HL Deb 19 June 1990 vol 520 cc819-912

8.47 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 2.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 27:

Page 4, line 19, at end insert: ("(1A) The Secretary of State shall within six months of the date of Royal Assent publish a Schedule setting out—

  1. (a) those processes in respect of which regulations have been made under this Part;
  2. (b) those processes in respect of which it is his present intention to make such regulations;
  3. (c) those processes of which the Secretary of State is aware, which may cause pollution within the meaning of this Part, but on which it is not his present intention to make regulations.
(1B) The Secretary of State shall revise the Schedule referred to in subsection (1A) above from time to time in accordance with regulations made and his current intentions").

The noble Lord said: It may be thought that this amendment covers to a considerable extent matters which have already been dealt with in debate this afternoon. That is because of a problem which Members of the Committee and Ministers have recognised. When general amendments are proposed at an early stage of the Bill to express our views it is difficult to avoid moving ahead and anticipating more detailed amendments which follow. Nevertheless I believe it is necessary for us to pursue this point in more detail than we were able to do previously.

The point of this amendment is to secure that the Bill is more specific than it has so far been about the prescribed processes and substances which come within the scope of Part I. The Bill is called an environmental protection Bill and it purports to cover breaches of environmental protection. However, as regards government publicity, it does not do so with much qualification. When one considers the detail of the Bill, one sees that the whole concentration and the powers conferred refer to prescribed processes.

This amendment does not seek to overturn that fundamental provision of the Bill but it seeks to bring it out into the open and to make it necessary for the Secretary of State to publish within six months of the date of Royal Assent a schedule which sets out the processes in respect of which regulations have been made and the processes in respect of which it is the intention of the Secretary of State to make regulations. The schedule should further set out which of the processes the Secretary of State recognises may cause pollution but for which he does not feel able to make regulations and for which he does not, at the time of the statement, propose to make regulations. There is no requirement that that should be done every six months. There is no requirement that there should be a vast bureaucracy dedicated to producing these reports. If the Government Front Bench give me that kind of reply, I shall treat it with little respect as I do not think that is the issue here.

There is a requirement in the Bill that the Secretary of State shall revise the schedule from time to time because clearly the prescribed processes which are covered in the Bill will vary from time to time and it is necessary for the public to know what variations are taking place. The Secretary of State will no doubt be making further regulations, and will be revising his intentions about which processes shall be covered. It is right that the public should know about it.

The whole point about integrated pollution control is that it covers the prior control of prescribed processes. Indeed, if it were not covering prior control—in other words if it were left to deal with fires as they occur rather than attempting to prevent them—there would be no justification for the whole elaborate procedure of prescribed processes. But since this is the way in which prior control is made possible, I suggest that the very least that we should be demanding is that there should be a common high standard of action by the Secretary of State, that this should be made public so that everybody knows what is being done, and that it should be capable of being enforced by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution and by the local authorities which, however downgraded they may be by being second order authorities, still have to respond to the challenges which are put upon them.

Let us not argue the fundamental principles of the Bill again, but let us recognise that the way in which it works is by effective control—"coming down like a ton of bricks" I think the Minister of State said in another place—of a limited number of prescribed processes.

If the Bill is to have any credibility, if there is to be any effective implementation which the public understands and to which the public and local authorities can contribute, I suggest that the minimum requirement is the publication of a schedule of what the Secretary of State is doing and plans to do.

There is nothing here which conflicts with the objectives of the Bill, nothing which seeks to extend the scope of the Bill. This is a proposal which is genuinely designed to be helpful and to aid the Government to achieve, successfully and effectively, what it claims to be seeking. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

I believe that this amendment is unnecessary. Well before the six-month period which has been set, details of the first two categories of processes specified in this amendment will have been published. The Government have already given clear indications—most recently in the draft schedule made available during the Committee stage of this Bill in another place—of the range of industrial processes that we intend to bring under Part I control. We have announced that we intend to publish draft regulations setting out the complete list of processes and substances by the end of July. We intend to publish the six-month regulations shortly after Royal Assent and certainly within the six-month period suggested. These will specify those processes which are to come under integrated pollution control and all of those which are to come, over a period of time, under local authority control for air pollution purposes.

So what is left? A requirement in Amendment No. 27 in paragraph (c) to list all other processes which may cause pollution "within the meaning of this Part". Any activity, even sleeping, causes pollution and very many activities release in small quantities the substances which are to be prescribed for particular control under Part I. Indeed, even those of us participating in the debate in this Chamber are, for example, emitting oxides of carbon. I fear that the environmental costs just of producing the paper for such an unwieldy publication would be excessive.

The point is that the Government will prescribe those processes which they consider need to be controlled under the rigorous powers available under Part I. And who can doubt in this era of enlightened environmental awareness that the scientific and environmental community will let us know if they consider that important processes have been missed?

For that reason, we believe there is no requirement for the amendment as put forward this evening in this Chamber.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I fear that the Minister is taking an unduly narrow view, not only of what the amendment intends but of what the amendment actually says. I welcome the assurances which the Minister has given that there will be a full statement before the end of July about processes in respect of which regulations have been made and are intended to be made. That is extremely helpful since we understand that the Report stage of the Bill will be in October rather than in July. That will inform your Lordships' debates considerably, and to that extent your Lordships may be sure that we shall return to this matter.

As far as paragraph (c) is concerned, of course in theory it could be said that within the meaning of Clause 1 of Part I of the Bill all kinds of things including, as the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, said, standing up and speaking—it could be called the creation of hot air—is polluting. The noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, is as guilty of creating hot air as any of us—he cannot escape that easily. There is no doubt that in terms of the processes which could be covered under the definitions in Clause 1 many things which should not be reported are covered, but the amendment does not say that. It says: cause pollution within the meaning of this Part". As the Minister will be well aware, this part provides very severe restrictions about those prescribed processes which are to be covered by the Bill. It does not mean that any of your Lordships standing up or even sleeping—or perhaps doing both at the same time, which is not unknown in this Chamber—would fall under the provisions of this amendment. To that extent the Minister's arguments against paragraph (c) are defective and deserve to be rejected.

However, this is not a matter to be pursued to a Division at this stage. We shall have better information on subsections (1A) and (1B) at Report stage, and I can assure the Committee that we shall return to them. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 not moved.]

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 30:

Page 4, line 48, at end insert: ("( ) It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State, before he makes regulations under this section to consult such persons appearing to him to represent persons carrying on a process that will be affected by those regulations and such persons appearing to him to be conversant with environmental pollution issues as he considers appropriate and to take any representations made to him as a result of such consultations before determining the final content of any such regulations.").

The noble Lord said: This is a comparatively simple and straightforward amendment. The regulations under subsection (5) will be introduced without parliamentary debate. Thus those in industries which might be involved in processes that cause pollution, as well as those groups which will be trying to monitor the effects of the pollution, will not be able to see what the regulations are, and will be unaware of the considerable effect that they are liable to have.

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that those who are concerned in the processes involved are consulted, so that they know what is going on. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I understood that the noble Lord, Lord Addington, had agreed that we should take Amendments Nos. 30 and 32 together because they have a similarity. In fact, I should like to speak to my Amendment No. 32 in slightly more general terms, but not in any way deviating from the principle which underlies the noble Lord's amendment.

I have taken a rather wider view than the noble Lord, Lord Addington, in that the success which we all hope to achieve for this Bill will depend on the codes of practice. It would be sensible to ensure, even at this early stage, that the consultation is as wide as possible.

The success of any system will rely on the full understanding and co-operation of all those who are involved. If industry is to keep up with the rapidly changing field of environmental legislation and regulation it seems to me that consultation at all stages is vital.

When we discussed the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ross—Amendment No. 5—on what I might broadly call the environmental audit, my noble friend the Minister said that a full White Paper describing exactly what is to happen would be published in the autumn and that that would give an opportunity for wide consultation. That may be so, but, to underline what I am about this evening, perhaps I may suggest to my noble friend that integrated pollution notes are already being prepared by the inspectorate.

The Committee will probably know that those notes describe the standards that are to be achieved. Discussions and consultation have excluded some major interests at this early and vital stage. I shall give only one example. In terms of the large combustion plants, the major electricity generating companies have certainly been consulted, but I am informed that the aluminium industry has not been consulted. An industry as important as the aluminium industry should be consulted. So the amendment seeks to ensure that, in making any regulations under the clause, the Secretary of State carries out the fullest and most proper consultation.

The amendment is similar to provisions incorporated in existing legislation. The wording of Amendment No. 32 is taken from Section 81 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974; it therefore seems eminently suitable for this Bill.

9 p.m.

Lord Reay

We believe that both Amendments Nos. 30 and 32 are unnecessary and that Amendment No. 32 is in some respects defective. I can assure the Committee that the Government will consult interested parties before making any of the regulations permitted under the clause. That is standard practice. Indeed, we have already set the work in hand. The draft schedules of processes and substances that my honourable friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside tabled in another place during the Committee stage consideration of this Bill were the latest in a series of consultation papers indicating those parts of industry and the substances to be caught by Part I of the Bill.

However, the list of persons identified in the amendments points to the difficulty of specifying in advance those persons who should be consulted. In Amendment No. 32, there is no mention of those with a knowledge of the likely environmental effects of any releases, as there is in Amendment No. 30. In Amendment No. 30 there is no mention of those who understand abatement technology options. There is a danger that, in specifying certain categories of person to be consulted it may appear that others do not have equal standing. We therefore prefer to rely on normal administrative practices.

Lord Clinton-Davis

The Minister has not begun to answer the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. My own mind is not entirely made up on this issue, but the noble Lord raised two important points. The first was that vital interests—according to him, the aluminium industry—had not been consulted about matters affecting large combustion plant. He then raised the argument concerning the Control of Pollution Act 1974, embracing just such a section. If that is the situation, why cannot the Government apply precisely the same principles as were devised for the Control of Pollution Act? Will the noble Lord answer those two points?

Lord Reay

The main thrust of our argument here is that we shall consult interested parties before making any of the regulations which are permitted under this clause and that this is a process on which we have already embarked, but that our main objection to selecting interests that should be consulted is that it puts those that are not so referred in an invidious position. The Government will consult on appropriate standards.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Addington, will forgive me for intervening. I do not know what he intends to do with his amendment, Amendment No. 30. I want to come back on what my noble friend said. He said that my amendment was defective. I accept that. Back-Bench amendments frequently are. But the sense of it was not lost on the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. In response, my noble friend said that there will be consultation under this clause. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, referred to Section 81 of the Control of Pollution Act. Will my noble friend consult under the provisions of that section of that Act or only under this clause? He has not made that clear.

It is nonsense to argue that, if there is a non-selection of some consultees, they may feel slightly miffed. It is not difficult to identify those people who practise in an industry over which the regulations will apply and to ensure that, through a provision in the Bill, all those who think that they have an interest will have the opportunity to put forward their view. So I am afraid that I cannot accept that part of the argument; namely, the difficulty of identifying suitable consultees.

I hope that my noble friend will kindly respond in greater depth to the point that I made earlier. I am marginally inclined to accept his assurance that there will be entered into a full and proper consultation process, which is at least similar to that which applies under Section 81 of the 1974 Act.

Lord Reay

I am grateful to my noble friend for his last remarks. I can give the assurance that we shall consult under this Bill. The powers to do so are very wide and in our view adequate. As I said, the Government will consult and will do so under Clause 7 with regard to appropriate standards.

Lord Addington

I listened to the debate as it unfolded and it seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has put his finger on a variety of points about the whole issue of consultation. I should like to read what the noble Lord said. At this point, I shall withdraw the amendment, reserving the right to come back to this issue at a later date when I have studied what has been said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 31 not moved.]

Clause 3 [Emission etc. limits and quality objectives]:

[Amendment No. 32 not moved.]

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 33:

Page 5, line 8, at end insert: ("( ) In exercising his powers under this section, the Secretary of State shall seek to establish the highest practicable standards, objectives or requirements").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 35 and 40A. These three amendments hang together. The provisions contained in Clause 3 of Part I of the Bill allow the Secretary of State to make various regulations designating standards for the operation of the integrated pollution control regime. He is also empowered to revise plans to achieve progressive improvements in quality objectives. It is felt that the Secretary of State should have those functions as a duty, otherwise there seems little point in introducing IPC.

The amendment places a specific duty upon the Secretary of State to: seek to establish the highest practicable standards, objectives or requirements in exercising his powers to make regulations applying IPC to processes or substances.

Amendment No. 35 places a duty upon him to report to Parliament annually on the contents of the regulations, and their effectiveness in achieving improvements in pollution control and to give information on measures that he intends to take to achieve further improvement. Such a duty is of particular importance as it would allow for the inclusion of new data and information on pollution control and threats to the environment to be built into the IPC system and allow the extension of IPC to other processes and substances.

Amendment No. 40A is related to those aims. National nature reserves and marine nature reserves are so declared because they are sites of special importance for nature conservation. They are the strongest designations possible. Because of their great national importance, it is essential that environmental standards within those reserves are maintained at the highest possible levels. They may contain species which are particularly sensitive to pollution but also they are the flagships of nature conservation in the United Kingdom and should, as a matter of principle, enjoy the highest possible standards.

Clause 3 enables the Secretary of State to set different standards in relation to different cases according to several factors. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the importance of maintaining a super-clean environment in areas of great natural environmental quality is one of the factors that he considers. Furthermore, because the whole purpose of the reserve is to protect the wildlife within it, the criterion of safeguarding nature conservation interests must be paramount. If other considerations are allowed to override that, there is little point in having a nature reserve at all.

The amendment also serves to involve the Nature Conservancy Council in the process of setting objectives. The Bill is intended to be an environmental protection Bill. It is therefore important that the Government's advisory body on the conservation of the natural environment should be consulted.

These amendments are reasonable inclusions, and not intrusions, into the Bill. I am sure that the Minister will understand that they are approved by people outside this Chamber. They have special knowledge, advice and anxieties. If the Minister can satisfy me that the anxieties are groundless, I shall not press the amendment to a vote. I beg to move.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Reay

The amendments seek to require the Government to set the highest practicable standards. We are at one in that objective and I assure Members of the Committee that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will do so. However, we do not see that the requirement needs to be spelt out in regulations. If Members of the Committee or of another place are dissatisfied with any regulations laid before them, I have no doubt that they will make their feelings known.

In Amendment No. 35 the noble Lord is calling for yet another annual report. The Government do not want to assist in establishing unnecessary bureaucracy. What would a report listing all relevant statutory instruments give us in effect except a call for yet more paper? Legislation is available, so why do we need to catalogue it? Clause 3(5) already allows the Secretary of State to amend the plans to improve the standards set. It should be for the Secretary of State to decide what is the appropriate timescale for doing so.

As regards Amendment No. 40A, I entirely share the noble Lord's desire to ensure that nature conservation is fully considered whenever environmental quality objectives or standards are set for any national or marine nature reserve. I assure Members of the Committee that all the appropriate bodies will be consulted when such regulations are made. I am happy to confirm that the Nature Conservancy Council will be consulted on all regulations prescribing processes and substances because of their potential for damage to the national environment.

But why single out the NCC and nature reserves when setting local environmental quality objectives? Such objectives and standards could cover a wide range of areas, including, for example, the urban street scene. Why not specify a body to act as guardians there too? Once one body is specified the need to specify others grows. Surely it is better to consider all potential environmental impacts and to rely on appropriate consultation to take place in each case. The amendments appear to be too inflexible and too narrow. I hope that the noble Lord will agree to withdraw them.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

If the amendments appear to be too narrow, the Government rest on legislation which is too broad. If the Minister rests his case on the fact that the request will result in yet another piece of bureaucracy, he can be assured that those who made it do not look upon it as such but as being essential in order to monitor the situation.

The Minister asked what is special about the national and marine nature reserves to distinguish them from an urban street scene. A case can be made for special consideration for the street scene and the urban environment. However, the reserves are not only special but precious. They were created by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The Minister will be corrected by his noble friend on the title of the Act. I served upon the Bill when the measures were introduced. They were not fought by the Government but were introduced by them and were welcomed by many people.

I am grateful, as is the Nature Conservancy Council, that it will be consulted on matters that affect it. But pollution in the air is not static; it moves about. The council is saying that there is a great danger that the special nature of the national and marine nature reserves will be damaged unless special consideration is given. The Minister says that an additional report to Parliament would be superfluous. He has said that time and again. I have not heard many parliamentarians objecting to the fact that they are presented with reports. I have often heard governments—not only this one but previous governments—objecting to the chore of having to produce evidence of their actions from time to time.

I am disappointed with the Minister's reply. It will be looked at closely by those outside the Committee and we may need to return to the matter at a later stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 34: Page 5, line 14, after ("released") insert ("including releases into the atmosphere from electricity-generating stations, taking account of any works undertaken at such stations for the installation of low nitrogen oxide burners or flue-gas desulphurisation plant for the purposes of reducing such emissions").

The noble Lord said: As my noble friend Lord Graham said, Clause 3 is permissive. It allows the Secretary of State to make whatever regulations he wishes at a time and in a manner he regards as suitable.

In these amendments we are seeking to be rather more precise about the concerns which the Secretary of State should bear in mind when he makes such regulations. The purpose of my amendment is to ensure that the Secretary of State has regard to an important matter which has been before your Lordships on a number of occasions, not least on the passage of the Electricity Act and in other matters; namely, that pollution from electricity generating stations can—I emphasise the word "can" because nothing is proved in this world but the evidence is in favour of "can"—be a significant factor in acid rain.

We have it on record that the United Kingdom is the largest emitter of sulphur dioxide in Western Europe and the second largest emitter of nitrogen oxide in Western Europe. It is proven that acid rain is principally caused by emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Therefore, my amendment seeks to require the Secretary of State to have regard to those matters.

The solution to the problem of acid rain and sulphur dioxide emissions is not easy and no Member of the Committee believes that it is. Nevertheless, power stations are the single largest emission sources for sulphur dioxide. In 1988 power stations accounted for 71 per cent. of national emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide.

When the CEGB was in operation before privatisation it announced a voluntary programme to retrofit flue gas desulphurisation equipment to power stations at Drax and Fiddler's Ferry. Subsequently, there was a Community directive on the subject and it was agreed in the directive that the UK should make reductions in sulphur dioxide emissions based on 1980 levels of 20 per cent. by 1993, 40 per cent. by 1998 and 60 per cent. by 2003. That is a very ambitious target for us. However, we wish to ensure that the Government accept that that is a proper target at which to aim.

The most effective way of reducing sulphur dioxide emissions is by the use of flue gas desulphurisation. Unfortunately, privatisation of the electricity industry has drastically altered those plans, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, at Question Time. It is believed that by a different method of generating electricity by using North Sea gas, and so on, the targets of the Community on emissions of noxious gases can be met.

I do not believe that gas should be used to generate electricity; nor does the Community. I do not believe the Government are taking the Community target seriously. Therefore it is for us to write on the face of the Bill that the Secretary of State, when he makes these regulations, should have regard to the matters contained in my amendment.

Perhaps I could return to the text of the amendment. The Secretary of State may make regulations in relation to prescribed processes and under subsection (2)(a)(i) may prescribe, limits on the concentration, the amount or the amount in any period of that substance which may be so released". My amendment seeks to introduce after that expression, including releases into the atmopshere from electricity-generating stations"— taking account of the factors I mentioned.

I move the amendment in order to ascertain from the Government how seriously they take the programme for FGD plant. Are they or are they not committed to it? If they are committed will they accept that something should be on the face of the Bill to ensure that the Secretary of State takes account of the factors I mentioned when he makes regulations. If they are not committed, will they say so?

On this side of the Chamber we always are and always have been concerned about the effect of privatisation in all areas, but especially in the surrender to commercial practices of environmental objectives. That is the reason we seek to ensure that the Government reinforce what they say in their propaganda—if I may use that term—by words on the face of the Bill.

At this stage of the Bill I do not intend to press the amendment to a Division. However, as energy spokesman for my party I consider it important that the Government go on record—if they do not go on record positively then we will come back to this issue at a later stage—saying that the Secretary of State will take account of the matters I have discussed. I hope we will obtain satisfaction from the Government's response: if not, we shall have to consider what action to take. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

I fear that the degree of positiveness required by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, in order to satisfy his desire not to return to this matter at Report stage will be beyond my abilities.

There is no need to specify that the regulations the Secretary of State may make under Clause 3 may include limits on releases from power stations. I assure the Committee that the Government will take vigorous action to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide further. SO2 emissions are already down by 24 per cent. since 1980 and 40 per cent. since 1970. A substantial programme of action has been initiated to meet the requirements of the EC large combustion plants directive. Taking 1980 as the base it requires SO2 emissions from existing large combustion plants to be reduced by 60 per cent. by the year 2003 and NOx by 30 per cent.

Work has already begun to retrofit flue gas desulphurisation equipment to the Drax power station, which has a capacity of 4,000 megawatts and alone supplies around one-eighth of the coal-fired output. Retrofits accounting for a further 4,000 megawatts of capacity are in prospect, and the electricity supply industry will have to come forward with additional proposals for achieving its full share of reductions.

I understand that the industry is looking at alternative power sources such as gas, which usually emits no SO2 and less than half as much CO2 per unit of energy as coal. In considering such proposals I assure the noble Lord that we will be concerned to ensure that the proposals are sufficiently robust to offer the necessary contribution for meeting our directive obligations.

As for NOx emissions, the CEGB is to retrofit all 12 major coal-fired stations—three-quarters of its coal-fired capacity—with low NOx burners.

Lord Williams of Elvel

Is there still a CEGB?

