HL Deb 17 July 1990 vol 521 cc754-6

2.59 p.m.

Lord Rodney asked Her Majesty's Government:

How the United Kingdom compares with other member states in its record of implementing EC directives.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, our record of implementation of measures in the single market programme is, along with Denmark, the best in the Community.

Lord Rodney

My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that this confirms the commitment of Her Majesty's Government to Europe? Does he not hope that this will be acclaimed by all sides of the House?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, it proves our commitment to Europe. It also proves that whereas some indulge in a good deal of rhetoric about what good Europeans they are, we actually get on and implement the measures we have to.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, can the noble Lord indicate how many breaches of environmental directives are subject to proceedings already in the European Court against the United Kingdom; how many are currently being investigated; and how many complaints to his knowledge have been registered in relation to bathing water and drinking water directives?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, statistics are not kept centrally by the Commission for breaches of directives other than under the single market measures to which I referred in my original Answer. The noble Lord asked about dirty beaches. As noble Lords will be aware, we have a £2.9 billion programme under way to implement the directives. We are proceeding as fast as we possibly can. The Commission list of offending beaches was based on out of date statistics.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, is the Minister aware that we are glad that the Government are moving as fast as they possibly can, especially when one takes account of the fact that the directive in question was accepted by governments 15 years ago? Does he agree however that this country is in the process of being prosecuted for pollution of 140 beaches? Is that not the case? Is it not further the case that we are bottom of the league in that area?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, as I said in my recent answer, we believe that the list of offending beaches was based on out of date statistics. We have a very large programme to improve the quality of our beaches. The noble Lord said that the directive was accepted 15 years ago. Certainly not much was done about it in the first five years of those 15 years.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, is it not a fact that the monitoring of beaches and coastal waters depends on the monitoring of the individual states concerned? Is not the Commission's information entirely dependent on that? Can my noble friend say whether there is adequate monitoring of, for instance, the Mediterranean states? Is he aware that, whereas we have committed ourselves to this huge capital expenditure of nearly £3 billion. which will weigh heavily on our economy, it seems more than likely that some of our partners in the European Community have not committed themselves in any way to a similar programme for cleaning up their waters?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, my noble friend may well be right. I am afraid that I do not have figures regarding the beaches of other countries. What we favour is an extension of Commission monitoring and reporting on implementation to all fields of European Community legislation. My right honourable friend has proposed this to M. Delors and to the President of the European Parliament. That remains under consideration.

Lord Jenkins of Hillhead

My Lords, reverting to the original Question, which may be a slight relief to the Minister, I accept that it is a good thing that we should be top of the table with Denmark. Germany is third. However, will the Minister accept—I tried to deal with these infractions for four years—that the poor performance of countries such as Italy is due much more to a traditionally weak infrastructure of government than to ill will or hypocrisy and that it is on the whole desirable that we would show a certain understanding of such problems?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

That may well be the case, my Lords. We believe that our record of implementation is good across the board. We take pride in honouring the obligations that we take on in the Community. It is a fact that, along with Denmark, we have only 13 directives unimplemented of the 95 single market measures which are due to be completed. Italy is bottom of the table at 55.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, does the fact that we are one of the two best countries in this respect mean that we have implemented the directives in full and without equivocation?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the figures I have given represent the single market measures implemented in full.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, is the Minister aware that many of us are glad that once again the British are shown to be considering their problems and can stand with their heads held high in the Common Market?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I very much agree with the noble Baroness.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

My Lords, will the Minister consider publishing the details of all the other countries instead of one at a time?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the Commission has already published the figures for the single market measures to which I have referred. I am certainly happy to place a copy of the table in the Library.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the House and perhaps his noble friend who asked the Question expected a rather more stirring endorsement from him of the European idea?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am not quite sure what the noble Lord had in mind. It is for my noble friend who asked the Question to say whether he was pleased with the Answer, not the noble Lord.