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. And that is just the point. It is just as bad, in my view, to make allegations across the Floor of the House without naming the hon. Members concerned as it is to name them. If the hon. Gentleman has definite information, he should take it to the Select Committee on Members' Interests, of which he is a member.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
You will know, Mr. Speaker, that if I wish to make a complaint to the Select Committee of which I am a member, I must produce names, and Mr. Greer is not prepared to give me the names of the hon. Members to whom he has been paying large sums on first-year commission turnover.
I understand from Mr. Greer that he has been approached on two or three occasions each year and asked to make such payments. I believe that the honour of the House—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I repeat that what the hon. Gentleman must do is take the matter to the Select Committee, which has the power to send for persons and papers, and let the matter be dealt with there. I deprecate—and the whole House will deprecate—what the hon. Gentleman is now seeking to do in the Chamber.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I give the hon. Gentleman this warning: I am not prepared to tolerate behaviour of this kind.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
In that case, may I ask you to do something, Mr. Speaker? You are willing to deprecate my actions and to ask the House to deprecate them. Would you be prepared to deprecate the practice of companies' making payments to Members of Parliament which are not then registered? Furthermore, would you be willing, in your office as Speaker, to approach the company concerned and ask for the names of the hon. Members to be revealed?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that there is an obligation on Members of the House to register their interests.
I announce to the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am on my feet and the hon. Lady must not persist.
I announce to the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.
In view of the number of right hon. and hon. Members who wish to participate in the debate, I propose to put a time limit on speeches between 6 pm and 8 pm. I appeal to hon. Members who may be called before that time and afterwards to bear that point in mind so that as many of their colleagues as possible may be called.
§ Ms. Primarolo
Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), Mr. Speaker. Will you advise the House about the extensive and developing use of lobbying, as the rules of the House do not permit an exact debate to be held on that, and tell us how we, as hon. Members, can bring to the attention of the House the fact that this lobbying is occurring and that payments are being made for it?
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Lady will look at Standing Order No. 128, she will clearly see the answer to her question.
§ Mr. Benn
At the beginning of every Session, we pass a Sessional Order saying that it is a "high crime and misdemeanour" to tamper with witnesses, and we take that very seriously. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) is alleging that witnesses, and also Members, are being tampered with—and that applies whether or not an hon. Member declares that he has been paid.
31 I am not involved in muck-raking, and I have no direct interest in this. However, a Statement from you as Speaker of the House, deprecating and deploring the practice of paying hon. Members to use their powers in Parliament in the interests of a particular cause might be something you should consider—although perhaps not now. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Workington is right.
§ Mr. Heffer
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) was to put the matter before his Select Committee, would it be possible for the Select Committee to have the gentleman in question brought before it and ask him to name the names? If that is possible, that is precisely what my hon. Friend the Member for Workington should do. The names would be revealed on oath and we would really know what was happening in relation to certain corruption in the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Gentleman had been listening carefully, he would know that that was exactly what I said to his hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the matter was to be ventilated by the Select Committee, would it be possible to find out precisely which hon. Members are sponsored by trade unions—[Hon. Members: "It is in the Register."]—and the amount of money that trade unions spend on political sponsorship in the House?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that the hon. Members now rising wants to participate in the debate. It will not improve their chances if they continue to raise points of order on this matter. I have already dealt with this matter at some length. I confirm what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has said that the correct procedure, as I have already mentioned, is that, if the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has allegations to make, he should take them to the Select Committee, which has the power to send for persons and papers and to investigate them.
§ Mr. Speaker
Yes, I will hear the hon. Gentleman, but I will have to bear it in mind when I select the Speakers in the debate.
§ Mr. Leighton
I apologise for taking up more time. However, as we are considering this point, do you accept, Mr. Speaker, that there is increasing concern about a practice that seems to be getting out of hand? When hon. Members rise we look at them, but we do not say that that hon. Member represents this or that constituency. Instead, we say that he is the hon. Member for this special interest or that special interest, or this consultancy or that consultancy, or this industry or that industry. That affects the standing and reputation of Parliament and that is something which you above all, Mr. Speaker, should consider.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Register of Members' Interests has been in existence for several years. As the whole House knows, there is an obligation on hon. Members with interests to register them. I am sure that that is exactly what happens.
§ 4.9 pm
§ The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Chris Patten)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
It is now a commonplace that environmental issues will play a prominent part in the national and international political debate in the last decade of this century. It is therefore particularly appropriate to begin the decade with this Bill. Whatever the arguments about the Bill—a number may, I suspect, be a little cosmetic—it will surely provide us with the basic framework for much of our pollution control in Britain well into the next century.
Before I refer in detail to the provisions of the Bill, I should like to make four brief points.
First, environmental regulation and control have a long legislative pedigree in Britain. It goes back to the industrial revolution. On this side of the House, there have been times when it seemed as though we have talked of little other than Disraeli's interest in sewers. More recently, we can recall the Clean Air Acts, the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and last Session's Water Act. Many of the proposals in the Bill—innovatory though they are, both domestically and internationally—have been discussed for a number of years.
The Royal Commission on environmental pollution, for example, first proposed the integration of pollution , control, so that harmful industrial emissions come under one regulatory system covering land, air and water, 14 years ago. The measures on waste are very much on lines recommended by the Royal Commission in 1985 and, by and large, welcomed by Select Committees both here and in another place I know about our Select Committee's reservations, and I will refer to them later. Our proposals—long and fully discussed—for regulating genetically modified organisms, received a more recent endorsement with the Royal Commission's report on this subject six months ago. I congratulate the commission on having produced a thorough, well-argued and well-presented survey, which will continue to provide a source of guidance and advice.
I hope that the weight of informed judgment and opinion that lies behind many of the proposals in the Bill, and the extent to which they have already been fully debated, will mean that we can proceed from the basis of a broad measure of agreement on the principal features of this legislation. That is certainly what happened with the last major legislation on this subject in 1973 and 1974. I hope also, therefore, that we shall have a constructive debate today and an equally constructive time in Committee. I cannot for the life of me see why this Bill should produce much acrimony, but I admit that life can be full of surprises.
Secondly, control and regulation are essential to the improvement of environmental quality, just as they are important to the raising of health standards and the securing of safety at work. But they provide only part of the means for enhancing environmental quality. Our unequivocal view is that the best way of securing that objective is a judicious mix of Governmental regulation 33 and market economics. The market and private enterprise are often challenged by regulation to higher technological standards and better performance. I do not believe that the environmental history of eastern Europe or, for that matter, the history of the water industry in Britain, suggest that leaving everything to the State is the best way of improving the environment.
I am not entirely sure where the Opposition would place the balance. I trust that they will accept that controls are not costless and that incentives other than controls are often the best means of achieving environmental goals in a cost-effective way. Whatever the Opposition's views on that point, they must surely be with us in believing that sensible and sustainable growth is the friend, not the enemy, of a cleaner and greener environment. I find it especially difficult to contemplate a Socialist approach to economics without at least the fiction of growth at its heart.
Thirdly, it is vital that the sophisticated and coherent system of pollution control that we are introducing should be credible. Credibility requires that such a system should be operated by strong and effective institutions and that it should be open to public scrutiny. We are still to some extent in the painful early stages of establishing some of the institutions to monitor and control pollution. For instance, the National Rivers Authority has been in operation for only a few months, and Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution was not established until 1987.
We have faced real, though I think understandable, problems in getting the inspectorate set up with the right complement and the right recruitment. I hope that some of our recent recruitment problems will be alleviated by the new and much improved salary scales that are now in place. I should like to pay a special tribute to the late Brian Ponsford, who brought to the difficult task of running the inspectorate high intelligence and great personal dedication.
But these institutional questions will inevitable take some time to get right. We shall naturally be looking at them in the context of the work we are doing on the White Paper that we shall publish later this year. Let me only repeat here once again that there would be little point in having an excellent system of pollution control without the means to implement it. I do not intend that we should find ourselves in that position.
On public access to environmental information, I shall have more to say later. I have no doubt that greater openness and more information are the best way of combating the sort of charlatanry that can give serious environmental causes a bad name.
Fourthly, this Bill, important though it is, is far from being our last word on the environment. It would be ludicrous to try to solve every environmental problem in one Bill—doubly so in the case of environmental issues, where we require both more scientific information and also unparalleled international co-operation in order to do what is both wise and workable. I hope that the House can resist the temptation to try to hang every pet environmental objective on the branches of this particular legislative tree. In addition, we should all of us resist another temptation—of casually fabricating environmental policy as we bowl along.
It is even more dangerous to make environmental policy off the cuff than it is to make policy in other areas—but I do, of course, recognise that the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) has exceptionally capacious cuffs.
34 Let me now turn to the detailed provisions of the Bill. I hope that the House will forgive me if I speak at some length, because it is a long Bill and its detailed provisions need proper attention.
Part I establishes two innovatory pollution control systems, integrated pollution control and local authority air pollution control. Simpler, less polluting processes will be designated under part I for local authority air pollution control. Up to now, local authorities have had to rely on cumbersome controls after the event. They are costly to local authorities, to the environment and to industry. The new regime strengthens the local authorities' role and gives them the means of tackling air pollution before it occurs. Their powers will cover a range of processes such as smaller power plants, glass works and municipal and hospital incinerators.
Major processes on the other hand will be controlled by the inspectorate of pollution under integrated pollution control or IPC. Some 3,500 sites, such as oil refineries, major iron and steel works and large chemical works, will be subject to the new system.
The United Kingdom's existing pollution control system has developed piecemeal over many years. Releases to air, water and land are subject to three distinct sets of controls, with no account taken of the effect of one on the other. IPC changes all that. For the first time, a single authority will control emissions to land, water and air within a single framework. Conditions will be set in the authorisations given to each industrial process which will ensure the greatest protection to the environment as a whole.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)
My right hon. Friend is well aware that, for many years in Lancaster, we have had an animal waste processing plant which emits a certain smell. The owner of the plant has been very good and has always done what the city council has asked in installing the latest anti-pollution techniques; at the moment, he is installing a biological filter. However, my council is particularly anxious about two points relating to the regulations and code of practice under the Bill. First, could the lorries that transport this sort of waste be strictly specified and, secondly, could the waste be collected from the abattoirs within 24 hours to minimise the smell? That would make an enormous difference, but it relies very much on the regulations.
§ Mr. Patten
On the second point, it is possible for the local authority, under the aspects of the Bill relating to local authority air controls, to agree to the sort of provisions required by the local authority in my hon. Friend's case. The powers now given to local authorities should ensure that the sort of processes to which my hon. Friend referred can be improved, that pollution can be reduced and that the best technology is installed to ensure that the people who live in the vicinity of such a plant have a more reasonable environment.
Authorisations will be based, under the IPC system, on the "best available techniques not entailing excessive cost" to prevent or minimise the release of the most dangerous substances and to render all emissions harmless. Therefore, there will be a built-in mechanism for stronger environmental protection. As techniques improve, higher environmental standards will be required.
The IPC system set out in part I does not apply to Scotland. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary 35 of State for Scotland has conducted separate consultations on pollution control in Scotland. He intends to table amendments to part I in Committee which will adapt it for implementation in Scotland.
This will be the first system of integrated pollution control in Europe. We are ahead of the field. Other countries, particularly in the Community, are turning their attention to this question of the integrated nature of pollution control. They will, I believe, be impressed by the advantages of our approach.
Part I—like other parts of the Bill—contains important new proposals for public access to environmental information. A company's image can all too often be damaged by the activities of less environmentally concerned competitors. Making more information available will change that by identifying inadequate performers and rewarding environmental achievers.
In a consultation paper on public access to information last autumn, I left open the question whether access should be extended to the raw monitoring data supplied by firms to the enforcing authorities. Having considered the responses, I have concluded that all monitoring data required by the enforcing authorities should be made available to the public, save for necessary exemptions—for example, to protect commercial confidentiality.
§ Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)
People can never get such information because the authorities concerned claim commercial confidentiality. The measures that the Secretary of State has announced are meaningless.
§ Mr. Patten
I can conceive of few processes where the argument of commercial confidentiality will apply, although I shall not necessarily hold that that is so when we come to discuss the proposals on chemicals and genetically modified organism, because arguments about commercial confidentiality are more likely to apply to those cases. We shall publish regulations, guiding our inspectors and the Secretary of State, about commercial confidentiality, and it is my strong belief that commercial confidentiality will apply in few cases. I cannot honestly believe, although no doubt we shall have an opportunity to discuss this at great length in Committee, that the Opposition seriously think that commercial confidentiality should never be considered in such cases.
§ Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)
I have in my constituency a considerable quantity of a poisonous cocktail, although the substance was not supposed to be contaminated when it arrived from the United States. It came from a firm making fertiliser, and I am told that that company wants to build a similar factory here. When I asked the Department of Trade and Industry whether that was the case, I was told that the information was confidential, and must remain confidential because it is commercial. Some of the rules seem to be preposterous, especially if the Secretary of State's claim that we are at the head of the field is to be justified.
§ Mr. Patten
First, the hon. Gentleman will be pleased that we are taking greater powers in the Bill to control the movement of waste both into and out of the country. Secondly, if such a factory operated in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and was subject to the sort of controls that we are discussing in the Bill, it would be 36 difficult to imagine circumstances in which commercial confidentiality considerations would apply to the provision of the raw material.
Such information is asked for by the enforcing authorities and should be available wherever possible to the public in its town halls, local authority offices and the offices of Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution. It is important that more rather than less information should be available. The argument about commercial confidentiality will apply from time to time. I am sure that there are factories and firms in the constituencies of Labour Members which could make a strong argument for commercial confidentiality in some cases.
Save for necessary exemptions, for example to protect commercial confidentiality, the rule must be that the public should get what the enforcing authorities get. That should help to ensure that in future public debate on the environment is rather better informed. The public are unlikely to have trust in a system of pollution control unless it is as open as possible and subject to rigorous scrutiny. Part I fully recognises that imperative.
Part II controls waste management. Our review of waste legislation has been under way for some time. This is a broad subject. It has been investigated both inside and outside Parliament. The latest investigation was the Environment Select Committee's report on toxic waste published early last year under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi). I am pleased that there is substantial agreement between the Government and the Committee in this area. The main exception concerns the proposed new regulation authorities, and I will return to these in a moment.
The measures in part II point to a new approach to waste. In the past, economic development and growth have meant an increase in waste. Now is the time to break that connection. Our aim is that all waste disposal should meet the highest standards. That will be the job of the regulation authorities. The enforcement of higher standards will mean that the true costs of disposal will be felt by everyone. These costs must be passed back to the waste producers, forcing them to reappraise the true economics of their production processes. That will be a powerful encouragement to reduce and recycle waste.
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)
Is the Secretary of State aware of the proliferation of applications from commercial waste disposal companies effectively trying to get in before the terms of the Bill can be executed? Will he take action where those applications are referred to him to ensure that they do not slip through the net before he has instituted a strong regulatory regime? The public are worried that toxic waste sites are being developed now, before stricter regulations apply.
§ Mr. Patten
I shall follow that up. It is a matter of concern in some areas. We do not want the provisions to be circumvented, perhaps by cowboy operations setting up while we are discussing the Bill.
For improved regulation, the site licensing of the 1974 Act will be strengthened. In future, operators will be vetted to keep out convicted offenders, those who are unqualified or incompetent and those who cannot afford to finish the job properly. The licensee will not be able to walk away from his licence; once licensed, he will have to see the job through to completion.
37 The new duty of care puts responsibility on everyone who produces or handles waste. They will have to make sure that the waste is managed safely by whoever takes it off their hands. Through the application of this duty, the waste regulation authorities should find it easier to trace illegal disposal. Waste producers will have every incentive to make sure that they deal with reputable businesses.
The House will know my strong commitment to recycling. This is an area where there is an immense fund of good will.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)
It is all very well dealing with the future, but what does the Minister propose to do about the many sites up and down the country where extremely toxic mixtures have been dumped in the past 20 years and more? Methane gas is now escaping from a number of those dumps. Will he ensure that local authorities have the money to clean up the mess left by other people in the past, given that we cannot send the Bill to them?
§ Mr. Patten
There are two particular aspects to that problem. The first is the discussions on which we are embarked with the National Rivers Authority about the leaching from some landfill sites into the water supply. In due course resources will be provided to deal with that problem. Secondly, we must ensure that within the capital provision for local authorities there are adequate funds for dealing with some of the old sites to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. This year we have begun on that process with local authorities and I have no doubt that we shall continue to have to ensure that the capital allocations for local authorities contain adequate funds to undertake that extremely important job.
§ Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)
Will the Secretary of State assure us that, in future, we will not accept all the toxic waste from the rest of the world, as happened with the Karin B? Will this Bill ensure that we will not get any more Karin Bs on our shores?
§ Mr. Patten
In due course I shall come to the provisions in the Bill that will assist the hon. Gentleman in securing that objective. I do not happen to take the view—it may be an issue on which the hon. Gentleman and I will disagree—that it is possible to ban completely all movement of toxic wastes. We have taken an initiative in the European Community and in the OECD to try to get industrialised countries to agree to deal, as far as possible, with their own waste because we need to reduce the unnecessary movement of toxic waste around the world, even when there are adequate controls on that movement.
§ Ms. Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)
Before the Bill becomes law, we on Teesside need more reassurance than the right hon. Gentleman has just given, particularly in reply to the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce). The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that there are now six applications on his desk for incinerators on Teesside. Some of those incinerators will deal with hair spray from West Germany and paint spray from Switzerland. We need some reassurance now that those applications will not go through as they would ruin still further the environment in which many on Teesside must survive.
§ Mr. Patten
The hon. Lady would be surprised were I to give her an answer on those planning applications at the Dispatch Box—conceivably delighted, but certainly 38 surprised. As my former boss, Lord Joseph, might have said in these circumstances, I hear what the hon. Lady says.
§ Mr. Devlin
I believe that four rather than six applications have been submitted at the same time, regarding Teesside. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a need for them to be considered together? Although the House accepts that he cannot give an answer from the Dispatch Box now, we would at least expect that any decisions will be delayed until after the Bill has gone through the House. Does he accept that all applications across the country should be dealt with at the same time, so that we can develop a proper national strategy on how to deal with such problems?
§ Mr. Patten
My hon. Friend's final point is rather difficult, but I shall bear it in mind. I shall consider seriously what he said about Teesside, and I understand the concerns he has expressed.
To increase recycling, what is needed is local leadership and organisation and an effective industry that can turn the waste to profitable use. The measures in the Bill will increase the effort devoted by local authorities to recycling, particularly the waste collection authorities. They are in the best position to tackle the recycling where it is most effective, at the point of collection. That should lead to real progress towards our target of recycling half of all recyclable waste by the end of the decade.
Improved regulation and the need for better value for money amply justify the measures in the Bill to reform the waste disposal authorities. The separation of disposal from regulation will enormously benefit the water environment, and will also ensure more effective wage management.
§ Mr. Corbyn
In that case, I particularly thank the Secretary of State. Does he not agree that his arguments in favour of recycling, particularly of paper waste, would be far stronger if something was done about reducing the amount of paper used, the size of newspapers and the amount of unnecessary packaging, particularly in supermarkets and other shops?
§ Mr. Patten
There is certainly a case for reducing the amount of packaging—which causes many people concern—to the minimum necessary. In due course, market pressures will probably bear down on this.
We all feel that, if the hon. Gentleman could specify which newspapers should not appear from time to time, we might have more sympathy with the proposal. I sometimes think that we are better off looking at trees than newspapers. However, we live in a plural society, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to suggest that we should reduce the free flow of information.
The regulation authorities will be free to concentrate their efforts on improved monitoring. They should make use of their improved powers to demand high standards. I am sorry not to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for 39 Hornsey and Wood Green about this. It is right to leave regulation with the local authorities, which are run by elected members. In my judgment they can do the job, and the best of them are already doing it. To ensure that they do ail that we want and expect of them, the Bill contains measures to ensure that their performance can be properly judged.
The job of disposal will be put out to tender. Local authority companies will compete with the private sector on even terms. This will ensure that disposal costs are accurately charged in the public as well as the private sector. The companies will be subject to full licensing and will be able to compete for business outside the local authority. The disposal authorities will retain the function of arranging for getting rid of the waste collected by the collection authorities. They will want to set high environmental standards for the tenders for carrying out this work, but these standards will have to apply both to in-house and private sector bids.
I do not shirk the point that higher standards cost money. The Bill makes provision for the regulation authorities to recover the costs of regulation from charging. Moreover, in 1990–91 we shall nearly double permitted capital spending by waste disposal authorities in London and the metropolitan areas. To take up the point under discussion a moment or two ago, we shall also be making a special sum of £33 million available next year for remedial works on landfill gas sites.
Overall, part II of the Bill provides a strong framework for the better management of waste well into the next century.
Part III of the Bill strengthens the powers of local authorities in dealing with nuisances such as noise and smells. By and large, their powers have stood the test of time, but circumstances change, and following consultation, it is clear that their powers need to be streamlined and strengthened. So part III of the Bill enables local authorities in England and Wales to deal more expeditiously with statutory nuisances. As one example, we are proposing to cut out an unnecessary legal stage in the abatement proceedings.
§ Mr. Patten
I shall give way, but the more often I give way, the longer I shall be and the smaller the number of hon. Members who will be able to speak in the debate.
§ Mr. Adley
Most of my hon. Friends enjoy listening to my right hon. Friend so that will not be a great problem.
When talking of part III of the Bill, my right hon. Friend referred to premises and any trade. I can see nothing in part III which refers to many of the nuisances that are emitted by vehicles, be they lorries or coaches. Is it possible that, for the purposes of the Bill, vehicles could be considered premises on wheels?
§ Mr. Patten
That would be a legal definition which A. P. Herbert might be able to manage. However, we had better leave further discussion about the way in which a vehicle might be premises or part of premises until we discuss the matter in Committee.
Local authorities will also gain a useful new power, under part III, to deal with transient nuisances—not vehicles—such as dust from demolition. Part III also 40 removes doubt concerning the application of nuisance powers to tackle smells. It paves the way for bringing offensive trades—for example, blood boiling—under the new system of air pollution control in part I.
We all know that there is a good deal of public concern about noise from a variety of sources. We have decided to undertake a comprehensive review of noise legislation and controls. I expect our working party to report and bring forward its recommendations by the summer.
Part IV deals with an issue which has rightly risen up the list of national concerns. For many people, care for the environment begins with the condition of their streets and neighbourhood rather than with what is happening to the ozone layer. Litter is an issue which causes mounting public anger, and we are determined to act decisively to deal with litter and filth on our streets.
Our first concern must be to persuade people not to drop litter in the first place. If we cannot do that, we shall always be fighting a losing battle. A concerted programme of education should help convince people of the virtues of keeping their neighbourhoods clean. That is why we have given the Tidy Britain Group £33 million this year. We have promised further substantial funds for next year.
For those who ignore their responsibilities as good citizens and good neighbours, we intend to increase dramatically the maximum penalty for littering, from £400 to £1,000. If arguments fail to convince them, perhaps an assault on their wallets will do the job. I have considerable sympathy with those of my correspondents who despair when they read of convicted litterers escaping with derisory fines. I hope that magistrates will take into account the growing public concern when they impose penalties for littering. Paltry fines are unlikely to deter.
However, I fear that litter will continue to be dropped; once dropped, it must be efficiently cleared up, and it is here that local authorities are in the front line. One aspect that is apparent is the disparity between the standards of cleanliness achieved by different local authorities. Some do their ratepayers proud; others satisfy themselves with at best indifferent standards and at worst, appalling ones. So we intend to place all local authorities under a new duty to keep their open-air public streets and land free of litter. I will shortly publish a code of practice on litter clearance. It will describe the standards that should be met and advise on the best ways of achieving them.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
One of the reasons why some boroughs are cleaner than others is that the people in those boroughs are cleaner. It gives me no pleasure to say that, in Newham, I have one of the dirtiest populations, as measured by the amount of litter that people throw down on the street. What additional resources will the Secretary of State make available to local authorities so that they can enforce these welcome increased penalties? What will he do about those who litter the streets, as they do in London, by digging them up, leaving behind filth that no one appears to be responsible for clearing up?
§ Mr. Patten
I imagine that we shall have a good deal of opportunity to discuss resources with the local authority associations in the context of the code of guidance, which we shall certainly publish before we reach these provisions in Committee. Some local authorities with lower rates manage to clean up rather better than others with higher rates. Nevertheless, we are prepared to undertake studies 41 of the implications of the code of guidance with the local authority associations, and if there is an argument for more resources, we shall have to face up to it in the revenue support grant negotiations next year.
Those who pay for their neighbourhood to be cleaned should he able to call their local authority to account if it neglects to discharge its duty. We shall therefore give citizens the right to apply to the magistrates court for a litter abatement order compelling a defaulting authority to clear up litter.
A similar duty will also fall on certain statutory undertakers such as British Rail and the owners of other land. In addition we shall give local authorities the power to extend the duty to certain types of land in other ownership, such as supermarket car parks, by designating them litter control areas.
Finally, we look to commercial operators, especially retailers and take-away food shop owners, to take their responsibilities seriously, as a great many already do. As a powerful back-up to moral persuasion we propose—we shall add this to the Bill in Committee—that local authorities should be able to serve on businesses which fall down on the job of litter abatement notice requiring them to keep their frontages clear of litter. I hope that all businesses will behave responsibly; after all, that is in their own interests—filthy frontages are bad for business.