9.30 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

That is what I might term a departmental colloquialism. In addition, the UK is a signatory to the Sofia NOx protocol of the UNECE Convention on Transboundary Air Pollution. Under this protocol we are committed to holding national NOx emissions to the 1987 level by 1994 and agreeing an abatement policy by 1996 which is founded on the "critical loads" approach.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams, derided the use of gas in power stations. However, it is fair to say that it is perfectly possible that the world will decide within the next 10 years that CO2 is such a problem that we may have to go 100 per cent. nuclear. That is a problem rather more for the Benches opposite than this side of the Chamber when it comes to defining what one prefers as a form of fuel.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Williams, referred to his fears concerning privatisation. As I said earlier this afternoon when the noble Lord, Lord Williams, was not in the Chamber, the fact that I have had so few questions to answer on water privatisation, which has resulted in this country having the only fully-funded clean-up programme in Europe, ensures my continuing belief that we are heading in the right direction and will achieve a satisfactory result.

Lord Clinton-Davis

The question of the Government's credentials is seriously in issue here. I speak with some authority because I continued the negotiations in connection with the draft directive on this matter which I inherited from Commissioner Narjes in 1985. I say that the credentials of the Government are seriously in issue because until that time, and indeed beyond, the Government were disputing cause and effect about acid deposition. They were fighting the Commission's draft directive not simply on the matter of detail but on principle. Every speech that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Marshall; every speech that was made by a Government Minister on this issue; every contribution in the Ministerial Council, was aimed to obfuscate and to deny the opportunity for the draft directive to go ahead; and, of course, unanimity was required.

Suddenly it appeared even to the Government that this form of pollution was one of our major exports and that it was not a desirable export; but I suppose if it could have been measured in terms of pounds and pence it would have gone a long way towards curing the balance of payments deficit. However, the fact is that there was apparently a change of heart. The then junior Minister, Mr. William Waldegrave, seemed to be genuinely pleased—I believe that he was entitled to be so—that the Government had had a change of heart. He announced that three large combustion plants—the three largest—were to be subject to retrofitting.

It was quite clear that although the Commission went a long way—some would say too far—to meet the Government's objections to the proposal, a compromise was achieved and I think there is now a serious doubt about the Government's intentions to honour that compromise. It is true that the Government were not on their own. The Spanish Government took a somewhat similar view, which I consider also to be reprehensible. The fact remains that there was the directive.

We know that when questions were posed in another place and in the European Parliament as to when contracts were to be placed for retrofitting, there was a marked silence, or at least a reticence, on the part of the Government to answer the questions. That is perfectly natural because no contracts were placed from the time that the announcement was made at the end of 1986 or the beginning of 1987, whenever it was, right up to the present time. Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether there is now a contract concerning Drax. There may well be. There has been enormous delay on the part of the Government.

The Minister said quite casually, but in a very elegant kind of way—and I recognise that—that one should accept the Government's good faith as regards their determination to honour their commitments concerning the directive. What analysis has been done by the Government of alternative plans to deal with the honouring of the directive's objectives? Why should we take this assertion on trust? After all, we have had assertion after assertion for years on end from the Government about why it was unnecessary to do anything. Particularly in the light of privatisation, why should we accept that the Government are determined to honour their commitments?

I have no such faith. The overwhelming body of public opinion can have little faith in that promise. Certainly, nothing has been said in Committee tonight which suggests that the Government have given the matter any great thought except to say, "Yes, the objective will be honoured". But when the Government's character is impunged by their own record on this matter, why should we take their word in good faith? Particularly in the light of the Minister's somewhat unsatisfactory reply, I am sad that we are not dividing on the matter tonight. It may be that is wise at this hour. Suffice it to say that I hope we shall come back to this matter because I do not think the Minister will improve on what was already a very unsatisfactory response.

Lord Williams of Elvel

Has the Minister anything to say in reply to my noble friend?

Lord Hesketh

The noble Lord asked me whether or not work had actually started on the FGD at Drax. It began last year.

Lord Clinton-Davis

That is hardly a reply to the points that I made less elegantly, I admit, than the Minister. Will the Minister reply to the substance of what I had to say? Does he proclaim that the Government's record in relation to this matter justifies our having confidence in what he has said tonight to the Committee? What possible evidence can he produce to support that proposition?

Lord Hesketh

In my earlier remarks I made it clear—if I did not, then I apologise to the Committee. The Government's commitment is to 12 gigawatts; and eight of those will come out of coal-fired power stations. The concept accepted by the shortly-to-be-privatised companies is that there is a possibility of an alternative way for the remaining four gigawatts. The commitment to the 12 gigawatts has not gone away.

Lord Clinton-Davis

The Minister referred to a possibility. Is that all there is? What certainty is there that the objectives defined in the directive will be achieved?

Lord Hesketh

The Government are committed to achieving those objectives.

Lord Williams of Elvel

The Minister has not given a very satisfactory reply to this amendment. He said that he could not give me any assurance that he would be as positive as I wanted. He has been more or less negative. He could not give me an assurance that his department understood that privatisation had started, and that there was no longer a CEGB. He called it a departmental colloquialism. The Minister then referred to water privatisation, and he said that no complaints had been received in that connection. I do not understand how water privatisation comes into the context of my amendment.

He continued by saying that in future the Government might reinstate the nuclear programme. That will introduce a whole new series of environmental problems which we have not yet addressed. He could not give any clear answer to my noble friend—

Lord Hesketh

I did not say that. What I said, which is much more important than that, is that great problems have possibly been recognised by the world. The noble Lord is hoping to ensure that the Government are committed to a single policy. I am pointing out to him the commonsense fact that if there is a real problem about CO2 the world may have to consider nuclear power as an option. That is not committing the Government to nuclear power, it is stating a piece of common sense.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I am not trying to argue that the Government should be committed to a single policy. I am trying to argue that the Government should be committed to a policy. The noble Lord seemed to refute the idea that there should be a policy about these matters. He was unable to answer the points made by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis and he was unable to answer my points. I invite noble Lords opposite to join the debate. We have had an astonishing silence from the Conservative Party, the Green Party, and so on. No noble Lord wishes to speak on the matter.

I rest my case there. The noble Lord must do much better on this matter before we come to Report stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 35 not moved.]

9.45 p.m.

Lord Hampton moved Amendment No. 36:

Page 5, line 21, at end insert: ("(2A) Regulations made under subsection (2) above may have effect as part of a national strategy published by the Secretary of State for the conservation of energy, including—

  1. (a) the promotion of energy conservation in domestic premises;
  2. (b) measures to develop improved use of energy and good practice in industrial and commercial premises;
  3. (c) the development of public awareness of the implications of energy conservation for the environment").

The noble Lord said: I rise in place of my noble friend Lord Ezra, who cannot be here tonight, to move Amendment No. 36, which is also in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey.

The first step in any environmental policy must be the elimination of waste, especially dangerous waste. That applies to much of the environmental debate. Energy conservation remains a central feature to those of us who are concerned with environmental issues. The contribution that energy inefficiency makes to global warming, let alone the expense involved in wastage, is substantial. It has been estimated that the total heat loss of United Kingdom power stations is enough to heat every home in Britain. Average world temperatures have already warmed by 0.5 to 0.7 degrees centigrade since pre-industrial times. There is likely to be a further rise of 0.5 to 1 degree centigrade over the next few decades because of the increase in greenhouse gases. The likely implications of such temperature rises have been widely catalogued.

More concerted action must be taken now. This amendment, representing a small step towards solving the vast problem of global warming, is nonetheless a step in the right direction. It enables the Secretary of State to determine through a national strategy a far-reaching programme for the conservation of energy to tackle the problems as they affect domestic premises and industrial and commercial premises. It also points to the need to heighten awareness of energy conservation issues among the general public.

Many people throughout the country will be aware of global warming and associated problems but they remain unaware of the implications at a domestic level of not having roof insulation or pipes lagged. Education and advertising have an important role to play. Such a national strategy for the conservation of energy might well include something on the following lines. A subsidised energy survey scheme would encourage greater energy saving. In the United States energy supply companies or utilities are legally required to provide customers with a low-cost and sometimes free home energy survey, containing advice on how to promote energy efficiency. Such a scheme is of sense to the utility, to the customer and of course to the environment.

Inefficient domestic appliances also offer great scope for improvement. Consumers should be aware of the efficiency or otherwise of their appliances, and a scheme of labelling should be introduced by the Government as a matter of priority. This amendment is an enabling amendment. There has undoubtedly been an enhanced awareness of energy efficiency issues in recent years, but it does not go nearly far enough. This amendment seeks to redress that deficiency.

In addition, the Association for the Conservation of Energy suggests that there is a need to establish an effective system of monitoring the progress made in improving energy efficiency in local authority housing on an accurate and regular basis. The options available to promote environmental efficiency are vast. The need is there. This amendment will enable the Minister to develop a clear strategy. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I rise to express my support for the amendment. Although I regret the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, I am delighted that the amendment has been moved so effectively by the noble Lord, Lord Hampton. I wish to make two additional points to those which have already been so effectively made.

First, I should remind Members of the Committee that we are dealing with Clause 3 of the Bill which is about emission limits. It seems to me to be positively perverse to talk about controlling emission limits if we do not, at the same time, deal with the effective use of energy and therefore with energy conservation. For example, it would be total madness if you had a house and you applied controls to one half of it while allowing the other half to negate those controls by the unnecessary release of energy, especially of heat, into the atmosphere.

My second point concerns the role of local authorities in the control of energy. Local authorities are now faced with a new problem. Many of them, especially through the use of capital which was made available to them by disposal of council housing, have carried out significant improvements in major repairs to council housing. They have, at the same time, carried out energy conservation measures which would never have been possible if that capital had not been available. However, they have now had that capital taken away from them and have been told that they are not allowed to use the proceeds of council house sales for major improvement programmes.

They have been told that this will now be ring-fenced, and that only a small proportion is to be available for such purposes. That must mean that the Government are putting pressure directly upon local authorities to reduce expenditure on energy conservation. To that extent, local authorities which have been at the forefront of energy conservation programmes are being hamstrung in their ability to deal with the problem and to contribute to what I should have thought we would all wish to see happen.

The Earl of Balfour

I feel that I must join in the debate at this point. I do so because at long last this Government have done more to encourage us, with the introduction of the community charge, to do something about our homes than any government have done for a very long time. I remind Members of the Committee that under the rates system the minute you put central heating into your homes your rates were increased. Moreover, if you installed double glazing, your rates were also increased. We were constantly paying quite a heavy penalty through the rates system for improving our houses. However, at long last that penalty has been removed.

Lord Ross of Newport

I must counter that observation by saying that we had a very jerky system so far as concerns local government and improvement of housing over the past 10 or more years. A few years ago, the Government introduced a system whereby people who owned properties built prior to 1919 could obtain 90 per cent. grant to reroof their homes. However, the trouble was that the availability of this offer was not made obligatory upon local authorities, and in any case they were told initially that the offer would last for only one year. Therefore, many local authorities did not adopt the scheme. That is why I spent £2,750 reroofing my old house: I received no grant. However, afterwards, everyone else on the Isle of Wight who had a house of that type seemed to have received such a grant. But what a ridiculous way of going about the matter! Why on earth did we give 90 per cent. grants? If we had given 50 per cent. grants, vast numbers of people would have taken advantage of the offer. That is the kind of thing we must do.

We must encourage people to install energy-saving devices into their properties. One of the ways to do this is to give such people some grant-aid. I do not think that it is necessary to throw vast sums of money at the project; but we must give them an incentive. For example, if you give a farmer a 30 per cent. grant to build a new barn, he will probably do so. If people in this country could be made to see the sense of going in for solar energy, and knew that they could do so for about £1,500, they would be encouraged. If they had a grant of 30 per cent. or 40 per cent.—that money should be available from local authorities—vast numbers of people would make use of solar energy.

We did not revalue from about 1974 and therefore most improvements were not clobbered. It is true that if people improved their properties the rental value went up. I agree that that was one of the drawbacks of the rating system. I beg the Government to allow local authorities to give incentives to people to enable them to introduce commonsense energy-saving initiatives such as lagging roofs and tanks. Many people still do not have felt under their slate or tiled roofs. Such work must be done. It can be done by encouraging people through some sort of financial incentive. I beg the Government to take the amendment on board.

Lord Hesketh

Amendment No. 36 permits the publication of a statement on the conservation of energy. That we do not need such a power is evidenced by our intention—I doubt that I need to remind the Committee—to issue in the autumn a White Paper on the environment which will deal with energy matters alongside many others that have an impact on the environment.

Nevertheless, the amount of energy used to produce each £1,000 of GDP has improved from 1.24 tonnes of coal equivalent in 1979 to 1.01 tonnes in 1988. That is an average reduction in energy intensity of 2 per cent. per annum. The Energy Efficiency Office programmes have achieved direct energy savings of well over £500 million per year. According to the OECD figures from last year, only Luxembourg had a better record of energy efficiency within the EC between 1975 and 1987. A recent study by the National Audit Office concluded that national energy savings in the United Kingdom were running at £2.3 billion per year above the levels of 1983 based on an energy/GDP ratio.

My noble friend Lord Balfour made a valid point. Members opposite have talked about providing incentives. His point about the community charge was correct; but the Labour Party has now endorsed the policy of reintroducing the rates, which is a direct tax on the improvement of property by the addition of double glazing and central heating to save energy, as he pointed out. We resist the amendment.

Lord Williams of Elvel

Will the Minister tell us from where he gets his information about Labour Party policy?

Lord Hesketh

I am an innocent victim who reads across a broad spectrum of the press in the moments allowed when I am not attending the Committee.

Lord Williams of Elvel

Does the Minister always believe what he reads in the press?

Lord Hesketh

Such was the broad spectrum of reportage that I believed it to be true; but if I am wrong I am more than happy to be corrected by the noble Lord, Lord Williams.

Lord Hampton

I do not find the Minister's reply encouraging, but at this time of night I do not wish to press the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 5, line 21, at end insert: ("(2A) Regulations made under subsection (2) above in respect of emissions from motor vehicles shall prescribe such standards as the Secretary of State considers appropriate for the reduction of levels of primary pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, reactive hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and at the time when any such regulations are first published, the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a statement of objectives in relation to public transport, and the promotion or otherwise of the use of motor vehicles, with the purpose of securing a progressive reduction of concentrations of primary pollutants by the year 2000.").

The noble Lord said: The Minister, having started by repudiating any interest in the concerns of other government departments, has ended up by claiming credit for the work of the EEO in the Department of Energy; and so he will forgive me if I challenge him to take responsibility, on behalf of the Government as a whole, for the enormous conflict which now arises between the Department of the Environment and the Department of Transport.

How can we have an Environmental Protection Bill which does not deal with one of the most serious and increasing forms of environmental pollution? In its 1989 national road traffic forecasts the Department of Transport coolly predicts that total traffic will increase by between 83 per cent. and 142 per cent. by 2025. The implications of that increase on the emission of pollutants can hardly be underestimated. Even if we were to install 100 per cent. catalytic converters in our cars—and we shall come to that with Amendment No. 38—and even if we were thus to reduce nitrogen oxide, we would still have at least 50 per cent. and probably significantly more carbon monoxide emissions. Even if we were to increase fuel efficiency and take the lower of the two traffic forecasts which the Department of Transport issued last year, we should still have an increase in carbon dioxide emissions of approximately 20 per cent.

There have been panic consultations between the Departments of the Environment and Transport or at least between the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Transport. I do not know what happens within the different towers of Marsham Street. When the Department of Transport published its road programme, Trunk Roads—England: Into the 1990s in February this year, it said that the forecasts were in no sense a target or option. If they are not a target or an option, what are they? If they are not to be a target and are not to be accepted as an option, then surely the Government must have alternative plans. Those plans are not included in Trunk Roads—England: Into the 1990s. Unless there is some realistic alternative for simply continuing to create road space to meet the projected increase in traffic, the denial that this is a target or an option is a meaningless gesture.

If we are to have a serious transport policy integrated with pollution control and environmental protection—and that is what we demand in the amendment—we must have a specific commitment to a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide. We must have specific policies about the effect on the forecasts of traffic increases of the use of alternative modes and land use policies. Those policies and plans for alternative modes must be written into government policies.

In particular, in our cities we must have a rethinking of the cowardly approach which has existed in the past that simply says, "As we anticipate demand we increase road capacity". It is now well recognised that the reverse is the case: as we increase road capacity we increase demand. I have no hesitation in saying, because I said this on behalf of the Labour Party in the Greater London Council election in 1981: the time has come when the restraint on vehicular traffic in our cities at certain times of day and on certain roads can no longer be postponed. The time has come when we can no longer assume that all vehicles will be able to travel on all roads at all times without some form of penalty.

If that commitment is thought to be threatening to the private car driver, so be it. It is a commitment that will be forced on all political parties in this country within the next decade. The first party to recognise it and deal with it as a political priority will—I shall put it the other way round. The last party to recognise it and deal with it as a political priority will sink into oblivion. It will be clear that a decent society in our cities, with the protection of the national and global environment, cannot survive under the policies still rampant in the Department of Transport.

We must remove the bias to roads confirmed only 10 days ago by the extraordinary announcement that it is illegitimate for us to give a single penny of public money towards international rail traffic. That was on the spurious grounds that we are not doing so for international air traffic or international ferry traffic. Nevertheless the assumption is made without exception that any increase in road capacity is to be paid for, not by a contribution from the public purse, but 100 per cent. from the public purse. Transport policy in this country is perhaps the last area in which the Government have not only made no real progress towards dealing with the problems of the 1990s but have not even started to recognise that those problems exist.

At least in many other areas of policy the Government make an attempt to copy the rhetoric and to understand what is happening in the world and to make gestures towards policy change. As far as we can see, as regards transport policy we are still living in the age of the Ark. As long as that situation continues and as long as it is permissible for this Government to continue with reactionary transport policies everything else that is found in this Environmental Protection Bill, however good it may be, is without meaning and without substance. Unless there is a commitment to a change in transport policy and the Government are prepared to write that into the Bill, we shall continue with the deep scepticism which we still feel not about the objectives of the Bill but about the willingness of the Government to give it any real meaning. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord Hampton

I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, as regards the proposals to reduce the problems caused by emissions from motor vehicles. I support the noble Lord wholeheartedly in his attack on the Government's lack of a serious transport policy. I am sceptical that the Government have a convincing policy towards stabilisation of emissions when they talk at the same time of a probable doubling—the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has referred to this—of the number of cars on the roads of Britain in the next 30 years or so. The Committee may have seen an article by John Adams in yesterday's edition of The Times, where he stated: Any government wanting to help solve the greenhouse problem by reducing carbon dioxide emissions will need to do more than just halt the growth in cars and lorries, but reduce it". However, for the time being we need to hear the Government's reply to the proposals contained in this amendment which we support.

The Earl of Balfour

I have one question here to begin with. Can a Member of the Committee tell me what the difference is between a primary and a secondary or some other kind of pollutant? I do not know what the difference is. Further, I feel that quite a lot has been achieved in this field. British Rail's east and west coast routes to Scotland will be completely electrified within about six months from now. This Government have introduced lead free petrol. I think it is worth bearing in mind that with the improvement in the efficiency of engines, assuming the same weight of car, a 1600cc engine is usually much more economical than, say, a 1300cc engine. That is rather interesting.

Equally I feel that the Secretary of State has to have an overall picture of pollution. I very much doubt whether he will be able to improve the situation in respect of road transport with the steady increase in the number of cars that is being demanded today.

Lord Hesketh

I was always under the impression that the Ark was a prototype form of public transport. However, I may have been wrong on that point. As regards Amendment No. 37, it is clear that when we come to set further emission limits for vehicles we shall regulate our industry in line with standards set across the European Community. We are already committed to tough new car standards from 1st July 1992. All new models of cars must be capable of meeting these standards. That will cut by about 80 per cent. emissions of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons.

Cars will require a three-way catalyst to achieve these standards. It is estimated that this will add some £1.5 billion a year to UK motoring costs. The EC has recently published its proposal for a consolidated directive which will extend these standards to larger cars. The proposal also includes a new test procedure, durability requirements and limits on evaporative emissions. We are also pressing our colleagues in the EC for tough new standards for diesels and for control of carbon dioxide.

Heavy goods vehicles now account for some 50 per cent. of nitrogen oxides emitted by road vehicles and, as the Committee will know, carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas. The Committee will, however, appreciate that we must proceed in harmony with all member states.

On public transport, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, suggested that the Government are not interested in public transport. That is just not true. The Government are currently supporting a huge investment programme in British Rail of some £3.7 billion over the next three years—I believe that is in excess of the West German investment—and in the London Underground of £1.7 billion over the next three years. The Jubilee line and the Docklands light railway are to be extended, and there is to be a major new light rail scheme in Manchester which the Government are helping to fund with a substantial grant.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, first suggested that there is no contribution towards road construction, but he conveniently forgot the existence of the road fund licence compared with subsidies to which he referred elsewhere, which I think it would be fair to say involve a reasonable and extremely substantial sum of money.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I always thought it was argued that there was no such thing as hypothecation, and that the road fund licence contributions did not in fact go towards a specific road fund building programme. Is the Minister now changing Treasury policy?

Lord Hesketh

Of course I am not changing Treasury policy. All I am suggesting to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is that if one takes the total amount of taxation and then suggests that there is no contribution in a certain quarter that is taking rather a liberated view of the situation.

We covered some of this ground earlier in the environmental debate, and we come back to the old favourite of 142 per cent., where the Opposition throw up their hands in despair and say it is disgraceful that any department of state can produce a figure which insinuates that road traffic might increase by 142 per cent. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, then went on to refer to targets or options, insinuating in some way that this resulted in the Government being committed irrevocably. I would suggest that neither "target" nor "option" is the correct word. The word that is correct is "forecast".

It would be extremely irresponsible of any government to ascertain the level of transport requirement for a particular type of road user or, in the health service, the possibility of death from certain diseases, and to say, "We don't like that figure so we will deny its existence". The Government have a responsibility to prepare the figures which allow them to be discussed in your Lordships' Committee and many other great corridors in this land.

