HC Deb 29 October 1990 vol 178 cc763-5

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 2 line 13, after ("and") insert ("the air within")

5.45 pm
Mr. Trippier

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to take Lords amendments No. 4 to 6 and No. 285.

Mr. Trippier

The amendments in this group are drafting and technical amendments, and I am sure that the House will not wish me to dwell on them, although I shall be happy to answer any questions hon. Members may wish to ask. While on my feet, I take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) on her recent election to the shadow Cabinet.

Mr. Fry

I wish to ask my hon. Friend the Minister a few questions about the Lords amendments, which I understand were intended to tighten up the original wording of the Bill. The reason for my questions is that these clauses have serious implications for certain aspects of British industry.

One of the great problems which often arises with such legislation is that clauses refer to regulations which may be drawn up by the Government. I am sure that the House is aware that regulations made long after the original legislation are often lightly debated in the early hours of the morning, and British industry wakes up to discover that a statutory instrument has been passed and it is not even aware of its significance.

For example, statutory instrument No. 1159, which was issued just before the summer recess last year, stated that any trade effluent discharges which raise the concentration of prescribed substances above background level meant that sector fell under integrated pollution control even if the presence of prescribed substances was occasional or intermittent. I think that my hon. Friend the Minister and hon. Members are aware that I act as a consultant to the British Leather Confederation which is very worried about the implications of these clauses and the regulations that will flow from them.

As I understand it, with the absence of any de minimis exemption, small companies with as few as a dozen workers could come under full integrated pollution control, with all the associated monitoring and registration costs.

My hon. Friend the Minister has always given a sympathetic hearing to the leather industry, and I remand him that that industry is now presented with real problems. For example, under the proposed regulations to which these clauses relate, the industry could find that, although a firm is not responsible for polluting a waterway, because skins were treated with some sort of insecticide, it could unknowingly affect the water supply and be prosecuted.

I therefore hope, that my hon. Friend will take note of the industry's very real anxieties and those of other related industries, and will give me an assurance that, when the regulations are drawn up, they will take the interests of British industry into account—especially the interests of many small firms, which could become hopelessly enmeshed in bureaucracy and might never be able to afford the measures needed to avoid prosecution under the Act when it becomes law.

Mr. Trippier

I am concerned about the anxiety expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry). I have had the opportunity, which I valued, of meeting both my hon. Friend and representatives of the British Leather Confederation. The difficulty is that tanneries discharge an obnoxious substance that affects the water. It is included among the red list substances that are referred to in part I.

I can give my hon. Friend two assurances. First, the Government do not intend to introduce legislation that would result in these companies having their backs against the wall. We hope to reach an agreement with the industry. We want Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution to sit down with representatives of the industry. I would not accept the introduction of such legislation. I hope that my hon. Friend will welcome that assurance.

Secondly, the views of the British Leather Confederation and the Chemical Industries Association have been consistent throughout. They welcome the main thrust of what we are trying to achieve in part I: higher standards for the control of emissions and for those polluting processes that affect the land, water and air. They also want the regulations to be fair. I have repeatedly given assurances about those matters to them.

The new regulations for the British Leather Confederation would not be introduced before 1996. I am giving small and medium sized companies a period of between three and five years after Royal Assent to comply with the new regulations. I hope that my hon. Friend is satisfied that we are concerned and that he will accept my assurance that we intend continually to review the matter.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 2, in page 3, line 9, at end insert ("(which in this Part means a river purification authority within the meaning of the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Act 1951)")

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to consider Lords amendments Nos. 7 to 11, 15, 21 to 23, 35 to 38, 41, 323 to 326 and 142.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Both Lords amendment No. 2 and the other Lords amendments are technical and consequential.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.

Back to
Forward to