§ Mr. Marlow
When this Bill was trailered, there was going to be a measure to deal with that most revolting of all forms of litter: dog mess. I understand that clause 70 provides potential enabling powers to allow my right hon. Friend to bring measures before the House. What is in his mind at the moment? How long does he intend to take to bring those measures forward, and what will they encapsulate?
§ Mr. Patten
My hon. Friend is right. The Bill also covers the duties of clearing up dog mess. That subject, like others, will be covered in the code of guidance that we shall issue later this year. I am sure that my hon. Friend will have his comments to make on that code, particularly as it relates to dog mess, a subject in which I know he has shown a commendable interest down the years.
I also look to manufacturers and retailers to reduce packaging to what is really needed. That will do a great deal to help—
§ Mr. Leighton
Is the Secretary of State aware that I have organised a meeting for tomorrow night with the Tidy Britain Group in Newham? One of the issues that will be discussed will be that of fines and the attitude of the police. What discussions has he had with the police? Existing legislation provides for a fine of £400, so what is the point of increasing the fine if the present law is not enforced? How many prosecutions have there been, and what discussions has the right hon. Gentleman had with the police to ensure that the law is enforced?
§ Mr. Patten
We have discussed all these issues with our colleagues in the Home Office, who have been in touch with the police. I referred earlier to magistrates courts and 42 to the importance of not imposing derisory fines when people are convicted of littering. I do not think that I can add anything to what I said then.
Part V amends the Radioactive Substances Act 1960, which controls the keeping and use of radioactive materials and the accumulation and disposal of radioactive wastes. At the moment, no radioactive material can be kept or used unless a registration is first granted by my Department or the relevant territorial Department. Similarly, no radioactive waste may be accumulated or disposed of unless that is first authorised.
Our view is supported by the results of our public consultation exercise. It is that the Act continues to provide an effective control mechanism. The system of registrations and authorisations will remain, but a number of amendments will be made to this part of the Bill to improve its operation and extend its scope.
Part VI provides new safeguards against risks from genetically modified organisms. It lays the foundation for a comprehensive consent system for the control of the import, keeping or release to the environment of such organisms. Against the background of the increasingly rapid development of technology, the powers that we a re seeking are innovatory, apt and timely.
Our approach, which has received wide public support, closely reflects the main recommendations of last July's report by the Royal Commission on environmental pollution. It is also consistent with European Community directives on a harmonised system to regulate genetically modified organisms.
Techniques for artifically altering an organism's genes have been exploited only within the past 20 years; yet biotechnology based on these techniques is today an established industry. Substances such as insulin could be produced only with great difficulty by other means.
Biotechnology has an excellent safety record. Increasingly, however, GMOs may be expected to have a wider environmental impact. Development has already reached the stage at which GMOs are routinely employed in contained factory processes. They may thus reach the wider environment in waste streams, or by accident. Other GMOs are being developed for specific functions such as pest control in the environment at large. Such products offer the prospect of great benefits, but progress depends on their safety being maintained. This part of the Bill is designed to ensure that the environmental risks are properly controlled and that the good safety record continues.
At the heart of the proposals is a requirement for any person who intends to import, keep or release a GMO to the environment to carry out a risk assessment. When necessary, my Department must be notified and in prescribed cases our consent must be obtained. I envisage making a comprehensive set of regulations setting out the details of the regime. We shall establish a unified system of control in which the new provisions will interlock with existing health and safety and product controls.
My right hon. Friends and I, and the Health and Safety Commission, will be advised on notifications and consent applications by a Committee whose terms of reference will cover all safety and environmental aspects. I am pleased to announce that Professor John Beringer of Bristol university, who has wide relevant experience, has accepted an invitation to chair the Committee.
I come now to the Government's proposals to strengthen the protection of the countryside. The Bill 43 establishes strong new conservation agencies in England, Scotland and Wales to take on the functions of the Nature Conservancy Council, and, in the Principality, those of the Countryside Commission. These provisions have been carefully designed to build on the experience and knowledge which the NCC and the Countryside Commission have built up over the last 40 years. They will ensure that their inheritance which includes a network of national nature reserves, sites of special scientific interest, national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty—is passed on smoothly to the three successor bodies.
§ Mr. Patten
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to get through most of what I intend to say about the countryside agencies, after which I shall gladly give way to him and other hon. Members.
The reforms are essential if we are to establish a more sensitive and accountable framework for conservation. It should be easier to co-ordinate the work of the new agencies rather better with those of Government. There will be clear lines of responsibility to the three Secretaries of State who have the task of integrating conservation with other land use policies. The NCC is a major executive and advisory agency, responsible for protecting more than 7 per cent. of the land surface of Great Britain.
I believe that the House will agree that the reporting lines to Ministers should be as clear as possible. It is Ministers who have to account for the use of those powers, and for the broad framework of policies and priorities for conservation policy. The framework for public regulation must also be sensitive to local needs and concerns. The voluntary approach to conservation in this country depends critically on obtaining the co-operation of individuals, local organisations and communities. We believe that the country agencies will be better placed to achieve this, as conservation continues to rise in importance on the public agenda.
The current arrangements for the NCC—hallowed though they may be by the passage of time—are actually anomalous in comparison with most other executive non-departmental public bodies acting in the environmental arena. In almost every other arena within my Department's ambit—the built heritage, water, rural development, sport, housing associations—there are separate non-departmental public bodies for Scotland, and in some cases for Wales, too. They report to my right hon. Friends. Where co-ordination is necessary—outside or inside Government—the necessary steps are taken.
This is a prosaic but fundamental aspect of the machinery of Government and its relationship with non-departmental public bodies, which critics have largely overlooked. They seem to assume that wildlife in Wales and Scotland should be governed from Peterborough and Marsham street, rather than by the people and institutions in those countries. It is a strange and, frankly, patronising argument, which we reject. It is extraordinary for the party that wants a Parliament for Scotland, to argue that the Scottish people cannot be trusted to protect their own environment.
The new country agencies will be able to tailor the delivery of conservation more closely to regional and local 44 needs. Nevertheless, the Government's conservation policies remain as strong as before, as we have demonstrated not only by passing the 1981 Act but by financing it to the tune of an increase of over 160 per cent. in real terms in the NCC's grant over the last decade. We shall also ensure that the new agencies receive funding which fully meets the conservation programmes that they will be required to undertake. There will be no return to the dark days experienced by the NCC as a result of the cuts that were forced on it by the last Government.
The Bill provides for the new Countryside Council for Wales to have responsibility for countryside issues as well as nature conservancy. If my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales is to assume direct responsibility for nature conservancy in the Principality, it is only logical that he should assume responsibility for the complementary functions of the Countryside Commission. However, as the commission has only 14 staff in Wales, a separate body would not be viable. The Bill therefore establishes one body in Wales to deal with both the wildlife and countryside functions.
It will be essential for the new agencies to have the right leadership and commitment to their objectives. It is therefore with great pleasure that I am able to tell the House today that Lord Cranbrook has accepted my invitation to serve as the first chairman of the Nature Conservancy Council for England. He is a zoologist with a long track record of achievements in the conservation world, and he was a member of the Natural Environment Research Council from 1982 to 1989. He has always been a clear and independent voice for conservation, and I look forward to working with him. He has kindly agreed to serve in a shadow capacity in the run-up to the reorganisation, and I shall be making a formal announcement about the details shortly. Sir William Wilkinson, who has made a major contribution to the subject, has accepted my invitation to remain as chairman of the NCC until reorganisation.
While on the subject of appointments, I am now in a position to tell the House that we propose to appoint a most distinguished and independent scientist to be the first chairman of the joint Committee, on which I will have more to say in a moment. Professor Fred Holliday, who is currently the vice-chancellor of Durham university, has accepted my invitation to serve in that capacity. I am sure that my hon. Friends and Opposition Members will welcome this news.
Professor Holliday has had a most distinguished career. He is an outstanding zoologist and has already served a period as chairman of the NCC, from 1977 to 1980. I am sure that he will bring this expertise to the joint Committee, to the benefit of the three new bodies and to nature conservation as a whole. I also hope to appoint him in a new capacity shortly, so that I can have the benefit of his advice as the detailed arrangements for the work of the joint Committee are put in place over the coming months.
Finally, before I leave the subject, I am delighted to say—this point was referred to before we began our debate—that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has separately announced that Mr. Magnus Magnusson has accepted his invitation to serve as the first chairman of the new NCC for Scotland.
The English, Welsh and Scottish agencies will operate within a firm statutory framework which will ensure that Great Britain and international issues are dealt with, and that there are comparable standards and protocols for 45 scientific work and the designation of sites. I have had many representations about maintaining these aspects of the current NCC remit. These are legitimate concerns which must be met under our plans.
The wider view is vital—whether to meet our European Community responsibilities to monitor endangered species, or to assist Government in implementing international wildlife conventions. This was recognised from the outset, and the options for meeting these objectives were discussed during the autumn with the NCC itself, and with a wide range of scientific opinion. As a result I was able to announce in the House in November that certain key responsibilities for international and Great Britain nature conservation issues, for setting scientific standards and for commissioning and supporting research on issues which transcend country boundaries would be exercised jointly by the three new country bodies, acting through a statutory joint Committee. The Government's decision to appoint an independent chairman to the joint Committee will enhance the confidence of the wider scientific community and ensure that Great Britain and international matters are viewed from a broad perspective. This will be covered in an amendment to the Bill, which the Government will table in Committee.
The country agencies will be required to ensure that the joint Committee has adequate resources to provide appropriate scientific advice on matters within its remit. The Bill provides me with reserve powers to direct them to do so, If I believe that their own proposals are not adequate.
I should emphasise that the arrangements in the Bill, including the establishment of a joint Committee under an independent chairman, meet all the main requirements which the full Nature Conservancy Council itself sought from Ministers, following its meeting to discuss reorganisation last November. The NCC asked for independent and properly resourced agencies for each country, properly backed up by science. Our proposals will set up such agencies. It asked for a co-ordinating Committee with an independent chairman to deal with scientific, Great Britain and international issues. The Bill will establish one. It asked for a secretariat and technical unit to support the Committee, and hence the country agencies. The Bill will allow for this. Furthermore, we will take the opportunity to bring Northern Ireland into the formal arrangements for the first time, so that we can obtain a United Kingdom as well as a Great Britain dimension to nature conservation policies.
The Bill also delivers two other important commitments. First, it guarantees that every existing NCC scientist—and indeed all existing members of the NCC's staff—will be offered posts in one of the successor bodies. This will ensure that the existing skills and expertise of the NCC are transferred to the new bodies. Secondly, the Bill will provide for the transfer of the NCC's existing property and commitments. This means that the many hundreds of management agreements which the NCC has negotiated will remain in force. It also means that our 235 national nature reserves will be passed on to the stewardship of the country body responsible for the area where they are located.
Each of the new agencies will inherit precisely the powers and duties of the present Nature Conservancy Council, including those to set up, manage and maintain 46 nature reserves. I have been advised that the Bill definitely secures this, but if there is any lingering doubt, I shall be happy to see that it is removed.
I have no doubt that any reasonable person will view these reforms as a strong and flexible framework for countryside protection throughout the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Ron Davies
It would be churlish of those hon. Members who opposed the original proposals not to recognise the substantial concessions that the Secretary of State has announced this afternoon. I am grateful that he has come such a considerable way from the position outlined by his predecessor when the scheme was announced. However, will he acknowledge that there is still total opposition to the dismemberment of the NCC within that organisation? [Hon. Members: "No."] Perhaps those hon. Members who disagree will have the opportunity to put their point of view later.
The staff and membership of the NCC are still opposed to its dismemberment. The voluntary organisation is unanimous in its opposition to dismemberment of the NCC.
Does the Secretary of State recognise that two fundamental questions have not been answered? First, the science base will be undermined by the dismemberment, and nothing that the Secretary of State has said this afternoon has given us any assurances on that. Secondly, nature conservation transcends national boundaries. Issues that are important in Britain are important to the whole of western Europe. The Secretary of State should—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member is being unfair to the large number of hon. Members who wish to speak.
§ Mr. Patten
The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ron Davies) said that there was widespread opposition to the proposals within the NCC, and to the proposals that I have announced this afternoon. As far as I am concerned, my proposals meet all the suggestions put to me by the full NCC council.
I draw the attention of the hon. Member for Caerphilly, and the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), to the fact that, among those bodies which appear to support our proposals, are the English, Scottish and Welsh Committees, of the NCC. Indeed, the Welsh Committee of the NCC has enjoyed, or even bathed in, the endorsement of the Leader of the Opposition, who has supported our proposals. As the CID says, I have documentary evidence to support that, should it be required.
As I said earlier, some issues need to be dealt with on a Great Britain basis, and that is why we are setting up a joint statutory Committee. If the hon. Member for Caerphilly believes that scientists and public servants, such as Lord Cranbrook and Mr. Holliday, would connive to weaken the science base for nature conservancy, I suspect that he does not know as much about the subject as I thought he did.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
If the NCC is so happy, why was Sir John Burnett, the vice-chairman, in the Lobby 47 at 2.30, anxious that hon. Members should continue to press the case that some of us have been pressing for months?
Have Sir William Wilkinson and Sir John Burnett agreed to the Secretary of State's proposals, and could he satisfy one lingering doubt? He talked about the comparable protocols in scientific research. Does that mean that there will be no duplication of scientifically scarce resources between Scotland, England and Wales?
§ Mr. Patten
I hope that there wil be no duplication, and that will be one of the tasks that the joint statutory Committee will want to turn its attention to. That Committee will also want to ensure that there is a common scientific base for work throughout Great Britain, but I hope that that does not lead to duplication of scarce scientific resources.
On the hon. Member's first question, I will not speak for individual members of the NCC, as I am sure that they can speak for themselves—indeed, they have not been slow to do so. The chairman of the NCC wrote to me, on behalf of the council, in November, setting out what he wanted me to do to make the proposals acceptable. I think that, with the best will in the world, I have met the council on every point.
Part VIII contains a number of small but important measures. In clause 110, we are taking new powers to regulate the trade in waste. I refer to that clause in response to earlier interventions on the subject.
Clause 111 allows for strengthened controls over the disposal of waste at sea. My hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside, will say more on that subject later, if hon. Members wish.
In that part of the Bill, we are also giving statutory backing to payments to environmental bodies, such as the United Nations Environment Programme. That has been urged on us on a number of occasions by the Select Committee on the Environment, and I hope that it is pleased with the proposals.
Having outlined the main elements of the Bill, I shall mention one or two items that time has prevented us from including in the print. At a later stage, we shall introduce an amendment to require information on the environmental hazard of certain industrial chemicals—the so-called "existing chemicals" which have been sold and used for some time—as opposed to new chemicals marketed for the first time. My Department published a consultation paper on the proposals last year. Full account has been taken on the responses in preparing the amendment. I hope that the House will see that as a worthwhile step forward.
One issue that was covered in the consultation paper, which we have already included in clause 109, is the proposal to broaden the control powers currently contained in section 100 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974
As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced to the House on 30 November, we intend seeking powers in the Bill to enable us to prohibit the burning of all crop residues. The intention is that the prohibition will take effect in the late autumn of 1992 to give farmers time to adjust.
Hon. Members will recall that, before making his Statement, my right hon. Friend conducted a thorough review, which included a careful examination of the 48 effectiveness of existing controls. In last year's dry summer, burning straw proved particularly difficult. There were literally thousands of complaints from local authorities, fire brigades and the general public.
I should emphasise that the problems that arose were not confined to those burns which failed to comply with the byelaws and the National Farmers Union's code of practice. The reduction in public nuisance that a ban would represent will be obvious to anyone who lives, in particular, in eastern and southern England. Our proposals have been warmly welcomed on both sides of the House.
Hon. Members may have noticed that the Bill does not specifically address the question of Crown immunity. I do not intend that the Crown should be immune from the provisions of the Bill. Far from it: the Government should be seen to be in the lead in protecting the environment. The proposals I will be bringing forward will therefore ensure that where Government Departments do not come up to the required standards, that failure will be plainly identifiable. We will follow the provisions already put into practice in the food safety legislation, that the House is considering at the moment.
By any standards this is a major Bill. If we judge the importance of legislation by its length—I hope that the same is not true of speeches—I believe that the Bill should be seen as a measure of particular note. It will lay the foundation for pollution control well into the next century. The Bill is a demonstration of our commitment to improve and protect the environment of our own country and to play a major role in international environmental policy.
No-one can sensibly argue that we can cope with every environmental problem at home and abroad through some great green contraption, wheeled into the heart of Government to provide comprehensive answers to every environmental question. To secure those environmental objectives which most of us share, we need a number of things. We require a good scientific base for our policies; we need to take a precautionary approach whenever it is justified; we require a sensible attitude to environmental economics; we need a sound legislative framework, which this Bill helps to provide; and we need a coherent intellectual framework for coping with all our environmental problems, and that we intend to set out in terms in our White Paper later this year.
When the time comes, as come it inevitably will, the Government will be content to be judged on their record in working for a cleaner and a greener Britain, and on their plans for contributing to the solution of general environmental problems.
The Bill is a central part of our strategy for the environment. I apologise for having spent so long setting out its merits to the House. I wanted to go through the provisions in detail, and to respond to every question, if I was able to do so. Therefore, I commend the Bill with enthusiasm to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ 5.9 pm
§ Mr. Bryan Gould (Dagenham)
I beg to move,That this House declines to give a second reading to the Environmental Protection Bill because of its failure to address the urgent and major problem of global warming; its failure to establish a comprehensive system of integrated pollution control administered by a fully independent, properly staffed and resourced Environmental Protection Executive; its failure to provide sufficient safeguards on the release of genetically 49 engineered organisms to the environment; the inclusion of hasty, ill conceived and arbitrary proposals to restructure the Nature Conservancy Council, and because it fails to incorporate into British law proposals arising from the European Community's Fourth Action Programme on the Environment and other international agreements.There is no doubt that we need a Bill to protect the environment; unfortunately, this Bill is not it. The environment certainly is in grave danger, and action is urgently needed. The need for an environmental protection Bill has never been greater, but the Government's response to the major threats to the environment, such as global warming, is not to be found in the Bill. Unfortunately, it is still to be found at Noordwijk, where the Minister for the Environment and Countryside committed the Government, yet again, to refusing to accept an internationally agreed timetable and targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
§ The Minister for the Environment and Countryside (Mr. David Trippier)
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish intentionally to mislead the House. I was pleased and proud to lead the United Kingdom delegation to the Noordwijk conference. I therefore assure hon. Members that I was a party to the brokering of the declaration, which fixed a date for the reduction of CO2, emissions to the year 2000. I should be most grateful if the hon. Gentleman would withdraw his comment.
§ Mr. Trippier
May I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that, rather than reading some of the selective material produced in certain newspapers by journalists who did not attend the Noordwijk conference, he should read articles that appeared in The Times and The Independent which were written by journalists who were present? I assure the hon. Gentleman that I was a party to the signing of the declaration, which included that date, and played a significant part in brokering the deal.
§ Mr. Gould
As I suspected, the Minister will continue to adhere to his position. My information comes from those who were present and who participated in the conference. No doubt that argument will rumble on.
The Government's failures relate not only to their weaknesses in international negotiations but to their failures in domestic policy. Their response to these grave problems is to be found not in the Bill but in their difficulties in international negotiations and their continuing inability to adopt domestic policies on energy and transport to enable them to commit themselves to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.
§ Mr. Robin Squire (Hornchurch)
If the hon. Gentleman is unable to accept the comments of my hon. Friend the Minister, will he accept that almost all the measures in the Bill have been widely discussed over several years, and that to introduce proposals on the greenhouse effect, however desirable or important, that would not be discussed or canvassed would lead to the sort of botched legislation that we should not support?
§ Mr. Gould
I shall deal with botched legislation, of which the Bill is a prime example.
50 The Bill fails to address those major issues. The claim that it is a "green Bill" is vainglorious nonsense. In so far as it has any colour, it is at best mottled, and blue rather than green. It owes more to Tory dogma and ideological obsessions—the free market, an antipathy to local Government and to public spending, the protection of powerful vested interests and all those familiar landmarks of the Tory political landscape—than to any appreciation of the true scale and urgency of the threat to our environment.
That is not to say that there are no worthwhile or welcome provisions in the Bill. Much of the Bill is welcome—we shall try to improve on those parts in Committee—but overall it is a disappointment.
§ Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)
As the hon. Gentleman likes so little in the Bill, perhaps he will tell the House, apart from the Control of Pollution Act 1974, which was largely a Conservative measure, how many environmental measures the last Labour Government enacted?
§ Mr. Gould
If the hon. Gentleman considers the record of the last Labour Government on matters such as energy conservation and public transport, which are crucial to environmental concerns, he will find that the comparison is favourable to that Government.
The Bill is disappointing because it is little more than a rag-bag of measures drawn from disparate sources, many of which have been dusted down and brought to life again simply to be cobbled together to give it a lick of green paint and the impression of action and cohesion. That is all designed to conceal the fact that the Government have neither the will nor the conceptual ability to understand what is truly required to protect our environment against modern challenges.
Even judged by those unheroic standards and as a rag-bag, hotch-potch measure, the Bill is still a disappointment. It fails, even in those terms, to legislate on some of the welcome, laudable and relatively minor commitments that the Tory party gave in successive manifestos. For example, where are the measures to protect common land and to safeguard public access to footpaths? Why was not the opportunity taken to legislate on those matters, given that the Government were clearly scrambling around for small measures to sustain their green reputation?
The problem is that the Bill is such a hotch-potch that it has ended up hopelessly and appallingly badly drafted. Everyone who has considered its provisions—including, I suspect, the Secretary of State's civil servants—agrees that it is riddled with imprecision, conflicting definitions and straightforward drafting errors. It gives the impression of a measure that has been hastily cobbled together and not properly thought through.
Even when the Secretary of State published the Bill, he had to announce that there were omissions in it that would be made good. Every time he opens his mouth on the subject, he announces yet another series of additions and amendments, and he was at it again today. I note that with gloomy foreboding, because I have seen the Government produce ill-prepared legislation that has required literally hundreds of Government amendments as it has proceeded through the House. I speak as a veteran of the Financial Services Bill and the Insolvency Bill, and my hon. Friends are veterans of the Local Government and Housing Bill. 51 We know what a burden is placed on the House and on Committee when the Government introduce badly thought out proposals such as these.
The Bill exhibits the other characteristic of a measure that has been badly thought out and badly drafted—it is replete with general powers to be created by the Secretary of State, with little sign of how they will be exercised or little assurance that they will be used. For all those reasons, we shall vote against the Bill, on the grounds specified in our reasoned amendment.
We have more detailed and specific reservations. Even in its major objective—the control of pollution—the Bill is seriously deficient. The introduction of integrated pollution control is welcome but long overdue, as the Secretary of State conceded. It was first recommended by the Royal Commission on environmental pollution as long ago as 1976. Even this part of the Bill is vitiated by a failure to understand the problem. There is little attempt to prevent pollution, merely an attempt to regulate it. The approach is to cast the Secretary of State in the role of the man who comes along with a shovel after the lord mayor's show—in other words, pollution is treated as something to be cleaned up afterwards rather than prevented from the outset.
There is little recognition that this will often be too late, that environmental damage is increasingly operating on a ratchet which clicks forward but cannot be turned back. What is needed is what the Labour party recommends in its policy review—a presumption against pollution. The benefit of the doubt must be given to the environment. We need to apply a precautionary principle: if in doubt, do not do it. It is not good enough to rely on the "polluter pays" principle—welcome though that may be—as evidence that even the Government recognise the need to intervene in the market and ensure that environmental costs are not always simply externalised.
There will be some forms of pollution which cannot be tolerated, whoever pays for it. The same point can be made in respect of the BATNEEC principle enshrined in the Bill—the obligation to use best available techniques not entailing excessive cost. How much unacceptable pollution is to be tolerated on the ground that prevention would be excessively costly? Costly to whom? What is excessive, and who is to judge?
§ Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)
The hon. Gentleman has talked about the Labour Government's record. Why, when ordering the Drax power station, did they not fit flue gas desulphurisation equipment, although the problem was known? It was left to this Government to retrofit it at much greater cost.
§ Mr. Gould
I wish that the Government would proceed with that programme with rather more dispatch than they have shown.
The experience with other similar phrases in the statute, such as "best practicable means", and the interpretation placed upon them by the inspectorates that apply them do not inspire confidence that the community and the environment will be offered effective protection.
Similar doubts arise about other provisions in part I. Why will integrated controls apply to such a narrow range of pollutants? Why is the red list so restricted, applying to only 22 chemicals rather than the hundreds that are 52 regulated in the United States? Why will it be so slow to take effect? Why are the standards that have been set so low—sometimes they are lower than current practice—that we will lose the advantage of what the experts call "technology forcing", whereby higher regulatory standards compel the development and application of new technology?
Are we still lumbered with the outdated view that fixing higher environmental standards means imposing a competitive burden on British industry, whereas our more successful rivals in Germany and Japan have repeatedly demonstrated that fixing higher standards confers upon them a technological lead and competitive advantage?
Why is there such imprecision in the relationship between Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution and other authorities such as the National Rivers Authority? Do not those potentially damaging administrative problems show all too clearly the need for an environmental protection executive with comprehensive jurisdiction? Is not this omission from the Bill one of its primary flaws and defects?