Finally, it is also worth remembering, as I pointed out earlier, it is a sad truism that with increasing expenditure on public transport in West Germany it has been found that the actual level of use has been falling.

Lord Clinton-Davis

When the Government signed the Single European Act, although the Prime Minister seems to have a somewhat frustrated memory about that, they accepted the principle that environmental policy would be integrated into all other policies. On the evidence that is available I hardly think that that is being taken very seriously in Whitehall at the present time in so far as transport policy is concerned.

I shall not go into the details of transport policy at this stage, but the Government have very clearly overlooked that fundamental obligation altogether.

I should like to ask the Minister a number of questions. He referred to the catalytic converter. There is a case, indeed, for conversion as far as the Government are concerned because yet again, during the four years that I was a Commissioner with this particular responsibility, I found that the Government bitterly opposed at every conceivable turn the Commission's draft directive in so far as small and medium sized cars were concerned. Is that not correct? Did they not argue that the catalytic converter was a German ploy to win an unfair share of the European car market, that it was not effective, that it was altogether undesirable and therefore should be opposed by the Commission? The Commission did their very best to abate those anxieties, but to no avail until very much later.

What was interesting about the debate and yet again casts the Government in a somewhat dubious light is that the Government asserted in relation to small and medium-sized cars that there was no need for strict limits, although British, French and Italian manufacturers were producing much cleaner cars for export to some of the EFTA countries and to the United States than they were prepared to provide for the people of the Community. So that saga of the Government putting every obstacle in the way, just like the large combustion installation situation, went on.

Why have the Government suddenly changed their view about the catalytic converter? Why have they suddenly taken the view that they were utterly wrong in resisting the Commission's proposals up to the beginning of 1989? Was it that there was a Euro-election seven days after the Environmental Council was to take place? Was it that they decided that the view of the European Parliament's substantially amending proposal—amendments which the Commission was disposed to accept—was a situation that they could not resist just before a European election? The Government were not isolated—I am perfectly prepared to be fair about that—because the French and the Italians were in exactly the same position. It was an unholy alliance designed over years to frustrate progress in that field. Yet one sees on television the Prime Minister saying that we were in the lead over catalytic converters.

The Government insisted that the draft directive should be watered down. Why did they delay over all those years? The Minister must answer that question if the Government are to have any credibility in our accepting once again their request for their credibility to be accepted.

I wish to say one other thing about the matter. The conspiracy—I believe that that is what it was—between the car manufacturers in the three countries that I have mentioned and the Governments of those countries was a scandal. I remember receiving a letter a day or two before the crucial discussion in the Commission over medium-sized cars from one of the chairmen of a large car-producing company in Europe. He argued that our policy proposals would imperil jobs and investment, and they were thoroughly bad. We reached a near agreement and the following day the self-same chairman of the motor car company wrote to me saying, "Well, having second thoughts, maybe it was not that bad".

We had that strange way of policy developing—if you could deign it to be policy—in conjunction with the short-term interests of the car-manufacturing companies by those three governments. It was a page of shame and something which redounded to the extreme disadvantage of people in Europe over many years. The Government have many explanations to offer.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I am not sure whether the Committee wants to engage in the attempt of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, to have a debate on transport policy. If it does, then I shall join in; but I would rather address my remarks to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis.

I say that with respect. It is no good the noble Lord pursuing in this Committee tonight the battles that he fought valiantly and properly as a commissioner, particularly on an amendment which deals entirely with pollution control and control of emissions from motor cars. That is what it is about, not the past policies of the Government. If the noble Lord wants to engage in a discussion on catalytic converters, let me tell him that of all the technological developments that have occurred in the motor industry—I speak with some small knowledge—the catalytic converter is about the least efficient.

However, it makes a small contribution and it will continue to do so until such time as the new generation of lean-burn engines is developed, which the entire industry particularly wants. That it was expedient to go down that route is neither here nor there; that is the route that we have taken. Moreover, the catalytic converter will bring with it a load of other troubles; namely, its disposal, its renewal and its feeding with another scarce raw material. It is totally outrageous for the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, to say—I think I heard him correctly—that there was a conspiracy between the car manufacturers and the Government. That is absolute nonsense; I repeat, nonsense.

But let us leave that matter aside and turn to the amendment. That is what we are supposed to be discussing. The last part of the amendment states that the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a statement of objectives, and so on: with the purpose of securing a progressive reduction of concentrations of primary pollutants by the year 2000". I believe that I have answered the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, with regard to primary and secondary pollutants. One gets secondary pollutants after the catalytic converter has done its work. One gets primary pollutants when one's motor car is filled at a gas station and when a tank is filled up in the tank depot. The oil companies themselves are engaged in a great deal of research in seeking to make reductions in that area. It is the secondary pollutants which come out at the end of the exhaust pipe.

Had the noble Lord's amendment stated that it was with the purpose of securing no greater increase notwithstanding the increased number of motor vehicles, I should have some sympathy. One cannot put back the clock for motor cars which are 14 years old or 18 years old and which still have some life in them. Therefore one has to ensure that the new growth in car and vehicle parts does not add to the problem. That might have been a little more sensible.

I find this particular amendment fraught with technical difficulties. If one were to argue that those were difficulties that the Department of Transport and their technicians must overcome, I could accept that kind of argument. However, I do not believe that it is a practical proposition to put in this Bill in this way.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Ross of Newport

I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, can argue in such a fashion when it seems that we are to get a lot of propaganda from the Front Bench opposite about what they are doing with British Rail and goodness knows what else. I think that the Government must be horrified that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, has come into this Chamber and told us a few brutal facts about what has been going on when he viewed it from Brussels over the past few years. I very much welcome his comments this evening. I think that it is about time that some of those things were debated in this Chamber.

I realise that one is supposed to be very courteous and so on, but it is absolute nonsense for the Minister to stand here and say that the Government spend this or that amount on the railways. It all comes out of their external financing limit. He must sit in his ministerial car night after night and day after day in traffic jams with cars sending out fumes and getting nowhere, chained for 10 minutes, 15 minutes or half an hour. Listen to the radio any morning and hear of the six-mile tailbacks on the M.25.

In this country we do not have a transport policy. British Rail is losing thousands and millions of pounds, because in order to pay for the improvements, modernisation and so on which it is trying to effect, it is taking off staff from the stations. At night I do not have to buy a ticket when I go to Charing Cross or Blackfriars although I do buy one. I get off at a south London station and there is no-one to claim the ticket. The stations are not even manned. That is what is happening. It is time for this Chamber, as for the other place, when they have a chance in this amendment, to say that they want to have a transport policy.

As a member of the Select Committee on Transport of another place, I helped consider the Bills that were introduced when Mr. Ridley was Secretary of State for Transport. I argued with him about an integrated transport system but he did not believe in it. Now the phrase has returned and we are beginning to think that we should have an integrated transport system.

We live in a small country—do not throw us by speaking about Germany—and we are overpopulated in the South East. We must return to an efficient system of public transport. This may not be the right debate in which to discuss transport policy, but I believe that the Government must do a great deal more and do it a darned sight more quickly. If they do not do so the whole country will come to a standstill. The Government had a good Minister of Transport in Lynda Chalker. I argued the issue with her 10 years ago. In 1973 and with a majority of 150 the Government had a wonderful opportunity—

Lord Burton

I am wondering what the noble Lord's argument has to do with the amendment.

Lord Ross of Newport

The amendment states that: the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a statement of objectives in relation to public transport, and the promotion or otherwise of the use of motor vehicles". That is what my argument has to do with the amendment and that is why I put it forward. I hope to goodness that we shall receive a better response.

Lord Hesketh

The noble Lord will not receive a better response. However, it is my job to respond to the suggestion put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, of conspiracy on the part of the Government with regard to catalytic converters. I am a very simple fellow. Once upon a time I knew a little about engines and engineering. However, I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, that not even to mention clean-burn and lean-burn technology is remarkable. The Government had a perfectly respectable case. They accepted catalytic converters with demands for further changes. As I pointed out earlier today, the Government are pushing for improvements in diesel engines in the Community. I do not accept the accusation of conspiracy in any shape or form.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I shall not delay the Committee for long. There appeared to be an unseemly unity between the three car manufacturing countries and their manufacturers at that time. What has happened to lean burn? Many protestations were made about it but little has developed. I heard the Prime Minister speak on television proclaiming that the Government are in the lead as regards catalytic converters. If anyone was re-writing history it was the Prime Minister.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Members of the Committee opposite questioned whether it was appropriate to have a transport debate when dealing with the Bill. I do not see how we can deal with the Bill effectively without considering one of the most serious sources of the emission of pollutants in this country. After all, the Bill is supposed to cover the emission of pollutants. I do not see how we can conceivably cover the Bill effectively and honourably if we do not consider the emissions from power stations, as did my noble friend Lord Williams and others. Indeed, other Members of the Committee have spoken of the opportunities which arise through energy conservation.

Similarly, I do not see how we can meaningfully discuss air pollutants in Part I of the Bill unless at the same time we are prepared to consider a transport policy. In response to the arguments that were put to him the Minister simply skated around their fringes rather than attempting to deal with them. I do not say that to cut emissions from internal combustion engines is easy. I do not say that there is a single way of achieving that; nor that the only way to achieve it is through catalytic converters. However, if one heard the way in which the Government blazened their green credentials when they reduced the tax on unleaded petrol, one would not recognise the fact that unleaded petrol does nothing to alleviate most of the dangerous emissions from internal combustion engines. It certainly does not increase the efficiency of internal combustion engines.

I do not suggest that even now we have all the answers. After all, mobility is a strong human desire. It will be difficult to deal with it other than by starving it and that is the last acceptable option. One must combine increased efficiency of individual internal combustion engines with a move from the internal combustion engines which are most dangerous to those which are less dangerous. This will involve catalytic converters even though they may not be the long-term solution.

Above all, despite what the Minister said, there is need for proper planning of traffic and a transport policy which takes into account both the private car and public transport. It is no good the Minister denying that the forecasts which have been made are targets or options. If he is claiming that they are only forecasts, then government policy cannot be silent on what means are to be adopted to stop those forecasts coming true. G. K. Chesterton said that the favourite employment of the English was to summon the soothsayers, listen very carefully to what they said and then to go away and do something else. It would be admirable if, in respect of traffic forecasts, we could do that. Unfortunately, it is not open to the individual to do something else about traffic growth and emissions from the internal combustion engine. It needs government policy to redress the balance between private and public transport. It is no answer to say, "This is a forecast and nothing to do with me". It means adopting the policies which we have indicated in moving the amendment.

I despair at the response which the Minister gave to my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis. When he says that we must move in harmony with all member states, is he seriously saying that there is no obligation on us to do better than other member states if we can and at least to keep up with them when we cannot do better? This is a signal opportunity to take the lead in the European Community. We have a car industry which is particularly strong as regards smaller cars. They may not always be more efficient than those from abroad but could be made so. We have a taxation system which favours the company car far more than in any other European country except Sweden. We should use regulation of taxation of the company car in order to control emissions and to increase the energy efficiency of our own motor industry.

We have strayed on to the subject of catalytic converters dealt with in Amendment No. 38. That is not grouped with this amendment and I do not propose to move it because we should be duplicating the argument. However, the argument about transport policy and the contribution of emissions from internal combustion engines to total pollution will not go away and has not gone away. It is only because we know that, if there is to be any attempt at credibility when the White Paper comes out in September, the Government will have to face this matter more fairly and openly than they have today that I propose to withdraw the amendment and to bring back something comparable on Report in the light of the White Paper.

The responses of the Governme.nt to this fundamental challenge to the credibility of the Bill and especially this part of it have been totally inadequate. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 38 not moved.]

10.30 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 39:

Page 5, line 25, at end insert: ("(3a) In prescribing by regulation any standards under subsection (2) above in respect of emissions into the air from electricity generating stations, or in establishing by regulation limits as to such substances in the air under subsection (5) below, the Secretary of State shall take into account—

  1. (a) the availability of electricity supplies from renewable sources including wind power;
  2. (b) the relative environmental impact of renewable and fossil fuel sources of electricity; and
  3. (c) the desirability of providing, or of securing the provision of, financial incentives to such renewable sources.").

The noble Lord said: Yet again—and I apologise to the Committee—we come to the problem of trying to make this Environmental Protection Bill into a proper Bill for environmental protection. Had he been a Member of your Lordships' House, the third name to this amendment would have been that of Mr. Heseltine. As the Committee will know, today he called for a greener government and said that the targets set by the Government in the Environmental Protection Bill were not good enough. If Mr. Heseltine had been a Member of the Committee I am sure that he would have put his name to the amendment.

The point of the amendment is twofold. First, we on these Benches—and I can also speak for the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, on this matter—do not believe that the Government have shown enough enthusiasm for renewable sources of energy. There have been a number of debates on that topic in this Chamber and I have participated in many of them. At all times we tried to press the Government seriously to consider sources of energy other than nuclear energy, which at one point was their favourite. It was considered to be environmentally friendly. At other times they favoured the fossil fuel generating stations which were also considered to be environmentally friendly. We received no serious response.

Secondly, and more importantly for the purposes of this Bill, given that we are dealing with economics—and we must accept that environmental protection has an economic cost—we must ensure that renewable sources are given proper economic incentive to compete with existing sources of electricity generation.

The problem arises because the capital costs of fossil fuel plants, which were formerly owned by the CEGB and are now owned by National Power and PowerGen, have effectively been written off under the privatisation programme. Although they had a low return when they were in the CEGB, under privatisation the profit they need to make—their capital costs having been written off—is lower than it would be had those stations been amortised according to normal practice.

The result is that anyone who tries to start a greenfield site on renewable energy—be it wind power, offshore wind or anything else—has to compete with electricity generated by stations whose capital costs have been amortised artificially under the privatisation programme and which can produce electricity at a low price. One has to accept that. In addition, there is the problem that nuclear power stations, which are still in the public sector, will be able to produce electricity at a price that the Nuclear Electric Company will set and which may or may not bear relation to the market price. We have had these debates before in this Chamber and we know that the price will not bear any relation to the true cost of electricity generated by those stations if one takes account of decommissioning.

The working of the present pool, which is the new system under which electricity prices to the distributing companies will be determined, requires generators to bid in advance for power to be supplied. There have to be contracts. It is difficult for generating companies which wish to invest in renewable energy of any kind to forecast exactly what their output will be. That has been the problem not only for those trying to erect renewable stations but also for those trying to erect traditional stations. They cannot make any predictions about their costs and hence their prices.

We should like to see some sort of provision for renewable energy sources to be accepted as a base-load, as part of the system, because they are essentially environmentally friendly. In Germany, the government have set a specific environmentally friendly energy premium for wind generated energy. In the Netherlands, government subsidies of the order of 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. on capital cost are available. In Denmark there is an obligation on utilities to install a fixed amount of wind power and that has kept orders moving. In the United Kingdom there is no such provision, no such obligation and nothing like it is contained in the Bill.

We are yet again trying to persuade the Government that both economically and strategically it is right for renewable sources of energy—I have wind power particularly in mind—to be part of this Bill; to be part of what the Secretary of State has regard to when he makes regulations under Clause 3. If the Government are serious—I refer again to debates that have taken place this evening on other matters—about environmental protection they will take these proposals seriously and put them on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I moved an amendment to the Electricity Bill on 16th May 1989, (Cols. 1151–2) on the subject of renewable sources of electricity and I was encouraged by the Government that there was a future for such ventures, not least by the remarks of my noble friend Lady Hooper on 15th June 1989 when she said that, renewable generators can always look to the future with optimism". I did what I was told and looked at my own farm as a possible site for wind power. Therefore, I declare an interest. More importantly, generation from wind power could be an alternative use of land not just for me in Anglesey but for many farmers, particularly in the west of the United Kingdom. I need hardly remind the Committee that farmers are continually being exhorted to do anything other than produce food.

However, when I looked at the possibility of producing wind power some problems arose. First, as explained clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, it was impossible to put up capital against a fossil fuel plant or, indeed, a nuclear plant heavily subsidised by privatisation write-off. As the noble Lord explained, the electricity supply industry between 1982 and 1987 only received a return of 3 per cent. on its money. How can I compete against that with interest rates at 15 per cent.?

Secondly, the contract now being offered only runs until 1998 which, bearing in mind that it might take two years to build a plant, is far too short and compares very unfavourably with contracts offered to the nuclear power industry, or, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams, said, those on the Continent.

Thirdly, there is a planning problem; not least because the most suitable sites for wind power are likely to be in beautiful and quiet places. I ask the Government to consider devoting more research into making windmills less noisy. It can be done but it costs money and that makes the project unviable. I cannot accept the argument that this is a local planning matter. I understand, for example, that the NCC in North Wales is against wind power. I presume, therefore, that it prefers acid rain or no ozone layer; or perhaps typically of the NCC it wants to go back to candles and not have any power at all.

If the Government want the private sector to invest in renewable clean energy—and from the comments I have read in the press my right honourble friend Mr. John Wakeham does—these points need addressing. In short, I want to see not just the colour of the Government's money but to know whether they are really keen to encourage planners and researchers to support these renewable sources of energy.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

In common with my noble friend Lord Williams I have taken part in a number of debates on this subject. I have only one question to ask the Minister. Wind power has been dealt with by my noble friend and by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley.

The amendment refers to renewable sources of energy. I want to make one reference to another renewable source—that of wave power. I have never had an answer to the questions that I put on 21st February of this year when we were discussing manufacturing industry and I pointed out the number of environmentally friendly technologies which has been invented and developed in this country, used abroad and neglected here. That is particularly the case as regards wind power.

I trust that the Minister knows something of the history of Professor Salter's duck in Edinburgh. The whole scheme for using wave power for totally clean energy production was sabotaged because renewable resources came under the umbrella of the Atomic Energy Authority. The totally false figures given at that time for the expense of nuclear energy compared with the energy that could be produced from renewable resources, especially from wave power, meant that the research that was being successfully done here, and in other countries since then, was starved of funds and virtually destroyed.

After all the arguments and the evidence that we have put before him, I ask the Minister whether he will now consider setting up a separate authority for the renewable production of energy so that it is not held to be in competition with nuclear energy and so that it becomes a part of government policy to promote renewable resources to produce cheaper electricity and, above all, cleaner electricity.

Lord Hesketh

I fear that I shall disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, because I propose to address myself to the amendment and not to the specific questions that he asked, which are not to do with the amendment but with what he suggests might have happened concerning a particular product. If the noble Lord likes to table a Question on the subject I am sure that he will elucidate a satisfactory answer.

We fully recognise the importance of developing alternative, renewable sources of energy. The Department of Energy has already spent over £150 million on research and development into renewable energy sources and expects to spend a further £50 million in the next three years. Under the Electricity Act 1989 some 600 megawatts of generating capacity has been reserved for renewable energy sources. This has given a considerable boost to the sector and over 300 applications have been received by the Department of Energy for projects to generate this reserve capacity.

However, we must for the foreseeable future rely substantially for our electricity needs on current generating methods. Any standards or limits that are set cannot ignore this. Perhaps I may give two examples which I have seen in the department recently, one of which concerns a tidal barrage where there are distinct environmental problems. The minute one begins to raise water in an estuary it starts covering low mudflats. People with a great interest in bird life and various other activities then feel that there is a risk. There are very difficult environmental solutions to be found in that case.

I know that my noble friend Lord Stanley is well aware of the next example. If I simplify the point it is probably fair to say that most of the suitable locations for windmills tend to be in areas of outstanding natural beauty. Again, there are conflicts of a fairly prodigious nature there between, as my noble friend Lord Stanley rightly points out, the desire of a farmer to reduce his costs or to supply power to a local community and the desire to preserve the landscape.

Those are two simple examples of where there is conflict which is difficult to resolve in terms of achieving planning permission and providing power in the short term. There will be many factors to take into account in deciding on appropriate standards or limits. While I share noble Lords' support for renewable energy, I do not feel it would be appropriate to identify this one in particular on the face of the Bill.

However, as regards discussions that are taking place at the moment concerning pricing or, if I may use the jargon, the NFFO levy, that means that the public electricity suppliers, the Office of Electricity Regulation and the Department of Energy are at this moment scrutinising the draft arrangements.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

I really cannot let this go. The noble Lord said that he wanted to return to the amendment. The amendment refers to renewable sources, which include not only renewable sources but also wind power. I was instancing another renewable source. The noble Lord asked whether I would like to put down a Question. I have put down Questions. I referred him to the debate on 21st February and also to what I said in the debate of last Wednesday. I have never had an answer from the Government as to what their attitude was and is towards the invention of Professor Salter which was found to be successful and is being used abroad. It was killed in 1982 in this country as a result of the false figures given for the price of nuclear power.

So long as renewable sources remain within the ambit of the nuclear lobby there is very little hope of us ever acquiring the sources of power which we have at our disposal, which have been proved elsewhere and which should be used in this country where they were invented and where the research was originally carried out. What will the Government do now to rectify the mistake that they made in 1982?

Lord Hesketh

I am sure that I can give this guarantee to the noble Lord: I shall draw his remarks to the attention of the Department of Energy.

Lord Williams of Elvel

The noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, has not addressed himself to the major issue of the economics of generating electricity by the use of renewable sources. As I said in my opening speech on the amendment, Germany has a programme for subsidy; the Netherlands have a programme for subsidy; Denmark has a programme for subsidy. The noble Lord said that discussions were going on in the context of the NFFO between Professor Littlechild and others. Until we have some clear guidance on whether the point I have made, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, is to be met by the Government, we cannot believe that they are serious about encouraging the generation of energy from renewable sources.