What is the point, as the Secretary of State conceded, of creating a regulatory structure if there is no adequate machinery to enforce it? What reliance can be placed on Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution when it is notoriously under-researched and understaffed and its morale is consequently at rock bottom?
Are the Government ready to accept the recommendation of Friends of the Earth that a threefold increase in the staff of Her Majesty's inspectorate will be needed if the Bill is to be effective? Will the Government pay attention to their friends in the CBI, the Chemical Industries Association and even in the National Association of Waste Disposal Contractors, all of which in their different ways have expressed grave fears and reservations about the inspectorate's effectiveness in its current State in regulating and monitoring the regulatory structure?
Why is there no overriding commitment to freedom of information? I listened with great interest to what the Secretary of State had to say on this subject. In common with, I suspect, all my hon. Friends, I was amazed at his initial remark on this subject, but I am afraid that our amazement turned to an all-too-familiar disappointment when we heard the weasel words, "subject to the exception of commercial confidentiality".
We know all too well, even if the Secretary of State does not, that that exception is so wide as to render virtually nugatory the fine words with which he tried to blind us. Why is no duty imposed on industry to carry out waste orders? These are some of the points in part I on which we wish to press the Government in Committee.
We have similar reservations about part II.
§ Mr. Chris Patten
I am following the hon. Gentleman's comments closely and should like to clear up one point. Is he saying that commercial confidentiality should never be taken into account in deciding whether to make environmental information available?
§ Mr. Gould
I am glad to answer that point. Of course we are not saying that. We say that a commitment to freedom of information—to public access to information provided to the inspectorate—is rendered nugatory if it is subjected to an unspecified and undefined exception in respect of commercial confidentiality. We will need to hear a great 53 deal more from the Secretary of State and hear more about the Bill before we can give any credence to his apparently wide-ranging assurances on this subject.
§ Mr. Patten
I should like if we can to secure a measure of agreement, because it seems as though we are not as far apart as I had thought. We will certainly publish the guidance of which we think the inspectorate and Ministers should take account in determining what constitutes legitimate confidentiality. I hope that we can publish that guidance before we reach that part of the Bill in Committee. [Interruption.] I am not sure what the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) is saying to the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) out of the corner of her mouth, but perhaps it is part of the consensus building. I hope that, in the light of my comments, the hon. Gentleman will agree that our proposal is reasonable, balancing access to information and those occasional examples of commercial confidentiality which must be honoured.
§ Mr. Gould
I am grateful to the Secretary of State, because his intervention concedes the entire point that I was making. He has just admitted that he has yet to publish the information on which we will be expected to make a judgment. As we do not yet have that information and have had no assurances about what it will contain, we are right to be cautious about the apparent amplitude of the assurances that the right hon. Gentleman appeared to offer the House.
We will carefully look at what the Secretary of State produces. Let us see whether his actions and the words in his guidance note match the breadth of the commitment that he purported to give.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Is my hon. Friend aware of the situation in my borough involving a firm dealing in toxic waste called Leigh Interests, on which a Select Committee reported, stating that the relationship between the council and that firm was at an all-time low? Is my hon. Friend aware that, although there may be some limited improvements in the Bill, that firm will continue to operate in the borough and cause all the difficulties that it has been causing in the past two or three years? That is far from the substantial improvement that many of us locally would like to see.
§ Mr. Gould
My hon. Friend makes a point that I made earlier—the much touted move towards integrated pollution control will take a long time to come into effect and will have a pretty limited application.
In respect of parts I and II, we welcome recognition of the fact—this is unusual for the Government—that local authorities have a key role to play. We argue, as we have argued in the past, that for a long time local authorities have been local environmental protection agencies. They have been in the front line in the fight against pollution, waste and litter. But there is no point in creating new duties and functions in relation to pollution, waste management and litter unless resources are provided commensurate with those new duties. The explanatory and financial memorandum is laughably over-optimistic on that score. The Government must think again. Any excess of spending—even if mandatory—will fall disproportionately on poll tax payers under the new poll tax arrangements.
54 We believe that the Government have been over-optimistic in arguing that local authorities will cover their costs in a variety of ways. If the exercise of the new duties involves extra spending that has not been taken into account in the revenue support grant, the poll tax will rise by four times the amount of every item or unit of that additional spending, as the Secretary of State well knows. That means that the Government have a grave responsibility to ensure that resources are provided to local authorities for every aspect of the new duties and responsibilities that they are being asked to undertake under the Bill.
There are other aspects of part II with which we are unhappy. If the separation of waste disposal functions from waste regulation functions is so essential—and not merely, as we believe it to be, a prelude to privatisation—why is that not also true for Scotland? What is so different about Scotland? As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) asked in an earlier intervention, why is there nothing in the Bill to deal with waste reduction or packaging? Why are there no measures to deal with the problem at source? Why is there nothing about clean technology? If the Bill is meant to contain the Government's comprehensive Statement of their policy on waste management, that policy is woefully deficient in those respects.
So far, we have been talking about errors of omission. But there are also errors of commission, the most notable of which is the proposal to dismember the Nature Conservancy Council.
Dr. Derek Ratcliffe, who recently retired as the NCC's chief scientist, wrote in The Times of 15 July:The Government's proposals to dismember the NCC are a potential disaster for nature conservation in Britain.Nothing that has happened since—no expression of opinion from those primarily involved in nature conservancy, and nothing that the Secretary of State has announced today or in recent weeks and months—has changed that basic judgment or the accuracy of the view of that well-respected commentator.
The measure flatly contradicts any claim that the Bill may have to be a green Bill. It threatens major damage to nature conservancy in Britain. The dissolution of the Nature Conservancy Council will throw away 40 years of experience and scientific effort. The proposal threatens the destruction of an important and painfully constructed Great Britain-wide science base. It will deny the Government an essential expert adviser on matters of national concern and deprive the increasingly important international environmental effort of a powerful partner and participant.
§ Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)
The hon. Gentleman is totally out of touch with present-day thinking. The majority of members of the Nature Conservancy Council are in favour of the proposal. We have a scientific Committee with a most distinguished chairman and we look forward to the establishment of a satisfactory scientific base in the home countries.
§ Dr. Thomas
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the Welsh Committee of the Nature Conservancy Council, building on its long experience of trying to extend its own scientific base and working alongside the other nature conservation agency in Wales—the Countryside Commission Committee for Wales—warmly welcomed the proposals? I was lobbied both publicly and privately and asked to ensure that the Welsh Office does not surrender any of the ground that the commitee regards as a major strengthening of environmental conservation in Wales.
§ Mr. Gould
The hon. Gentleman is referring to a different matter. [Laughter.] Conservative Members' response shows how little they understand what is truly at issue. They do not understand the central concern of the Nature Conservancy Council. What is at issue is not the degree of devolution or arrangements in Wales or Scotland for the protection of the Welsh or Scottish environment.
The Opposition would welcome a substantial element of devolution, as I shall shortly say in terms. But we say, "Devolution, yes, but destruction and dissolution, no." Why is it necessary to dismember, destroy and dissolve the Nature Conservancy Council? That is the central question that the Secretary of State, for all his manoeuvring, has yet to resolve. He has not yet been able to square that circle, and I shall explain why in a moment.
The proposal moves in the opposite direction to the trend of international and European co-operation and standards throughout Europe and elsewhere, which is increasingly being regarded as the way forward in environmental protection. The proposal was introduced without consultation. It came as a bombshell to the NCC. It has few friends, if any, among conservationists. Virtually all the major conservation bodies oppose it, and that includes the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, a body whose name has been taken in vain by the Secretary of State for Scotland, who listed it as a supporter of the measure. That has been flatly contradicted by the APRS.
This provision, above all others in the Bill, is badly drafted. It fails—at least, it arguably fails—to provide the necessary power in the hands of the new council. In trying to deal with the question whether the Bill transfers to the council the absolutely essential power to establish, maintain and manage nature reserves, even the Secretary of State had to concede that he would need to take further advice to ensure that the Bill achieved that objective. It is hard to believe that such an omission or defect could be the consequence of mere incompetence.
§ Mr. Chris Patten
Let me make it clear to the hon. Gentleman that the legal advice that we have received from draftsmen is perfectly clear: we do not need to write that provision into the Bill. But if it is felt in Committee 56 that we need both belt and braces, and if that point can be made overwhelmingly, I am content to write into the Bill what I am told at the moment is not necessary.
§ Mr. Gould
I am glad to have that assurance from the Secretary of State, but the very terms of his assurance and his earlier remarks show that even in his mind there remains a doubt that may have to be resolved.
Part VII of the Bill is unequal and complicated in its effect. It is internally inconsistent. It creates different structures for different parts of the country, and those structures are to be created according to different timetables.
Why has this friendless measure been introduced? The game was given away in the September edition of Forestry and British Timber. [HON. MEMBERS: "Really!"] Ah. Conservative Members believe that that is not a source on which one can rely. Nevertheless, I suspect that this is, indeed, the truth of the matter. An article in that publication makes it clear that Ministers have acted in this matter because they disliked the robust stance taken by the NCC against afforestation in the flow country. It says:One of the tasks of the new Scottish natural heritage agency will be to investigate all SSSIs and sweep away the dross created by indiscriminate conservation.There, I suspect, is the truth of the matter. That is the pressure that has been brought to bear on the Government to produce the measure, which has no logic or support to commend it.
§ Mr. Adley
I gather that the Welsh nationalists, the Scottish National party, the Social and Liberal Democrats and the Conservative party all take the same view on this issue. The sole exception is the Labour party. Do I take it, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman regards splendid isolation on political issues as matter for commendation?
§ Mr. Gould
Clearly the hon. Gentleman was not listening to me. It is perfectly clear that on this issue the Labour party is supported by all those involved in nature conservancy and the protection of the environment. That remains the case. Even today I received a copy of a lengthy letter addressed to the Secretary of State for Scotland by the Worldwide Fund for Nature's Scottish conservation office which expressed again, on behalf of that organisation and others which have been involved in conversations with the Secretary of State, fundamental reservations and opposition to the measure.
The Government may look for political allies, and that confirms my view that the Bill is a political measure. However, when we judge the measure according to nature conservancy and protecting the environment, I am content to look to allies with some expertise in that area.
§ Mr. Chris Patten
While the hon. Gentleman is on this point, will he clear up the issue about where the Leader of the Opposition stands in relation to this matter? Does the Leader of the Opposition agree with the political consensus referred to by hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley), or has the Leader of the Opposition changed his mind? As the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) will be aware, on 6 November the Leader of the Opposition's Secretary told one of the right hon. Gentleman's constituents:Mr. Kinnock was grateful for the information provided and welcomes the proposal to establish a Countryside Council for Wales.Is that still the position of the Leader of the Opposition?
§ Mr. Gould
The Secretary of State is being uncharacteristically slapdash. He failed to understand my earlier point, and his advisers have failed to draw his attention to Hansard of 7 December. In an Adjournment debate on that date, my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) referred to the point in the same terms that I have dealt with it.
The Secretary of State continues to confuse the extent of devolution in Wales and Scotland in nature conservancy and protection and the separate point about the destruction of the Nature Conservancy Council. We regard the latter point as being unacceptable and that destruction is condemned in Britain as a whole and in Scotland by such bodies as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Friends of the Earth and vast majority of the community concerned with such issues.
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce
How can the Labour party support the devolution of nature conservancy to Scotland without recognising that we must create a separate Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland? It is not convincing to claim that the two issues are separate.
§ Mr. Gould
I will gladly deal with that point. We are not opposed to some element of devolution and we would welcome that and intend to bring forward our proposals when we return to Government. However, any element of devolution must be genuine devolution. It must not be achieved through the creation of a non-accountable quango based on a deal cobbled together between the Scottish Office and a minority of vested interests. It must be based on a genuine devolution affecting all of Scotland's interests, not just those of a powerful minority who want afforestation to proceed.
The devolution must be motivated by a genuine desire to improve the Scottish environment and it must not damage or fragment the increasingly international breadth of the conservation efforts being made throughout Europe and beyond. The Government's proposals fail on all those counts, and that is why we oppose the Bill.
The Secretary of State recognises the force and justice of our arguments. We must be clear that the proposals are not like other proposals that the Secretary of State inherited in other parts of the brief. We can perhaps forgive the Secretary of State for feeling himself to be locked in on such matters as the poll tax and water privatisation. We can understand that he may feel that he cannot do much about those matters. However, the Secretary of State must bear the responsibility for the proposals under consideration today.
The Secretary of State is unable to buck the deal which has been made. He has been unwilling to face up to the possibility of a Cabinet battle in order to rid himself of these unpopular and friendless measures. That is why he has come forward with an absolutely typical response. He has recognised the force of the argument and the need to maintain a national body to maintain the scientific base to participate in international arrangements and to advise the Government on national policy.
In recognising that, the right hon. Gentleman pulls the rug from under the proposals. In his attempt to deal with the force of the argument, he comes forward, typically, with a cosmetic arrangement which appears to give back what has been taken away, but really leaves the substance of the proposals unchanged. That is what is wrong with this part of the Bill, even with the changes announced by 58 the Secretary of State today. Having destroyed the Nature Conservancy Council, he is trying to undo the damage with a device that will satisfy no one and which falls far short of what is required to make the new co-ordinating body effective.
That is why so many questions have been left unanswered. The RSPB wants to know where is the independent budget for the co-ordinating Committee, where are the staff to carry out Great Britainwide functions and where are the powers to direct the agencies as to priorities in conservation matters. It is not too late for the Secretary of State to withdraw this ill-considered measure, and I urge him to do so now.
There is much more to be said. With regard to litter, the Secretary of State and I agree that filthy streets in our cities are one of the major and most viable manifestations of what is going wrong in Britain today. There is no point in willing the ends without willing the means.
With regard to genetically modified organisations—[Laughter.] I am sorry, I meant genetically modified organisms. However, we are well accustomed to dealing with such organisations when dealing with the Government. Part VI is also very important, and it is badly drafted. We will have to pay particular attention to that issue in Committee.
With regard to dumping at sea, the Bill perpetrates a confidence trick which diverts attention from the fact that Britain remains the only country which continues to dump dangerous chemicals in the North sea, and that should be a cause of shame and regret. However, the Government persist in refusing to accept any timetable in that matter or any commitment to ending that practice.
The Bill is defective, and it will provide an enormous amount of work for the Standing Committee if it is to be made effective and workable. We face that task with good will, and we intend to improve the Bill in Committee. We believe that it can be made more effective and that some of the deficiencies can be made good. If the Secretary of State will listen to reason, we believe that some of the Bill's mistakes and errors of commission can be remedied.
We do not give up hope on the Bill. That is why we are not flatly opposing it by simply voting against the Second Reading. We are opposing it on a reasoned amendment which sets out the basis of our disquiet, concern and disappointment. That is why we ask the House to support our reasoned amendment and to vote against the Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I remind hon. Members of Mr. Speaker's announcement that the 10-minute limit on speeches will operate from 6 o'clock.
§ Sir Hugh Rossi (Hornsey and Wood Green)
I cannot for one moment accept the hyperbole of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) or the Labour party's ridiculous posture in imposing a three-line Whip on a Bill of this sort. I can only assume that, after a disastrous and dismal record of neglect in Government, the Labour party is now trying to prove to the country that it is like the proverbial fig—green on the outside while remaining red on the inside.
I recognise that the hon. Gentleman has only recently come to these issues, but he should be far more careful about his sources than he clearly was in the preparation of 59 his speech. It is no good relying on sources reporting what the Minister said at a meeting which the Minister does not recognise, or relying on what the Nature Conservancy Council has said internally when all its public Statements are quite to the contrary. The hon. Gentleman diminishes his arguments by making such a speech.
I must confess that I am a little disappointed with the Bill—[Interruption.] I should like to know what Bill is not a disappointment to most hon. Members. I am disappointed that the Bill does not contain all that I should like to see in it. Nevertheless, it contains a large number of useful and long-needed measures which it would be totally irresponsible to vote down.
I welcome part I because of the integrated pollution control regime that it introduces. As has been said on previous occasions, it is impossible to separate the interrelationship between land, water and air and the effect that emissions into one has upon all the others. Environmentalists outside the House have generally recognised that part I will introduce the most stringent form of pollution control to be found in Europe. That is something to be proud of, not to be thrown away lightly or for party political reasons.
However, I wish to put some questions to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about the implementation of IPC. The burden of ensuring IPC will lie upon Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution. In recent months, many worrying reports and rumours have circulated about the State of morale in HMIP. There have been successive resignations, overshadowed by the recent tragic death of its latest head, Brian Ponsford, to whom the Secretary of State rightly paid tribute. Does that not underline the existing lack of morale in HMIP? Can the prevailing idea that IPC can be achieved by asking one inspector to look after all aspects of pollution control on an industrial site be sound? Instead, would it not be better for separate disciplines, knowledge and training to be involved, quite apart from the distinct traditions of the different inspectorates that have been brought together to form HMIP? Surely IPC should not mean one man trying to tackle all the problems of air, land and water. It means multi-disciplinary teams of experts working together over a common problem.
I should like that idea to be promulgated within HMIP, and I should like my right hon. Friend to take charge of HMIP strategy, structure, formation and resources, to make sure that the present unhappy State can be corrected. My right hon. Friend referred to the number of inspectors in post and the Bill envisages the creation of 15 new inspectors, but the announcement in October 1988 that more inspectors will be recruited has not been implemented. My right hon. Friend has sought more money from the Treasury and has increased salary scales, but even now, because of the overall position of HMIP, he has not been as successful as he would like in the recruitment of a vital force to ensure that the legislation has teeth and is effective.
The difficulty of interface between HMIP and the National Rivers Authority must be resolved if difficult demarcation disputes are not to arise and affect the morale of one or other of those bodies. These are serious administrative matters for the Secretary of State. Hon. 60 Members cannot deal with them on the Floor of the House—it is not within our competence to do so—but we can ask my right hon. Friend to give them personal attention.
I welcome, too, in part I the reinforcement of the principle that the polluter pays. The most significant provision in part I is the requirement for the payment of, I hope, substantial fees for authorisations. If a polluter finds that he must pay a lot of money to emit pollution, he will look at ways within his processes to reduce emissions so that he can get a cheaper authorisation in future. That is how I hope the system will work.
Like the hon. Member for Dagenham, I am a little troubled by the wording of the condition that processes should use thebest available techniques not entailing excessive cost to prevent, and minimise releases of, prescribed substances".On the face of it, the requirement seems admirable and should encourage waste minimisation, which is essential. It is certainly an advance on the old formula of "best practical means". However, I am not clear about the words "excessive cost". Do they mean excessive in proportion to the cost of the processes being carried out or excessive in proportion to the cost of cleaning up the environment or making good damage that is caused by processes?
The difference in definition is crucial and will make a great deal of difference to the way in which industry's attitudes are fashioned and altered by our legislation. I hope that that matter will be clarified in Committee to the satisfaction of hon. Members.
Part II deals with the control of waste management, a matter to which the Select Committee's report on toxic waste, which was published more than a year ago, is highly relevant. I warmly welcome those aspects of the Bill which strengthen controls on waste management. They are very much along the lines of my Committee's recommendations. In particular, the concept of duty of care from cradle to grave in respect of all waste is of outstanding importance.
It is important that we do not delay the passage of the Bill for other considerations. My right hon. Friend knows that I should have preferred the principle of strict liability, rather than reasonable care, to be imposed. Reasonable care raises the concept of negligence and all the defences that can arise in negligence cases. Again, the Standing Committee might care to examine that matter further. I should like my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State or my hon. Friend the Minister of State to tell me when the code of practice, which is at the heart of the duty of care, is to be issued for consultation because people outside the House are waiting anxiously to see the extent of the advice that is to be given about the duty of care.
My right hon. Friend referred to my next point and he knows that I must do so, too. He knows that I am more than disappointed that the Government have not accepted the Committee's recommendations for larger licensing units. We suggested that there should be 10 regulatory authorities for the United Kingdom, structured along the lines of the successful London Waste Regulation Authority, rather than continuing the existing framework of local authorities which, as was clearly shown in the evidence adduced by my Committee, has largely failed in the task given to it. Although some local authorities are obviously better than others, the bad ones are very, very bad.
61 We are left with the anxiety of how, when there are 173 authorities dealing with these matters, we can achieve the uniformity of practice and standards throughout the United Kingdom that is essential if we are not to perpetuate the current situation of rubbish and waste being moved from one part of the country to another simply because in that other area the regulations and controls are less strict and the local authority does not care or charge enough. I expect that we shall return to this matter in the future.
§ Sir Hugh Rossi
I should like to, but if I am not careful I shall overstray the time limit.
There is an attempt in part II to meet our criticism of the poacher-gamekeeper regime that is operated by the current structure of local waste authorities, which are based partly on the county councils and partly on the district councils. However, the provisions seem to leave in place the system under which the variations in standards are so worrying.
My attention has been drawn to clause 41, which it is suggested will cause considerable confusion and difficulty—especially in London—the area with which I am most concerned as I am a London Member of Parliament. In Greater London, the waste disposal duties will be carried out by the four statutory authorities and 12 local authorities; the duties for waste collection will be carried out by the 33 London boroughs and the duties for waste regulation will rest, as now, with the London Waste Regulation Authority. It is proposed that the duties for preparing waste disposal plans will rest with the waste regulation authorities for the whole of the United Kingdom, except in London. There, the duty will rest with the 33 London boroughs, which are the collection authorities, not even the disposal authorities. I cannot see the logic behind that framework.
The duty of the collection authorities to produce waste recycling plans requires consultation with the waste disposal authorities where the duties differ. However, in Greater London there is no requirement for the London boroughs to consult the London Waste Regulation Authority about either waste recycling plans or waste disposal plans.
§ Sir Hugh Rossi
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I should rather not give way because I do not want to detain the House for too long.
The provisions that deal with the preparation of these most important plans do not lay down a timetable although we have had the experience of the Control of Pollution Act 1974. Today, 15 years later, a disgracefully large number of local authorities have still not submitted their waste disposal plans to the Department. However, a Bill has been presented to us in which local authorities are to be required to produce further plans but which does not lay down a timetable. This matter requires remedy.
I could continue to discuss many other aspects of the Bill, but I am conscious that many hon. Members wish to participate in the debate and I do not want to abuse my opportunity. Generally speaking, the conclusions of the hon. Member for Dagenham about the Nature 62 Conservancy Council are unfounded in view of the Statements that my right hon. Friend has made today. My right hon. Friend has met all the objections that have been raised hitherto about the proposal for the creation of three regional bodies. I welcome especially the imposition of a duty on local authorities to keep their streets clean, rather than them merely having a power to do so. The residents of Haringey and the constituents of Hornsey and Wood Green will bless my right hon. Friend for that. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ 6.6 pm
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)
I shall endeavour to discuss my party's attitude to this big Bill in the 10 minutes available to me, but I shall obviously be unable to cover some points. First, I must make it clear that we shall support the Bill and that we do not support the Labour party's rather spurious opposition to the Bill as it stands. We should certainly like a more radical Bill, but that is different from whether one should support the Bill as it stands. There are urgent environmental problems in this country and it would be appropriate to ensure that the Bill addresses them. We shall table amendments accordingly.
The Bill does not address the need to change attitudes and habits. Nor does it deal with the problems of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions which it could address. The Bill does not take the action on chlorofluorocarbons which the West German Government already have in hand. It does not set adequate targets for recycling, although that may be achieved in Committee. The Bill does not reduce the pressure on local communities faced with an upsurge of new toxic waste disposal applications, to which I referred when I intervened in the Secretary of State's speech. The Bill does not set standards or codes of practice; it only enables those standards to be set. Such standards and codes of practice should be published while the Bill is in hand.
The Bill falls short in terms of actions taken by councils that the Liberal-Democrats control or influence. We are doing things that other authorities should be doing, and it is a pity that at this stage the Bill has not adopted the best practice that Liberal-Democrat councils have established throughout the country, which has been acknowledged not only by our party but by environmental organisations.
The Bill does not deal with public transport policy—legitimately I am sure that the Secretary of State will say—or the need to achieve the dramatic increases in energy efficiency that the Department of Energy says can be achieved but has no plans to set in hand. The Bill does not address the need to change manufacturing technology so that we eliminate many waste disposal problems and ensure that recycling is a characteristic that is built into product manufacture in the future. But although there are many gaps in the Bill, there are also many elements that we support and that we shall seek to strengthen by amendments.
It has already been said that the integrated pollution control section of the Bill is only an enabling section and that its real value will depend on the measures that the Secretary of State introduces and on the codes of practice and standards that are established. It is acknowledged that the present position has been reached by a piecemeal approach that needs sorting out. Unfortunately, now, 63 before the Bill is law, we have a proliferation of applications for planning permission and for new licences for existing toxic waste sites.
It looks like a break for cover before the new regulations come into effect. Most local authorities are understandably ducking out. Nobody wants to give planning permission or to issue licences for new toxic waste sites, and most of the applications will land on the Secretary of State's desk, if they have not already done so. Therefore, it is in the right hon. Gentleman's own interest to establish those standards so that he can use them as a means of judging applications.
In the past few weeks, I have visited a number of existing and proposed sites, in places like Doncaster, Walsall and Matlock, and the Rechem facility at Pontypool. I have seen how contentious those sites are, and how much local opposition there is. In Doncaster, Matlock and Walsall, there is concern about toxic waste getting into the water system, about processes that do not fulfil the claims that were made for them and about gases and carcinogenic materials being released into the atmosphere. The public are not sure that the existing set-up gives adequate safeguards.
The Rechem plant at Pontypool uses a system that I understand would be banned in West Germany. I was not happy to see a door through which toxic wastes and polychlorinated biphenyls were being loaded left open without a canopy. There had been a blow back, and I could see smoke seeping out while I was watching. Although the management told me that the draught would pull this through, I was not reassured by what I saw. I should like a system that would give more public assurance and more control.
I am also concerned about the fact that local authorities will be responsible for long-term monitoring of sites tht have been developed by commercial interests. It is not right that commercial interests should secure the profit and leave the public sector to underwrite the long-term protection of the environment and the costs of environmental damage that might be so produced.
Litter is not very exciting, but it causes widespread concern, and there is no doubt that the politicians who can solve the problem of dog excrement will be one of the most popular people in the country, because this problem continually recurs with no adequate resolution. The habits of many of our citizens are less than the best in dealing with their litter and environment. Without singling them out, I have to say that I am concerned when I walk and drive round the streets of Aberdeen to see the citizens throwing litter out of car windows and dropping it on the pavement without regard to the mess that they are causing or the cost of cleaning it up. We must encourage people to be more litter-conscious.
We have to be cautious about genetically modified organisms. There is a temptation to believe that we can play God and fix the environment. These processes should be treated on a case-by-case approach, and carte blanche should not be given to even the most reputable of organisations.
The most contentious issue is, predictably, the reform of the Nature Conservancy Council. My party has long called for the devolution of nature conservancy to Scotland and Wales. My hon. Friend the Member for 64 Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) was the first to call for the creation of a Scottish nature conservancy council. Therefore, we welcome the proposal, although we shall table some detailed amendments.
It is extraordinary that the Labour party opposes this move. Because this proposal was introduced by the previous Secretary of State, whom they understandably did not like, many of the environmental groups have not worked out the logic of the argument. I have asked them to explain why it is impossible for a Scottish body, a Welsh body and an English body to establish nature conservancy standards that meet the needs of the local communities and the environmentalists.
The issue is how these are constituted, whether they are genuinely independent and whether they can ensure that the local community and conservation interests are properly represented. We shall press to ensure that that is the case. We want adequate funding, and where there is a United Kingdom-wide case for joint research and advice, that should be produced. The Government have responded to many of the representations, and we look forward to clearing up the details in Committee.
As a Scottish Member of Parliament, I find some of the arguments against this proposal patronising and arrogant, and based on the assumption that people in England have a greater commitment to the environment than those of us who live, work and have our being in Scotland. Many do not realise that, in large parts of Scotland, people are the endangered species. They should be taken into account and their interests should be monitored. Fish farming must be done in an environmentally sensitive way, forestry must be to scale and in a way that takes account of local needs and species must be protected; a body based in Scotland and staffed by Scottish people would be capable of doing that.
I hope that the Secretary of State will go even further in his devolution and establish the body in the north of Scotland, because many of the most contentious environmental issues are there. Furthermore, the Government should accept that a Scottish body should be based outside the central belt and in the rural areas that it is designed to serve.
I have cantered over this long and detailed Bill as quickly as I can. It is useful, in that it gives us an opportunity to deal with legislation on environmental issues. It is not the radical Bill that is needed to tackle the global and major environmental problems, but it can address some of the other issues. We shall be tabling amendments to strengthen the Bill and to clarify the Government's points. We shall introduce some means to ensure that the Bill is more radical. However, we do not see any justification for opposing the Bill. The opportunity to legislate on environmental matters should be welcomed and the Labour party has made a tactical mistake in deciding to oppose it. It will be labelled a party that is not prepared to legislate on the environment and to use the opportunity presented by the Bill. Instead, it is trying to frustrate it.
§ Sir Charles Morrison (Devizes)
I am glad of the support of the Social and Liberal Democrats for much of what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is proposing, and I agree with what the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) said about nature conservation—a 65 subject that will occupy most of my speech. However, I shall start with a few remarks about other aspects of the Bill.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to the White Paper on the environment to be published later this year. I hope that, before he draws his conclusions about what should be included in the White Paper, he will take account of the views that may be expressed by the many voluntary environmental organisations, and perhaps even go so far as to consult some of them.
Meanwhile, it can be reasonably claimed that the Bill is State-of-the-art legislation. It is good for environmental protection, for conservation, for the appearance of town and country and for my temper because, for once, I can give a Bill my wholehearted support—somthing that I have not been able to give to a lot of other legislation that we have had recently.
I am glad that the powers of local authorities to deal more easily with local nuisances, particularly noise, are to be strengthened. Noise is one of the most insidious and infuriating interferences in people's private lives, so I hope that local authorities will not hold back in the use of their new strength and power. I welcome the statutory duty on litter to be put on local authorities.
What will be the position with litter on roads and motorways? Will litter on motorways be the responsibility of the local authority through whose area the motorway runs, or will it be the responsibility of the Department of Transport? For the next three months, when grass and undergrowth are at their lowest, it will be evident that motorways are a disgrace. I hope that the duties imposed on local authorities to control litter will also apply to the Department of Transport.
I am glad to note that, since my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced his proposed ban on straw burning, plans for the construction of factories to make use of straw in paper production have been mooted. That shows yet again that necessity is the mother of invention. None the less, the Government must realise that, in some parts of the country, the ban on straw burning will result in difficulties, particularly where soils are thin and the incorporation of straw is difficult.
Farmers will wish to use more nitrogen to increase the breakdown of straw, and that will lead to difficulties with water purity. Additionally, areas such as Salisbury plain and the Cotswolds have thousands of adjacent acres of straw at harvest time. My right hon. Friends will have to give careful consideration to the possibility of a licensing system, if only to create fire breaks for fear that there may be a huge conflagration covering many thousands of acres.
In considering the proposed changes for nature conservation, I wish that we did not have to be where we are. In theory, the Nature Conservancy Council meets the need. It provides the Government with advice on conservation, it manages national nature reserves, informs and warns the public, and initiates inquiries and research. Annually it produces an excellent report, albeit not as attractive or as readable as that published by the Game Conservancy, of which I am chairman.
Why, therefore, propose changes in the structure of the NCC, amending the manner in which England, Scotland and Wales are to be dealt with? The answer is that the NCC is not working out in practice as well as it should or as well as it needs to. Based at Peterborough, it is virtually 66 impossible for it to take full account of the delicate sensitivities of people in Scotland and Wales, let alone in some parts of England.
Too many of those who work for the NCC—I am sorry to have to say this—appear to have forgotten that, in advancing the cause of nature conservation, one cannot disregard or even discount the influence, interest and interests of the most important mammal on earth, man. Even when account has been taken of the importance of mankind, too often NCC personnel on the ground have not taken adequate account of mankind's interest and interests.
If we want successful conservation, we must take account of farmers, farm workers, landowners, foresters, forestry workers, gamekeepers and local councillors who are elected to represent local people and their opinions. I do not claim for a moment that all those people are right all the time. Far from it. Often they are wrong. If nature conservation is to proceed effectively, the feathers of all those assorted birds must be smoothed, not ruffled.
Far too often, feathers have been ruffled when some NCC employee, often young, perhaps still wet behind the ears and with limited experience and a limited view of life, lands on an important site for conservation, like Christopher Columbus having just discovered America, and behaves as if no one has ever been there before and certainly as if no one has paid any attention to its conservation. Yet, often, the basic reason why the site has retained the characteristics which give it its significance is that, by his action or purposeful inaction for the past 10, 20, 40 or even 50 years, the farmer or landowner has maintained the site, only to discover that from now on he is to be treated as a threat to its preservation.
When that happens, there is bound to be a political reaction. In this case, it has meant that many people do not have the confidence that they should have in the existing NCC structure. The moral to be drawn by all organisations and Government Departments is that they must pay attention to the people on the ground.
The Government are right to propose an alternative structure based on the component parts of the United Kingdom. I have no doubt that in future people in Scotland and Wales will be able to take pride in their council as they cannot do in the NCC at present. I have no doubt also that the Secretaries of State will compete furiously with each other to extract more money from the Treasury for the benefit of conservation.
The establishment of the joint Committee is of fundamental importance, but there is a bit of an anomaly in that the chairman of the Countryside Council for Wales has responsibility for nature conservation as well as the countryside, whereas the chairmen of the Nature Conservancy Council for England and for Scotland do not have countryside responsibilities. What consideration has my right hon. Friend given, if not to the amalgamation of the NCC and Countryside Commission, at least to their close involvement, perhaps through the joint Committee?
What consideration has my right hon. Friend given to the advancement of nature conservation via the European Commission? It will become increasingly necessary to have the equivalent of a Nature Conservancy Council, perhaps on a mini basis, available to the Commission to advise it as the NCC advises our Government. If that council does not exist, it will be to the disadvantage of nature 67 conservancy throughout Europe. It will make the task of producing sensible European legislation more difficult than it needs to be.
§ Mr. Gordon Oakes (Halton)
Like many others, I welcome many of the provisions in the Bill but, as they have said, it is extremely limited. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) said, the crucial issues of global warming and acid rain are not mentioned—
§ Mr. Oakes
I am sorry not to give way, but I am under the 10-minute rule for speeches. Perhaps the Minister who replies can deal with the matter.
I am surprised that the Secretary of State said that the Bill was central to the Government's strategy for dealing with environmental pollution. Many people will be surprised at that because, as many Tory Members realise, we are talking about what will probably be the major battleground of the next general election. The British people are extremely worried about the environment. They voted massively, in protest, for the Green party at the European elections. I do not think that they will do that at the general election, but they will compare Conservative and Labour policies. If this Bill is central to the Government's strategy for dealing with environmental pollution, I am afraid that the electorate will find the Conservative party considerably wanting.
Although many of the aims of the Bill are laudable and well intentioned, I fear that the Government will not put money where their mouth is. It is clear from the explanatory and financial memorandum at the beginning of the Bill that the mean way in which resources are planned will not match the considerations that local authorities will be asked to express. These ideas have been around for a decade and some for longer. To use appropriate language, this is legislative uncontrolled tipping. All the matters are swept together in one Bill.
In particular, I welcome the provisions on recycling. I congratulate the Secretary of State on having got the word recycling and any idea of it into the Bill. Fifteen years ago, when I was Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, I had the duty of preparing a Green Paper on recycling. Out of it arose a waste management advisory council, which I, together with my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) chaired. Both of us were keen on recycling. The public were keen on it. Industry was somewhat ambivalent. If my memory serves me correctly, local authorities were not at all keen, and civil servants hated the whole idea. That is why I congratulate the Secretary of State on including recycling in the Bill.
There are many problems. The Bill does not answer all the questions about recycling.
§ Mr. Oakes
No. The 10-minute rule is in force and I must make my speech in that time.
The Government should consider placing receptacles at all supermarkets of a certain size and at off-licences so that those shops' waste materials can be collected. The public are keen on recycling if the facilities are provided for them to do so. I wish that the Government had used the Bill to impose a duty on existing supermarkets, new super-markets and off-licences to make provision for such collection points in the curtilages of their car parks.
A deposit system on bottles should also be reintroduced. That may not be within the purview of the Department of the Environment, but that was the system that operated when I was a young chap. One could return beer bottles, pop bottles and all the rest and one received a penny or tuppence on them. I am certain that the public would welcome the reintroduction of that system, but I am not sure about the retailers. The Government, however, should take the initiative.
When I was a Minister, various local authorities pointed out to me—the rule still applies—that the market for such things as waste paper is fickle. The Government should consider the possibility of the bottom falling out of that market. That happens from time to time, and the local authorities that recycle paper are left with vast stacks of it. That occurs because, at the time, it so happens that it is cheaper for manufacturers to use virgin trees and forests than recycled paper. The Government should stabilise that market by insisting that certain products are made from recycled paper only.
I am glad that there are provisions on litter in the Bill as we have become a filthy nation. Foreigners always remark on the State of our streets, particularly in cities. A British citizen who has lived abroad for a length of time, and who comes back, is appalled at the State of our streets, public places and Underground stations. An initiative undertaken in the city of Westminster has supposedly made great strides, but Westminster is still filthy.
The public are, of course, to blame for dropping litter. The Government, however, bear some blame as they have borne down so heavily on local authorities that those authorities are unable to spend the money that they did on cleaning up the streets, or emptying the bins. Local authorities provide litter bins at capital cost, but they do not have the money to spend on the manpower needed to empty them. When that happens, the worst of all situations arises, with overflowing litter bins causing litter to be blown across the streets. The Government should carry some blame for our little problem.
The explanatory and financial memorandum of the Bill States:The duty to keep land clear of litter and refuse may entail some additional costs for some authorities.There is no doubt that that duty will entail additional costs for all authorities. When the Secretary of State attends the next revenue support grant meeting, he should bear that in mind. The Government have omitted to recognise that the 69 collection of litter is manpower-intensive. The only capital plant that is needed is a sack and a spike, but many people are needed to pick up the litter.
There is no mention in the Bill of one of the principal causes of pollution—dogs.
§ Mr. Oakes
That may be so, but there is nothing about what should happen to dog owners. It is no use putting up notices about prosecutions should a dog foul a pavement—there are many loose dogs and they are notably illiterate. Unless something is done to provide a dog registration scheme, the problem will get worse. That would be the suitable answer to deal with people who turn their dogs loose on school playing fields for the purpose of fouling that area.
There is much in the Bill that I like, but there is much more that should be included.
§ Mr. Robin Squire (Hornchurch)
I give a broad, genuine welcome for a substantial measure that covers a number of important areas.
The major items in the Bill have been out for discussion for two or three years, so it is right and proper to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend's predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). Sometimes he is not the obvious model for every conservationist, but, as originator of the Bill in draft form, he deserves full tribute.
I also pay tribute to the Chairman of the Select Committee on the Environment, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi), who has temporarily left the Chamber. In a good speech, he set out precisely why many hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber who speak after him will no doubt sound like Little Sir Echo, such is his command of the subject. The leadership that he gives to the Committee is extremely good.
Integrated pollution control represents the central part of the Bill, and associated with that is waste minimisation. When the Select Committee visited the United States during its inquiry, it was brought home to us that waste minimisation is the starting point for tackling waste disposal. It is no use looking at what one has at the end: one must find ways in which to reduce the waste in the first place. I welcome the emphasis on waste minimisation in part I.
When we move on to the best available techniques for such waste minimisation, we shall need detailed definitions within the regulations so that industry and commerce have some reasonable idea about the route that they should follow. Arguably, waste minimisation could also crop up with advantage elsewhere in the Bill. In Committee, we may discover other ways in which to extend that process.
Hon. Members have already spoken about the need for adequate resources at the centre of Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution. The Bill speaks of the financial impact of an increase of 30 members to that inspectorate, but I believe that that increase will be the bare minimum in terms of the work that will be needed from that body in the future.
There is also a particular need to clarify the relationship between parts I and II of the Bill. In that regard, I am picking up points not only made by the Confederation of 70 British Industry, but by the National Association of Waste Disposal Contractors, whose members are the major operators in this sphere. I have received a letter which States:Part I introduces integrated pollution control for prescribed processes and prescribed substances, to be applied by authorisations granted by…HMIP or, in cases to be designated in respect of air emissions only, by a local authority. IPC is intended to control pollution caused by the release of substances into air, water or land. But, most substances released into land are likely to be waste materials—which are to be dealt with under part II of the Bill.There is some uncertainty about how parts I and II link together, particularly as part I will be the responsibility of HMIP, whereas part II will be the resposibility of the waste regulatory authorities. The House would not want unfairly and unneccessarily to burden businesses with two totally separate lots of controls if that can be avoided.
On waste disposal, my right hon. Friend's earlier comments show that he has taken on board that fact that parts of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 were simply inoperable. That was, and is, the central criticism of the Act. It is welcome to see in clause 31 that he is tackling the nonsense whereby the operator of a site taking waste disposal material may simply surrender the licence and walk away as if he had no other responsibilities. It is extraordinary that we passed such legislation all those years ago, and its rectification is overdue.
I give an unqualified welcome to clause 40, which deals with recycling and the necessity for local authority plans. As many hon. Members know, this country produces 18 million tonnes per annum of domestic waste, of which we currently recycle 2.7 million tonnes—about 15 per cent. That compares with 50 per cent. in West Germany and 60 per cent. in Denmark. My right hon. Friend has taken on board the necessity to improve those low figures, which are partly the consequence of the highly variable skills of local authorities—which were referred to by previous Speakers. Some local authorities are very good indeed, while others have hardly started to tackle the issue.
My right hon. Friend must ensure that the plans which the local authorities are required to produce, are produced. We would not want to be coming back here 15 or 16 years after this Bill is enacted, as we are having to do because a number of plans under the 1974 Act are still not being produced by local authorities.
I shall introduce what may be a minority view when I comment on clauses 109 and 110, which deal with the control which the Secretary of State is to have over the shipment of waste. I am concerned that it is easy, in an emotional response, to say yes, the Government and my right hon. Friend or his successors must have such powers. I pause and suggest that proper, good and safe waste disposal does and will require substantial capital investment, some certainty of market and all the proper skills expected in a developed market and science. it requires some certainty.
If there are materials such as chemicals that we do not wish to import or tranship, we should spell that out in legislation. Logically, that is the way to do it. We should say that we want no truck with such materials. My fear is that under clauses 109 and 110—I see from one or two nods that I may not be in the minority—whoever is in my right hon. Friend's position will find that he or she has created a rod for his or her own back. At the first hint of something different coming in—it may be less dangerous than many things that we currently import for a wide 71 variety of uses—my right hon. Friend will be pressurised into banning it. It may be right to do so, but a better approach is to spell out in advance what we want and do not want.
As the originator of the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985, I can only welcome as overdue the inclusion in the Bill of clauses 18 and 54 which deal with public information registers. They face up squarely to the need for the public to be better informed about such matters and provide an opportunity for discussion, when it takes place, to be rational rather than emotional. The exchanges between my right hon. Friend and Opposition spokesmen marginally improved my knowledge of this matter. I recognise that there will be grounds for commercial confidentiality. However, I urge my right hon. Friend to resist stoutly any suggestions that he faces bloodcurdling fears and tremors from industry. In my experience, most of the forebodings about public information and availability turn out to be groundless once the system is in operation.
My last detailed point relates to noise pollution. Clause 64 could be taken to refer to noise pollution, among various other forms of pollution. It simplifies the procedures for abating nuisances. I welcome that, but I fear that it will not be enough on its own. Noise, particularly in city areas, is all-pervasive, and arguably one of the biggest pollutants of all after poverty. There is an enforcement problem, which may be partly due to the absence of a simple and agreed measurement of what constitutes unacceptable noise. I note that a Committee is to report to my right hon. Friend in due course. Its findings may not be included in this measure, but I hope that they will be included in a future measure.
My right hon. Friend wrote a good book, "The Tory Case" which I read over Christmas. In it, he said:We may stand a better chance of encouraging man to have more respect for nature than of inducing man to have more respect for man".The Bill encourages that respect. I give it my full endorsement and look forward to serving on the Committee.
§ Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower)
As Chairman of the Welsh Select Committee currently undertaking an inquiry into toxic waste disposal in Wales, I was grateful for this opportunity to make, first, some introductory remarks. The activities of the Department of the Environment must be watched carefully. Its ducking and diving on the 1976 directive on bathing water of the EC is a classic example of its activities. To avoid implementing the directive, the Department defined a bathing beach in such a way that not a single bathing beach existed in Wales. The directive was therefore rendered inapplicable in Wales because it applied only to beaches used for bathing.
The Association of County Councils says that it is over-optimistic for the Government to assume that the Bill will have no significant cost implications for waste disposal authorities. There will be a need for extra skilled staff, which will involve increased costs. The revenue support grant arrangements are so tightly set that the spending incurred under the Bill will mean that those additional costs will cause councils to incur penalties which have to be paid for by poll tax payments.
72 The Government's response to environmental matters during the past 10 years was summed up in one word in last year's report on toxic waste produced by the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology. The word was "dilatory". Massive gaps in the legislation have remained for 10 years, causing major environmental damage.
Many varied tests on many aspects may be applied to the Bill. I shall confine myself to asking the Secretary of State whether he is satisfied that the following three issues will be resolved following the passage of this measure.
First, on 8 December 1989, a technical report, due to have been published in 1988, appeared from Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution. It established the background levels of PCBs, furans and dioxins in British soils. For PCBs, the range was between 1.7 and 32 parts per billion. Six of the 78 random sample points in Britain suggested local contamination because the samples were significantly higher than the background level. The highest of those was at ordnance survey grid reference number SN 51350100, which is near Bryntirion hospital, Llanelli. The PCB level is 1,199 parts per billion, rather higher than the maximum background range of 32 parts per billion. Twelve of the 78 sample points were significantly above background levels of dioxins and furans. SN 51350100 has the highest readings of all the sample points in Britain for four dioxins and two furans. Will the Bill contain provisions for establishing the source of local contamination at each of these sites, to assess the environmental or health effects of such contamination and to make the resources available for any necessary remedial action?
In June 1988, the hazardous wastes inspectorate produced its third report. On page 14, it mentions visits that the inspectors made to 15 hospital incinerators in four counties examining the compliance of hospital incinerators with waste management paper No. 25 on clinical waste. It concluded:if the hospitals visited are typical of the national picture then the situation is deplorable. Those seen operate to standards which would not be permitted by a similar operation in the private sector unprotected by Crown immunity.As small hospital incinerators are still protected by that immunity, will the Bill remove Crown immunity from all hospital incinerators so that the public can have full confidence that all the micro-organisms in clinical waste are safely destroyed by this method of disposal?
HMIP has frequently emphasised the problems associated with landfill waste disposal sites, and I have a number of questions to ask the Minister about them. Will the Bill make it a legal requirement for the waste regulation authorities to conform to the frequency of site visits laid down in the waste management papers issued by the Department? Secondly, will the Bill make it a condition for the issuing of a site licence that the applicant has to demonstrate a certain defined minimum standard of waste management education, training and experience? Thirdly, will the Bill provide for ensuring that waste regulatory officers hold a specified minimum standard of education, training and experience in waste management?
Fourthly, will the Bill make it impossible for any public footpath to cross a landfill site? Fifthly, will it enable a waste disposal authority to refuse to issue a licence when a landfill is proposed on a site of special scientific interest? Sixthly, will the Bill provide funds for research into co-disposal, so that, within the European Community, 73 Britain will have, for the first time, substantive scientific evidence to show the suitability of this method for the disposal of industrial waste?
Seventhly, will the Bill provide funds for research into safe alternatives to CFCs, so that harmful materials can be banned at the earliest opportunity? Eighthly, will the Bill provide funds for research into cheaper methods of removing all CFCs from refrigerators and freezers, including those present in the insulating material, before these consumer durables are landfilled? Ninthly, will the Bill make funds available for research into new methods of microbiological degradation of PCBs in old closed landfills? Lastly, will the Bill give statutory backing to voluntary groupings of waste regulation authorities to pool their skills and powers so that they can operate consistent and coherent policies?
The Bill is of great public interest, yet there must be serious doubts about the degree to which it meets the needs that have been clearly spelt out in the various reports from the Department of the Environment inspectors—
§ Mr. Trippier
In view of the questions that the hon. Gentleman has asked me, may I ask him one before he sits down? What is his view on the reorganisation of the Nature Conservancy Council?
§ Mr. Wardell
The Minister has asked me a question that I have not dealt with at all and taken up some of my valuable time in so doing. As I briefly mentioned, I hope very much that a site licence will be able to be refused by a local authority if a site of special scientific interest is on a proposed landfill site.
It is crucial that the number, quality and morale of members of HMIP are kept up to standard; that is vital to enable its responsibilities to be fulfilled. The proposed increase of 30 in the complement of HMIP, mainly to deal with a newly integrated pollution control regime under part I, is wholly inadequate.
As for access to information, I hope that the Government will alter their view. Under the Bill as drafted it will not be possible for a member of the public to appeal against a decision when reasons have been given in terms of commercial confidentiality for denying him access to the public register.
The Bill has the potential to become a great Act, but before it can, the Secretary of State must be ready to improve it. I sincerely hope that he will.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)
Before I start my speech, I hope that it is not out of order to say that the person whom we miss on the Conservative Benches is our former colleague, John Heddle, whom I know would have been here today. Perhaps I may be allowed to pay a passing tribute to him and to offer our sympthy to his family.
I thought that the speech by the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) was dreadful; he did himself and the House no good. I have been looking at the speech by Edith Summerskill, who led for the Labour party on Second Reading of the Clean Air Act 1956, and I commend it to the hon. Member for Dagenham as the way in which a serious and sensible Opposition might present a more constructive approach when we are trying to grapple with environmental problems.
74 The Clean Air Act was a Government Act, but its godfather was Gerald Nabarro. The Conservative party, Government members and Back Benchers, has a good record on environmental matters. It was the Government led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) who established the Department of the Environment through their White Paper on 15 October 1970, and the Secretary of State was my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker).