I do not propose at this hour to divide the Committee. The opportunity for a debate was important. But I hope very much that before the Report stage the noble Lord will be able to give some indication of how those discussions are going and what the objective is and thereby assure the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, and myself that we need not reproduce the amendment at Report. I assure him that if he does not do so we shall have another battle at Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Gisborough moved Amendment No. 40:

Page 5, line 29, at end insert— ("( ) The first regulations under this section shall be made not later than five years from the coming into force of this section.").

The noble Lord said: It is essential that a reasonable timetable should be established for the complete integrated pollution control framework to come into force covering both new and existing processes. This would give a clear timetable for industry to work to and would establish a target date for HMIP to be fully resourced for the effective discharge of its new responsibilities.

The Government recognise the importance of this matter. They have published a timetable for specific sectors to be brought under control in a phased programme. The programme envisages completion by November 1994. However, the Bill itself lacks a specific commitment to a timetable for completion. This raises the danger of undue delay and slippage. It is worth recalling that the Control of Pollution Act 1974 did not come fully into force for a decade or more. Such a delay in connection with this Bill would be unacceptable both to the public and to industry.

Large parts of the Bill depend upon the Secretary of State for their enactment. Five years is a realistic time-scale for HMIP to become fully resourced, for technical guidance on BATNEEC to be completed and for emission and discharge limits in relation to any process prescribed under Clause 2, or any particular substance, to be set.

A specific commitment to that time-scale is needed in the Bill to keep up the pace of transition to IPC and to avoid a prolonged period of a two-tier system. In other words, it would prevent such sectors being covered by IPC, alongside others, escaping the new regulatory regime. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

I am grateful to my noble friend for tabling this amendment which allows me to repeat to the Committee commitments which my honourable friend gave to the other place when the Bill came before that Chamber. I can assure noble Lords that we intend to bring in regulations to allow us to set up the system outlined in Part I of the Bill from the beginning of next year. This will mean that all new processes coming under integrated pollution control will be brought within the system early in 1991. Processes which are already in operation will be brought into the system gradually, and will stay under the present controls until this happens. We intend that the phased programme should be completed within the five years proposed in the amendment.

Noble Lords may be aware that we placed in the Library on 26th April a programme setting out our plans for implementation. The document sets out in schedules the time-tables for bringing categories of existing processes within the new Part I controls. In view of those assurances, I hope that my noble friend will not feel it necessary to press his amendment.

Lord Gisborough

I thank my noble friend for that reply. On the face of it, it sounds very satisfactory. Therefore, subject to reading it and obtaining further advice on the matter, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 40A not moved.]

Lord Norrie moved Amendment No. 41: Page 5, line 46, at end insert ("and any plan shall be accompanied by an Environmental Statement, which shall include an assessment of the likely significant effects of the plan on the environment.").

The noble Lord said: If Members of the Committee will glance at the groupings list they will see that four of my amendments are grouped together. I shall speak first to Amendments Nos. 41 and 43 and then I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 47 and 49.

Amendments Nos. 41 and 43 seek to introduce environmental assessment for national plans drawn up by the Secretary of State under Clause 3 of this Bill for the purposes of environmental protection. There is a very real reason for proposing this amendment, and if Members of the Committee will bear with me, I shall try to explain a complicated subject in the simplest possible terms.

In order to achieve sufficient reductions in atmospheric emissions, particularly those which contribute to acid rain, Clause 3 allows the Secretary of State to draw up plans for installing flue gas desulphurisation equipment—or FGD as it is known—at specified coal-fired power stations. At present there is some uncertainty as to how the necessary reductions will be achieved. However, that does not affect the fact that some FGD equipment will have to be installed, even if it is not as much as previously envisaged.

Depending upon the mix of technologies chosen, the choice of the FGD process could have a considerable effect on the environment. It is therefore important that national plans for environmental protection should be assessed for their likely impact on the environment. Without trying to blind Members of the Committee with science, I should like to explain that there are two main FGD processes. There is a limestone-gypsum process and a regenerative process. The former is more environmentally damaging as it requires large quantities of quarried limestone and may produce large quantities of potentially unwanted gypsum, which will require sites for disposal.

Limestone is likely to come from some of our most scenic areas, including Yorkshire, Derbyshire, the Mendips and parts of County Durham. Both requirements would generate considerable transport impacts—as if we do not already have enough to contend with. The best known regenerative process—the Wellman-Lord process—uses sodium sulphite solution to remove sulphur dioxide from power station flue gas. That is then recycled for further use and produces the by-products of sulphur, liquid sulphur dioxide or sulphuric acid depending upon the markets available.

A regenerative plant is often more suited where there are existing chemical industries within the area. However, the quantities of raw materials used and by-products produced are much smaller than with the limestone/gypsum process. So it is the different requirements of those processes which influence their environmental impact.

An environmental assessment of the national plan would allow the least environmentally damaging mix of technologies and processes to be chosen, and the most appropriate system for any particular installation to be identified. If FGD is to be fitted to several power stations as part of a national plan, an environmental assessment will help decide which technology should be used where. It may also identify other alternative solutions such as energy conservation, other fuel sources and cleaner electricity generating technologies.

The amendments will ensure that the Secretary of State produces an environmental assessment for such national plans and that the environmental statement, produced as part of that assessment, is made publicly available. That will benefit all parties concerned since it will be fully in line with the basic principle of environmental assessment: that of being applied at the earliest opportunity in the planning process.

I hope that the Government will be able to respond positively to the amendments. If so, we shall have an opportunity to take a lead in the European Community in extending the scope of environmental assessments and ensure that solutions to one environmental problem do not merely create others. That completes my explanation of Amendments Nos. 41 and 43.

I speak now to Amendments Nos. 47 and 49. It is disappointing that the Government have not seen fit to include in the Bill provisions for strengthening environmental assessment. That is what I have tried to correct in a small way with these amendments that I am moving today.

Since implementation of environmental assessment in this country in July 1988 there have been concerns, among other things, over the quality of information provided in environmental statements. They are the documents which accompany planning applications for certain developments which are likely to have a significant impact on the environment. I believe that the quality of such statements is generally poor. My belief is further strengthened by a statement made by the CPRE which stated: All too frequently environmental statements are produced by developers as documents to endorse their particular proposals rather than to assess properly the likely impact of the proposal on the environment. Environmental assessments are often carried out too late and without adequate public consultation and participation, which should be an integral part of any environmental assessment".

In simple terms, that means that a developer can put in an application to a planning authority and support it with a glossy and impressive environmental statement which fails to identify the likely environmental impact, or covers it superficially and pretends that all will be well. The planners are faced with pretty pictures and promises of a few trees and lots of landscaping which may in the end add up to nothing. There will probably have been little or no consideration of alternative sites or projects.

However, there is no proper guidance to tell the planning authority what makes a good or bad environmental statement, and few authorities have the experience or expertise readily to hand.

A study by Manchester University earlier this year revealed that only one quarter of environmental statements sampled since 1988 could be regarded as satisfactory. Out of 70 statements sampled, 21 did not possess a non-technical summary—something that is required under the European Community directive on environmental assessment and under the implementing regulations. Without a non-technical summary, how can the public fully understand the likely impact of a particular development?

It is clear that the system of environmental assessment can have immense benefits where properly implemented. Unfortunately, there is no quality control in the system at present and many authorities have insufficient experience of the system or the necessary expertise to ensure a consistent approach throughout the country.

This amendment and the new clause would establish an environmental assessment monitoring unit in the Department of the Environment to oversee the implementation of environmental assessment and to provide the guidance that is desperately needed. The monitoring unit would be responsible for monitoring the quality of environmental statements and would establish guidelines and give advice regarding the content of environmental statements. That is woefully lacking at present.

Unless there is regular monitoring and control over the procedure, environmental assessments will fail to live up to expectations. There is a grave risk that the whole process will be brought into disrepute. That will be to no one's advantage. The implementation of environmental assessments must be improved and made to succeed.

That completes my explanation of all four amendments. I regret the absence of my supporter, the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, who left because she is ill. I beg to move.

11 p.m.

Baroness Nicol

The noble Lord, Lord Norrie, has said virtually all there is to say, but I wish to support his amendments. There is a need to overcome what appears to be the inadequate integration of IPC with environmental assessment. He has given the reasons for that clearly. There is also a need to ensure that national plans for the purposes of environmental protection should be subject to environmental assessment. As the noble Lord said, at the end of the day, if the quality of that environmental assessment is not good enough, the whole exercise is worthless. To that end, we need an environmental assessment monitoring unit.

The noble Lord has covered every point that I wished to make. There is nothing more to be said at this late hour, except that I strongly support this group of amendments.

Baroness Lockwood

I also wish to support the noble Lord, particularly his Amendment No. 41. Earlier, we discussed primary and secondary pollution. Moving his amendment, the noble Lord referred to the extraction of limestone gypsum and the effect that that has on the environment, particularly in areas of outstanding beauty in some of our national parks. He did not refer to the secondary effects which should also be in the environmental statement. These areas are often somewhat remote from major roads. Enormous lorries carry the quarried limestone through the national parks, creating hazards and dangers to people enjoying the parks and other environmental problems. These should be taken fully into account in the assessment and included in the statement attached to the plan.

Lord Reay

Environmental assessment is an important technique. I am grateful to my noble friend for his amendments. As a result, we have looked again at the extent to which the method should be a required element of the Part I controls.

My honourable friend made plain in another place that applications for authorisation will be required to contain an evaluaton of the environmental effects of the proposed process. This will be especially important where processes are subject to integrated pollution control and where HMIP is involved in deciding the best practicable environmental option. I trust that the noble Lord will be happy with that commitment.

The amendment seeks to take the matter further by requiring the inclusion of an environmental statement in any plan made to limit national emissions of particular pollutants. I believe that we should be careful not to let our enthusiasm take us too far. I am sure that at the detailed level it will serve as a valuable tool for making soundly based decisions on applications for authorisation. However, we are not so convinced that formal detailed assessments have the same part to play in strategic level discussions such as those involved in making plans for national emission reductions. Having said that, I can assure the Committee that consideration of environmental advantages and disadvantages will form an essential part of devising any plan. In addition, we attach considerable importance to consulting widely on any plans which we intend to make under Clause 3(5). My department has already issued one consultation paper with general proposals for a national plan to reduce sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from existing large combustion plant. A further consultation paper will be published shortly, which will provide the opportunity for comment on our detailed proposals.

I now turn to the proposed environmental assessment monitoring unit. We are not convinced that we want to set up another quango. There are already various ways in which the quality of the environmental appraisals which accompany applications for authorisation will be monitored. First, enforcing authorities will need to be satisfied that they have been provided with adequate information on which to base their decision. Secondly, the public will have access to the papers on the public register and I am confident that they will let my department know if they are dissatisfied with the information they find. Thirdly, if it seems that there may be a problem, Clause 19 gives my right honourable friend the Secretary of State the reserve power to call for papers.

As for advice on the content of environmental appraisals, I think it better that this is issued, as necessary, by the Secretary of State or by the chief inspector of HMIP. After careful consideration the Government are not persuaded that the bureaucracy involved in setting up an environmental assessment monitoring unit would be justified. In those circumstances I hope that my noble friend will see fit not to press his amendments.

Lord Norrie

I am grateful to my noble friend for such a detailed response to all four amendments. I shall study carefully what he has said and how best to resolve the problems. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 42: Page 6, line 2, after ("Gazettes") insert ("and in at least two newspapers circulating throughout the United Kingdom").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 42 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 45 and 46. These three amendments are of a limited nature. All share the common theme of making more readily available to the general public information about what is going on in the plans under Clause 3 of the Bill.

Amendment No. 42 asks that rather than just having such plans published in the Gazettes of London, Edinburgh and Belfast they should also be published in two or more daily papers for the simple reason that most people do not read the Gazettes and they are not readily available. We are simply seeking to make information contained within those publications more available to a wider group of the general public.

Amendment No. 45 asks the Secretary of State, after making a plan, to make a period available when the general public can make submissions. This is totally at the discretion of the Secretary of State. Amendment No. 46 is probably the most reasonable and inoffensive amendment that it is possible to move. It merely asks that the general public be allowed to purchase the available documents that are on display. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

These amendments are unnecessary since the principles underlying them are already well accepted by the Government. Indeed our firm commitment to public access must be clear to all who have read this Bill. But it may be that we would want to make the information available in ways other than those set out in this amendment, as I will explain in a moment.

I can assure the Committee that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will make widely available details of any plans to be made under Clause 3(5) and any amendments to them. He will not rely simply on publication in the official Gazettes. Nor will he seek to make plans without full consultation or without allowing the public to get copies of the detailed proposals.

The first such plan he intends to make will be in relation to the Large Combustion Plants Directive. A consultation paper setting out how the directive requirements for existing plant are to be implemented in the UK was issued last July and the Government shortly intend to issue a further consultation document setting out the quotas for individual plants. We expect that, as usual, the paper will attract wide press coverage and we will certainly be doing all we can to get the message across to as wide a public as may be interested. The information will therefore be widely and freely available.

There is accordingly no need for the Bill to specify how to make such information available, which is why we shall resist the noble Lord's amendments.

Lord Addington

Having heard the noble Minister's reply I am more satisfied that the question of general public availability will be covered by the Government. Bearing in mind that I should like to read what the Minister has said to make sure that he has covered it, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 43 not moved.]

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 44:

Page 6, line 5, at end insert: ("(8) Subject to any Order made after the passing of this Act by virtue of subsection (1)(a) of section 3 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, the making and revision of plans under subsection (5) above shall not be a transferred matter for the purposes of that Act but shall for the purposes of subsection (2) of that section be treated as specified in Schedule 3 to that Act.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is designed to ensure that, subject to any subsequent order made under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, any plan made or revised under Clause 3(5) to establish limits or quotas for national or regional releases of substances—for example, to implement the large combustion plants directive—can extend to Northern Ireland and is not to be treated as a transferred matter for the Province. The Government will therefore be able to take concerted action throughout the UK to tackle major problems of environmental pollution. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 45 to 47 not moved.]

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Ross of Newport moved Amendment No. 48: After Clause 3, insert the following new Clause:

("Carbon dioxide emissions

. (1) The Secretary of State shall draw up a plan to achieve a reduction of total annual emissions of carbon dioxide, based on measurements of such emissions made in 1980 in the United Kingdom, of:

  1. (a) 20 per cent. by 31st December 1999;
  2. (b) 25 per cent. by 31st December 2004;
  3. (c) 35 per cent. by 31st December 2010;
  4. (d) 50 per cent. by 31st December 2020;

(2) The plan established in subsection (1) above may include—

  1. (a) measures for the promotion of combined heat and power schemes;
  2. (b) measures to promote the use of passive solar heating;
  3. (c) provisions for progressive improvement in the design of new or improved building or heat generating products for energy efficiency;
  4. (d) a programme to improve energy efficiency in the public sector;
  5. (e) the introduction of least-cost planning in the electricity industry;
  6. (f) a comprehensive programme of other energy efficiency measures, including a campaign to increase energy saving and the provision of grants to householders and others for specified energy saving measures;
  7. (g) a programme of research and develoment into techniques for removing carbon dioxide from motor vehicle exhaust gases;
  8. (h) increased provision for energy generation by sources that do not emit carbon dioxide or produce radioactive wastes.

(3) The plan established under subsection (1) above may include measures that achieve a proven increase in the absorption of carbon dioxide by natural means.

(4) The Secretary of State shall before establishing the plan under this clause consult with such persons and organisations as he deems appropriate.").

The noble Lord said: We return to the question of emissions which we were debating earlier, specifically carbon dioxide emissions. This amendment seeks to explore what we consider is the inadequate response of the Prime Minister to the report of the science working group of the United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change issued on 1st June.

I call in aid the noble Lord, Lord Williams, who reported to the Committee earlier that it seems we have the support of Mr. Michael Heseltine on this issue. The Prime Minister pledged that Britain would achieve the very demanding target of stabilising total UK emissions of carbon dioxide at present levels by the year 2005 provided only that others do the same. I gather that her response and the details of how that target is to be met are to be left to the environment White Paper in the autumn.

No less a person than Dr. John Houghton, who is chief executive of Britain's Meteorological Office, is quoted in The Times of 2nd June as stating that if Mrs. Thatcher's stabilisation plans were repeated across the world, then world temperatures would in fact continue to rise, though not at such fast rates. Anyone who has heard our outgoing ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Crispin Tickell, on this subject would agree that he is very convincing. I gather that he has some influence on the Prime Minister's thinking.

This amendment provides for very real and necessary reductions to take place. In promoting an annual plan it calls for measures to promote energy efficiency, the greater use of passive solar heating, combined heat and power schemes, a campaign to promote energy efficiency, grants for householders to carry out specified energy saving measures and a programme of research measures into the removal of carbon dioxide from motor exhausts.

Perhaps I may tell the Minister that I have tried to contribute a little. I have introduced solar energy in my fairly old cottage in the Shropshire hillsides, and I can tell him that it is very successful. In fact, one can save a great deal of energy—gas in this case—when the sun is out. The amount of heat is quite amazing. Secondly, I have changed my car. I had a Mini Metro which I was very sad to get rid of. However, it was not possible to convert it to take lead free petrol. So I sold it and bought a car that did take lead free petrol. It is a great tragedy that some of the older British Leyland cars cannot be converted. So I have done my little bit. They are three small steps, and we ask other people to do the same. It is an issue on which Britain should give a lead if only our international colleagues would do the same. Slow improvements in energy efficiency are simply not sufficient to compensate for the dangers, excluding the benefits of greater economic activity and increased use of the car.

The amendment addresses itself to such matters. If energy efficiency is to be effected, it must be seen as a whole package rather than as a mix-and-match selection. No one policy option alone can ensure the necessary reduction in CO2 emissions. I beg to move.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

We have made clear our position on carbon dioxide emissions. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced on 25th May that, provided others are ready to take their full share we are prepared to stabilise our emissions of CO2 at current levels by the year 2005. That would mean a reduction of up to 30 per cent. in presently projected levels of CO2 emissions by the year 2005. We shall set out the kind of measures by which that target could be met in the environment White Paper in the autumn. I cannot pre-empt that.

However, I must point out that, in the areas described in Section 2 of the amendment, the Government have already taken action. The Energy Efficiency Office actively promotes the use of combined heat and power. We shall ensure that combined heat and power is not disadvantaged after the privatisation of the electricity industry. We support research and development into renewable energy sources. The Department of Energy expects to spend over £50 million on such projects over the next three years. The revision of the building regulations last April will improve the heating efficiency of new homes by 20 per cent. and we shall continue to support the emerging schemes for the energy labelling of houses. We have established a ministerial committee to oversee improvements in energy use in government buildings. That is set with a target of a 15 per cent. reduction in energy expenditure within five years.

The privatisation of the electricity industry will ensure that it supplies its customers in the most efficient way possible. We have taken many steps to promote energy efficiency. The Community insulation project has provided better standards in 700,000 homes and the EEO advises industry through its best practice programme. Such has been the success of the work that since 1979 we have produced 20 per cent. more GDP with no increase in energy use. We are urging the European Commission to bring forward proposals to limit CO2 emissions from vehicles and encouraging it to discuss with the motor manufacturers the ways of improving vehicle efficiency. The non-fossil fuel obligation in the Electricity Act has given a tremendous boost to the commercial development of renewable energy, and the Department of Energy is now assessing the applications to fill that tranche.

The report of the science working group of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change has made clear the seriousness of the problem, as did the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Newport. It has also suggested that significant advances in our understanding will take until around 2005 to achieve. It is a demanding target, but we believe that it can be met while maintaining economic development. The amendment does not have the same basis in sound economics.

We are playing a leading role in international initiatives on climate change, both through the IPCC and through our call for an international convention on climate change. An effective response to that problem must be a truly international one. In that light, we shall continue to play a full, important and constructive part in working towards achieving that. A number of initiatives are already under way, which supersede the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ross.

Baroness Nicol

Perhaps I may ask the Minister a question about what he has just said. At the beginning he said that we were prepared to reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide provided that others did their share. Does that mean that, if we are not satisfied with the share contributed by the others, we shall not make any plans to reduce our output of carbon dioxide? Is the reduction suggested by the Minister based on the present figure or on the figure in the year 2000?

Lord Hesketh

It is a reduction of 30 per cent. in the presently projected levels of CO2 emissions by the year 2005. However, in respect of the important point raised by the noble Baroness with regard to our share, the initiative that the Government have taken in all of their international commitments has been based on an international solution. That point has been raised time and again today, whether with regard to CFCs or the IPCC. We have always believed that there can only be one way forward and that is with agreement on an international basis. That is what is meant by the word "share".

Baroness Nicol

I quite understand that point. The Minister will appreciate that if we have to wait to see whether others have done their share, it means that we shall continue in our polluting ways until the year 2005, which is hardly desirable.

Lord Hesketh

Nothing could be further from the truth. We are already committed to an endeavour to improve. However, the fact is that we are talking about figures that have been agreed or are nearly agreed internationally. If we are to be in agreement, we have to have agreement with other parties apart from ourselves.

Lord Ross of Newport

We have given the whole subject of emissions a fairly good run. I agree with the Minister that this is a very serious matter. It is up to us all to keep up the pressure. I agree that the Government have had a change of heart in recent months and years, which is much to be grateful for, but we have to go a little faster than we are doing. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 49 not moved.]

Clause 4 [Discharge and scope of functions]:

The Minister of State Scottish Office (Lord Sanderson of Bowden) moved Amendment No. 50: Page 6, line 13, leave out ("appropriate river purification authority") and insert ("river purification authority, as determined under regulations made under section 5(1) below")

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 55 and 58. Amendments Nos. 50 and 55 are both purely drafting amendments and do not require any explanation. Amendment No. 58 is consequential upon amendments agreed in Committee for the application of Part I to Scotland. It adds to Clause 4(10) a reference to river purification authorities. That is necessary because Scottish river purification authorities are to be enforcing authorities for the purpose of Part I and thus should be under the same duty to comply with directions from the Secretary of State as are other enforcing authorities. I beg to move.