The establishment of the Department of the Environment encompassed transport matters. The White Paper said:It is increasingly accepted that maintaining a decent environment, improving people's living conditions and providing for adequate transport facilities all come together in the planning of development.Although I find it slightly regrettable that there is little mention of transport in this Bill, I certainly hope that we shall find ways of including transport industries in the definitions in some of the clauses.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's speech to the Town and Country Planning Association on 27 November last year was important, and it set out the essential guidelines for incorporating transport matters in the ambit of the environment. I share his view that we must wholly reassess the criteria for choosing whether to invest in roads or rail if we are to reach the correct environmental decisions while grappling with our transport policy. Environmental considerations must be a priority in transport policy—something that we have never yet achieved in legislation in this country.
The principle in the Bill that the polluter pays is one with which I am sure all hon. Members agree, but will my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside accept the proposition that, if private pleasure and convenience conflict with public health and welfare in environmental matters, the Government must uphold the latter?
The oil companies and manufacturers of motor cars, trucks and buses will resist any suggestion that the transport industries should come within the purview of the Bill. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will stand up to whatever powerful interests may try to oppose what he is attempting to do.
Little attention is paid in the Bill to oil pollution at sea. The rubric to clause 111 refers toDeposits of substances and articles in the sea, etc.The hon. Member for Dagenham, who unfortunately left the Chamber as soon as he had finished his speech, joined me in voting for a new clause that I tabled in Committee when the Merchant Shipping Bill was being considered in 1979. Its purpose was to make the owner rather than the carrier of the substance—oil at sea—liable for any pollution. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider introducing a provision in clause 111 to cover oil pollution.
As I read the clause, dumping at sea presupposes a deliberate act. We must also try to ensure that accidents do not occur because of inadequate vehicles—the rusty buckets that are still used by certain people as they carry their oil cargoes across the oceans of the world.
I am also interested in clause 63, about which I intervened when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was speaking. The clause refers to smoke, smell and noise from premises. I share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) that noise is an 75 extremely serious form of pollution. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) was sitting beside me when I intervened in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He told me that under the Theft Act "vehicles" are considered as "premises". Is it the Minister's view that the activities which are outlined in clause 63 encompasses vehicles? Other colleagues have referred to legislation for which they can claim parentage. I mention in passing the Motor Cycle Noise Act 1987, which I understand is now a candidate for European legislation. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell me something about that, though not necessarily this evening.
Air pollution affects us all. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that we could not legislate for the whole of Europe, let alone the whole of the world. I hope, however, that Ministers will draw the European Commission's attention to the fact that, although this country has its air pollution problems, those in other EEC countries are far worse than ours. I have had the opportunity recently to see and smell the atmosphere in Bilbao and Barcelona. If the Government and the Conservative party sincerely adhere to the European cause, we must try to persuade the European Community, and Mr. Delors, to spend more time on environmental matters, particularly air pollution. No one is taking much interest in that at the moment.
As for clause 71, I mention it entirely on my wife's behalf. She has a bee in her bonnet about plastic sacks of fertiliser littering the countryside, particularly those ghastly midnight blue sacks. Will the "Offence of leaving litter", the rubric to clause 71, apply to those ghastly eyesores, plastic sacks of fertiliser? Will proximity to footpaths and other public places be a sufficient means of catching people who insist on littering the countryside with such eyesores? Presumably the Government believe that it is necessary to exclude private property from the Bill. However, a good deal of public property is visible from private property, and vice versa. I hope that consideration will be given to making sure that those who litter the countryside with those wretched sacks are caught under clause 71, either as it stands or as it might be amended.
This is a very important Bill. I hope that the hon. Member for Dagenham will come to recognise that his speech was not worthy of the occasion. Every hon. Member ought to recognise that half a loaf is better than none. The hon. Gentleman's proposition that no loaf is better than half a loaf is not one on which he will carry the rest of the House with him.
§ 7.5 pm
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)
I do not agree with the criticism of my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) by the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley), but I agree with his wife about blue plastic sacks. There was a lot to be said for the old jute ones. They were almost always returnable and they made for profitable recycling.
I judge the Bill against my background. I was born in Manchester. I was a wartime evacuee to the Ceriog valley in north Wales where I spent my early years on a hill farm. I returned there regularly on holiday until I was about 18. I was struck by that hill farmer's ambition. It was not to make vast profits, but to make a living for himself and his 76 wife and in particular to pass on the farm in good heart to the next generation. His farm was run on that basis. A small number of farmers still apply that principle. What that farmer did on his farm coloured my political thinking.
The present capitalist system fails completely to meet that ideal. That is why I am a democratic Socialist. Every time I returned from north Wales to Manchester, I saw the effects of 200 years of capitalism and the pollution—the sulphurous fumes from coal tips and the rubbish—that it had created. All the rivers around Manchester had been polluted. When bleach works were set up in the 19th century, they leapfrogged each other up the rivers in their search for clean water. All of them were only too happy to pollute the rivers. Smoke and dirt from factory chimneys has polluted Manchester for more than 100 years.
Capitalism is based on the idea that profits must be made. There has to be an alternative to that system. We need something better than a capitalist system based only on profits. It is not only capitalism in the western world that is causing pollution. State capitalism in eastern Europe is just as defective. As soon as the democratic element is taken away and people no longer have the right to know about and debate these matters, major problems are created. We have faced similar problems. Secrecy surrounded the nuclear power industry because of its links with defence, with the result that all sorts of things went on which would never have happened if there had been proper democratic debate.
We have to ask whether the Bill will tame capitalism and we must ensure that it does not replace private capitalism with State capitalism. People need free access to information, the skill to evaluate it and the self-confidence to argue their case. They need to be on an equal footing, so that their decisions cannot be bought or sold. Democratic Socialism offers that alternative. I measure the Bill against that background.
Does the Bill offer us the prospect of handing over this country, and our planet, in good heart to future generations? Does it control the greed of companies? Companies have to make profits to survive, but do they make profits at the expense of somebody else? Does the Bill ensure that people have the necessary knowledge to evaluate what is good for them, the country and the planet? The Bill falls far short of those requirements.
My first criticism is the way that the Government abolished the Greater Manchester council, which had responsibility for waste disposal. Councillor Dennis Fogg, the chairman, and the other members of the new Manchester waste disposal authority and their officials have done their best, but when one reduces the democratic element, one makes it harder for them to be affected.
If we are to tackle the problems of waste disposal in Britain, we have to involve people. Greater Manchester waste disposal authority can get rid of rubbish, but the real question is how to stop creating so much of it. The authority is considering turning rubbish into oil. It has a system for reclaiming tin cans and paper, and there are plenty of bottle banks in Greater Manchester. There are many voluntary schemes to collect paper and aluminium cans. Engine oil is being reclaimed, and refrigerators are being collected. However, unless we go further and convince people that they must stop creating so much waste, we shall not solve the problem.
People must be asked to examine what they buy, and how it is packaged, used and disposed of. We have become 77 a throwaway society. Only by getting people democratically to debate the issues will we create a society in which we demand that goods are made to last and we will start to cherish them.
The leisure and pleasure industry is, in many ways, as big a polluter as industry. We all have more leisure time, and we must ensure that we do not create the problems that industry used to create.
Many people enjoy keeping pets. As other hon. Members have said, one person's dog is another person's problem with dog excreta. One person's chance to admire the Lake District—as hundreds of thousands of people do each year—becomes somebody else's traffic jam. One person's opportunity to enjoy a run along the Pennine way will cause erosion problems and someone else, perhaps an elderly or disabled person, will have to struggle up a different path.
One may enjoy a drink of Coca Cola on a mountainside, but find that someone else does not take the trouble to take his can back with him. Someone goes rock climbing, puts a hand into a crevice, finds a rusty tin can, and gets a nasty cut. Leisure causes many problems.
I am disappointed by the proposals in the Bill to reorganise the Countryside Commission and the Nature Conservancy Council. The Bill does not seem to tackle the problems. There should have been a more radical consideration of how to link national parks and conservation and leisure interests in the countryside. The measures in the Bill owe something to Scottish Ministers' desire to make profits out of the countryside.
I have to watch the time, so I shall move on to one issue about which I am particularly concerned—the destruction of peat lands in Britain. It is nice to go to the garden centre, pick up a bag of peat and put it around the flowers. One feels that one is doing one's little bit for greenery, but one is destroying a natural habitat. We must use more compost.
Huge amounts of limestone pavement are being torn up for people's gardens. That is appalling. Right hon. and hon. Members fought hard on wildlife and countryside legislation, and we got assurances from the Government, but nothing has happened.
Let us consider areas in Greater Manchester that have been polluted. For example, there are the problems of methane gas seepage from tips, to which I referred. We must find the resources to clean them up.
There is also the problem of having enough sufficiently qualified staff to enforce the process, because if one does not have the staff, one will not get a solution.
I am disappointed that the Government did not include provisions for proper access to the countryside in the Bill. Time and again we had promises from the Government that they would do that, but they ran away from them. The Government ought to introduce a clear measure to enable people to have access to the countryside.
The Bill merely tinkers at the edges of green issues. It is not a truly green Bill and it will not leave Britain in good heart for the future. Nor will it give the people in Britain the democratic opportunity to understand green issues and to influence them by their decisions. The Bill is a great missed opportunity.
§ Mr. Robert B. Jones (Hertfordshire, West)
I disagree with the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett), who said that his experiences in Manchester had led him to believe that environmental problems were a failure of capitalism. One need only visit eastern Europe to see the failures of Socialism, and to learn the real lesson—not the one given by the hon. Gentleman—that democracy and open Government are necessary to prevent environmental deterioration and that there is a link between wealth, economic growth and the ability to do something about the environment. The lack of those factors has caused the failures in eastern Europe. They will be a challenge for the European Community and for Britain, as a member of the Community, although it will be difficult to tackle the problem in the next few years. How do we help eastern Europe to tackle its environmental problems, without subsidising it to pollute further?
I welcome the Bill. As the speeches of other members of the Select Committee on the Environment have made clear and, no doubt, will make clear later in the debate, the Bill has our fingerprints all over it. The Bill must be seen against the background of the Water Act 1989 and the promised White Paper on environmental pollution which is due in the autumn. Step by step, we are moving towards an integrated environmental policy, and I think that that is right. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) that the policy must include energy and transport.
As an environmentalist who has served on the Select Committee for six years, I view today's debate, and other debates on the environment, wrily. That is partly because there has been much attention from the media and politicians on the subject, and I fear that they will move to other issues when the next bandwagon begins to roll. But one must not be too cynical. Any politician who is interested in an issue is pleased when it reaches the top of the political agenda and some attention is focused on problems that might otherwise be neglected.
The attitude of people giving evidence to the Select Committee has changed, and that has been pleasing to see. We have moved on from the complacency of the Central Electricity Generating Board when we first considered acid rain in 1974 to the ready acceptance by nearly all witnesses today that there are serious problems in the environment which need to be tackled nationally and internationally.
What criteria should be used to judge the proposals? The Bill is a hotch-potch, although all the measures should be welcomed. One should judge it against some guiding principles which I hope will influence the White Paper later this year. It is important that there should be an arm's-length relationship between the Government and those who cause pollution. That was the trouble with the water industry. Until recently the Government both owned the polluters and tried to regulate them, and that is never satisfactory.
The National Rivers Authority is a tremendous step in the right direction. The Bill maintains that principle through integrated pollution control, which I welcome. Britain is the first country to set that example and I hope that others will follow.
There is widespread recognition that land, water and air cannot be separated in the way that they are treated, because pollution spills from one to the other. I welcome 79 what was said earlier about the staffing of Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution. The unhappy background to the matter has worried the Select Committee more than once. I hope that what I read in newpapers at the weekend about additional funding, partly through the "polluter pays" principle, was a correct interpretation of the Government's intentions. No doubt we shall explore that in Committee.
I am not happy about the reliance on county councils operating as waste disposal authorities, even through companies set up for that purpose. I should prefer, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) said earlier, a system involving large regional authorities, which would be freer from the NIMBY syndrome and could consider more strategically the issues of waste disposal.
The logic of the arm's-length relationship should eventually lead the Government to embrace the case for an environmental protection agency, not necessarily in the form of the United States body but in a form that leads steadily to a more important role for HMIP. No doubt my hon. Friend the Minister will say something about that general principle when he replies to the debate.
The "polluter pays" principle is right because its market approach will lead to companies examining their pollution sure in the knowledge that they will have to pay if they do not minimise emissions into the atmosphere, on to land or into water.
Environmental legislation should be performance, not design, based. One difficulty with European legislation is that it is obsessed with one means of securing an end rather than trying to set a target that can be steadily lowered to try to tighten the screws on polluters. The catalytic converter may improve some environmental problems, but it worsens others. It would be far better if EC and national legislation set emission control standards but left industry to develop the technology necessary to achieve them. The reliance in the Bill on best available techniques may eventually become an infectious concept that will get into the European bloodstream, and we may see improved legislation from Europe in due course.
Internationalism should be one principle by which we judge the Bill and other environmental legislation. There is no doubt that one country's pollution causes problems for another country. It is difficult to foresee how we shall legislate at national and international level on the great problems of acid rain, the greenhouse effect and chlorofluorocarbons. That was one of the weaknesses of the inadequate case advanced by the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) It is also the reason why many measures do not appear in the Bill but must instead await a more co-ordinated international approach.
Most of the Bill's provisions are welcome. If I had been asked a few months ago what I thought about reorganisation of the Nature Conservancy Council, I should have been inclined to say that I opposed it, but I am happy with the arrangements announced by my right hon. Friend because they will achieve the two most important objectives of those who were worried—to maintain the scientific base and to ensure that what may not be an important environmental issue for each of the constituent countries but is important to Britain as a whole and to 80 European countries is considered. That body is chaired by a very fine man, who is supported by other highly qualified appointments at national level. I very much welcome that.
I am delighted that at long last a ban on straw and stubble burning has been included in legislation. Over the years, I have listened to the National Farmers Union provide excuse after excuse, but most responsible farmers do not burn stubble. In my constituency, despite farmers being told that they needed to burn stubble, we have reached the stage where it is very rare, and in the summer there was practically none. It is not only an environmental problem but a safety problem. It causes accidents on the roads and difficulties and unpleasantness for pedestrians and cyclists. I welcome that provision, although it is long overdue.
This is an excellent Bill. It is only a step towards an environmental policy and environmental legislation of which Britain can be proud, but it will become a model for other countries to follow in years to come. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)
I speak not only as a member of a political party but perhaps more as a west highlander, whose region has frequently been the cockpit of controversy on environmental issues in recent years. There is no doubt that those controversies influenced the Government in bringing forward the proposals in part VII. I wish to devote my remarks to the proposals to reorganise the Nature Conservancy Council.
Let me make it quite clear from the outset that I believe in a decentralised—indeed, federal—structure for the NCC, because I believe in the widest possible discussion on and involvement in the matters covered by the Bill.
Although the Government have justified their proposals on the ground of better involvement of local interests, the sad irony is that they did not consult, discuss with or involve anyone before introducing their proposals on the NCC. Their methods have been at odds with their declarations. Consequently, they have managed to arouse a quite spectacular degree of opposition, suspicion and confusion about their plans.
Even those who support decentralisation in principle, as I do, must be leery of the Government's motives. They certainly have not been conspicuous enthusiasts of Scottish devolution in other sectors, so why in this one? Do they want to create a conservation body that more genuinely involves community opinion in Scotland, or are they creating yet another quango stuffed with political placemen that will be subservient to landowning interests, who already carry too much weight within the Scottish Office?
Those are real and disturbing questions, and the Secretary of State's announcement today, although welcome, does not answer them fully. My right hon. and hon. Friends are quite right to withhold their support for Second Reading on that ground, among others.
Having said that, it may be possible, through hard work in Committee, to achieve the generally independent, locally rooted, properly resourced and properly co-ordinated conservation bodies that we should wish to see. I keep an open mind about that, and genuinely hope that some consensus will emerge in Committee on that important issue.
81 In the time remaining to me, I should like to address myself more directly to bodies outside the House such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Friends of the Earth and others, which have been so outspoken not only on this issue but on general environmental and conservation issues affecting the Highlands and Islands.
If the Government have gone about the reorganisation of the NCC in a clumsy manner liable to arouse justifiable suspicion about their motives, it must also be said that the initial reaction of much of the conservation lobby has been at fault, particularly in the patronising assumption that is too often displayed, and which has already been referred to by the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), that forces outside the Highlands and Islands know better than highlanders what is good for them.
Highlanders are all too familiar with that attitude. Two hundred years ago, we were forbidden to speak our own language—we were told that it was for our own good to learn English. One hundred years ago, highlanders were cleared from their homes and packed into emigration vessels to America. Again, we were told that that was for our own good.
Today, high-minded and well-intentioned bodies are again trying to tell us what is good for us. Although we undoubtedly have much to learn from them, I hope that they will appreciate that it is a two-way process and that it is simply not acceptable to dictate solutions to the ordinary people of the Highlands and Islands.
We acknowledge the superior political power and resources of these lobby and interest groups—the RSPB, for example, has more members than the Highlands and Islands have people—but I hope that in turn they will acknowledge the importance of the principle of local democracy and will be prepared to work with the grain of local feeling. Too often, I am sorry to say, the southern-based environmental lobby, including the NCC, has been seen by ordinary highlanders as alien, aloof, insensitive, remote and sadly devoid of any appreciation of the special history and culture of the Highlands and Islands. Too often, it has failed to acknowledge what Frank Fraser Darling so clearly recognised as long ago as the 1940s—that one cannot understand the natural history of the Highlands without comprehending its social and political history, which is exactly why he subtitled his magisterial "West Highland Survey", "A Study in Human Ecology". In protecting the ecology, we must not forget the human.
I feel that sometimes "conservation" can be a misleading term. As Fraser Darling also pointed out, the Highlands and Islands are in many ways a "man-made desert"—the product not of natural processes but of the ill-treatment of nature by man, particularly in the past three centuries and particularly by the great landowners who held unchecked sway and who, unfortunately, are still too influential in the Conservative party. We should be concerned not with the simple preservation of the existing environment but with the enhancement and regeneration not only of its natural resources but, equally important, of its social and cultural communities.
That is why I deplore the almost complete lack of reference in any of the submissions that I have received on this issue and in articles that I have read to the feelings and opinions of the local communities. This appalling blindness among too many of the environmental opinion-formers explains why the stock of so many environmental pressure groups is so low in the Highlands. 82 This lack of mutual understanding is profoundly damaging. It cannot form the pattern for the future if the true interests of areas such as the Highlands are to be safeguarded.
I want to State two principles that should inform thinking and debate on these issues. First, we should take a much broader view of conservation; we should see it as enhancing and regenerating the environment and not simply preserving it, and we should accept that social, economic and cultural issues must all have a part to play in this broader conception, including, apparently, political issues such as the structure of land ownership.
Secondly, we should work to create a genuine green alliance, not between one environmental pressure group and another but between such groups and the local communities whose lives they hope to influence. If these two sides can start to talk to each other, learn from each other and work together, we can at last begin to restore the depleted resources that we have inherited from the malpractice of the past.
§ Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)
I should have thought that everything that the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) said showed support for a Scottish Nature Conservancy Council, because it would be much nearer his constituency, but it is up to the hon. Gentleman how he votes.
I welcome the Bill. It is a major step forward and a continuation of the programme that the Government launched in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Every clause in the Bill is important, but I want to concentrate: on the Nature Conservancy Council, of which I am a member. I attend the United Kingdom council meetings and as many as possible of the Scottish Committee meetings. Naturally, I see the English and Welsh papers and those of the Committee on science and on birds. Tonight I am speaking for myself.
The NCC has evolved from a small conservancy council allied to the Natural Environment Research Council into a major organisation employing 1,100 people. The chairman and staff have done well, particularly in the urgent work of notifying sites of special scientific interest and implementing the Wildlife and Countryside Act, but that does not mean that we could not do much better.
Many criticisms made of the Bill were made of the Wildlife and Countryside Act—it would not work; the Government got it wrong; the voluntary organisations and the other place were against it; and so on. A positive and constructive Committee stage meant that it turned out to be a pretty effective Act. Of course there are imperfections but, by and large, it is well regarded, and I am sure that we can do the same with this Bill.
For a number of years, I have been advocating change informally within the NCC and last spring I spoke more emphatically at a conference. I included these words in a press release:The NCC was enormously strengthened by the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. It was the first measure of this Government to secure the proper conservation of the habitat of wildlife and marine life. I believe we should work towards developing a separate Scottish NCC with a full scientific staff to back up our Edinburgh headquarters and Regional offices.I am pleased that we will do just that.
We seem to be becoming a nation that resists every change, almost on principle. I can only believe that some 83 of the governing bodies against change this time have acted on first impressions, not on current facts. Perhaps, too, they have been misled by some press releases and Statements from Peterborough that gave the impression that the NCC was against the Bill. The majority of those on the council are in favour of the Bill. Many are strongly in favour, especially the Welsh and the Scots, but I emphasise the English Committee as well.
§ Sir Hector Monro
No; the NCC does not operate by voting, but anyone who sits in the council chamber knows exactly who is on one side and who is on another.
§ Sir Hector Monro
Most sensible councils do not have votes left and right. They decide what is the consensus.
The major points of concern were requests for a co-ordinating scientific Committee and for an independent chairman. Both requests have been met by the Government and, dramatically, by the announcements today. I cannot imagine a better person as the chairman-designate than Professor Fred Holliday, an academic and previous chairman of the NCC. He would not have given his name as chairman of the new co-ordinating Committee unless he was satisfied that he had the powers, authority and resources needed.
The decision to have Magnus Magnusson as chairman of the Scottish Committee was a master stroke, which will be warmly welcomed in Scotland because of his knowledge of its heritage and of conservation. Lord Cranbrook, who is to be the chairman of the English Committee, has an outstanding reputation in the other place and throughout the country for conservation. The calibre of those names should dispel the Opposition's criticism of the Government's appointments. It is hard to understand how the Labour party can vote against the Bill when there is such strength of opinion in favour of it.
In Scotland, the Bill has been welcomed—of course, not by every organisation but certainly by a majority. This should not be a political issue. It is one of common sense and improved conservation. I have expressed my disappointment at the lack of enthusiasm from Peterborough. Naturally, the position of the staff had to be safeguarded, and that was quickly confirmed by the Government. I accept that there must be some movement away from Peterborough and some disruption of domestic life, but perhaps the high quality of life in Scotland and Wales will be some compensation.
I have felt some resentment at the Statements by some governing bodies and others that Scotland and Wales were not capable of running their own nature conservation organisations even with a strong scientific base and adequate resources. Of course we are capable of doing that. We will play a full part nationally and internationally. Each area will provide effective input either to the co-ordinating Committee or directly to the Government, who after all are responsible for the legislation and our international conservation arrangements. The Nature Conservancy Council is an adviser to the Government. It must exercise statutory duties in 84 relation to sites of special scientific interest and other matters but the Government are ultimately responsible for ensuring that its duties are carried out.
Scotland looks forward to having its own scientific base—perhaps in Edinburgh or at Battleby. I am sure that we shall be able to provide a quicker response to some of our perennial problems, such as the flow country, afforestation, fish farming, recreation in the hills, ski-ing and marine nature reserves. The Scottish Committee, under Alex Trotter and its director John Francis, has done an excellent job, and I am sure that it will look forward to commissioning further research from the Scottish universities, as well as providing its own scientific back-up.
Conservation officers in Scotland are thin on the ground. The regional officer for the west and south-west of Scotland, for example, is based at Loch Lomond. That is a long way from the Solway, which has an equally important interest in conservation. Having our own base will enable us to have more offices nearer to the people in Scotland and to keep much more sensitively in touch with local affairs. We shall also be able to keep in touch with FWAG, the farm and wildlife advisory group and the conservation groups. The jewel in our crown, the island of Rhum, is administered from Inverness, which is a very long way away. The nearer that we can get in dealing with local matters such as those of which the hon. Member for Western Isles spoke, the better. We should also seek to establish a much closer link with the Red Deer Commission, which will have an important part to play in Scotland in the immediate future.
We must also look to the next Session, when we shall forge a link between the NCC and the Countryside Commission. The Countryside Commission has given a valuable and detailed response to the merger and great credit is due to Roger Carr and his colleagues for their outstanding work at Battleby. We shall be able to remove any existing overlap of responsibilities, and I can see nothing but good from our coming together. With bodies such as the National Trust for Scotland and many enthusiastic governing bodies, the future looks good, and I believe that the developments will be a success. We shall have a heritage and conservation body of remarkable quality. The Countryside Commission has been consulting many people in Scotland about the future of the national parks, and I hope that it will be very cautious in how it proceeds.
I am confident that the Bill is right. Conservation of British wildlife, habitats and landscape will be in good hands, and we may have the best arrangements in the world coupled with the best legislation. The Bill will establish local control but allow for international influence and leadership, and I wish it well.
§ Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)
It is a year ago to the day since I presented the Hedgerows Bill. I presented it on the occasion of the centenary of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and I was on King's Cross station that day to hear the Prime Minister call for the protection of hedgerows as we had lost 120,000 miles of hedgerow in the preceding four decades. I was deeply distressed—as were some Conservative Members—when the Government decided to block the Bill.
Occasionally, though, we have had successes. My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) 85 managed to steer through the House a Bill to improve the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. He did so in the teeth of hostility from the Department of the Environment, which, in Committee, removed four of the six parts of the Bill and emasculated the fifth. The House of Lords, in its wisdom, improved the Bill by restoring it to the condition in which my hon. Friend had presented it to the House, and I hope that, if we cannot secure the necessary improvements to the present Bill in Committee, they will be secured in the other place.