Lord Crickhowell

As I endeavoured to be helpful to the Government earlier this afternoon, I hope that I shall not be thought malicious in posing a question that I should have asked some time ago. It is a point that I should have noticed long ago perhaps. One of the advantages of long sittings in the Chamber is that one reads Bills in more detail perhaps than one has done previously.

I am genuinely puzzled. The clause to which the amendment is addressed says that these functions are to be carried out in England and Wales by the chief inspector appointed by the Secretary of State. But so far as concerns Scotland they are to be carried out either by the chief inspector so appointed for Scotland or by the appropriate river purification authority. I notice in the Notes on Clauses that it says that in Scotland the functions are to be exercised jointly by the chief inspector similarly appointed for Scotland and the appropriate river purification authority, although in the Act itself the words "or of are added and it seems clear that there is an alternative.

The reason for my curiosity is that when, in the early stages of consideration of this Bill—and indeed of the Government's initial proposals—the National Rivers Authority expressed a desire that perhaps it should be left as the principal authority responsible for protecting the water environment (and it advanced the argument that it would be perfectly possible to have a system of integrated pollution control which left the major responsibility for water with the National Rivers Authority, or which at least entitled the National Rivers Authority to include its own authorisation in the authorisation for IPC issued by the inspectorate), the authority was told no, that would not be possible because the whole principle of integrated pollution control must be that there is one organisation to set the standards, monitor and enforce them. Yet I suddenly notice that in Scotland apparently that principle is being ignored and that in Scotland there is to be a division of those responsibilities between the chief inspector and the river purification authority.

I am bound to say that I wonder why the river purification authorities in Scotland should be entrusted with those responsibilities while in England they are being taken away from the National Rivers Authority, created only a short time ago by a specific Act of Parliament to carry out the major responsibility for looking after the water environment.

I know that we are always told that life is different in Scotland and that many factors must be handled differently in Scotland. However, I shall be interested to hear the arguments. I shall then be able to judge the soundness of the case that was put so cogently to me many months ago about the structure of the Bill.

The Earl of Balfour

Perhaps I may speak briefly. On the advice that I have received and from the information that I have sought, perhaps this matter should be stressed. Clause 4(3) refers to the, pollution of the environment due to the release of substances into the air". That concerns a local function in relation to a local authority. However, the inspector and the National Rivers Authority take over control with regard to water.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

My noble friend is right in noting a difference in the way that the new controls in Part I of the Bill will operate north and south of the border. The Government take the view that the polluting substances to be controlled, and the standards to be observed in exercising the controls, should be the same throughout Great Britain. However, the adoption of common aims does not imply the standardisation of the agencies and the machinery by which they are to be achieved.

In Scotland we started from a very different position from that which existed in England and Wales. For over 35 years we have had a decentralised system of control over discharges to water operated by the river purification authorities. Seven independent boards are responsible for regulating the quality of the water environment throughout mainland Scotland. They have established expertise and are experienced in carrying out an independent regulatory function. Within central government in Scotland, Her Majesty's Industrial Pollution Inspectorate, based in Edinburgh, exercises the statutory role of enforcement as regards air pollution and radioactive substances. It performs many, but not all, of the functions of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution in England and Wales.

The situation in Scotland is therefore rather different from that in England and Wales where there is a newly established National Rivers Authority—and I do not need to tell my noble friend anything about that.

In introducing the new system of pollution control for Scotland, we have therefore retained the key role of the river purification authorities. Both the river purification authorities and the chief inspector—who will in practice be head of Her Majesty's Industrial Pollution Inspectorate—will act as enforcing authorities for the purposes of Part I of the Bill in Scotland. This interlocking system will not undermine the concept of a one-stop shop. An application for an authorisation to operate a prescribed process will be made to only one enforcing authority. The appropriate river purification authority and the chief inspector will consult each other before dealing with any application.

The question of which plays the leading role will depend on the nature of the process and where the main expertise in dealing with it lies. We shall spell out exactly who should lead on which type of process in regulations under the Bill.

These proposals were the subject of a consultation paper issued by the Scottish Office in July last year. It was quite separate from the consultation paper issued by the Department of the Environment on Part I as regards England and Wales. It is only fair to say that a sizable minority of our respondents favoured an approach whereby all authorisations will be issued by Her Majesty's Industrial Pollution Inspectorate mainly on the ground that this will provide greater uniformity throughout Great Britain. However, a majority of respondents recognises the merits of building on the established system in Scotland. The Confederation of British Industry welcomed our proposals to use both the river purification authorities and Her Majesty's Industrial Pollution Inspectorate as enforcing authorities, as did the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

The proposed system of pollution control in Scotland will therefore be responsive to local needs, yet will enforce similar standards to those which will apply elsewhere in Great Britain. It will build on the strength of the existing system north of the Border while enabling higher standards and tighter controls to be enforced within a co-ordinated and interlocking framework. I know of my noble friend's interest in these matters. I thought it only fair that I should spell out exactly what the situation will be after the Bill is passed.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Crickhowell

I am grateful to my noble friend for that explanation. I noted what he said about the independent river purification authorities and their 35 years experience. I hope that he is not suggesting that the National Rivers Authority, which is the largest independent environmental enforcement agency in Europe, is not equally qualified to look after the waters in England.

I air grateful to my noble friend for producing a case which clearly establishes that no difference of principle is involved. It shows that the same kind of solution could have been adopted in England, despite the arguments that were advanced against it. As we face the undoubted complexities of the present arrangement we must bear in mind that in Scotland the Government have clearly established a principle that could have been followed in England if they had so chosen.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

There is a great deal in the point made by my noble friend. The provision introduces a divided control instead of one easily recognisable control. In giving his excellent explanation, my noble friend said that the standards would be similar. He said that with a precision which made me believe that he was reading from his considered notes. The standards should be the same. The word "similar" can give the impression that there is no diversion.

We shall have more time to discuss the issue but at this stage I have sympathy with the intervention of my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. We set up the National Rivers Authority and gave it great responsibilities and power. We have used it to answer many complaints. Therefore, it is a pity that even by a hint we should give the impression that it will not have the same control in Scotland as it has in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Lord Burton

I am a member of a river purification authority in Scotland and I appreciate the Minister's comment that the authorities have worked well. I believe that he is correct and I was relieved to hear that the Government do not intend to interfere with the river purification authorities in Scotland in spite of some of my noble friend's objections.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I did not presume to say anything derogatory, if that was the impression that I gave in my remarks about the National Rivers Authority. Of course it is a worthy newcomer to the scene and I have no doubt that it is well managed. The way in which it works out in practice will remain to be seen.

In reply to my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls, I agree that I referred to similar standards. I said: yet enforce similar standards to those which will apply elsewhere in Great Britain". My noble friend Lord Crickhowell referred to the fact that we in Scotland see the provision as our solution to the problem which faces us. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Burton for agreeing with the Government's contention that the situation in Scotland is best served by the means which will be forthcoming as a result of the passing of the Bill.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 51 not moved.]

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 52:

Page 6, line 29, at end insert: ("(3A) The Secretary of State shall satisfy himself in each of the first five years of the operation of this Part that the resources available to the chief inspector and to local enforcing authorities are adequate to enable them to carry out their functions in the manner most conducive to the reduction of pollution and the conservation and improvement of the environment and in particular shall take account of—

  1. (a) the adequacy of resources available to the inspector and authorities in respect of specialist and other staff and equipment;
  2. (b) initial costs in relation to staffing, equipment and training; and
  3. (c) the extent to which local enforcing authorities may, whether by arrangement with the inspector or otherwise, undertake activities arising from initial applications for authorisations in their area.").

The noble Lord said: It will be seen that this amendment requires the Government to tell us where the money is coming from. We know where it is needed. It is needed by local enforcement agencies—local authorities—as well as the inspectorate.

Lord Hesketh

I believe that the noble Lord is speaking to Amendment No. 59 which deals with local authorities. Amendment No. 52 deals with HMIP.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I can assure the Minister that I am speaking to Amendment No. 52, but I probably used words more appropriate to Amendment No. 59. I shall not start again because it was all good stuff and tomorrow Members of the Committee can read what I said.

I am not disputing the raison d'être for the Bill. However, fine words appear in print and then the local authorities or HMIP will be called upon to carry on the job. This amendment is asking the Government to say whether they are in a position to undertake that the money which is required will be available. Let us bear in mind that start-up expenditure will be required over and above normal specific grant purposes. Can the Minister assure people outside the Committee that the money needed to get the show on the road will be provided? I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

I knew from our Second Reading debate that we would return to the subject of the resources of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution.

Let me underline our commitment and assure the Committee, as my right honourable and honourable friends have done in the other place, that HMIP will have the resources it needs to do the job. When it was created in 1987, HMIP had 148 staff in post. It now has 200, and 105 of them are inspectors and professionals. We have recently raised HMIP's complement to 250 and we are recruiting actively. Eight posts in the increased complement have already been reserved for successful candidates from the interviews that have already taken place. Inspectors' salaries were increased by 28 per cent. last autumn. Staff numbers and salaries are both kept under review.

By introducing higher standards of pollution control the Government have raised the stakes in this area. As industry gears up to new requirements the demand for high calibre professionals—the market in which HMIP is competing—is increased. Recruitment is not just about pay, as recruitment consultants would tell the Committee. Good people look for jobs which stretch and develop them to the full. The inspectorate is also carrying out a review of aspects of its professional career structure such as career management and development, and training. The study, which is being undertaken by outside consultants, will also cover the inspectorate's recruitment targeting and procedures.

Those are not the measures of an organisation in decline but those of one determined to meet a challenge. HMIP has also recently introduced an additional recruitment grade of assistant pollution inspector. This grade is aimed at candidates with the same honours degree qualification as pollution inspectors but with a shorter period of industrial experience. This initiative will broaden the pool from which future inspectors can be drawn, while maintaining the same high standards which HMIP rightly insists on and which industry expects.

The noble Lord's amendment mentioned training. Here too the inspectorate is taking action, not only in providing internal training on IPC but also in developing plans for a post-graduate M.Sc course in integrated pollution management at the University of Manchester's Institute of Science and Technology. The inspectorate and the university are looking forward to the course, which will be of benefit to both industry and local government. We have already published an implementaton timetable for IPC. That shows the commitment in the inspectorate to getting the new pollution control regime up and running.

I hope that in view of those assurances the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I do not intend to press the amendment, but the Minister's response causes genuine puzzlement. We do not simply want men and women to carry out functions; we need to understand that resources are available to provide opportunities for developing a strategy and the means whereby the job can be carried out.

It is no use—I say this in all seriousness to the Minister—trying to do something which is fine and laudable, which is to the Government's credit, but trying to do it on the cheap. The Government certainly appreciate what we are saying, but I am afraid that they are looking to obtain what they need on the cheap. We shall have to read carefully what the Government have said. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 53 and 54 not moved.]

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 55: Page 7, line 17, leave out ("or river purification authority") and insert ("and river purification authorities").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 56 not moved.]

Lord Norrie moved Amendment No. 57:

Page 7, line 22, at end insert: ("( ) It shall be the duty of the enforcing authorities in discharging any of their functions under this Act to so exercise their powers as to—

  1. (a) further the conservation of natural beauty and the conservation of flora, fauna and geological and physiograph 869 features of special interest and the protection of sites, buildings and objects of architectural, historic or archaeological interest; and
  2. (b) ensure, so far as possible, that any authorisation includes such conditions as to mitigate any adverse effect which the process may have on the natural beauty of the countryside or on any such flora, fauna, features, sites, buildings or objects.").

The noble Lord said: There are a number of clear omissions in Part I of the Bill. Of concern to me is the lack of a general environmental duty on the enforcing authorities to further conservation and amenity when exercising their powers under the Bill.

When giving authorisation for certain levels of emissions from a process, the enforcing authority should take into account the likely impact of that process on wildlife, the countryside and amenity before establishing limits for individual applications. The authorities should set authorisations so that conservation and amenity are furthered and not damaged. For instance, if a process would result in pollutants affecting an important wildlife habitat, that should clearly have a bearing on the levels of emissions allowed.

I am particularly concerned by the status of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution. HMIP is a part of the Department of the Environment and as such is not subject to the stringent environmental duties of such bodies as the National Rivers Authority. I do not wish to enter into the debate of who should have jurisdiction over discharges of dangerous substances into water, HMIP, or RNA. However, as proposed, the Government intend that HMIP should take over from the NRA authorisation for integrated pollution control for such substances. What worries me is that the HMIP does not have a strong environmental duty to further conservation and amenity.

Imagine the following scenario: a company may apply to HMIP for authorisation for the release of various wastes, one of which may go to landfill. The disposal site envisaged by the company to deal with its waste is adjacent to an important wetland, notable as a bird feeding ground. Leachate from the waste could contaminate the food chain and so damage the feeding bird populations. Alternative disposal sites or forms of disposal may result in considerably less impact on the environment and would therefore be preferable. It is surely right that HMIP, in this instance, should consider the likely disposal routes and their impacts before authorising the release of such waste. That would be the outcome of this amendment.

The amendment would, irrespective of who is the enforcing authority—whether HMIP, the local authority or the NRA—ensure that all the enforcing authorities have a duty to further conservation and amenity and to place conditions on authorisations to mitigate any harmful effects arising from that process. That seems to me only prudent.

The amendment would impose an environmental duty on regulatory authorities. Since those authorities are to operate a system of environmental protection, at the very least they should all be operating within a framework of clear environmental duties when exercising their powers. I beg to move.

11.45 p.m.

Baroness Nicol

I support this amendment. In doing so, I can do no better than quote from the Nature Conservancy Council's document on the Bill which has been sent to a number of noble Lords. It states: The NCC supports a properly resourced and operationally effective system of pollution control. We also consider that pollution control efforts should be directed to the achievement of a better quality environment in terms of flora and fauna, and that the special requirements of plants and animals should be taken into account by pollution control bodies. We have pointed out to the Department of the Environment that the National Rivers Authority has a duty to further conservation when consenting to discharges and is required to consult the NCC over discharges likely to affect Sites of Special Scientific Interest. By contrast, the Chief Inspector, who is taking over responsibility from the NRA for several hundred prescribed discharges, does not have these conservation duties. If the Nature Conservancy Council feels so strongly about this matter, there is no better voice to use in support of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie.

Lord Ross of Newport

I add my support to this amendment. It is important that an amendment of this nature should be written into the Bill so that there is no misunderstanding. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, on tabling this amendment. I very much hope that we will receive a favourable response from the Minister because that would set many minds at rest. It is desperately important that the situation is not weakened by this measure.

Lord Reay

We have considered whether the enforcing authorities should be under a specific obligation to further the conservation of flora and fauna. However, we have concluded that such an obligation would not add anything to the duties to which the enforcing authorities are already subject in setting the conditions of an authorisation.

Under Clause 7 the authorities must ensure the use of the best available techniques not entailing excessive cost to prevent or minimise the release of prescribed substances and to render harmless the release of all substances. That must be a pretty good start in furthering conservation. The authorities will also be under a duty to set conditions in order to implement EC and other international obligations relating to environmental protection. That is not all. They will also be under an obligation to ensure compliance with environmental quality standards and objectives and any plans made under Clause 3 of this Bill.

In particular, the use of BATNEEC which will be used to prevent or minimise releases of prescribed substances and rendering all releases harmless, taken together with the objective of achieving the best practicable environmental option, will protect the whole environment including flora and fauna. We do not see—and, I may say, neither do our legal advisers—how any amendment (including this one) specifically devoted to furthering conservation could be drafted which would not cut across the other duties and objectives in Clause 7. I think that clause gives us everything we need to ensure the furtherance of conservation. Furthermore, I shall be making clear in my reply to a later amendment that we will be consulting the NCC on applications for authorisations which bear upon sites of special scientific interest.

The first part of the amendment before us contains similarities to Section 8(1) of the Water Act 1989; but that section referred to general environment and recreational duties such as managing land holdings and conserving fish stocks which are appropriate to, say, water undertakers, but not to HMIP which does not manage land.

The second part of the amendment is superfluous. Not that I am belittling conservation; far from it. It is just that the whole of Part I of the Bill, and the prior authorisation system established under it, is about setting conditions which will protect the environment. We have placed not just one but many duties on the enforcing authorities to ensure that the whole environment, including of course flora and fauna, is protected. In view of what I have said, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Norrie

I am grateful to my noble friend for a very full explanation. I shall read carefully what he said and I may try to come back at the next stage with something on which we can both agree. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 58: Page 7, line 23, after ("inspector") insert "(, river purification authorities").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 4, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

Perhaps I may detain the Committee for a moment. I was proposing to attempt to establish that there was to be a provision in the Bill to create a clear lead body in the arrangements for the integrated pollution control. To a large extent that will depend on the understanding and the understandings of the authorities involved.

It is possible that there may be some confusion and misunderstanding over their different responsibilities for any given situation. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Norrie gave an example of that. The example I give is where a discharge might come under the control of either the inspectorate of pollution or the National Rivers Authority. One can envisage situations where the Health and Safety Executive or other authorities might be involved.

It is still not clear to me which authority will lead in decisions about discharge conditions, and so on. During our Second Reading debate the Government stated that their research had shown them that in all cases a fully integrated system of control, with a single authorisation for all aspects of the process, was felt necessary. The Government said that the NRA will, retain responsibility for sustaining the quality of controlled waters and will have the powers to translate its requirements on discharges to water into the consents issued by HMIP". That does not seem entirely clear nor indeed satisfactory. After all, in a given case that may allow the inspectorate to overrule the decisions made by the NRA, which is clearly the body with particular expertise in this field. What I seek is some assurance that the roles of all authorities will be clearly laid out before implementation and that any memorandum of understanding will be agreed by both bodies concerned and that it will properly address the issue.

Since I have not discussed this matter with my noble friend the Minister, it may be that he will prefer to write to me on this issue before we meet again later in the year. Depending on his response either tonight or at that time, I may wish to put down an amendment to secure the assurance I seek for the reasons I have described to the Committee.

Lord Hesketh

At this late hour I take advantage of my noble friend's offer to receive a written communique. I am sure that he will find the contents of it satisfactory.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 59: After Clause 4, insert the following new clause:

(".Government assistance for Part I duties.

("—(1) The Secretary of State shall, in any statement as to the allocation of revenue support grant under the Local Government Finance Act 1988 in respect of a financial year in which functions are exercisable by local enforcing authorities under this Part, set out the basis of allocation of grants calculated in relation to such functions having regard to the matters specified in subsection (2) below.

(2) The matters to which any statement as is referred to in subsection (1) above shall refer include—

  1. (a) the appropriateness or otherwise of an allocation based on general needs to the level of activities arising under this Act; and
  2. (b) the desirability or otherwise of an allocation based on the distribution of population in the area.").

The noble Lord said: If in moving this amendment I begin by saying that it is about the details of local authority finance, I think that perhaps I should pause in order to allow the Chamber to empty. I realise that this is not an issue which, at nearly five minutes to midnight, arouses enthusiasm among Members of the Committee.

Nevertheless, the issue is of considerable importance and it is not one that will go away if we do not tackle it. At the moment we are talking only about Part I of the Bill. Even in that part alone, and without referring to later parts, there are substantial duties and burdens placed on local authorities. There is very little indication of what resources will be available to them; how they are to meet that expenditure or how that will affect other items of expenditure in the same expenditure block as far as concerns the revenue support grant. What is required is a recognition by government that there are these new duties. In many ways they are not as extensive as some that we should have liked and some that we have been proposing. Nevertheless, they are there.

Will the Government recognise the extent to which these new duties will cost money? Will that recognition be reflected in RSG? Will the Government ensure that the new duties do not place a burden on poll tax payers nationally? I should have thought that this argument would have considerable resonance with Ministers at the moment. They must still be agonising every day of the week about the alternatives to the poll tax or the modifications to the poll tax which have been promised to us and which are awaited with baited breath by poll tax payers on a weekly, a daily or even an hourly basis. Quite apart from the national burden on poll tax payers and the national effect on local authority finances, will the Government ensure that the distribution to individual authorities reflect their different needs? In other words, will they ensure that those characteristics of local authorities which affect the expenditure that they will have to incur on environmental protection are taken into account in the RSG settlement?

We do not yet have adequate figures of what the cost of the environmental protection obligations will be to local authorities. The best that we can do is to look at the local authorities' side and the argument that they are putting to what is called the Other Services Block Service Working Group—the joint body of the local authority associations and central government—which is considering the effect on the other services group. The "other services" are basically those elements of local authority expenditure which are not included under the major headings of education, housing, social services and so on.

The best estimate that local authorities can make for 1992 is that the litter provisions will involve an increased cost of between £250 million and £330 million in total and that waste collection and disposal will be seriously affected because of the cost of monitoring and dealing with former tip sites. The Committee will be aware of the fact that well over 1,000 tips in this country contain potentially dangerous waste. That aspect could involve several hundred million pounds of expenditure. The other general environmental proposals in the Bill are estimated to cost £43.5 million.

I stress that these figures are not accepted by the Government at this stage. These figures are what the local authority associations, which have a very good understanding of the matter, are putting to the Government and are arguing should be included in the forthcoming RSG settlement. But the danger is that, first, there will not be enough money in total for these purposes; and, secondly, that they will be submerged in the other services group and that therefore there will be an unacceptable squeeze on other services group expenditure. We believe that it is necessary to include this new clause in order to protect not only expenditure on environmental protection—that is clearly an important part of it—but also to protect expenditure on other items in the other services group. I beg to move.

Lord Burton

Do the figures for local authority expenditure given by the noble Lord apply to the whole of the United Kingdom or just to England and Wales?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My best understanding is that the figures will apply to England and Wales. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has not, so far as I know, contributed to the figures. If I am wrong, I shall certainly do what Ministers say and write to the noble Lord.

12 midnight

Lord Hesketh

I drew attention in regard to an earlier amendment to the work already underway in HMIP for the implementation of IPC. I know too that local authorities are equally determined to make progress with the new air pollution control regime established under this part of the Bill as shown through their contribution to the committee already set up to co-ordinate enforcement of the new controls and to the drafting of local authority guidance notes aimed at ensuring consistency of enforcement practice.

Local authorities have, for a long time, been pressing for stronger powers of control over industrial and other sources of air pollution and the proposed new controls have generally been welcomed. Under the new controls local authorities will be responsible for substantially the same processes as now. Therefore, it will largely be a matter of replacing, not adding to, existing control functions under the clean air and public health Acts.

The costs of the new prior approval system will be met by the cost recovery charging system to be introduced in parallel with the IPC charging system. As the charging scheme will cover cost, revenue support grant implications should not arise. The intention is that across the country local authorities will recoup reasonable expenditure on authorising, inspecting and enforcing control, including necessary monitoring and related administration. It will of course be for local authorities to decide the precise numbers of staff and the technology they need to administer the scheme. But it is right too that the charge should be consistent throughout the country, and that the scheme should provide for the same charge from Arundel to Abergavenny and Yeovil to York. That is why we are currently discussing with the local authority associations the appropriate level of charges to set in the first year. We will also be issuing a public consultation paper on this subject within the next few weeks.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, referred to the other services block and then moved on to mention tips and litter. I think it is fair to point out that this amendment distinctly refers to Part I of the Bill and not to those parts and costs which we shall no doubt deal with as we proceed to discuss other parts of the legislation which he mentioned when speaking to his amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

It is only out of keen sense of consideration for Members of the Committee that I did not do what I could have done which is to spell out the obligations which exist on local authorities under Part I of the Bill. I have with me a whole page of them. I could have started by saying that under Clause 6(3) they have to deal with applications for authorisations by requiring relevant information which is covered by Schedule 1, paragraph 1(1) and (3). They have to deal with publicising and consultation under Schedule 1, paragraph 2(1). They have to consider representations under Schedule 1, paragraph 2(5). They have to determine whether the applicant can comply with the proposed authorisation conditions under Clause 6(4), and so on. In fact, in reciting those requirements I have made a bare start in dealing with the obligations which are imposed upon local authorities. They are not obligations which local authorities are resisting; that is not the point I am trying to make. However, they are obligations which will affect local authorities' ability to deal with the other obligations which they have in the other services group, many of which are obligations imposed upon them by statute. Therefore, local authorities will not be able to get out of them that easily.

I return now to the issue which is really fundamental to the ability of local authorities to achieve what government want them to achieve in Part I of the Bill. They need not only the assurance that the total amount of resources will be available for this purpose; they also need to know that the criteria used in the standard spending assessments for distributing the amount of expenditure which the Government wishes to see actually reflect the differences between one local authority and another in the scale of the obligations which they will have.

This requirement is of particular importance because the gearing of local authority expenditure is now such that every additional pound spent by a local authority which is not matched by government grant will in effect mean at least an additional £4 on the poll tax. Indeed, in many cases it will mean more like an extra £7. The result will be an intolerable burden on local poll tax payers. This is an issue which the Government are now facing because they are already having to revise their poll tax proposals.

Clearly this is not a matter which we shall pursue to a Division at this stage. The Minister has promised that we shall see the consultation paper by the end of July. That will enable us to have a much more soundly based debate when we return to this matter, as we shall have to, on Report in October. My fears have not been allayed by the Minister's response. The indications that he has given about further information are welcome but they do not show any change of heart on this matter which is of fundamental importance to local authority expenditure. In the circumstances, and bearing in mind the time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 [Further provisions as to discharge and scope of functions: Scotland]:

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 60: Page 7, line 44, leave out ("the") and insert ("a").

The noble Earl said: For the convenience of the Committee I shall speak also to Amendment No. 61. The amendments do not add any new principles to Clause 5, rather they concern how the consultation between the chief inspector of the HMIPI and the river purification authorities will work in practice under the interlocking system of pollution control that we propose for Scotland in Part I.

Amendment No. 60 is purely a drafting amendment. Amendment No. 61 changes Clause 5 so as to specify in more detail the matters to be covered by the regulations issued by the Secretary of State which will prescribe details of the consultation process.

The new subsection (1A) of Clause 5 states that the regulations will prescribe the circumstances in which consultations will be carried out. We intend that HMIPI and the RPAs will consult one another on all aspects of applications for authorisations that they receive. The consulted authority will have an opportunity to require conditions to be included in the authorisations. Thereafter the authorities will consult one another on all material events or actions which affect an authorisation. The only circumstances in which consultation will not be needed will be minor changes which will not affect the interests of the consulted authority. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 61:

Page 7, line 45, leave out paragraph (b) and insert— ("(b) if the functions are determined under paragraph (a) above to be functions of a river purification authority, the river purification authority by whom they are to be exercised. (1A) The Secretary of State may make regulations prescribing—

  1. (a) the circumstances and manner in which consultation shall be carried out between—
    1. (i) whichever of the chief inspector or river purification authority is determined under regulations made under subsection (1) above to be the enforcing authority, and
    2. (ii) the other (the "consulted authority"),
    before granting, varying, transferring or revoking an authorisation or serving an enforcement or prohibition notice;
  2. (b) the circumstances in which the consulted authority may require the enforcing authority to include, in an authorisation, conditions which the consulted authority reasonably believe will achieve the objectives specified in section 7(2) below.")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 62 not moved.]

Clause 6 [Authorisations: general provisions]:

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 63: Page 8, line 13, after ("with") insert ("Part I of")

The noble Lord said: For the convenience of the Committee I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 66–68, 70, 73, 94, 95, 98, 99 and 101–103. This long series of amendments is paving and consequential to Amendment No. 73, and achieves a relatively simple change to the Bill. It applies to the procedures already provided for in Schedule 1 for public consultation on applications for new authorisations, also to the procedures for applications for variations or a proposed substantial change, whether on the initiative of the enforcing authority or the operator. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Norrie moved Amendment No. 64: Page 8, line 20, after ("applicant") insert ("has assessed the likely effects of the process on the environment in an adequate manner and")

The noble Lord said: This is a simple amendment upon which I hope my noble friend will look favourably. The Minister and the Under-Secretary in another place stated on separate occasions that they had considerable sympathy with the spirit of the amendment.

The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that adequate information is provided by an applicant under integrated pollution control about the likely environmental effects of the process for which authorisation is being sought. That information would then form part of the application which would appear on the public register.

Clearly it is essential that the enforcing authority is given the fullest information about environmental effects before authorisation is given. We are not debating the principle behind the amendment because the Government have already accepted it. They stated that such a requirement would form part of the regulations to be made under Schedule 1. The debate is about whether that requirement should be buried deep in regulations or should, as I believe, be written on the face of the Bill. All too frequently we see important pieces of legislation left to regulations, and the need to furnish an assessment of the likely effects of an industrial polluting process is a fundamental part of integrated pollution control. Otherwise, how is it to arrive at the desired aim? That is, the minimisation of all pollutants and therefore the minimisation of environmental impacts. Such should be written on to the face of the Bill.

As a hypothetical example, imagine an industrial company manufacturing electrical parts. It may be producing a variety of dangerous wastes for release into water. It is quite clear that the company should provide an adequate assessement of the likely effects of those wastes on the environment to the enforcing authority as part of its application. This amendment would make the requirement abundantly clear and it would be on the face of the Bill.

Above all, it is required for avoidance of doubt. If it is put on the face of the Bill, it would make an important statement of intent, reinforce the preventive nature of IPC and signal unambiguously the importance of marshalling the necessary information before authorisation is given. I urge my noble friend to accept this small but important amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

I agree with my noble friend that an application must contain an adequate assessment of the likely effects of the process on the environment. My honourable friends in another place stated that it is our intention that such an assessment must be included in an application for an authorisation which will be required in regulations made under Schedule 1. It is those regulations that will set out the detail of the application. The assessment referred to by the noble Lord in his amendment will be one feature among many. Rather than pick on one feature to include in the Bill, we should prefer that all the detail of the application procedure be governed by the one enabling power in Schedule 1 to the Bill.

We should also take into account the additional power in paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 which allows an enforcing authority to require an applicant for an authorisation to furnish such further information supporting an application as the authority may require. If therefore an application did not contain an adequate assessment of the likely environmental effects of the process, we already have the powers to require it to be provided. I think it is preferable to give the applicant a second chance to provide this information rather than automatically to reject the application, as the amendment envisages.

However, I quite agree with my noble friend that if information vital to an application is not provided at all, then the enforcing authority should have the right to refuse to proceed with the application. This is provided for in paragraph 1(4) of the schedule.

I hope that in the light of an assurance that an assessment of the environmental effects of the process will be included in the application and my explanation of the powers of Schedule 1 to the Bill, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Norrie

I am grateful to my noble friend once again for a full explanation. In view of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 65 not moved.]

Schedule 1 [Authorisations for Processes: Supplementary Provisions]:

Lord Hesketh moved Amendments Nos. 66 to 68: Page 142, line 3, at end insert:


Page 142, line 27, leave out ("these persons") and insert ("the persons so consulted").

Page 143, line 3, leave out ("(1)") and insert ("(2)").

The noble Lord said: These amendments have already been spoken to. I beg to move en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 69: Page 143, line 26, leave out ("that section") and insert ("either of those sections").

The noble Earl said: In speaking to Amendment No. 69, I wish also to speak to Amendments Nos. 71 and 72. These are purely drafting amendments designed to clarify the existing references in paragraph 3(4) of Schedule 1 to the local government Acts. I am indebted to the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, for pointing out the need for clarification in this paragraph. I hope that he will agree that these amendments achieve that aim. I beg to move.

12.15 a.m.

The Earl of Balfour

I am most grateful. That is all I want to say.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 70: Page 143, line 27, leave out ("(2)") and insert ("(3)").

The noble Lord said: This amendment has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendments Nos. 71 and 72: Page 143, line 28, leave out ("that section") and insert ("either of those sections and, in relation to England and Wales,"). Page 143, line 28, after ("(4)") insert ("of the said section 250").

The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 71 and 72 en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 73: Page 143, line 52, at end insert:


Variations by the enforcing authority

(6.—(1) The requirements of this paragraph apply where an enforcing authority has decided to vary an authorisation under section 10 and is of the opinion that any action to be taken by the holder of the authorisation in consequence of the variation will involve a substantial change in the manner in which the process is being carried on.

(2) Subject to sub-paragraph (3) below, the enforcing authority shall give notice of the action to be taken by the holder of the authorisation to the persons who are prescribed or directed to be consulted under this paragraph and shall do so within the specified period for notification; and the holder shall advertise the action in the manner prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State.

(3) The Secretary of State may, by regulations, exempt any class of variation from all or any of the requirements of this paragraph.

(4) Any representations made by the persons so consulted within the period allowed shall be considered by the enforcing authority in taking its decision.

(5) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (2) above—

  1. (a) persons are prescribed to be consulted on any description of variation if they are persons specified for the purposes of variations of that description in regulations made by the Secretary of State;
  2. (b) persons are directed to be consulted on any particular variation if the Secretary of State specified them in a direction given to the enforcing authority;
and the "specified period for notification" is the period specified in the regulations or in the direction.

(6) Any representations made by any other person within the period allowed shall also be considered by the enforcing authority in taking its decision.

(7) Subject to sub-paragraph (8) below, the period allowed for making representations is:

  1. (a) in the case of persons prescribed or directed to be consulted, the period of twenty-eight days beginning with the date on which notice was given under sub-paragraph (2) above, and
  2. (b) in the case of other persons, the period of twenty-eight days beginning with the date of the advertisement under sub-paragraph (2) above.

(8) The Secretary of State may, by order, substitute for the period for the time being specified in sub-paragraph (7)(a) or (b) above, such other period as he considers appropriate.

Applications for variations

7.—(1) The requirements of this paragraph apply where an application is made to an enforcing authority under section 11(4) for the variation of an authorisation.

(2) Subject to sub-paragraph (3) below, the enforcing authority shall give notice of any such application for a variation of an authorisation, enclosing a copy of the application, to the persons who are prescribed or directed to be consulted under this paragraph and shall do so within the specified period for notification; and the holder of the authorisation shall advertise the application in the manner prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State.

(3) The Secretary of State may, by regulations, exempt any class of application from all or any of the requirements of this paragraph.

(4) Any representations made by the persons so consulted within the period allowed shall be considered by the enforcing authority in determining the application.

(5) For the purpose of sub-paragraph (2) above—

  1. (a) persons are prescribed to be consulted on any description of application for a variation if they are persons specified for the purposes of applications of that description in regulations made by the Secretary of State;
  2. (b) persons are directed to be consulted on any particular application if the Secretary of State specified them in a direction given to the enforcing authority;
and the "specified period for notification" is the period specified in the regulations or in the direction.

(6) Any representation made by any other person within the period allowed shall also be considered by the enforcing authority in determining the application.

(7) Subject to sub-paragraph (8) below, the period allowed for making representations is—

  1. (a) in the case of persons prescribed or directed to be consulted, the period of twenty-eight days beginning with the date on which notice of the application was given under sub-paragraph (2) above; and
  2. (b) in the case of other persons, the period of twenty-eight days beginning with the date on which the making of the application was advertised in pursuance of sub-paragraph (2) above.

(8) The Secretary of State may, by order, substitute for the period for the time being specified in sub-paragaraph (7)(a) or (b) above, such other period as he considers appropriate.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 7 [Conditions of authorisations]:

Lord Ross of Newport moved Amendment No. 74: Page 8, line 38, leave out ("condition") and insert ("conditions").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 74, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 75 and 81. Amendments Nos. 74 and 75 are paving amendments. The main amendment is Amendment No. 81 which introduces the requirement to provide a performance bond on the part of those who wish to carry out some operations which are liable to cause some pollution if not properly carried out. The effect of the amendment would be to incorporate within the conditions under which authorisations will be issued a duty on those applying for such authorisations to prevent by such means as are reasonably necessary the occurrence of pollution as a consequence of the carrying on of those activities for which authorisation is sought.

Taken in conjunction with Clauses 15, 16 and 22 relating to the powers for enforcement of authorisations and for the avoidance of pollution where there is an imminent danger of it occurring, the amendment would complete the placing of the financial onus of pollution prevention and of subsequent cleaning up on the producer. Its purpose is to give full effect to the principle that the polluter pays. That principle is only partly provided for by the Bill as it currently stands. I should have thought the Government might feel kindly disposed to this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

The noble Lord has explained his case for requiring that those authorised to carry on a Part I process should pay a sum of money to the enforcing authority before commencing operations. This would be repaid upon completion of a programme of works designed to prevent pollution. I confess that I am not completely clear how the system would work in practice. How, for example, would it affect the vast majority of existing operators, whose processes are already underway?

I sympathise with what I understand to be the purpose of these amendments, which is that operators of prescribed businesses and processes should take all reasonable measures when constructing their plant to prevent pollution, in line with the requirements of the enforcing authority. But what I am unable to understand is what these amendments achieve in addition to the provisions of Part I as currently drafted. The whole of the IPC system is expressly designed to ensure that all that can reasonably be achieved by way of prevention, minimisation and rendering harmless of emissions, will be achieved.

The enforcing authority will secure this by requiring the use of BATNEEC to these very ends in setting the conditions within the authorisation. And since the operator cannot operate without this authorisation, and without meeting the conditions within it, it follows that he is already automatically required before commencing operations to design and build his plant in such a way as to achieve the purpose of the amendments. The payment of a bond is thus riot necessary. He will not be able to operate before he does what is required of him. That, I repeat, is what all of us want the whole system to achieve.

Moreover, the system will allow the enforcing authority to deal with existing processes by the gradual introduction of higher standards as necessary. Here again, no bond is required. The enforcing authority will require the higher standards to be achieved over a reasonable period of time—what the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution calls the "best environmental timetable". It is up to the operator to carry out whatever programme of works will enable him to meet these standards; if he does not, he will be in breach of his authorisation. We believe that there is not a good reason for this amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Before the noble Lord, Lord Ross, decides what to do with his amendment, I should say that I find that reply curious as it is in two parts. The first part claimed that it is satisfactory to have the attempt to deal with pollution before it occurs. That is an important and valuable thrust of the Bill. We are not seeking to oppose that part of the Bill. However, as the Minister said in his reply, there are some cases where the process will already be in operation. It is in those cases where the pollution has already started and the process is already in operation that we need a performance bond in order to secure that the process is brought to an end. I do not think that was answered by the second part of the Minister's answer when he stated that the Government intended to secure that there was an agreed timetable for abatement or elimination of the pollution.

Of course such a timetable is valuable, and in earlier amendments we referred to such a timetable, in order that the process should cease within a given time. I notice that the Government did not accept those amendments. But a performance bond to provide a financial incentive for them to do it is surely a valuable addition. That is provided for in the Broadcasting Bill which is before your Lordships' House at present, and it would be a useful addition to the range of powers available to the Government and to the enforcing authorities as regards this Bill.

Lord Ross of Newport

I have a fairly lengthy brief on this subject but because the hour is late I have not quoted it all. I assume, so far as these amendments are concerned, that the local authorities have in mind—and this came from a local authority source—a situation arising when a development takes out an estate and money has to be deposited to make sure that the road is made up to the proper adopted standard. What happens if, in this case, somebody is applying to carry out a process in which some liquid is likely to be released—for example, if a building gets half built and something starts oozing out of the place and the company goes bust? It is a terrible job, surely, to try to get some compensation from some source to clear up the mess left behind.

I can think of other areas, like oil pollution. It would be much better if people put down a performance bond before they were allowed to put in tanker terminals. They are meant to establish the basis for initial clean-ups. We think the BATNEEC would be too gradual to allow them to be licensed. It would be a safer bet if the Government went a little deeper into this, to see whether there is a case for ensuring, in particular instances where perhaps some rather more serious pollution might occur if the process were not properly completed and not finished to a proper standard, that there is an area on which they can fall back. I can see problems looming up for local authorities, and perhaps even government departments holding the baby at the end of the day.

I should like to study what the Minister has said and perhaps return to the matter at a later date.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 75 to 78 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 79: Page 9, line 29, leave out ("available techniques not entailing excessive cost") and insert ("practicable environmental option").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 79 I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 80.

There have already been quite a number of references to BATNEEC, the best available technology not entailing excessive cost. None of the references that have been made from the Government Front Bench have relieved our fears that BATNEEC is in fact a compromise formulation, nothing like as good a formulation as the original formulation of best practical environmental option which would actually require the cleanest process to be used by producers.

Our fears are not very significantly reduced by the draft guidance note which the Department of the Environment issued on 27th April 1990. I will not go into that in detail, noble Lords will be pleased to hear, but I must deal with the end of the environment guidance note which deals with the question of excessive costs because there appears to be a significant difference between what we mean by excessive cost and what the European Commission, in particular, is likely to mean by it. If we find ourselves out of key with what the European Commission is likely to find, then we shall place ourselves in a position of quite undesirable, unnecessary, expensive and damaging conflict.

Let us take, for example, Article 13 of the European Commission's air framework directive of 1984. The guidance note on BATNEEC defines excessive cost in relation in particular to the economic situation of undertakings belonging to the category in question. The European formulation is presented in the guidance note as related to the profitability of the firm, whereas the British formulation ignores the profitability of the firm and looks only at the cost benefit balance in terms of environmental protection.

If that is the case, it would be interesting to have the Minister's confirmation on it. We should like to know why the further definitions of BATNEEC are not included on the face of the Bill. As matters stand, BATNEEC is a compromise which does not do what the European Commission at least will require of us and what we should require of ourselves. That compromise will not be satisfactory in curbing pollution. I beg to move.

Lord McNair

I am also worried about BATNEEC. We now have enough experience to know that the long-terms effects of pollutants on people's health can be far worse than first thought. Two examples of that phenomenon are the terrible results in the 19th century of the exposure of women in match factories over a long period of time to the phosphorous used in their work and, more recently, the continual decreases in the permitted levels of exposure to radioactivity. When those levels were set in the 1950s and the 1960s, we were assured that they were realistic, but later experience has shown that they were not.

When we are dealing with processes and substances whose effects on health may not be known, we must err on the side of caution. It is worth nothing that good environmental practice is also good business. Strangely, that has nothing to do with the law. In the long term, which is such a foreign way of thinking to so many of our industrial and investment strategists, an environmentally sound business is a sustainable business. BATNEEC sets an agenda that puts profit before people. There is nothing in it that would prevent a person from polluting if he can simply show that there is no economical way of not doing so. That is not acceptable and that is why I support the amendments.

Lord Reay

These amendments allow us to consider what is perhaps the central clause of Part I of the Bill and its fundamental concepts; namely, best practicable environmental option and best available techniques not entailing excessive costs.

As my noble friend Lord Hesketh said at Second Reading, much of the credit for the evolution of integrated pollution control must go to the sterling work that the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution undertook in devising and elaborating the concept of the best practicable environmental option. It has allowed us through this Bill to take a lead internationally in industrial environmental control and for that I think Members throughout your Lordships' Committee would agree that we owe considerable debt to the work of the Royal Commission.

It may be helpful to this debate if I set out how the Part I system will work. When he comes to submit his application, the operator will have had to consider fully the range of environmental options available to him and to select the one that he considers to be the best. If evidence of such consideration is not provided, the enforcing authority will require the operator to furnish more information. In its turn, the enforcing authority will have determined which specific conditions to set to ensure that the best practicable environmental option is taken. Decisions about BPEO are therefore central to determining specific conditions.