Two days after the Bill presented by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields was passed, the Government issued a press Statement proclaiming that it was a Government Bill. No doubt that has gone down as one of the pieces of evidence that the Government have successfully and consistently promoted the interests of conservation and the environment.
That view was expressed when the NCC headquarters in Peterborough was opened a few years ago. I was greatly honoured to be asked to speak at that opening, along with the Secretary of State, who announced at that gathering that every conservation Bill that had gone through the House in the previous quarter of a century had come from a Conservative Government. Presumably the Government were taking credit for having thought of Bills such as that introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields years before.
I have a high regard for Sir William Wilkinson and the staff of the NCC, and I was therefore horrified by the dismemberment proposals. The present Secretary of State has gone a long way to repair the damage that his predecessor caused when he introduced similar proposals in a rather less well-considered way. The fact remains, however, that in Committee the Minister will have to provide a little more evidence of his commitment. I note, for example, that the last sentence of the Statement issued by the NCC on 7 November said that the new Committeemust…be capable of driving forward nature conservation…as a whole".The Committee and all the bodies and individuals concerned will need convincing of that.
I hope that the Committee will be able to promote and directly object to private Bills. I know that it has petitioned against private Bills in the past few years. During the past 18 months, we have witnessed the spectacle of private Bills being pushed through with Government majorities. We have watched hon. Members led through the lobbies by a rejoicing Secretary of State—not the present Secretary of State—gleefully dismissing the advice that he had been given by statutory organisations.
I do not want to say much more than that about the nature conservation aspects of the Bill, although I hope that, during the passage of the Bill, something will be done to improve sections 28 and 29 of the 1981 Act and the provisions of that Act relating to species protection.
The Minister will be well aware that my main interest this evening is a matter that is also of grave concern to my constituents. As you will be aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have 2,711 drums of toxic waste in my constituency at present. The waste came from the United States. It has been in our area for many months. It had to be placed in secure drums, and I am grateful to the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities who was on duty when I saw him in August, for giving orders that it should immediately be securely drummed. I am also grateful to the Minister for the Environment and Countryside for receiving a 86 deputation from my area in September. He will be aware that we have had the waste for a long time now and that there is deep anxiety that it is still here and could be here for many months to come.
There is a particular reason for my anger this evening. Last week, the Minister courteously sent me a note and a copy of the summary report of the American Environmental Protection Agency. The agency had led the Department, which should have known better, to believe that the waste was not toxic because an American statute said that it was not toxic because it was to leave the United States. If it had stayed in the United States, it would have become subject to another American law, which would have said that it was toxic. That means that the waste is not toxic while it is in Britain, but would be toxic if it were in the United States.
If a British firm had done to the United States what that American firm has done to Britain, the American response would have been far more vigorous and positive than ours has been. The American warships would already be sailing up the Humber with marine band playing—that should appeal to the Minister—and guns pointed.
The American attitude really is an outrage, not least because the EPA took its samples at the same time as samples were taken by British Rail and the local authorities in south Yorkshire. The Minister is aware of that. We were aware of the contents of that material last July and I wrote to the American ambassador in August and, as I received no reply, I wrote again in November. Both letters were extremely courteous. At the end of November, I was informed that the EPA was analysing the material, samples of which it had had since July.
I then discovered from the American media that it was not the Americans' fault. The American media reported that the poison was added while the waste was in Wath upon Dearne, a mile from my home. The Minister will be aware that the material at Wath was of the same type as that which did not reach Wath, which has not been touched and is in a British Rail depot near Leeds. I have kept in very close touch with my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) about this matter.
The American authorities are aware that it is a canard to suggest that the American company is not responsible. It is also unacceptable for the American authorities to describe the cocktail of poisons as non-toxic. They cannot deny that the analysis carried out by British scientists is perfectly respectable and accurate. The material was said to be free of harmful impurities when it reached Britain. The analysis found that it contained 4.5 per cent. contaminated matter, including xylene, 7 hydrogen, 23 dioxyroxy-2.2 dimethylbenzofuran and other contaminated material. It is outrageous that the activities of an American company should apparently be endorsed by the American Government.
I have been critical of the British response and of the Department of the Environment. However, the greatest criticism is due to the Foreign Office. I was assured by the Minister of State, Foreign Office, last September that the Foreign Office was pursuing the matter vigorously. A number of checks have been made and no one of any significance or importance in the State Department in Washington has any recollection of representations made on behalf of the British people. If the material had been 87 dumped in Surrey, Sussex or in the more salubrious areas favoured by the Conservative party, perhaps a little more concern would have been shown about it.
As I told the Minister last September, this case illustrates the most inadequate regulations. I remember telling the Minister that I hoped that, when the green Bill was before the House, the appalling loopholes demonstrated by the Wath upon Dearne experience would be closed. I said that I hoped that the Bill would be bipartisan and that we could support it. Unfortunately, the Bill States only that the Minister will take powers to effect regulations. There are no guarantees that the loopholes will be closed so that the dumping to which I have referred will not be repeated in my area or elsewhere. Until there are clear assurances that the present pathetically inadequate regulations will be improved, the House has no right to give automatic support to this Bill.
§ Mr. David Evans (Welwyn, Hatfield)
The Bill has my enthusiastic support. It is a wide-ranging and far-sighted measure. Given the constraints on time, I shall confine my remarks to the part of the Bill which deals with a problem that is more important than many people realise. It constitutes a stain on Britain's reputation. British lager louts abroad besmirch the proud name of Britain and foreigners acquire a poor image of Britain. When they visit our shores, they find a once green and pleasant land cluttered with muck and litter. The centre of London is a particular disgrace. The streets are not so much paved with gold as with the remains of last night's pizzas. My hon. Friend the Prime Minister reflected the importance of this subject last year by collecting litter in Hyde park.
We are right to be committed to the atmosphere, but the British people are very concerned about their streets, highways and fields. The people of Welwyn and Hatfield in particular believe that it is important for local authorities to be more responsible for clean streets. The people of Welwyn and Hatfield have not had their rubbish collected for months because they have an ill-trained, incompetent, Labour-run authority. The same problem does not exist in Wheathampstead, which is only a few miles down the road. That is a clue for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. In Wheathampstead, the local street cleaner and local dustmen know all 7,000 or 8,000 people who live in the town. The people do not want to throw litter into the streets because they respect each other.
People who drop litter are physical polluters. They leave discarded waste in our fields and on our streets. But they are also moral polluters. They encourage others by sending out signals that they do not care. They are irresponsible and give no thought to the effect of their actions. They make the landscape unsightly and create dangers for other people. Some people even throw away toxic waste and medicines, which are a threat to adults and children alike.
The Bill deals with an important part of the problem, but only part of it. That is all that it can do. The Government could help to combat the problem by giving magistrates and the police powers to deal with litter louts. But legal penalties cannot solve the problem; only society as a whole can do that.
88 People must be taught not to litter. The process is primarily one of education, and that means parents instilling the necessary sense of responsibility in their children. If children litter, the blame lies in part with their parents. Schools, as well as other public bodies, must educate children about the perils of littering and citizens must be vigilant and prepared to tell litter louts to stop. A large part of the problem at the moment is that we turn a blind eye to people who litter our streets. Pressure and public embarrassment are essential to stop them. In short, we all have a part to play.
The Government are doing their bit with this Bill. But we must go beyond that. Magistrates must be prepared to use the powers given to them. It is useless increasing penalties if those penalties are not imposed. The Bill increases the maximum penalty for littering from £400 to £1,000. It may interest hon. Members to know that in 1988 only two people received the maximum sentence which represented 0.1 per cent. of the total number of people who were fined. Yet that was a 100 per cent. increase on the year before, when only one person received the maximum penalty. I hope that a Home Office circular will follow the enactment of the Bill to guide magistrates in making use of their new powers.
Local authorities must also comply with their obligations, not just with the minimum requirements laid down by statute, but with the regulations under which they will be more accountable in the Bill. They must educate people and provide the means by which litter can be collected effectively and easily. There are often too few litter bins and they are often inadequate. Bins are invariably too small and open-topped. Litter overflows and is blown about. Local authorities must engage in extensive rethinking with a greater emphasis on education and on extending the availability of the means for collecting litter.
Local retailers and shopkeepers must also assume a greater responsibility for keeping their frontages litter-free. In particular, fast food retail outlets should realise that they are as responsible as their customers for the discarded food trays and wrappings that litter pavements outside their premises. They should also try to educate their customers and ensure that the street is kept clean. Failure to do that should be actionable. If we cannot get them to do those things voluntarily, let us have litter wardens who could fine offenders on the spot.
Recycling can provide a real, practical solution to pollution problems. For that reason, I welcome the Government's decision to give local authorities clear guidance on the priority that they must attach to recycling, as well as a statutory duty to include provisions for recycling in their waste disposal plans.
The serious national problem of litter can be resolved only by everyone doing something about it. We need to restore a sense of personal and civic pride. The Bill is a move in the right direction, and it sends the necessary message. It is up to all of us to make sure that the message is heard and acted upon. Please note, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that before I resume my seat, I am folding my notes and putting them back in my pocket, and not letting them be strewn about the Chamber, as many hon. Members are prone to do. In any event, I hope that I will need to refer to them in Committee.
I support the Bill and recommend it to the House.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. Although it is 8 o'clock, many hon. Members will be disappointed unless other hon. Members can sustain the brevity of their speeches. I appeal to hon. Members to try to keep their speeches brief.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)
I shall try to follow your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and keep my speech within 10 minutes.
I am somewhat disappointed with the Bill because it does not go as far as one would wish. Opposition Members look forward to the White Paper and hope that the Bill to follow will deal with some omissions. In November last year, before the Bill was published, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said that an amendment on straw stubble would be tabled. Today, the Secretary of State said that he would table an amendment to deal with the Nature Conservancy Council and the co-ordinating body. That is an encouraging move in the right direction. The previous Secretary of State was not prepared to listen to sensible proposals. There will be an opportunity in Committee to make important and positive improvements to the Bill.
I sat on the Select Committee that reported on toxic waste. We must remember that the Government have been in office for more than 10 years. It is surprising that more Government action was taken on waste and that more consultation documents went out last year than in the previous nine years. The Minister will not be able to deny that fact. Even before they report, Select Committees at least spur the Government into action.
It is useful to look at the Select Committee's report and the evidence to ascertain why some conclusions were reached. The Select Committee recommended the establishment of 10 national bodies for regulation of waste disposal. County councils gave evidence. It was appalling that three different sets of evidence were given by three political parties and that a fourth version came from council officers. It was not surprising that there was some concern. It is true that some local authorities are extremely good at waste disposal and regulation, but the bad authorities are very bad, and the Committee referred to that point in its report.
The Secretary of State referred to contaminated land. A report on contaminated land will he published within the next month or so. As there are sure to be some useful proposals for the Standing Committee, I hope that the Government will be able to give a speedy response to the report. If they are not able to respond before Report, they will certainly be able to do so before the Bill is considered in another place.
If we are to confer duties on local authorities, we should be sure to give to them the powers and financial resources to enable them to carry out their responsibilities. Hon. Members have said that they doubt whether that will be the case.
I agree with the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) that the public must be educated to stop throwing litter around and that fast-food outlets and others have a responsibility. Many councils have cut cleansing and litter collection services because of the financial restraints that have been imposed on them. The Minister may say that privatisation and competition will enable those services to be carried out more efficiently. I do not wish to go into 90 great detail, but the Bill allows councils to enforce required standards. I have been to some local authority areas where such services are carried out by the private sector. The situation is appalling—there has been no difference. The authorities that are spending money and doing the job themselves, are doing a good job. Opposition Members want local authorities to be provided with sufficient resources to tackle the problem.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) referred to dog fouling. Many hon. Members get letters about that problem and want it to be resolved. Unless there is an enforceable registration scheme, it will be extremely difficult to eliminate problems caused by dogs. There is widespread feeling on the matter. I hope that the new Secretary of State will think again about rejecting the existing power to impose such a scheme.
We must remember the problems of the National Rivers Authority. Hon. Members who debated the Water Bill in Committee doubted whether it would have the resources and powers to do the job that it was established to do. On two occasions, the NRA has told the Select Committee on the Environment that it doubts whether it has the resources to do the job. It is no good passing this Bill without ensuring that the necessary resources are available. I brought a pollution problem in my constituency to the attention of the National Rivers Authority. It said that the power to deal with that problem has been excluded from the Water Act 1989 and that it must use the power of persuasion. We all know the power of persuasion when it comes to dealing with certain problems. It does not work.
Some aspects of the Bill are limited, and do not go as far as Opposition Members would wish. We want properly enforceable powers and adequate resources.
Despite what the Secretary of State said, there is concern about the Nature Conservancy Council. That point has been mentioned by several hon. Members. It is well known that there is hostility to the NCC by certain vested and landed interests in Scotland. Mr. Ian Prestt, the director general of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said:what they want is a body which does not stand up for conservation and cannot press the conservation case.
One of the main battlegrounds between those vested and landed interests and conservationists has been the flow country of Caithness and Sutherland. The Government sold out when they accepted a report of Highland regional council and agreed that at least 100,000 hectares should be afforested. The NCC was opposed to further afforestation. It was overruled and, to add insult to injury, the Secretary of State for Scotland decided to change the rules. In future, the NCC is to be allowed to give its opinion on afforestation only when a site of special scientific interest is directly affected.
That victory for landowners and foresters sowed the seeds of this Bill. Despite what the Secretary of State has said, we are still concerned about protection and conservation because we can already see the dangers. We should like the provisions to be considerably tightened.
In the Government's 1989 document entitled "Environment in Trust", they Stated:The environment knows no boundaries. Many… issues go beyond the borders of individual countries".That is one reason why we believe that the bodies involved should not be split up. I am not against devolution, but we must look at all the aspects involved with great care to 91 ensure that we achieve conservation and protection measures that work in the interests of the nation as a whole. We are reminded on so many occasions in the House when we are debating different issues that we must look at things on the basis of the national interest and ensure that we protect what we have, whether it be in England, Scotland or Wales.
The Bill may be a step in the right direction, but it is an extremely small step. Many issues will be the subject of interesting and long debate in Committee as we try to strengthen the parts of the Bill that deal with pollution, conservation and the other matters that are of great concern both to hon. Members and to the country as a whole.
§ Mr. Simon Burns (Chelmsford)
Unlike the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), with his mealymouthed comments, I enthusiastically welcome the Bill, which is an important measure to protect the environment in which we live. Just as the Education Act 1944 stood out as a beacon for many years in education, I believe that this second step in the Government's protection of the environment will stand out as a landmark and a benchmark by which we show our commitment to the environment. As a Government, we do not mouth platitudes about problems and what should be done. This Government are seeking to come up with constructive policies and ideas about the way to tackle the problems of the environment, such as pollution—both industrial and litter—waste disposal and the ruination of our towns and countryside.
I shall concentrate on the anti-litter aspect of the Bill. Serious concern has been expressed throughout the country and within the House this evening about the declining standards of cleanliness in this country. Last year a Department of the Environment poll showed that almost 75 per cent. of the people surveyed were worried about the litter problem, and an FDS Market Research poll has shown that 76 per cent. of the British public think that there is more litter on our streets and in our countryside now than 10 years ago.
Britain is in danger of becoming the dustbin of Europe. Our inner cities and towns are riddled with litter that has been abandoned by thoughtless and selfish litter louts. Our countryside suffers from the dumping of litter and our roads and motorways are ruined by people emptying waste from their motor car as they drive along. Fast-food packaging, crisp bags, disposable drinks containers and cigarette stubs mar our environment. We are a nation that wallows in filth.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for the strong lead that she provided long before other green campaigners jumped on the bandwagon, by identifying the problems and coming up with the constructive measures that the country demands to try to tackle them. It is obvious that the green crusaders are on the warpath. The Bill gives us the power to wage that war successfully.
I particularly welcome clause 72, which extends to all local authorities the powers that Westminster city council took under private legislation to empower its workers to issue fixed penalty tickets to litter louts in its streets. The 92 logical conclusion was that the Government should adopt the contents of my Control of Litter (Fines) Bill of last year, so that all local authorities that have desperately wanted those powers do not have to queue up to introduce private legislation, which takes up time and costs a great deal of money to implement. With one fell swoop, clause 72 gives all local authorities genuine powers to wage war against the litter louts.
However, I make a plea to my right hon. and hon. Friends that they think again about one aspect of the provisions. I believe that the money that will be collected in the magistrates courts from fixed penalty tickets should be given to the local authorities rather than the Treasury being allowed to get its grubby paws on it. I accept that we are not talking about millions of pounds, but if we were to give the local authorities any money gained from fines, it would greatly encourage them to enforce even more vigorously the new powers that they are being given. That money would also help them with the cost of fighting the litter problem.
I know that the stock answer from the Treasury is that over the past 30 years or so, since the Justices of the Peace Act 1949, all fines for offences taken by the courts are given to the Treasury. However, just because something has been done for the past 40 years, does not necessarily mean that now, in the 1990s, it is the correct procedure for us still to follow. It should not be forgotten—I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends are aware of this—that before the 1949 Act, certain moneys from fines were directed towards the local authorities. The Government should seriously reconsider that matter so that we can get back to the old and preferable system.
My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) mentioned increasing the maximum fine for litter offences outside the fixed penalty system. I am sure that, like me, all hon. Members warmly welcome the increase, raising the maximum fine from £400 to £1,000. However, as my hon. Friend correctly identified, there is a problem because at present the imposition of the penalties in the magistrates courts is a joke.
In 1987, just over 1,800 people were brought before the magistrates courts and fined for litter offences. As we have a population in England and Wales of about 50 million, that is a negligible number of people, considering the litter in our country. However, what is even worse is that the average fine imposed on those convicted was a mere £35 of the maximum £400 fine. When the figures are broken down, they show that the average has been bumped up to £35 only because there were a few large fines and that without those large fines the average would have been about £19.
There is little point in increasing the fine to £1,000 unless something is done to impose larger fines in the magistrates courts, so that they act as a deterrent to ensure that people do not commit offences with impunity. Under the old system, offenders were only rarely caught, and even if they were caught, they knew that the punishment dished out by the courts would be pitifully small. I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to have a gentle word with our noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, to see whether he can tactfully contact the magistrates courts and point out to them that the law will be changed when this legislation is on the statute book and that the maximum fine will be £1,000.
It is time that the courts reflected the wishes of the country and the Government who have set the penalties 93 and imposed larger fines on the serious litter louts and on those who throw away their cigarette packets or whatever, so that they know that the Government and the country mean it when we say that we want to stop litter louts. On top of the battery of other powers and the duty that is to be placed on a local authority to keep its area clean, a few hefty fines would soon create a deterrent that would make people think twice about causing pollution.
Education is also important. We can legislate as long and as often as we like, but legislation only creates a deterrent—people do not like to commit offences because they do not like the punishment. People must also be educated. Thirty years ago, children were brought up to respect the police, do what their elders told them, and not to throw litter. There is a lost generation between then and now. The parents of today have never told their children not to drop litter because most of them are dropping litter or emptying their ashtray through their window as they drive along.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the junior Minister at his Department have introduced initiatives in schools—Chelmsford has such initiatives—to make children care about the environment, and to teach them to clean up the playgrounds and the school buildings before they go home and not to throw litter. Soon, children will be teaching their parents not to be litter louts, because those initiatives come too late for one generation of parents—the lost generation—to teach their children.
I warmly welcome the Bill. The hon. Member for Dagenham will come to regret his mealy-mouthed speech. It will be shown to be irrelevant to the achievements that the Bill will make when it comes into force. When the Government introduce more steps in the process, he will also appreciate that this step-by-step approach is designed, once and for all, to go to the heart of the problem and to tackle it realistically, although not overnight.
§ Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) in his discourse on litter, but I shall follow some of the themes already explored by Scottish colleagues on both sides of the House in debating the future of conservation agencies and the Nature Conservancy Council in the United Kingdom.
We are seeing a strange turnround in the politics of devolution. The official Opposition apparently support the continued centralisation of an agency for the United Kingdom, while the Conservative party—particularly in the person of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), who has knowledge of the internal workings of the NCC—is advocating the devolution of the science base to Scotland and to Wales because this would result in a more effective conservation policy.
I was particularly attracted by the speech of the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) because he touched on the essential link between conservation policy, economic policy and the political structure. It can be summed up on the real meaning of the work ecology. By that, I mean not just the plant, flora and fauna ecology, but social, cultural and political ecology.
The debate on the future of the NCC has been conducted by the environmental lobby on a United Kingdom-wide basis in apparent ignorance of the practical 94 work on the ground, particularly in the part of the world that I have had the privilege to represent for 15 years—Snowdonia national park. The early pioneering work of R. E. Hughes and others in establishing the nature reserves in that geologically valuable and unique area was undertaken entirely on a voluntary basis because the people on the ground—scientists of the National Environment Research Council and subsequently of the NCC—were acceptable to the local farming community.
Similarly, the current director of the NCC in Wales, Professor Tom Pritchard, has continually used voluntary methods to obtain agreements so that the statutory compulsory powers available to the NCC over sites of special scientific interest did not have to be used. On a number of occasions, I and others have been involved in ensuring that agreement was reached between the farming community and the scientific interests so that the people in charge, in the NCC, the national park and other conservation agencies, worked together, alongside the landowners, the tenant farmers and the community.
We cannot have effective conservation or environmental policies without the support of the local community. I heard the Prime Minister make this point when she was opening an exhibition for Survival International. She said that one could not talk about ecological survival without talking also about the survival of the humans who were part of the ecology. If that is true of the more extreme conditions with which Survival International deals, it is certainly true in the highly developed environment and economy of Scotland and Wales.
Those in favour of a centralised body have ignored the active co-ordination between the countryside agencies in Scotland and Wales. The devolution of the Countryside Commission from Cheltenham to Wales and the establishment of the Countryside Council for Wales have been the subject of debate for 10 or 12 years. My predecessor, Mr. William Edwards, tabled amendments to what was then the Countryside Bill. The staff of the NCC Committee for Wales and the Countryside Commission have discussed the transfer of powers and co-ordination, not to achieve yet another Welsh quango but to ensure an integrated approach towards conservation, and so that the special contribution and the scientific expertise of the NCC can stand alongside the policies pursued by the Countryside Commission within and outside the national parks.
In Wales, there is genuine, near-universal support, with the exception of the Labour party, for the proposal for the Countryside Council for Wales. We see it as the conclusion of the process of co-ordination, working together arid integration on the countryside issue. We look forward to the body developing ecology policies within Wales to strengthen the scientific base in a way that will enable us to contribute more effectively to conservation on the European mainland and elsewhere.
I fail to understand the logic of those who say that, by maintaining a centralised scientific base in Peterborough, we are maintaining a higher level of scientific expertise in the United Kingdom. I know that, for example, Peterborough has had to request geologists to deal with the unique geology of north Wales, and that is absurd. As a result of the reorganisation, it will be possible to maintain a more devolved scientific base closer to the community and to co-ordinate the various bodies more effectively.
95 Co-ordination does not stop at the Channel. European co-ordination is also important. Representing a mountain area, I am aware that the ecology of large parts of my constituency has much more in common with the alpine ecology of mainland Europe that it has with Peterborough. Therefore, for me it is important that the scientific expertise developed in mountain ecology throughout Europe is available, and that the work in Snowdonia is part of a far more broad-based scientific approach and is not confined to Great Britain or even the United Kingdom: I am pleased that conservation policies in Northern Ireland will be related to what has happened on the Great Britain level through the co-ordinating Committee, because there was an anomaly in the relationship between the NCC and Northern Ireland.
All those arguments create controversy which should not be there. We are strengthening the scientific base generally and relating it more closely to the needs of the community. Similarly, the Countryside Council for Wales will provide an opportunity to develop countryside policies in which conservation and environmental considerations are an integral part.
The Minister knows that we support the Government's conservation policy. This is one of the rare occasions when we support the Government. My final plea to the Minister is that the Welsh Office must adopt an integrated policy-making approach. The Scottish Office has taken a lead in that by designating a Minister for rural affairs. I can only echo the hon. Member for Western Isles who talked about the need to integrate an approach which concerns the economic well-being of a community and the ecology and habitat of an area. The Welsh Office has failed to become the territorial Department that it should be, and that probably applies to the Scottish Office, too.
Although responsibilities for forestry, tourism, recreation, national parks, transportation, social policies, housing, agriculture and the Development Board for Rural Wales reside in the Welsh Office, it does not have an identifiable countryside policy. I do not think that the Department of the Environment has one for England either.
I want to see the liberation of England—indeed, I have spent many years arguing for it—from the failure to have a co-ordinated policy. I should like to see the Welsh Office, through the new Countryside Council for Wales, adopting and implementing an integrated countryside policy so that the conflicts between access and conservation are mitigated and, particularly, so that the contribution of hill farming to conservation can be properly recognised and funded. Sheep farmers and others face an incomes crisis. There is an opportunity for the farming community to become more than ever the stewards of the whole countryside and ecology, but they need effective policy and income support to do that.
For the reasons that I have outlined, my party supports the objectives of the Bill. We shall certainly not support the official Opposition amendment tonight because yet again they have failed to see the potential for effective devolution of policy to Wales and Scotland.
§ Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)
I hope that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas) will forgive me if I do not pursue the lines and angles that he has introduced into the debate. I do not have his specialised knowledge on those points. I should like to widen the debate. I was most interested in what he said and certainly did not substantially disagree with him on any particular issue.
As a member of the Select Committee on the Environment I find immediate common ground with our Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi), and with my hon. Friends the Members for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) and for Hertfordshire, West (Mr. Jones) who have already spoken. No doubt my hon. Friends the Members for Wyre (Mr. Mans) and for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham) will catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and they, too, may find common ground with my points.
The Bill is surely to be warmly welcomed and strongly supported at least in two respects. The propositions relating to integrated pollution control and waste management seek to establish standards clearly in advance of anything that prevails in Europe now, and they are greatly to be welcomed for that. The implications are far-reaching. There is scarcely an industrial process and certainly no waste management process which will not be affected by the proposals.
As there are still restrictions on time I shall confine my remarks to integrated pollution control and waste management. In so far as my comments are critical, it is only in the sense that a good Bill can become even better through work in Committee.
I am not entirely convinced from the Bill, Ministerial comment or the consultation process that the Government have fully grasped the enormity of what they are undertaking. We gather from consultation and Government Statements that the Government believe that about 3,000 industrial sites may come under integrated pollution control. One can summon two strong witnesses who will challenge that: the Chemical Industries Association and the Confederation of British Industry. Such bodies believe that that is a gross underestimate. The question whether the integrated pollution control mechanism will be suitably qualified and experienced has not yet been answered. Where will the people come from? What will be the numbers? Have the Government fully appreciated the financing and manning required to operate an effective integrated pollution control system?
A second question must be asked about integrated pollution control. The system could easily become a bureaucrats' paradise. In its negotiations with the Government the CBI has tried to make this point something of a reductio ad absurdum, but it is a valid debating point. It argues that an industrial process involving HMIP, the National Rivers Authority, the privatised water utilities, waste regulatory authorities, the Health and Safety Executive and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will result in a confusion of authorities concerned with pollution control. To avoid that there must be one enforcement agency and, arguably, the Bill insufficiently gives that role to HMIP.
97 The bureaucrats' paradise can be further promoted by the lack of definition within the Bill. One or two hon. Members have already drawn attention to that. One expression which will feature greatly in Committee isthe best available techniques not involving excessive costs.Who defines "best"? Why "techniques", not "technology"? Who decides what costs are excessive? Answers to those questions are not found in the Bill and I hope that they will be found speedily in Committee.
For a long time the National Association of Waste Disposal Contractors, the Select Committee on the Environment and the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology have demanded strengthened controls over the generation of waste, it disposal and its continuing control in landfill sites. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green pointed to the fragmented nature of waste management control in the Bill.
Local authorities are to be waste regulatory authorities. There are 173 such authorities in Great Britain and a further 26 in Northern Ireland, making a grand total of 199. In West Germany there are 25 waste regulatory authorities and in Italy 30. There seems to be overkill in the United Kingdom. How can 199 authorities act consistently and coherently? How can 199 authorities each have a full range of scientific, technical and legal skills? The answer is that they cannot, and one does not blame them for that. One day this Government or another Government will have to acknowledge what the Select Committee on the Environment has been saying clearly—that we need to move to regional waste regulatory authorities.
A further point has already featured in the debate and I do not apologise for referring to it again. That is the confusion in relating part Ito part II of the Bill. Part I talks about integrated pollution controls controlling pollution caused by the release of substances into air and water and on to land. Part II sets up the WRAs, but most of the substances released into the land will be waste materials. Who will be responsible for those? Will it be the IPC or the WRAs? That confusion could undermine much of the good intention behind the Bill.
With many other hon. Friends I warmly welcome and strongly support the Bill. It is a good one and I believe it could become infinitely better by positive work in Committee.
§ Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)
On behalf of my constituents, I welcome the Bill in one respect, as it gives us the opportunity to debate environmental protection. That is a matter of great concern nationally, but it is of particular concern to my constituents who, in recent months, have had a cloud of sulphuric acid pass over them and a paint works explode near a residential area. They are also aware of a growing queue of applications to build waste incinerators in Kirby. Concern about environmental issues in my constituency, therefore, has been heightened. My constituents are well informed and they take a great interest in the subject.
Although I welcome the idea of the Bill, a detailed examination of its proposals reveals that there are two fundamental deficiencies in its approach. One of those deficiencies has been highlighted by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter). Clause 6 in part I and clause 64 in part III respectively refer to integrated pollution control 98 and statutory nuisances and clean air. Those parts of the Bill use the phrase which has been repeated today by the Secretary of State and several of his hon. Friends—"not entailing excessive cost". It is a matter of great concern that that phrase is tagged on to some of the protections provided in those parts of the Bill.
If it is left to operators and to manufacturers to decide what is and what is not excessive cost—the Bill is far from clear who will determine that—one can be sure that almost every item of environmental protection required for incinerators, chemical works and other places will be considered excessively costly. That is what will happen unless the Bill is tightened up in Committee.
Another problem at the heart of the Bill relates to clauses 18 and 54, concerning public information. The Bill States that, in cases of commercial confidentiality, the public, local authorities, Members of Parliament and so on will not have access to information. That seems reasonably innocuous, but I suspect that, in the past, many hon. Members, like me, have tried to find out exactly what is going on at a chemical works near or within their constituencies.
If the Secretary of State or any of his Ministers have never tried to find out such information, I recommend the exercise to them. If a firm does not want what it is up to broadcast and if one approaches various responsible authorities, such as the fire authority, the pollution inspectorate, the Health and Safety Executive or the local authority, one is told that the information is commercially sensitive or confidential.
Even now, Members of Parliament and local councillors, never mind local residents, cannot find out what is going on at various factories. When the Government talk about commercial confidentiality, I get extremely worried. After all, this is the Government who decided that we could not know how much it cost to advertise the water privatisation, as it was a matter of commercial confidentiality. They also decided that we could not find out how much money was spent on promoting housing action trusts for the same reason. They used the same argument to prevent us from knowing how much money was spent on publicising and promoting the docklands developments.
It is apparent that commercial confidentiality is erected, and will continue to be erected, as a great barrier against public access to information. People should be allowed to find out what is going on in their area.
I worked for about five years as an engineer in the chemical industry. I know that, if anyone believes that there is something magically secretive about what goes on at most chemical factories, they are living in a dream world. Often, what is going on at a chemical manufacturing plant has more to do with cookery than chemistry, and if any competitor wants to find out, it is fairly easy to do so. A few telephone calls and a few orders will enable the competitor to piece together what is going on.
Firms often claim that they cannot give information because it is commercially sensitive, or a matter of commercial secrecy, and because of the fear of competition. Firms know that it is easy for competitors to discover what is going on. They use that excuse because they do not want local residents, local authorities and others to know that. Unless the argument for commercial 99 confidentiality as outlined in the Bill is clarified, I, and most members of the public, will be deeply suspicious about its use.
The Bill sets up a sort of framework against which waste management proposals and incineration proposals can be judged. The report of the Select Committee on the Environment on toxic waste and the Department's response to it have shed some light on the problems, the possible answers and some of the available technologies.
The truth of the matter, however—any reasonably competent practising engineer will confirm it—is that none of the technologies available can guarantee that the burning temperature of municipal and medical incinerators can be guaranteed to remain at 1,300 deg C, which is required to kill off dioxins. If that cannot be guaranteed, any local population are right to be deeply suspicious about proposals to build any type of incinerator to burn waste in their backyard. The Bill does not cover that matter in any detail and I do not have any confidence in the Government's intention to get the matter under control.
One of the most feared pollutants is the toxic waste emission of dioxin. A local community is right to believe that it is in danger if an incinerator is built nearby. Unless and until technology is produced, or some more effective method of monitoring is introduced, I shall not countenance the development of the incinerators currently proposed for my area.
Although I welcome the fact that environmental protection is at last the subject of debate and legislation, many areas do not warrant a mention in the Bill. I am bound to say that our reasoned amendment is a good response to the Bill. I shall vote for it, because the Bill leaves too much unsaid and too much uncovered.
§ Mr. Hugo Summerson (Walthamstow)
The environment can be a large subject—the hole in the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect—or it can be a small subject such as the State of local streets or whether local wildlife in the streets is cared for, and that may mean something as humble as a blackbird or a robin. Often, it is the small things which cause the most annoyance to local people. I shall concentrate on one matter briefly mentioned in the Bill—noise.
Noise comes under the heading of a statutory nuisance. Last summer, which was long and hot, I had more complaints from my constituents about noise than anything else. It seems that when the weather is hot, people like to get outside and party, but the trouble is that they like to do so all through the night. In two roads in my consistuency—Pearl road and Morgan avenue—the residents' lives last summer were made miserable for months on end by one family in each street. Those families had music playing all through the night, friends arriving at 3 am and 4 am, and cars arriving with their radios blaring—[Interruption.] If Opposition Members, who are laughing, wanted to be constructive, they could come to Walthamstow and beat up those people. They would have had the thanks of my constituents if they had done so.
The present statutory provisions for dealing with noise are not strong enough. The burden is placed on local authorities. Some of these have noise controls, but they 100 tend to be out only on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, not during the week. Therefore, people suffering from noise caused by others have no remedy other than to ring the police, who have no powers because causing such a noise is not a criminal offence.
When I looked at the Bill I was disappointed to see that, once again, the responsibility for trying to deal with this menace is placed on local authorities, but that there is no duty on local authorities to deal with it. When people come to see me at my surgery and say, "Mr. Summerson, the entire street is being kept awake night after night and week after week; we cannot sleep in our front bedrooms but have to go to the back bedrooms because these people come and make such a noise; what are we to do about it?", I say, "Have you rung the police?" They say that they have rung the police, who come and tell those making the noise to keep it quiet and to turn the music down. The police go, and 10 minutes later those people are at it again.
Those who complain would not mind so much if they had to put up with a party on a Saturday night. Nobody minds if the party goes on until 2 am if it happens only once or twice a year, but when it goes on night after night for weeks on end, people feel that there must be a statutory provision to enable them to live their lives in peace and quiet. They cannot do so at the moment, as I have discovered from my own experience.
I have a flat just down the road here in Westminster. A man who lives only a few yards away comes back from the pub drunk. I see him coming back and know what will happen. He will turn up the volume of his music, open his windows and blast the street with it. It can be country and western, Irish national or rock music—I never know what he is going to play, but I know that he will play it until 3 am, 4 am or 5 am. I ring up the police, who arrive looking weary and fed up. They go and have a word with him, and 10 minutes later, when they have gone, the music starts again. I ring up Westminster city council, for which I have the greatest admiration, but on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, it does not have a noise patrol. That is the problem.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider giving powers to the police so that they can come along, perhaps with a noise meter, and institute criminal proceedings against whoever causes a nuisance.
I shall turn from one nuisance to another. The subject of dog mess has already been mentioned. I see from the memorandum to the Bill that clause 70empowers the Secretary of State to include any description of animal droppings in the definition of refuse for this part of the Bill.The problem is that, until my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State says that dog mess will be included in the definition of "refuse" in the Bill, dog mess will not be counted as refuse. That could mean that, when the street cleaner comes along and sees the dog mess, he will say that, according to section 70 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, dog mess is not refuse, so he will carefully sweep around it. If he is at all legally minded and looks at his copy of the Environmental Protection Act, that is what he will see.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will see fit to include—
§ Mr. Summerson
I am sorry: I would give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I am running within the 10-minute time limit.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will include dog mess in the definition of refuse.
I hope that the house will not consider me frivolous, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will also include bird mess within the description of refuse. In my constituency, pigeons nest underneath the bridge where the railway line crosses wood street. They have done so for years. When someone walks underneath, he or she finds it quite revolting—[interruption.] The hon. Member for Islington, north (Mr. Corbyn) asks, "why?" if he walked under that bridge—
§ Mr. Summerson
I thought that the hon. Gentleman asked, "why?" and I was going to recommend that he stood under the bridge for five minutes; then he would find out why it was revolting.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear these points in mind and realise that, if he includes bird and animal droppings within the definition of refuse, he will make life a lot happier for those urban dwellers among us.
§ Mr. Alan w. Williams (carmarthen)
As many hon. Members want to speak I shall confine my remarks to one part of the Bill—the first part on integrated pollution control. As has been said, since 1976 the principle of integrated pollution control has been accepted as something for which we should work. I am glad to say that it is now to be implemented.
In practice, it is difficult to find people who are expert in all forms of waste control—water waste, solid waste, air pollution and radioactive substances. They are different disciplines, and to find inspectors expert in all of them is like finding professors of chemistry who can also teach physics, biology and computing. The goal is very ambitious.
It is disappointing that integrated pollution control is to be based on the present HMIP which, as several hon. Members have said, is suffering badly from low morale. It is in a shambles; two directors have resigned, and the late brian Ponsford committed suicide under the stress of the job.
HMIP is grossly understaffed; its 199 members of staff face the enormous task of overseeing air pollution, waste control and radioactive substances. I have studied air pollution carefully over the past three or four months while serving on the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, which has been looking into toxic waste and taking a particular interest in Rechem's incinerator in Pontypool
A cowboys' charter seems to regulate air pollution in this country. There have been only nine prosecutions in the past 10 years, so effectively, the law does not operate. The director of the western division on HMIP gave evidence to us in November and I asked him about monitoring Rechem in Pontypool. Its incinerator is the largest in Britain, although there are three other large ones. More than half its trade is in burning imported PCB wastes. As everyone knows, there is serious anxiety in the local community about possible contamination of the neighbourhood by PCBs and dioxins in the flue gases.
102 HMIP has been visiting the incinerator for sampling only twice a year and it carries out an analysis of the flue gases which looks only for particulates and carbon monoxide. Analysis of PCBs and dioxins is carried out by Rechem itself, and that is appalling. It is do-it-yourself pollution control.
Because of poor staffing levels, HMIP's inspections of premises across Britain have been cut by 40 per cent. In the past four years. On average, industrial premises are sampled once every two years. That contrasts with the NRA, which takes samples at least monthly, and sometimes even weekly or daily, from large industrial premises.
There are only 32 air pollution inspectors in Britain, compared with 1,000 in the netherlands and 20,000 in the united States. What comes out of chimneys in the form of air pollution is just as important as what pollutes our waterways. The NRA has more than 6,000 members of staff: HMIP a mere 200. It is nonsense to transfer some of the responsibilities of the NRA to HMIP, as this Bill does. HMIP lacks the necessary organisation.
We support and advocate integrated pollution control, but only if it has the necessary resources. I looked through the Bill carefully to discover its financial implications. The budget for the enlarged HMIP will be only £3 million or £4 million a year—peanuts compared with the budgets of the chemical industry which produces the waste. The money will mean an additional 15 members of staff for HMIP. Given those scant resources, how can we expect integrated pollution control to work?
The Government have been in power for 10 years and this, their first Bill on the environment, contains nothing about the greenhouse effect, carbon dioxide emissions, acid rain and other global environmental issues. Too little and too late, the Bill offers very little and very late.
§ 9.4 pm
§ Mr. Keith mans (Wyre)
I intend to say a few words about the administrative framework of pollution control as outlined in the Bill. I intend also to refer to some of the objectives that should be incorporated in any sensible environmental policy. Before I do so, I should contrast the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the environment with that of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould). I agree with a number of the points made by opposition members, but the speech of the hon. Member for Dagenham was slightly unfortunate. He criticised the measure without suggesting that parts of it might be good. That may be connected with his party's record during the past 30 to 40 years.
It is relevant that about 48 acts of parliament since 1945 have had a large environmental content. Of those, 32 were passed under conservative administrations. A mere 15 were passed under labour administrations. For every year, therefore, under Governments of the two parties, well over one act went on to the statute book under a conservative Government, whereas rather less than one act went on to the statute book under a labour Government. Since 1974, labour Governments have passed five acts of parliament, whereas conservative Governments have passed 11.
This is one of a series of measures that go back for many years, if not decades. I welcome the use of the term "integrated pollution control". That must be the way forward. However, my experience as a member of the 103 Select Committee leads me to believe that it is one thing to talk about integrated pollution control but quite another to make it a reality. Some of my hon. Friends have already said that it will be difficult to implement all facets of integrated pollution control.
Although I am happy about integrated pollution control, I am less happy about the job that local authorities will be asked to do. As the collectors and disposers of waste, their record is good. Wyre borough in Lancashire already operates a forward-looking policy for the collection of waste and the clearing up of litter. Its policy is well ahead of what is provided for in the Bill. Many other boroughs and districts will, I believe, take up such a policy with relish.
I am also less happy about the regulatory nature of some of the roles that county councils will have to play. It is not sensible to vest the regulation and disposal of waste in the same authority, however much at arm's length the arrangements between the two may appear to be. There are three main reasons why that is not the right way forward. The first relates to the record of county councils over their waste disposal plans. A waste disposal plan was sent to me recently by a county council. I hasten to add that it was not my own. The covering note provided some fairly specious reasons for taking 15 years to produce the plan. It boiled down to a lack of resources and, most important, the lack of priority that was given to the preparation of the plan. That does not bode well for the regulatory tasks that county councils will have to perform.
Secondly, I have already referred to the fact that the same authority will be both poacher and gamekeeper. Water privatisation means that the department of the environment has got rid of those two functions, and it is unfortunate that the poacher-gamekeeper relationship is to continue within the county councils.
Thirdly, I am worried whether the best method to dispose of waste will be used when, as my hon. Friend the member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) said, up to 199 different authorities will be putting forward their own best methods for waste disposal. That is far too many.
The boundaries between county councils are administrative, not natural. However, I agree with my colleagues on the select Committee on the environment that we must consider waste disposal in terms of regional authorities based on natural boundaries—river basins. I would like to see a move towards combining the functions of her majesty's inspectorate of pollution and the national rivers authority to create a proper environment protection agency, rather than give responsibility for waste disposal to county councils.
I hope that the white paper that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will issue later this year will point us towards such a combined function in the future. Provided that such a body were responsible to the Secretary of State, in precisely the same way as the health and safety inspectorate is responsible to the Secretary of State for employment, there would be an element of accountability. I understand that lack of accountability was a reason for not following that route.
We can see that there will be problems with duplication of effort in the route that we are following. I was pleased to read in the paper today that the problem of different areas of responsibility between the NRA and HMIP has 104 Been reconciled. I suspect that there will be problems with the various disposal agencies and the county councils in their regulatory role and their relationship with HMIP.
Several county councils are setting up organisations to deal with the environment, and that is probably laudable. Often, the first thing that they do is communicate with the NRA, which has to explain what the councils should do. Then they often decide to do something slightly different, based on the advice of another set of experts. HMIP is having difficulty recruiting staff, and the scarce numbers of environmental experts should not be used up arguing with each other. One organisation should be responsible for the overall control of pollution, and that would make the best use of the expertise that is available.
A sensible environment policy should include three main objectives—recycling, minimisation of waste and safe waste disposal. Some mention has been made this evening of the need for manufacturing processes that acknowledge the importance of the environment. We should see more of that in the future.
I am pleased about the role of local authorities in the recycling of waste. However, I am slightly disappointed that the Bill is not printed on recycled paper. I am certain that that will be the case in the future.
Safe methods of waste disposal are important. I am convinced that the costs of disposal will have to be increased to meet safety needs, particularly for refrigerators and other items that contain what are considered to be dangerous chemicals.
The Bill is a good one. It is only a step in the right direction, and a considerable amount will need to be done in the future, but the Bill deserves the support of hon. Members on both sides of the house, as it points the way towards integrated pollution control, and it will put us in the forefront of the protection of the environment.
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
In many ways, the Bill is a rather sad affair. It is a response to much pressure from ordinary people who want to live in a decent and clean environment.
The Bill includes a series of pollution control measures, some of which are likely to be effective, but some of which are likely to be ineffective. It does not attempt to address the wider environmental questions of which the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have been speaking over the past few months. It says nothing about the amount of money that may be given to the united nations environmental programme, nothing about support for international initiatives on the ozone layer, protection of the rain forests and the savannah grasslands, and little about the future of the world's environment, its ecosystems and what contribution the Government will make. For those reasons, its objectives are limited. A further Bill may be necessary, or a Statement from the Secretary of State on the resources that will be devoted to those important issues.
If we do not address those major issues, we are heading for a serious climatic and ecological disaster. Indeed, much evidence suggests that it is already occurring. The creation of new deserts where rain forests once stood, the destruction of much of the savannah grassland and the changes in the climatic systems in central and south America and parts of Africa and Asia prove that. The droughts, storms and flooding of the past few years were 105 not freaks but were part of a climatic change that has occurred as a result of the activities of the human race. Those issues must be addressed in the Bill.
Together with other hon. Members, I support controls on pollution, the principle that the polluter must pay and the right of the public to know who is causing pollution and damage. Emphasis should be placed on who and what is causing waste. It is all very well to speak of the need for controls on litter and of the need for greater recycling, but should we not be examining the need for the production of paper?
In an intervention to the Secretary of State, I did not call for massive censorship of newspapers, but pointed out that we are an incredibly paper-wasteful society. If one buys a sweet in a shop, why must it be wrapped three, four or five times? Why must packaged food in supermarkets be wrapped at least three times and enveloped in a plastic bag that cannot rot because it is not biodegradable? Our approach must acknowledge that, even if we recycle paper, we are still using energy resources. The question should be: is it necessary to manufacture that paper? The same applies to glass and tinned cans for soft drinks, with all the problems of recycling that they pose. I should like to see a system that does not produce waste, that produces not solely for profit or for consumerism, but for the needs of people.
The largest single polluter in this country is the motor car. It produces more carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other dangerous and noxious gases than almost any industrial process. Cars fitted with catalytic converters produce more carbon dioxide, yet the Department of Transport quite happily accepts that car usage will increase. Indeed, it encourages the use of private cars by underfunding British Rail and regional transport systems and by pursuing an anti-public transport strategy. I ask the Government to adopt a different approach to those matters.
I represent a densely populated inner-city area. The borough of Islington has the least amount of open space of any urban area in the country. What little space we have has been fought for by the people who live in the borough. Many of my constituents live in grossly overcrowded housing. They live in a poor environment, partly because of that overcrowding, partly because of pollution and partly because of the lack of open space. Their worries about the world's environment are the worries of us all. Their worries about access to the countryside and the preservation of the rural and wilder areas and of the planet are our worries, because they rightly demand access to open space.
I hope that when we again discuss environmental protection we shall go much further than the proposals in the Bill and that we shall not miss the great opportunities offered by the Bill to make a serious contribution to the future of the world's environment. The situation becomes more serious day by day. The free enterprise policies that produce solely for waste and for profit and that promote a consumerist mentality rather than one of need are damaging to the environment. I am in no sense defending the centralised economies of eastern Europe. They have polluted the north sea and rivers just as industries in Britain and North America have destroyed rivers, wasted natural resources and ruined people's lives by their form of pollution.
It is not good enough to promote an economic system that produces for waste and to promote environmental 106 controls in western Europe and North America to look after our environment if at the same time we transfer that destruction of the environment to poorer Third-world countries, either by exporting toxic waste and letting those countries get rid of it by whatever means they can, because they are desperate for foreign currency, or by promoting the destruction of the rain forests, through raping those countries to collect debt payments, when they can make them only by destroying all their natural resources.
We live in an age when we have an opportunity to improve our environment and save ourselves from mass destruction through climatic change and environmental disasters. The Bill goes some way towards meeting some of the worries about pollution controls, but it misses the great opportunity which we should grasp and to which the House will have to return repeatedly if we are to contribute towards saving the 'environment rather than destroying it.
§ Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)
On listening to the contributions to the debate, one might be forgiven for thinking that we have a serious environmental problem in Britain. Nothing could be further from the truth. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) implied that market forces were somehow responsible, that affluence leads to effluence, but that is not so. We need only look at eastern Europe to see that Socialism leads to effluence and that the toxic waste produced by an unregulated but highly subsidised Socialist economy causes pollution problems. There, the air is not fit to breathe, the water is not fit to drink and even carrots grown in allotments are allegedly not fit to be eaten. Those problems are produced not by the capitalist society that we have the good fortune to have, but by Socialism or by the remnants of Socialism even here in our country.
Water pollution, in so far as the water industry has been in the hands of the public sector, is largely the issue about which we complain, but the Government are changing that with their new legislation. The more we bring industries into a capitalist system, the fewer pollution problems we shall have to complain about.
An enormous divergence of issues is subsumed in the Bill. No one could possibly suggest that litter or dog droppings are in the same category as the disposal of industrial waste, global warming or acid rain—there is clearly a great difference in the scale of the problems. One problem is possibly environmental pollution and the other is simply a matter of training people into better habits. A different regime of regulation should be applied to each.
We are well aware of the need to recycle renewable resources such as wood and paper, so we must guard against having another regime of regulation that might make that a less attractive option for the private sector. There are also non-renewable resources, such as oil and coal, and the way in which to protect those resources and to make them last is to price them appropriately. As the resources are used up, they become more expensive and the market finds more economical ways of operating. The way in which to conserve non-renewable resources is through the price mechanism, not through yet more regulation, inspectors and administrative burdens placed on industry.
We must start not where we should like to be, in the utopia of a pre-industrial society, but from where we are now. We must be careful not to construct a regime of regulation that will make it impossible for our industries to 107 continue to develop and grow. That could easily happen. It would not be the first time in our recent history that we had identified a problem and so regulated matters that we had made it worse.
In that regard, I draw the attention of the house to housing. A few decades ago, housing was identified as a problem that needed control and Government intervention and regulation. What has happened? We have made matters ten times worse. We have regulated housing in which people do not want to live, unattractive council estates and more homelessness than we have experienced for a very long time. All of that came out of good intentions and the problem was exacerbated by the imposition of a vast administrative and regulatory regime.
What concerns me about the Bill is the number of new regulatory bodies that it proposes for our industry. I urge the Minister to bear it in mind in Committee that one gains more converts with honey than with vinegar. We must guard against over-regulating our industries and making it difficult for them to produce consumer goods at prices that people can afford, by making it almost impossible for them to conduct their business profitably and sensibly.
We have heard talk during the debate about packaging, but the private sector already has a council that is examining the matter. We do not need more regulation; we just need better co-operation. Private sector organisations are already producing data banks of information on which the better management of raw materials can be based.
Before we start spending taxpayers' money on environmental agencies—part of the Bill's proposals—I urge the Minister to take a good look at what the private sector is already doing and at how the private sector can be helped to regulate itself. Then the measures that we introduce will go with the grain of industry rather than against it. They should be industry-friendly, as well as environment-friendly, and we should ensure that we do not drive our industries into a corner so that they can no longer meet people's expectations. We must remember that when parliament gets its teeth into what is alleged to be a new problem, it sometimes ends up making things worse.
I view the Bill with caution. I trust that the Minister has a sensible attitude to the beneficial aspects of industrialisation and the private sector, and I hope that in 10 years' time the house will not look back and wonder why we allowed the strangulation of so much of our industrial framework under the guise of protecting ourselves from something that is not nearly as much of a problem as opposition members and many environmental agencies would have us believe.
§ Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)
The hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) introduced a novel note into the debate. Alone of all the Speakers whom we have heard, she believes that environmental pollution is not a problem. She says that if there is a problem, it is all the fault of socialists and that pollution control is a burden on industry. Perhaps the hon. Lady made an old speech because she had not been made aware that there has been a change of Secretary of State and that the attitude of the 108 current Secretary of State is somewhat different from that of his predecessor. I am sure that the new Secretary of State will update her.
The Bill has one of the grandest titles of any Bill to come before the house for a long time. Its title, "Environmental Protection Bill", is a sweeping Statement of intention which no one, except perhaps the hon. Member for Billericay, would want to oppose. For many people, few issues loom larger on the horizon than the need for urgent action now to protect our environment. That need is central to the health and well-being of all of us, and it is crucial to the future of our children.
As the problems are so great and people are aware that the dangers have intensified so much, any Bill with this title is to be welcomed. However, the problem and the sadness is that the Bill's content does not match the aspirations of its title. A Bill to tackle the major environmental problems facing us now must, in simple logic, deal first with the most significant and major threats to our environment.
Ministers have identified and pontificated on the problems. The Prime Minister has referred to the problems of global warming. She has complained that we are adding greenhouse gases to the air at an unprecedented rate, and she has spoken about the scale of the damage. However, the Bill is completely silent about that issue.
In his television interview in "On the Record", the Secretary of State came up with many ideas and comments which showed that he had taken on board the magnitude of many of the problems facing us. He won much praise for his comments, and they induced high hopes among those concerned with these issues. We hoped for the best from the Secretary of State.
However, since the Bill's publication, we have had to revise our expectations and realise that anyone who followed the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) as Secretary of State for the environment would have produced high expectations. It would be hard for anyone to be more anti-environment than the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury, although the hon. Member for Billericay is trying.
This Bill, the first product of the efforts of the new Secretary of State, does not answer the expectations which his reputation has created. It reorganises some aspects of pollution control, concentrates on somewhat gimmicky approaches to litter, and opens the door for competitive tendering for waste disposal. It also reconstructs the Nature Conservancy Council because of certain vested interests, but without proper consultation. Such a Bill could probably have been introduced by the Secretary of State's predecessor; I can think of no worse condemnation than that of the new Secretary of State's green mantle.
The Bill can be described only as an incredible disappointment and wasted opportunity. The Bill has some worthy parts and, as my hon. Friend the member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) said earlier, we will seek to clarify, strengthen and support those parts in Committee. However, the great and glaring gaps in the legislation are staggering.
If I mention some of the areas which should have been covered by the Bill, perhaps the Minister for the environment and countryside will take them on board. After all, the Government have promised to table many new clauses and to take up many other issues such as straw burning, crown immunity and dumping at sea. Perhaps there will be room for more. I fear that the Bill that we are 109 discussing tonight will bear little resemblance to the final legislation. In that context, I hope that the Government will respond to our constructive amendments in the way that they hope we will respond to theirs.
The Bill should have contained the basic principles of environmental protection. We must quickly adopt the principle of a presumption against pollution. We cannot assume that the environment can always take the pollution that we create.
Before we seek to control pollution, we must seek to prevent it by changing methods and by examining our use of resources. Coupled with that, we must have clearer timetables and targets, not just good intentions. Therefore, it is not enough for the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State to be worried about global warming. The Government have agreed to peg carbon dioxide levels to those that are reached by the year 2000, but they can increase until then. As was said earlier, they should have stabilised them within five years, but they did not because it goes against the grain of 10 years of Thatcherism.
The Secretary of State tells us that we must wait for the white paper. He forgets that the Government have already had 10 years in which to deal with environmental problems and that a lot more would have been achieved and the problems could have been minimised if there had not been many negative moves by the Government in the past 10 years. I refer to the Government's failure to invest in public transport and their dismal record on energy conservation. In 1986–87, the energy efficiency office budget was £26 million. This year it is £15 million. Next year it will be £12 million. In view of the problems that we face, they are absolutely senseless cuts.
If the Government and the Minister were committed to tackling environmental problems we would not have seen such a drop in spending, nor would we have seen the end of the television campaigns on energy saving, for the first time since 1973. The Government were keen enough to spend taxpayers' money to sell the water industry, but they were not keen enough to use taxpayers' money to promote energy saving. Of course, only last year, the Government rejected the energy conservation duties that the labour party tried to put into the electricity Bill. It seems that the Government are keener on privatising the meteorological office than they are on introducing legislation to tackle global warming. While that remains the case, the Secretary of State will have a long way to go to deliver the action that is required to justify his reputation.
The Secretary of State wants hon. Members to accept that many things should be left to the white paper, but, when the white paper is produced, he will want to consult further. He is in danger of becoming one of the few tories—if not the only Tory—who hope that the election will not be deferred for too long, or he himself will run out of excuses for not taking action on these problems. We will watch his efforts with interest.
Part I, dealing with integrated pollution control, is accepted in principle by most hon. Members, but there are still some outstanding problems. The Government's proposals concentrate on the control, rather than the prevention, of pollution. I hope that the Secretary of State will accept some of our amendments for strengthening that part of the Bill. The list of processes and substances to be covered by IPC is minimal. Many dangerous chemicals that are listed in other countries are not covered by the legislation. Moreover, existing polluters will not face more stringent controls and will not be considered under IPC 110 until their existing consents come up for renewal. That could be five years away. Opposition members share many of the concerns about that part of the Bill.
Opposition members also share the concern of the hon. Member for Hornsey and wood green (Sir H. Rossi) about BATNEEC, which, for the uninitiated, is the best available techniques at no extra cost. It begs the question of no extra cost, and it also begs the question whether pollution inspectors should be letting firms off the highest standards simply because of judgments of that kind. Is it the inspectors' job to judge cost, or is it their job to lay down standards? Certainly, laying down standards must come first.
We have seen examples of the old alkali inspectorate acknowledging that different standards of pollution were allowed in different circumstances depending on the size and profitability of a company. I question whether that is the best way to protect the environment. We must, of course, promote best available techniques, but we must not provide large loopholes, which is what seems to be happening.
I remind the Minister of State, who is from the north-west, of what happened in Bolton, where a company manufacturing lead batteries wanted to expand and to build a factory locally. The local authority did not accept the inspectorate's view that the best practicable means had been planned for and entered into an agreement with the company which meant that it provided better standards of pollution protection, even than the inspectorate had accepted. That is an example of what can be done if the principle of pollution prevention comes first. I hope that the Minister will give some credit to that local authority.
Similar arguments can be used about the future of environmental assessments. I hope that we shall come to that matter in Committee.
The other great concern about part I relates to resources. The work of HMIP, which is to supervise the integrated pollution control provision, has received a great deal of comment in the recent past. The latest reports show that the standards and frequency of inspections are falling. The target of 1,070 inspections for radioactive substances was not met. Indeed, HMIP itself States that the target should have been 1,900. Fifty waste disposal authorities should have been visited, but only 20 were. In a letter from the Secretary of State to my hon. Friend the member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), the right hon. Gentleman admits that in minis 10 it is recognised that the targets for HMIP are generally below those of previous years.
§ Mrs. Taylor
I note that the Minister of State is agreeing. The Government's neglect of this area for so long, especially in relation to training, has finally caught up with them. The Bill provides for 15 extra staff for HMIP, but HMIP is unable to police its existing operations. Much of what is wrong with the Bill is typified by that example of resources.
There are many sound principles in the Bill, but the opportunity for their proper implementation has been lost time and time again previously because of a lack of the proper resources. This is causing concern to the local authorities that are keen to take on many of the extra duties of the Bill, but whose confidence in the Secretary of State's willingness to resource them has not been 111 Improved. The Secretary of State's decision not to make a Statement to the house this year on the revenue support grant has not increased their confidence.
I turn to another important area of the Bill and to one that the Secretary of State himself mentioned. I refer to freedom of access to environmental information. There now seems to be some agreement in principle that information should be available as much as possible, but that agreement is only stage one. The Bill will have to be amended if it is to provide the raw data throughout that the Secretary of State announced earlier.
There is a problem because the let-out of "commercial confidentiality" will still divide us when we discuss this provision in Committee.
I look forward to the Secretary of State's guidelines, but we want to see where the burden of proof is to lie. Should we really trust the fine words of the Minister when it comes to defining commercial confidentiality in the public interest? After all, it was his department that refused in a parliamentary question to give the house the cost of the housing action trust study carried out by coopers and Lybrand. Why? Because of commercial confidentiality. It was his Government who, in answer to a parliamentary question asking about the loss to the exchequer of the tax concessions on the docklands scheme, refused to tell the taxpayer on the grounds of commercial confidentiality. It was his Government—his very Department—who refused to tell us the cost of advertising for the water nationalisation on grounds of commercial confidentiality. We shall watch the Government's actions on that carefully.
We are short of time, after an interesting debate that has opened up many subjects that we shall want to discuss further in Committee. With the best will in the world, no one could say that the Bill will save us from the dire environmental damage that is being done daily. No one has opposed the intention of the Bill, but no one has spoken about it with much enthusiasm. We all regret the wasted opportunity and the fact that the Secretary of State has missed the chance to show that he will tackle the problems of the environment. We shall try to strengthen the Bill in Committee so as to fill the gap left by the Secretary of State. That is why we have tabled the reasoned amendment.
§ The Minister for the Environment and Countryside (Mr. David Trippier)
contrary to what the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) alleged, I appreciate the fact that, with relatively few exceptions, there has been general support for the principles and provisions of this important Bill. With the notable exception of the speech of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), I welcome the many positive comments made in the debate, especially from the vast majority of my hon. Friends and from opposition members such as the right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) and for Burnley (Mr. Pike). I gladly take that as a clear signal that the Bill will be considered constructively and positively in Committee.
It is interesting that hardly any labour member referred to the opposition amendment. Whatever happened to the fourth action programme on the environment or global warming? I admit that the hon. 112 Member for Dagenham found a friend in the hon. Member for Islington, north (Mr. Corbyn)—if he can be considered one of his hon. Friends. That goes to show that even a friend in need can be a blithering nuisance. For the life of me, I cannot think why anyone can vote for an amendment that nobody has thought it important enough to discuss.
Protection and improvement of our shared and fragile environment is a cause that is attracting enormous public interest and support—more now than at any time in the history of this nation. It is right that the house should reflect that awareness and concern in its deliberations. This is a Bill for a cleaner and greener Britain.
Despite the misgivings of the hon. Member for Dagenham, the Bill provides a thorough-going overhaul of our regulatory system for not only protecting but enhancing our environment. It will deliver better accountability, clearer responsibilities and higher standards. Enforcement of environmental controls will become easier and penalties for transgression will be tougher. The power, role and responsibility of individuals and local authorities will be increased. Local authorities will be able to exercise greater powers in the regulation and control of pollution, reflecting the importance of local democracy in the cause of environmental enhancement.
I point out to the right hon. Member for Halton that the new system for cost recovery charging should cover the full cost to local authorities of implementing their new powers. Because public access to environmental information will be increased substantially every individual in Britain will become an environmental watchdog in his own right. These are the central tenets that contribute significantly to the overall impact of the Bill and that will enable us to deliver an effective system to take us through the next decade.
Today's debate has reflected the support that we have received from all interested parties for the new system of integrated pollution control and the tighter controls that local authorities will have over air pollution. Like my hon. Friend the member for Hertfordshire, west (Mr. Jones), many people have welcomed our proposals to reform waste disposal to separate ownership from regulation. In view of the reasonable requests of my hon. Friend the member for Hornsey and wood green (Sir h. Rossi), the chairman of the select Committee on the environment, about those recalcitrant local authorities which have yet to submit their waste disposal plans, I assure him that I will move an amendment in Committee to meet his concerns. We shall also deal with the code of practice to which he referred in his excellent speech. It will be available for the Committee stage.
Like my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I welcome the excellent work discharged by the royal commission on environmental protection, genetically modified organisms and integrated pollution control. It grieves me to say that I agreed with the hon. Member for Godon (Mr. Bruce) in his summary of the speech of the hon. Member for Dagenham. I agreed, too, with my hon. Friend the member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) when he said that the speech of the hon. Member for Dagenham was not worthy of the occasion. I say that it grieves me because I have great regard for the hon. Gentleman, but it is clear to me that on environmental matters he suffers from delusions of adequacy.
The hon. Member for Gordon made the speech that the hon. Member for Dagenham should have made. The hon. 113 Member for Dagenham completely and utterly misjudged the mood of the house. His main complaint was not about what was in the Bill but what was not. He was worried not about the direction in which the Government were moving but that they were not moving even faster.
I am afraid that my enthusiasm for the refreshing novel approach from the opposition waned somewhat when I heard the long shopping list of extra items that the hon. Gentleman actually wanted.
I would be staggered if the hon. Gentleman ever missed even a spurious opportunity to demand more money for local authorities, but his list of additional demands grew so long that I fully expected the labour party's policy review demands for 100 new quangos, 10 regional assemblies and a ministry for women to pop up somewhere along the line. Perhaps we shall get that in Committee. I am looking to the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) to introduce it.
§ Mr. Trippier
I have a high regard for the approach of British women to environmental matters. I am the first to pay them warm tribute and to compliment them on the way in which they have spearheaded the consumer-led reduction in the use of CFCs. I am glad to have this opportunity to put that on the record.
Perhaps in Committee we can examine what the hon. Member for Denton and reddish (Mr. Bennett) meant when he talked about State capitalism, which is a new term used to describe those Governments, if they can be called Governments, in eastern Europe who are being emancipated. It is State capitalism that many of us do not understand, and perhaps we can study it in Committee.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the Bill is not our final word on the environment. As a result of his personal initiative, we shall publish a major white paper on the environment later this year. I assure the house that every aspect of environmental protection will be fully and comprehensively covered. That will include the environmental protection commission to which my hon. Friends the members for Hertfordshire, west and Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) referred.
§ Mr. Dalyell
in a case where there is argument as to what is a Scottish issue and what is an issue for great Britain—I think particularly of the flow country—who, under the Minister's proposals, decides?
§ Mr. Trippier
we are going a little wider than great Britain—we are talking about the United Kingdom, not great Britain, as I shall make clear later. The issue would be decided by the statutory joint Committee which will be set up under the powers of the Bill, the chairman of which, professor Holliday, was announced today.
The call of the hon. Member for Dagenham for measures to comply especially with the fourth environmental action programme of the European community and with other international commitments overlooks the fact that many of the clauses ensure compliance with that programme. In several cases, the Bill goes much further.
Part I allows us to implement the large plants directive and to control discharges in line with community legislation. IPC puts us in the lead in Europe with a philosophy that is attracting much overseas attention. Part II strengthens the licensing provisions that implement EC 114 legislation on waste and the controls on the imports of hazardous waste are stronger than community legislation. I know that the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) will particularly welcome that.
The proposed new powers and duties on recycling will put us in good stead with forthcoming community legislation, as my hon. Friend the member for Hornchurch said. The control of genetically modified organisms puts us ahead of the game, as do the provisions on public access to information and the provisions, writ large in the Bill, on studying existing chemicals. Those provisions will give us greater powers than those proposed in the draft directive. All that does not look to me as though the Government are ignoring their international obligations—quite the opposite. The same is true of the commitments that we have made outside the Bill.
§ Mr. George Howarth
How will the provisions on commercial confidentiality facilitate public information?
§ Mr. Trippier
I am delighted to repeat the assurance that my right hon. Friend gave. We shall be rigorous, not only in Committee but, given our responsibility as Ministers, to ensure that commercial confidentiality is not used as an excuse for keeping information which is vital to the public off the copies of registers to be held in every town hall.
I have referred to what the Bill does, but we are not just talking about the Bill. We have already signed the Montreal protocol and the Noordwijk declaration. Given the fact that the previous labour Government spent five years in office without even implementing part II of the control of pollution act 1974, I find it impossible to stomach the strictures and allegations of delays made by the hon. Member for Dagenham.
I am still amazed at Opposition Members criticising our proposals to devolve responsibilities for conservation to new bodies in Scotland, England and Wales. It seems that it is the policy of the labour party to foist new parliaments on the people of Scotland and Wales, but not to trust them to run and staff their own nature conservation agencies. I remind the house that the NCC had a raw deal under the previous labour Government. We inherited expenditure on the NCC to the tune of £8 million; next year that expenditure will be more than £45 million.
The Bill embodies our absolute commitment to secure a substantial and permanent reduction in the national scandal of litter which disfigures our streets, desecrates our public places and debases many areas of otherwise spectacular beauty. That was the principal message of my hon. Friend the member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns). My hon. Friend the member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) asked me about future responsibility for litter on and at the side of motorways. That will be the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for transport, who is reviewing the frequency of litter clearance in those black spots.
There are still far too many people who do not realise that dropping litter is an anti-social, filthy and personally degrading act. Some local authorities are doing their utmost to tackle litter. The Bill will ensure that they all do so. It will bring nearer the day when those who pollute and litter, and those who suffer as a consequence will know that the British people will no longer tolerate abuse of their environment. We have a responsibility to harness whatever skills we have and pass on to our children not 115 only higher living standards and a better quality of life, but a purer, cleaner and safer environment. I commend the Bill to the house.
§ Question put, that the amendment be made:—
§ the House divided: Ayes 202, Noes 282.
|Division No. 35]||[10 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Foulkes, George|
|Allen, Graham||Fraser, John|
|Anderson, Donald||Fyfe, Maria|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Galloway, George|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Ashton, Joe||Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Godman, Dr Norman A.|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Gordon, Mildred|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Gould, Bryan|
|Barron, Kevin||Graham, Thomas|
|Battle, John||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Beckett, Margaret||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Grocott, Bruce|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Hardy, Peter|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Blair, Tony||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Blunkett, David||Haynes, Frank|
|Boateng, Paul||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Boyes, Roland||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Bradley, Keith||Henderson, Doug|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Hinchliffe, David|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Home Robertson, John|
|Buchan, Norman||Hood, Jimmy|
|Buckley, George J.||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Caborn, Richard||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Hoyle, Doug|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Cartwright, John||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Illsley, Eric|
|Clay, Bob||Ingram, Adam|
|Clelland, David||Janner, Greville|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Cohen, Harry||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)|
|Coleman, Donald||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Corbett, Robin||Lambie, David|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Lamond, James|
|Cousins, Jim||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Cox, Tom||Leighton, Ron|
|Crowther, Stan||Lewis, Terry|
|Cryer, Bob||Litherland, Robert|
|Cummings, John||Livingstone, Ken|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Dalyell, Tam||Loyden, Eddie|
|Darling, Alistair||McAllion, John|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||McCartney, Ian|
|Dewar, Donald||Macdonald, Calum A.|
|Dixon, Don||McFall, John|
|Dobson, Frank||McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)|
|Doran, Frank||McKelvey, William|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||McLeish, Henry|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth||McNamara, Kevin|
|Eadie, Alexander||McWilliam, John|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Madden, Max|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)||Marek, Dr John|
|Fisher, Mark||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Flannery, Martin||Martin, Michael J. (SprinGBurn)|
|Flynn, Paul||Martlew, Eric|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Maxton, John|
|Foster, Derek||Meacher, Michael|
|Meale, Alan||Sheerman, Barry|
|Michael, Alun||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Short, Clare|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Skinner, Dennis|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)|
|Mullin, Chris||Snape, Peter|
|Murphy, Paul||Soley, Clive|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Spearing, Nigel|
|O'Brien, William||Steinberg, Gerry|
|O'Neill, Martin||Stott, Roger|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Strang, Gavin|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Straw, Jack|
|Parry, Robert||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Pendry, Tom||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Pike, Peter L.||Turner, Dennis|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Vaz, Keith|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Walley, Joan|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Radice, Giles||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Randall, Stuart||Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)|
|Redmond, Martin||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Reid, Dr John||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Richardson, Jo||Wilson, Brian|
|Robertson, George||Winnick, David|
|Rogers, Allan||Worthington, Tony|
|Rooker, Jeff||Wray, Jimmy|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Rowlands, Ted||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Ruddock, Joan||Mrs. Llin Golding and|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Mr. Ken Eastham.|
|Adley, Robert||Burns, Simon|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Burt, Alistair|
|Alexander, Richard||Butler, Chris|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Butterfill, John|
|Allason, Rupert||Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)|
|Amess, David||Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)|
|Amos, Alan||Carlisle, John, (Luton N)|
|Arbuthnot, James||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Carrington, Matthew|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Carttiss, Michael|
|Ashby, David||Cash, William|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda|
|Atkins, Robert||Chope, Christopher|
|Atkinson, David||Churchill, Mr|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)|
|Baldry, Tony||Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Colvin, Michael|
|Bellingham, Henry||Conway, Derek|
|Bendall, Vivian||Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Coombs, Simon (Swindon)|
|Benyon, W.||Cormack, Patrick|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Couchman, James|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Gran, James|
|Body, Sir Richard||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Curry, David|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)|
|Boswell, Tim||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Day, Stephen|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Devlin, Tim|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Bowis, John||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Dover, Den|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Dunn, Bob|
|Brazier, Julian||Durant, Tony|
|Bright, Graham||Eggar, Tim|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Evennett, David|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Fallon, Michael|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Fearn, Ronald|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Fishburn, John Dudley||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Fookes, Dame Janet||Hunter, Andrew|
|Forman, Nigel||Irvine, Michael|
|Forth, Eric||Irving, Sir Charles|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Jack, Michael|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Jackson, Robert|
|Franks, Cecil||Janman, Tim|
|Freeman, Roger||Jessel, Toby|
|French, Douglas||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Fry, Peter||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Gale, Roger||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Gardiner, George||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Kennedy, Charles|
|Gill, Christopher||Key, Robert|
|Glyn, Dr Sir Alan||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Gow, Ian||Knight, Dame Jill (EdGBaston)|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)||Latham, Michael|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Lilley, Peter|
|Gregory, Conal||Livsey, Richard|
|Grist, Ian||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Ground, Patrick||Macfarlane, Sir Neil|
|Grylls, Michael||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Maclean, David|
|Hague, William||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Mans, Keith|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Marland, Paul|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Marlow, Tony|
|Hannam, John||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'Il Gr)||Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Miller, Sir Hal|
|Harris, David||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Hayes, Jerry||Moate, Roger|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hayward, Robert||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Morrison, Sir Charles|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (WoIv' NE)||Moss, Malcolm|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Hind, Kenneth||Mudd, David|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Nelson, Anthony|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Neubert, Michael|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)||Norris, Steve|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|Howells, Geraint||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Page, Richard|
|Paice, James||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Patnick, Irvine||Sumberg, David|
|Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)||Summerson, Hugo|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Pawsey, James||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Price, Sir David||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Redwood, John||Thorne, Neil|
|Renton, Rt Hon Tim||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Thurnham, Peter|
|Riddick, Graham||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Tracey, Richard|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Trippier, David|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Trotter, Neville|
|Rost, Peter||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Rowe, Andrew||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Ryder, Richard||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Sackville, Hon Tom||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas||Waller, Gary|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Ward, John|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Warren, Kenneth|
|Shelton, Sir William||Watts, John|
|Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)||Wells, Bowen|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Whitney, Ray|
|Shersby, Michael||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Sims, Roger||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Wilshire, David|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Speller, Tony||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Wood, Timothy|
|Squire, Robin||Woodcock, Dr. Mike|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Stern, Michael||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Stevens, Lewis||Mr. David Lightbown and|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Mr. Sydney Chapman.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put forthwith pursant to Standing Order No.62(Amemdment on Second or Third Reading), and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No.61 (Committal of Bills).