However, the general condition to which Clause 7(4) relates does not refer to such fundamental crux decisions. It is concerned with second order matters that do not warrant being regulated by specific conditions. As such, the appropriate requirement is that already in the Bill, namely, that the best available techniques not entailing excessive costs shall be used to minimise release of prescribed substances and to render harmless to the environment all releases whether or not of prescribed substances.

We therefore believe that there is no need for the general duty on the operator to refer to BPEO. Nor do we consider the second amendment, Amendment No. 80, to be necessary, for the reason that the work is already in hand. I can assure the Committee that the Government are already doing precisely what would be required of them by this amendment. We have already made advice relating to the general meaning of BATNEEC available in draft and copies are in the Library. We have circulated copies to a number of interested bodies and will consider carefully any points that they put to us.

We are working too on specific guidance for individual processes and shall begin to issue such advice very shortly for wide public consultation. It is our intention to produce detailed guidance in concert with our European Community partners where that is feasible on the appropriate level of control for new plant and on the timetables over which existing processes need to be brought up to such standards.

I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw these amendments.

12.30 a.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. I am well aware that when one comes to formulations such as BATNEEC or BPEO one could land up with what in effect is a theological discussion. I certainly do not want to become involved in a discussion about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. It may well be that in good hands BATNEEC under certain circumstances could result in effects comparable with those of other formulations.

To a limited extent I am reassured by the reference which the noble Lord made to the consultations with the European Community in his reply. In the light of those references and with the possibility that we may have to return to the matter when we have seen the further information that the noble Lord has promised us, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 80 and 81 not moved.]

Lord Layton moved Amendment No. 81A:

Page 10, line 7, at end insert— ("( ) When an authorisation is under consideration, the requirements of the Fourth Environmental Action Programme of the European Community shall be heeded, namely, that the priorities for the management of waste shall be—

  1. (a) waste reduction by process or technology improvement;
  2. (b) reutilisation of, or resource recovery from, or recycling of the waste;
  3. (c) elimination by physical or chemical means;
  4. (d) disposal to landfill.").

The noble Lord said: This is an amendment about principle in a sea of objectives and regulations. Maybe it will help with the problem of theology encountered by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, to know that this is the principle which basically underlies BATNEEC, BPM, BPEO and all the other acronyms with which it is difficult to deal. It is a principle that has been decided within the European Community and for that reason I think that it ties in very well in that direction.

This provision should be on the face of the Bill because it is the principle that underlies everything that goes into this clause. It is a list of order of merit of the methods of disposal of waste that exist. I should also point out that the end of the amendment should read "disposal to landfill" and not "disposal of landfill" as appears on the Marshalled List. If we could dispose of landfill, that would indeed be a miracle. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Before the Minister replies, I was not aware of that particular formulation, but it makes extremely good sense to me as I read it. I am grateful to the noble Lord for bringing it forward.

Lord Addington

I too should like to add support from these Benches for the proposals as they are set out in the amendment. We should have on the face of the Bill at some point some form of declaration of intent and the ideology behind the Bill so that we do not become too bogged down in regulations and basic statements of what is economically advisable and administratively possible.

Lord Reay

I am not convinced that this amendment adds anything to the provisions of Clause 7. The fourth environmental action programme of the European Community is obviously extremely important. That is why the United Kingdom, like other member states, endorsed it as the basis for further progress on environmental protection.

I am not sure that it should have a place in Part I of the Bill. IPC is the first national integrated system of pollution control in Europe. It establishes a pollution control framework for well into the next century. The fourth action programme, however, ends in 1992. I am sure that my noble friend agrees that it would be wrong to require enforcing authorities in, say, the year 2005 to have regard to an environmental programme which had expired 13 years earlier.

Paragraphs (a) and (c) of the amendment equate to Clause 7(2)(a)(i) of the Bill. The action programme talks first of reduction and then, as a lower priority, of elimination of waste. The Bill mentions prevention first and, where that is not practicable, minimisation. The Bill attaches high priority to prevention, and the concept of minimisation is tougher than the action programmes on reduction.

Paragraphs (b) and (d) relate to Clause 7(7) of the Bill which concerns the best practicable environmental option. In the past there has been an impression that disposal to landfill is the easy waste option. Part II of the Bill will ensure that that method of disposal is now policed effectively. But that does not mean that waste arising from Part I should be encouraged to be sent for landfill. Surely we should be aiming to achieve whatever method of disposal or resource recovery is best for the environment as a whole—the best practicable environmental option. That is the key to Part I of the Bill.

Clause 7 also requires enforcing authorities to take account of United Kingdom obligations under EC and other international treaties. The Bill delivers the aspect of the fourth action programme referred to in the amendment and a little more. I hope that what I have said will have persuaded my noble friend that the clause provides what he wishes and that he will therefore not press his amendment.

Lord Layton

I thank the Minister for his very full reply. I am not altogether happy with either the amendment or the reply. Perhaps the Government will consider putting on the face of the Bill a simplification of the various provisions on authorisation so that it is clear that a particular end is envisaged and that everyone is working towards that aim. In the hope that such clarification may be forthcoming, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 82: Page 10, line 14, at end insert ("and, in relation to Scotland, to any regulations made under section 5(1A) above").

The noble Earl said: Amendment No. 82 has been tabled simply for clarification. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 83 not moved.]

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 8 [Fees and charges for authorisations]:

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 84: Page 10, line 41, leave out ("the making of").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 84 is a simple drafting amendment. It clarifies the intention that the charging scheme can require a fee for an application even if it does not result in an authorisation. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Ross of Newport moved Amendment No. 85: Page 10, line 44, after ("authorisations") insert: ("(bb) charges payable by such persons to local enforcing authorities for the purposes of enabling such authorities to disburse loans and grants from the proceeds to applicants for authorisations, where in the opinion of the relevant authority the applicant would otherwise be unable to fulfil the terms of any authorisation and pollution at an unacceptable level would result;").

The noble Lord said: The amendment stands also in the names of my noble friend Lord McNair, and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. I suspect that I shall not receive much response from the Minister on the amendment because it involves cross-subsidisation. However, I believe that it will be effective in dealing with some of the pollution problems which will face local authorities and the HMIP.

The effect of the amendment would be to widen the powers of the Secretary of State to prescribe schemes of fees and charges for authorisations. It would empower him to include within a scheme provision for local authorities to levy an additional charge on applicants for authorisation. The proceeds of that charge could then be distributed to applicants for authorisations when, in the opinion of the local authority, the terms of an authorisation could not expect to be fulfilled without that financial assistance. It would in effect provide a mechanism whereby polluters as a group would be levied to ensure that individual polluters could meet the desired targets, thus achieving a balance between the necessary protection of the environment and the economic viability of producers. If we do not make such provision I can foresee that good schemes which firms may not be able to finance will fall to the ground.

The purpose of the amendment is to probe the Government's intentions with regard not so much to the substance contained in the proposals, but to the principles underlying them. Those principles are imporant not just to the control of pollution in any given locality and the means by which it is to be financed but to the overriding issue of the role that the UK is to play as an advanced industrial economy in protecting and enhancing the environment on a world scale.

First, it is wrong in principle for the holders of the technology best suited to the protection of the environment so to exploit their property rights as to prevent the widest possible diffusion of that technology. Secondly, it is inequitable for inherited comparative advantage to be exploited by those producers at the most advanced stage of development in a way that will restrict the development opportunities open to others.

At local level the obvious sense of the amendment can readily be seen. It would allow charges to be levied on all polluters effectively to minimise the economic disruption that could flow from the shift to less pollution in general. For many localities and regions, that would be important if the underlying purpose of pollution control were not to be defeated by short-term but understandable self-interest. That would be effected in practice by means of the cross-subsidisation of one producer by another to meet desired pollution targets without forcing producers out of business due to the cost of so doing.

Cross-subsidisation is not normally encouraged. It encourages inefficiency at the level of the firm and an inappropriate distribution of resources at the level of the economy. However, the economics of pollution control are not those which would normally apply. That is so because of the different response times technologically determined for different industries in meeting improved standards and because of the differing values of pollution as external costs in proportion to the overall production costs of different industries.

As a result and as an economy moves—from a market which does not incorporate, or only partly incorporates, the external costs of pollution and its counterpart (the internal costs to the firm of its abatement) into the production costs of firms to a market which does, or more fully incorporates them—it is demonstrably possible that firms and industries will in the short term cease to be profitable which would, in the long term, once the market completed the adjustment, have been profitable. It follows that because of where we start from, and because of the path that the market would, if unaided, dictate, the economy might not reach the point at which we seek to arrive. The amendment seeks to provide the means whereby that might be avoided by generating revenues which can be used as subsidies to ensure that industries and the economy' in general can be put on a path that will enable them to reach that point which we wish.

How those means should be utilised is something which would vary from area to area and from industry to industry. It would depend on the distribution of industries within different areas and the division of a process of production between different firms. That practical complexity makes it desirable that it should be targeted and administered by local authorities because they are best placed to do so. However, its application at the level of industries also makes it desirable that that should be done in full consultation with, and co-ordinated by, the Secretary of State. It is on that basis that the Secretary of State should consider giving the amendment practical effect.

I am sorry if I have bored the Committee. On the last occasion I tried to be brief while wishing to put the matter at greater length. I do not see how local authorities, which will be greatly involved, can help or give initiatives to firms which wish to set up but have problems with pollution control and perhaps no resources. It may be that the authority would desperately like to see such a firm in its area. There must be a way in which authorities can raise costs from one side in order to give aid on another.

The trouble is that the Government do not trust local government. That is sad and must be put right. However, we know from what is now happening that the opportunities for local authorities to do things for themselves are decreasing. When I led a county council in 1981–82 I was able to encourage employment and to bring back into life land that was lying idle as a result of the closure of industries. I should not be able to do so today. Unless there is a scheme such as that proposed I do not see how we can deal with those highly desirable firms that have a project which should be encouraged. They may not have the financial resources unless provision can be made for money received from one source to be distributed to another.

I know that probably that is anathema to present government thinking and to the thinking of the Secretary of State. However, I seriously suggest to the Minister that the provision should be considered. I beg to move.

12.45 a.m.

Lord Reay

I regret that we cannot accept Amendment No. 85 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Newport. He is asking the profitable sectors of industry—but only those in Part B of the schedule, not the really large companies—to fund, either by grants or loans, pollution abatement improvements by others. In other words, profitable company A is required to provide capital for company B's improvement programme. Why should this system only relate to those processes in Part B to be controlled by local authorities for air pollution purposes? If it were to be introduced, surely it should bite first on the potentially larger processes prescribed for integrated pollution control.

Perhaps the problem with this amendment stems from a fundamental misapprehension. It says that the system is designed to stop otherwise unacceptable levels of pollution. But the system is already designed to stop that. The use of BATNEEC, the pollution load on the environment, is by definition acceptable since what determines excessiveness of cost will in part relate to the environmental benefits to accrue. If the cost of a technique is not excessive, by definition there can be no unacceptable pollution load. I hope that the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Ross of Newport

I did not anticipate a very favourable response. However, the point has been aired to which I received a reply. I still believe that there is a problem. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 86 not moved.]

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 87: Page 10, line 45 leave out ("consideration") and insert ("respect").

The noble Lord said: I speak also to Amendments Nos. 88 and 89. This is a series of simple amendments. Amendment No. 87 is designed to make clear that the annual fee relates to the subsistence of an authorisation and not, as might have been supposed by the word "consideration", the authority's enforcement of it.

Amendments Nos. 88 and 89 clarify the position in relation to relevant expenditure by the National Rivers Authority and answer legitimate anxieties of that authority. The first is a technical amendment specifying that the NRA's relevant functions are in respect of authorisations. The second ensures that the NRA can be reimbursed for all expenditure attributable to the consideration of the applications for the authorisation as well as the subsequent work if it is granted and used. I beg to move.

Lord Crickhowell

I express my gratitude to the Minister for so fully and comprehensively meeting an important point which I raised at Second Reading. It is perhaps the most important point of outstanding anxiety about the operation of IPC jointly by the NRA and HMIP.

At Second Reading I drew attention to the fact that as a result of Clause 28 the NRA will be able to accept the conditions on all discharges to water. I pointed out that it was absolutely crucial that the NRA should not be inhibited from carrying out such monitoring and enforcement proceedings as it thinks is necessary.

I said that I had been encouraged by the assurances given by Ministers in correspondence that the NRA would be able to carry out such monitoring as it thinks necessary and would retain the right to intiate enforcement proceedings unilaterally. The doubt which remained was as to whether the finance would be available, as a result of this Bill, to enable the NRA to carry out those functions. I am satisfied that the government amendments meet those anxieties and that the charging scheme will enable the NRA to carry out that important part of its responsibilities.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Reay moved Amendments Nos. 88 and 89: Page 1, line 26, after ("Part") insert ("in relation to authorisations"). Page 11, line 27, leave out from ("in") to end of line 28 and insert ("exercising the Authority's functions in relation to authorisations for processs which may involve the release of any substance into water.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 90: Page 11, line 31, leave out ("he") and insert ("it").

The noble Earl said: In subsection (8) of this clause, the enforcing authority issues the notice. I therefore suggest to the Committee that the word "it" is substituted for the word "he". I beg to move.

Lord Reay

I congratulate my noble friend on tabling Amendment No. 90. It results from his careful scrutiny of the Bill and he has identified an infelicitous reference which the Government are happy to correct.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 91: Page 11, line 40, at end insert ("or in relation to consultation carried out under regulations made under section 5(2) above").

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 91, with the leave of the Committee I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 92 and 93.

Amendment No. 91 relates to the charging scheme for authorisations. Its purpose is to include expenditure incurred in relation to consultation within the definition of "relevant expenditure". Amendments Nos. 92 and 93 are minor drafting amendments to subsection (11) of Clause 8. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendments Nos. 92 and 93: Page 11, line 41, leave out ("the appropriate") and insert ("a"). Page 11, line 43, leave out ("the") and insert ("their").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Variation of authorisations by enforcing authority]:

Lord Hesketh moved Amendments Nos. 94 and 95: Page 12, line 10, after ("above") insert ("and, in cases to which they apply, the requirements of Part II of Schedule 1 to this Act,"). Page 12, line 38, leave out from ("opinion") to end of line 40.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 11 [Variation of conditions etc.: applications by holders of authorisations]:

Lord Layton moved Amendment No. 96: Page 13, line 21, leave out ("relevant") and insert ("substantial").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 96 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 97, 100 and 104. The whole purpose of the Bill is to protect the environment. During the course of normal industrial operations, changes are often made to the way in which a process is carried out. Variation notices are surely not appropriate in circumstance where the operational changes are relatively minor and will not lead to a changed impact of that process on the environment.

The phrase "relevant change" would seem to introduce an unnecessary complication to an already complicated Bill and would give an operator a great deal of uncertainty regarding what constitutes a relevant change. "Substantial change", on the other hand, is defined in Clause 10(7) and would seem to fit the circumstances better where a variation notice would be required. Why make variations because of changes when the ends have stayed the same? There should be no need to inform the authority if there has not been a substantial change, as there would be no need to change the authorisation.

If it is the end product which is of concern, why set up a complex mechanism to hinder the continuation of what is, at the end of the day, the same thing and all that is of concern? If industry was expected to ask for authorisation for every system change it was to make in a process, the whole system would become unworkable.

What constitutes a relevant change? There could be considerable delay in obtaining variations at a time when industry is trying to react swiftly to changing circumstances. Would that not be damaging to the competitiveness of certain industries? An added work burden would be placed on the enforcing authority by what could well be unwarranted interference with a company's normal operations. I consider that that would be unjustifiable and I therefore beg to move the amendment.

Lord Hesketh

I understand the concerns which the noble Lord has expressed in introducing these four linked amendments. May I first categorically reassure him that it is no part of our purpose to place unnecessary bureaucracy or unwarranted obstacles in the way of industry. I fully appreciate that the system we are proposing in Part I must allow industry the greatest liberty consistent with adequate environmental control to get on with the task of producing the goods on which they—and all of us—depend. And I am very alive to the need to ensure that the system of variations which Clause 11 proposes should reflect the operational requirements of industry as well as those of the enforcing authority. The system we propose must, it is clear, be a sensible and workable one.

I must equally make clear that where the system calls for it we have not hesitated to ensure that proper controls are in place. It is every bit as important that the Part I regime should ensure that the conditions in an authorisation are updated in line with changes to the process. To ensure this, the enforcing authority must be kept fully up to date with those changes. Having said that, however, I believe I may be able to reassure the noble Lord about his concerns.

The amendments he proposes suggest, first, that industries should be required to notify to the enforcing authorities not relevant changes but only substantial changes. I resist that for a reason which I hope is clear when one considers the definition of relevant change in subsection (9)—in essence, any change in the process which is capable of altering the releases from it. I remind the Committee that substantial changes are in practical terms simply those which are so significant that they merit the same procedure of public advertisement and consultation as an initial application for authorisation.

I hope that my noble friend will not disagree that the enforcing authority must be made aware of any change to the process which might affect releases. That seems self evident as a basic principle. The authority needs to know not only of changes to the releases themselves but also, for instance, of alterations to the process which might, possibly unknown to the operator, offer the potential for reducing releases. For example, an operator might want to make some seemingly minor reconstruction to the process hardware which would allow the enforcing authority to suggest the introduction of additional abatement equipment at very little extra cost. I emphasise that in the light of this it would be dangerous indeed to limit the requirement to notify the enforcing authorities to cases of significant changes only.

I must stress here two very important amendments which we have made to the variation procedures. First, an operator is no longer obliged under Clause 11 to notify the enforcing authority of all relevant changes. Instead, the authorisation itself can spell out as a condition what categories of change he must notify, or perhaps that he must notify of all changes except those of a specified category. There is no reason why this route should not allow the operator all the freedom he requires to make rapid changes of, for example, raw materials or throughputs, without further recourse to the enforcing authority.

The second change we have proposed, by way of Government Amendment No. 101 which we have already debated, is a major simplification of the notification procedure to cover cases where the operator knows from the beginning that what he requires is a change to one of his existing conditions. These important simplifications will go a very long way to easing the burden of reporting changes to enforcing authorities. I hope that added to the importance of the fundamental principle of reporting all relevant changes, except where it is clear that that is unnecessary, my noble friend will feel that he does not need to press his amendments.

Lord Layton

I thank my noble friend the Minister for that response. I think he has answered my questions fully. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 97 not moved.]

Lord Hesketh moved Amendments Nos. 98 and 99: Page [4, line 17, leave out ("a") and insert ("the"). Page 14, leave out line 18.

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to these amendments and beg to move them en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 100 not moved.]

Lord Hesketh moved Amendments Nos. 101 to 103: Page 14, line 23, leave out from beginning to ("shall") and insert— ("(5A) A person carrying on a process under an authorisation who wishes to make a relevant change in the process may, where it appears to him that the change will require the variation of the conditions of the authorisation, apply to the enforcing authority in the prescribed form for the variation of the conditions of the authorisation specified in the application. (5B) A person who makes an application for the variation of the conditions of an authorisation") Page 14, line 28, after ("may") insert (", having fulfilled the requirements of Part II of Schedule 1 to this Act in cases to which they apply, as it thinks fit either") Page 14, line 29, leave out ("as it thinks fit") and insert ("or, in the case of an application under subsection (5A) above, treat the application as a request for a determination under subsection (2) above;")

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to these amendments and I beg to move them en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 104 not moved.]

Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 12 [Revocation of authorisation]:

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 105: Page 14, line 10, at end insert— ("(6) Where a revocation is served by the enforcing authority by virtue of subsection (1) above, the authority shall he liable to pay compensation to the recipient of the notice unless this revocation relates to a breach of the conditions of authorisation as specified in section 7 above. (7) Provision may be made by regulations as to the manner determining the amount of any compensation payable in pursuance of this section including the factors to be taken into account in determining that amount.").

The noble Lord said: The Bill as drafted makes no provision for compensating companies whose authorisations have been revoked, perhaps as a result of a change in government policy or perhaps as a result of a previously unforeseen need to protect persons likely to be affected by the company's operations.

It is possible that a company will have invested a large sum of money to meet the conditions of an authorisation, because in some areas we are referring to new technology the investment for which is considerable.

An unforeseen change in circumstances may mean that the best available techniques which had been used are still not sufficient to meet new standards that become necessary and that further improvements are required to meet the new standards set down by an authority. I submit that in such situations it is reasonable for the company to expect to receive some compensation since it will have invested a large amount of resource but may, through no fault of its own, be deprived from profiting from such an investment.

The principle that companies are entitled to compensation in these circumstances has been previously adopted in relation to a number of areas of legislation, notably in food safety and consumer protection. Indeed, it has been adopted in relation to the revocation of consents issued by the old water authorities. The amendment that I am moving is taken from Section 38 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974.

It is only reasonable that there should be in the Bill some provision, under certain circumstances, for companies to look to this compensation area; otherwise it will be very unfair, as I have said, particularly if the change that is necessary is through no fault of one's own. I beg to move.

1 a.m.

Lord Hesketh

My noble friend's amendment makes the point that if a revocation notice is served unreasonably, then the authority which served it should be liable to pay compensation. I recognise that the service of a revocation notice will be a matter of the utmost importance to the operator of a prescribed process, but I do believe that the Bill as it stands will ensure that processes will not be closed down on the whim of an enforcing authority.

My noble friend suggests compensation is the answer. Clearly, the financial interests of the operator would be adversely affected if he was required to close the process without good reason, even if he was allowed to recommence operations at a later date. I believe that, because the service of a revocation notice is of such major significance to the operator, we should give him every opportunity to present his side of the case before the process is stopped. We have provided, therefore, in Clause 15 that the operator may appeal against the service of the notice and that the notice will not take effect pending the final determination or withdrawal of the appeal. That, in my view, is the best solution to the problem.

I have to point out too to my noble friend that revocation notices may be served under Clause 8(8) as well as Clause 12. One by-product of his amendment would be to require, in cases of revocation, compensation to be paid to an operator by the enforcing authority when the operator had failed to pay his annual charge to the enforcing authority. That does seem a strange redistribution of wealth to the Government. I am sure that is not the intention of my noble friend. Given my explanation about the interaction between this clause and Clauses 8 and 15 of the Bill I request my noble friend not to press his amendment.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I am grateful to my noble friend for his explanation. I shall have something to say about Clauses 15 and 17 in a few moments. The point that he made about Clause 8 I had not recognised. I still feel that there is good reason for compensation provisions to be made. However, in view of what the Minister has said I wish to have a careful look at the matter to see how exactly I can reconcile his view to my own. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Prohibition notices]:

Lord Moran moved Amendment No. 105A: Page 15, line 34, leave out ("an imminent") and insert ("a").

The noble Lord said: As the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is not in the Chamber I shall move this amendment which stands in his name, mine and that of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. As drafted, Clause 14 enables the enforcing authority to serve a prohibition notice on a person carrying on a prescribed process where it is of the opinion that its continuation, or continuation in a particular manner, involves an imminent risk of serious pollution of the environment. As originally drafted, Clause 14 did not include the word "imminent". The word was inserted by a government amendment following an undertaking given by the Minister during Committee stage in another place.

It was thought that the range of circumstances under which prohibition notices could be served was too great. I believe that the insertion of the word "imminent" now makes it too restrictive. It is true that Part I of the Bill deals with long-term risks and that prohibition notices would not be appropriate in those situations. But I understand that the National Rivers Authority is not convinced that all risks of serious pollution are either long-term or "imminent".

The purpose of this amendment is to enable the enforcing authority to serve a prohibition notice where it is of the opinion that there is a risk of serious pollution but that that risk may not necessarily be imminent. If the serving of a prohibition notice specifying the risk involved and the steps to be taken to remove it are limited to circumstances where that risk is imminent, there would not always be time for the person carrying on the process to take the steps which are necessary to prevent serious pollution.

Even if a prohibition notice specified that one of the steps that must be taken to remove an imminent risk of serious pollution should include an immediate cessation of the particular process, or the relevant aspect of it, this would not necessarily mean that serious pollution would thereby be prevented. Certain activities might have been causing pollution to build up over a period of time until the point at which the risk had become imminent. It could then be too late to prevent the polluting effect on the environment, even by an immediate cessation.

In the case of the water environment, the National Rivers Authority has powers under Section 115 of the Water Act 1989 to take remedial action once pollution has entered any receiving waters. However, the authority is, I understand, concerned—and in my view rightly concerned—that pollution should, wherever possible, be dealt with before the event, by preventive action on site by the persons carrying on the process concerned.

I hope therefore that the Government will accept the amendment, or, if not, that they will give further thought to the word "imminent" and see whether some form of words can be found which will not be excessively wide but which will enable serious pollution to be checked in good time. I beg to move.

Lord Crickhowell

I shall be extremely brief because the matter has been comprehensively covered by the noble Lord, Lord Moran. This is an extremely important point. I believe that, in seeking to ensure that the Bill did not go too wide, the Government have now created a situation where we can actually have serious pollution that should be prevented. If my noble friend cannot give an immediately favourable answer tonight I trust that he will not close his mind to these issues. I hope that he will take the matter away and see whether he can come back with a solution which would safeguard the environment, as I am sure all Members of the Committee would wish, and not leave us in a situation where we could face quite serious pollution that ought to be prevented.

Lord Reay

The effect of the amendment would be to delete an amendment which the Government brought forward on Report in another place. At Committee stage in another place the point was fairly made that, as many industrial processes involve a serious risk of pollution, the drafting of Clause 14 without any reference to time or urgency was extremely wide and imprecise—hence the introduction of the word "imminent". I think I can reassure the noble Lord that the purpose of his amendment is already provided for by Clause 13, which allows the enforcing authority to serve an enforcement notice when it considers that the condition of an authorisation is likely to be breached and so, by implication, run the risk of causing pollution of the environment.

Prohibition notices are slightly different. They are not designed primarily to be served when an operator is breaching or is likely to breach the conditions of an authorisation. They are designed to cover circumstances in which a process is being operated in a perfectly reasonable manner and within the conditions of the authorisation but where some event external to the process requires quick and decisive action. For example, an accident at one process could release substances which could react with those normally allowed to be released by a nearby process, so causing serious pollution. In those circumstances it would be right to close down temporarily the second process even though it was operating within its authorisation.

Those are the circumstances which prohibition notices are designed to meet. I think that the present wording of the clause meets that aim. I should like to consider the words of my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. The two types of notices provided for in Clauses 13 and 14 furnish enforcing notices with a comprehensive and we think precautionary system of enforcement. I hope that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Moran

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply I am especially grateful for the fact that he said he would consider the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. I, too, will study carefully in Hansard what has been said. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 [Appeals as respects authorisations and against variation, enforcement and prohibition notices]:

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 106: Page 16, line 24, after ("11") insert ("above").

The noble Earl said: The proposal in this amendment is a fairly standard practice which is used throughout legislation in general. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

My noble friend has succeeded in identifying another drafting error in the Bill which, once again, the Government are happy to correct.

Noble Lords


On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 107: Page 17, line 23, leave out from ("above") to end of line 25 and insert:

  1. ("(a) in the case of a variation notice or an enforcement notice the appeal shall have the effect of suspending the operation of the notice until the appeal is finally disposed of or, if the appeal is withdrawn, until the withdrawal of the appeal;
  2. (b) in the case of a prohibition notice the bringing of the appeal shall have the like effect if, but only if, on the application of the appellant the Secretary of State so directs and then only from the giving of the direction.").

The noble Lord said: I move this amendment in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, who regrettably cannot be present in the Chamber at this late hour. If Members of the Committee will look at subsection (9), which is the subject of the amendment, I think they will agree that it is fairly draconian. I say that because it says: Where an appeal is brought under subsection (2) above against a notice, the bringing of the appeal shall not have the effect of suspending the operation of the notice". As a result of that process, it may well be that the company is put out of business while waiting for an appeal to be heard, or waiting for the judgment of that appeal to be delivered. Of course, purely and simply by placing a notice on the company the inspectorate may be guilty of closing it down. The kind of example which springs immediately to my mind is one concerning the storage of chemicals in a particular way. It may be that the inspectorate wants this done in a certain way but the company maintains, through its technical expertise, that the existing method is perfectly right and proper. Nevertheless, a notice may be placed upon the company which means that it has to cease trading while awaiting the outcome of the appeal. The appeal procedure is provided for by Clause 15(2).

There is a precedent for this amendment if one looks, for example, at Section 24 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act. It provides that, while an appeal is taking place, the notice takes effect after the appeal judgment has been given. In other words, the prohibition notice does not apply immediately, unless the tribunal specifically demands that it should do so.

It is unfair and one might even describe it as somewhat penal that a suspension is required while a variation order is in the process of being undertaken. If it is suggested that the appeal procedure may be used to delay the implementation of a notice—whether or not it is a prohibition notice—I concede that that may in fact happen. But in other areas where this kind of legislation has been used, that incidence is very small indeed. Therefore, we must concern ourselves with such matters as the speed with which an appeal can be heard and the net outcome. If the net outcome of the appeal is in favour of the company, it will have been injuriously affected by the procedure.

Amendment No. 107 is designed to bring some element of reasonableness to the interests of enforcement and of fairness and the continuation of business. I beg to move.

1.15 a.m.

Lord Reay

My noble friend seeks to put certain notices into abeyance pending appeal, with special provision for prohibition notices in recognition of the serious and imminent danger of pollution that they are designed to prevent.

It may be helpful if I set out for the Committee how the proposed appeal system would work. New processes will not be able to begin operation until duly authorised by the enforcing authority. If the operator is unhappy with the conditions that have been set, he can appeal. In such a case he may decide to start up in compliance with the conditions and hope that they will later be amended on appeal; alternatively, he can wait for the appeal decision before beginning operation.

All notices (except those for revocation) will take effect immediately, whether or not the operator lodges an appeal against them. In most cases there will be time for the appeal to be considered before substantive construction work has to be undertaken to implement any major changes required by a notice since an enforcement or variation notice will not be valid unless sensible timescales allowing proper system design and construction work have been allowed.

My noble friend will appreciate that to put the notice into abeyance pending appeal would be to encourage unscrupulous operators to appeal automatically against every decision by the enforcing authority merely to delay the effect of a notice and so delay the cost of implementing environmental improvements. It is particularly in order to deal with those people that we need a robust system to ensure compliance. It would also risk clogging up the appeal system with potentially large numbers of groundless cases and would unnecessarily divert valuable technical resources away from a valid determination of what are the best available techniques, not entailing excessive costs in any case, or the best practicable environental option. I trust that the Committee is agreed that we must take the fastest action practicable to ensure that environmental improvements are made commensurate with a fair opportunity to challenge enforcing authority decisions.

As for the second part of the proposal, I am extremely concerned by the notion of having to ask my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to confirm each prohibition notice before it takes effect. In such cases speed will be of the essence. If the enforcing authority believes that there is an imminent risk of serious pollution of the environment, it should be able to act immediately and not need to have its opinion endorsed. I trust that my noble friend will therefore not seek to pursue this amendment.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I can promise the Committee that I shall not pursue the amendment this morning, but perhaps I may make one or two comments. Of course the Committee will agree with my noble friend that the speed at which enforcement can be executed is important. Nevertheless, a balance must be drawn. I cannot accept what the Minister said about unscrupulous operators. I dealt with that point in my opening remarks.

My noble friend described the provision contained in Clause 15 as needing to be robust in order to deter unscrupulous operators. I should like to know at a later stage how many unscrupulous operators it is estimated that that provision is likely to catch. I believe that it will not be so very many. As for clogging up the system and diverting resources, that is not a pertinent argument. The Bill should be so written as to provide an even-handed approach towards the enforcement authority, the appeal tribunal and the operators.

In his earlier remarks, the Minister dealt with the new processes being subject to appeal. I find that quite reasonable in that operations will not start until the process has been approved. If the process is not approved, it goes to appeal. Even so, the process has not yet started, so there is not such a potential loss. It is really on the question of variation and revocation that the greater damage may be effected.

I am inclined to accept at first hearing what my noble friend had to say about paragraph (b) of Amendment No. 107. I remain less sanguine about his answer to the first part. I shall pursue the matter at a later stage. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Appointment of chief inspector and other inspectors]:

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 108: Page 18, line 7, leave out ("authority") and insert ("Association of District Councils, or the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities").

The noble Earl said: Local authorities can choose qualified persons to be inspectors. I am trying in the amendment to ensure that there is not a variety of different names for the same officer across the country. That is why I suggest that through their association or convention, as the case may be, they choose a single name for officers. Then no matter where it is, the name is standard throughout the country. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

I am afraid that on this occasion it is third time unlucky for my noble friend the Earl of Balfour. The local authority functions conferred by Part I of the Bill fall to individual local authorities. It is therefore for them rather than for the Association of District Councils or the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to decide what are the appropriate qualifications for any inspectors to whom they may choose to delegate powers.

The Earl of Balfour

Under those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Power to deal with cause of imminent danger of serious harm]:

[Amendment No. 109 not moved.]

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 110 not moved.]

Clause 20 [Public registers of information]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 111: Page 21, line 39, at end insert: ("(bb) The levels of pollution anticipated in each year as a result of the carrying on of the process authorised (and for this purpose the person carrying on the process shall notify the authority annually as to the estimated levels;").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 111, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 112, 113, 118, 119, and 120. All these amendments refer to a major issue in the Bill. Much as the Government may sometimes wish it to go away, it simply will not do so. That is the issue of the availability of environmental information. At the early stages in the progress of the Bill through another place, the Government played a straight bat. They claimed that the provisions of the Bill as originally drafted were adequate.

Then there was a welcome change in many ways. The Government appeared to be saying that they were backing the proposals made for an EC directive on access to environmental information through the form of public registers. However, the problems with this apparent conversion of the Government remain serious. The provisions for access to environmental information exclude the confidentiality of proceedings of public authorities, internal communications or unfinished documents. They exclude information relating to international relations, national defence, public security or personal data. They exclude matters which are or have been sub judice, which are under inquiry or are the subject of preliminary investigation proceedings. They exclude commercial confidentiality. We shall come to the definition of commercial confidentiality in dealing with a later part of the Bill. They exclude information voluntarily supplied by companies or other third parties. They exclude information which if disclosed could lead to damage to that part of the environment to which it relates. They exclude a request which is manifestly unreasonable or formulated in too general a manner.

Even though the authorities would have to give reasons for a refusal of that kind and even though there would always be the possibility of judicial review, nevertheless in our view that does not in effect constitute adherence to the European Commission directive. It would not satisfy the terms of any directive designed to secure adherence to the principle of access to environmental information. This is an extremely important matter and it is one which even at this hour of night cannot be left on one side. If the Government are to maintain any credibility in this matter, they must give some indication that the list of exemptions which is proposed is not firm and that they are prepared to discuss the terms of the exemptions. I should be happy to take any opportunity that I am offered between now and Report to discuss the terms and to see whether we can make some progress in improving freedom of access to environmental information. I hope that these amendments will provide us with the opportunity to do that and that we can enter some kind of meaningful dialogue with the Government on this. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

The report of the Select Committee was most influential in helping us formulate the system of registers of information that is established in this clause. The committee looked particularly closely at registers and recommended their use for the reason that registers can assist the public by making information more accessible. Registers of information present information in an easy to use form and avoid the problem of the public having to find out what information is available before they can exercise their right to look at it.

The committee also recommended that raw monitoring data about releases to the environment should also be available; we have provided for this. But the committee rightly remarked that registers should not become too cluttered. It recommended that the bulkiest material should be accessible beyond the register. We agree with this recommendation too and have therefore provided that that type of information will be accessible on request rather than on the first tier of the register. But, to ensure that everyone knows that the information is available, the register will contain an indication that such information is available on request. In this way we have created a system that is both easy to use and comprehensive.

We listened hard in formulating Clauses 20 to 22. I have listened too, to the arguments presented by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, today, but I do not think that the proposed amendments lead to the improvements that he believes they do. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, suggested that registers should include the levels of pollution anticipated in each year as a result of the carrying on of the process. In making an application to carry on a process the operator will be obliged to include an assessment of the likely effect on the environment of releases from the process. That application will form part of the register. And as part of the authorisation, the enforcing authority will be able to require the operator to furnish details of actual releases (not estimates) at regular intervals. That information will also be placed on the register. That will ensure that the public has up-to-date information about actual releases. I do not see the additional need for estimates.

The noble Lord also mentioned reports of pollution incidents. These could be placed on the register under paragraph (i) of subsection (1). That same heading will also ensure that the results of HMIP's own monitoring of processes may be placed on the register. We wish to make as much information as possible available to the public, as I hope the debate we are having will show. But commercial confidentiality and national security are two necessary limits which were recognised by nearly all respondents to the public consultation on access to information which was issued last year; by the European Commission in formulating an EC Directive on access to information and, above all, by a Select Committee of your Lordships' House, which considered an early draft of that directive.

In keeping with our wish to make as much information available as possible we have provided in Clause 20(4) that a statement should be included on the register indicating the existence of commercially confidential information. However, we decided against such a provision in the case of national security information. The acknowledgement of the existence of commercially confidential information does not of itself divulge any trade secret. I accept that a statement noting the existence of commercial confidentiality may cause some interest from industrial competitors, but it will not of itself breach that confidentiality.

The same cannot be said about national security information. Even the simplest information, such as the location of a process, could run the risk of breaching the security that this clause is designed to protect. Amendment No. 120 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, could allow the publication of much more information than that. I hope that, on reflection, he will consider it right not to pursue this amendment.

We published some guidelines during Committee stage in the other place which made it clear that exemptions from the register would not be given lightly. Only information which needs to be restricted will not be available to the public. Representations about the lack of information may be made at any time to enforcing authorities or, indeed, the Secretary of State. We do not need a specific provision such as Amendment No. 119 to ensure that. Such representations will no doubt be taken into account every time the exemption of the information from the register comes up for review. So I do not see the need to initiate a formal right of appeal to the Secretary of State, particularly as he may well have taken the decision as to whether or not the information should be included or excluded from the register. Furthermore, applications for authorisations should only go out to public consultation when questions of commercial confidentiality have been settled. An open-ended right of appeal about such decisions could therefore lead to delay and confusion during the application process.

Amendment No. 112 brings amendment to subsection (1)(g). I know that there is some disquiet that the wording of this subsection could be taken to include information provided voluntarily by industry to the enforcing authorities. Therefore let me say at once that that is not the intention of the wording of this subsection. Subsection (1) refers to prescribed particulars of the various headings set out below. Let me assure noble Lords that those particulars will not include voluntary information. The need to exclude voluntary information was recognised in the recently agreed EC directive on access to information. Public authorities and industry need to maintain a good working relationship. As the report of the Select Committee of your Lordships' House also recognised, any impediment to the flow of voluntary information on a non-statutory basis to the enforcing authorities could have adverse environmental effects. The noble Lords who sat on that and I are of one mind on this. We believe that the Bill as drafted achieves this goal and I hope precludes the need for these amendments to be taken.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am sufficiently satisfied by the comments of the Minister that the wording is defective and that, for example, the use of the word "estimated" is undesirable to be able to say straight away that I shall not press these amendments to a division at this stage.

However, the Minister has not convinced me that the exemptions which I quoted to freedom of information, to the information which is to be provided on the public registers, are either in the public interest or in accordance with the report of the Select Committee on European communities. I am not convinced, either, that this is in conformity with the form which the European Commission directive is likely to take in the end.

Therefore, there are matters to which we may have to return at a later stage; but at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 112 and 113 not moved.]

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 114: Page 22, line 11, after ("inspector") insert ("or river purification authority").

The noble Earl said: In speaking to Amendment No. I 14, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 115, 116 and 117.

These amendments are consequential to the changes made in Committee in the other place for the application of Part I of the Bill to Scotland. As a result of those changes, we shall have an interlocking system of pollution control in Scotland involving both the chief inspector and the river purification authorities. It is therefore right that the RPAs be placed on the same footing as the chief inspector when it comes to the keeping of registers, and that we provide for full exchange of information between the chief inspector and the RPAs. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendments Nos. 115 to 117: Page 22, line 13, after ("inspector") insert ("or river purification authority"). Page 22, line 14, after ("inspector") insert ("or river purification authority"). Page 22, line 16, at end insert: ("(2A) In Scotland, the register maintained by—

  1. (a) the chief inspector shall also contain prescribed particulars of such information contained in any register maintained by a river purification authority as relates to the carrying on in the area of the authority of prescribed processes in relation to which the authority has functions under this Part, and each authority shall furnish the chief inspector with the particulars which are necessary to enable him to discharge his duty under this section;
  2. (b) each river purification authority shall also contain prescribed particulars of such information contained in any register maintained by the chief inspector as relates to the carrying on in the area of the authority of prescribed processes in relation to which the chief inspector has functions under this Part, and the chief inspector shall furnish each authority with the particulars which are necessary to enable them to discharge their duty under this section.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 118 and 119 not moved.]

Clause 20, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 21 [Exclusion from registers of information affecting national security]:

[Amendment No. 120 not moved.]

Clause 21 agreed to.

Clause 22 [Exclusion from registers of certain confidential information]:

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 121: Page 23, line 42, at end insert: ("(2A) A determination under subsection (2) above must be made within the period of fourteen days beginning with the date of the application and if the enforcing authority fails to make a determination within that period it shall be treated as having determined that the information is commercially confidential.").

The noble Lord said: I have tabled two amendments to this clause. Under Schedule 1 to the Bill we have provided that applications for authorisations should be determined by the enforcing authority within four months. That timescale includes a public consultation exercise which can only take place once questions of commercial confidentiality have been resolved. Clearly, therefore, considerations of commercial confidentiality will need to be resolved quickly, but not hastily.

Amendment No. 121 provides that questions of commercial confidentiality should be resolved by the enforcing authorities within 14 days, which is a reasonable period, given the overall timetable for the determination of applications. However, if in practice that proves to be too short, or even too long, Amendment No. 126 enables that timescale to be contracted or extended. This is another example of the detail that we are putting into the Bill on these important provisions. I hope that they will be welcomed by the Committee.

Perhaps I should seek the indulgence of the Committee and reply now to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. The Government introduced Clause 22 at Report stage in the other place because we wanted to set down as much detail as possible on the face of the Bill on this important subject. I hope that the informed and interesting debate that we have had today has confirmed the rectitude of that decision.

I agree with the spirit of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. It would not make sense to insist that appeals about commercially confidential information should be held in public. However, subsection (5) of Clause 15 already allows the person appointed to examine the appeal to decide that the hearing should be held in private. The noble Lord has suggested that the appointed person should not have that discretion, and that all such appeals should be held in private. The inspectors hearing those appeals will be responsible and experienced people. The work of an appeal inspector carries great responsibility. I do not consider that they need to be nursed through the decision as to whether or not commercially confidential information should be examined in public. If an appeal covers both commercially confidential and non-confidential information, then it may be appropriate to allow part of the hearing to be in private and part of it in public. Clause 15(5) allows for that. I think the Bill is right as it stands on this point.

I have to say too that I am not attracted by Amendment No. 127 proposed by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. The wording in the Bill seeks to take an overall view of commercial confidentiality. Above all, it requires a degree of reasonableness to be involved. The noble Lord's amendment reduced commercial confidentiality to a straight profit and loss account. That would have an effect which I am sure he did not intend. If, for example, the enforcing authority wished to place some information on the register about releases to the environment which showed that the process concerned did not take its environmental responsibilities seriously, the current wording of the Bill would not prevent the authority from making that information public.

However, the wording proposed in the amendment would allow the operator of such a process to claim that once that information was in the public domain, a significant number of people would no longer buy his product, so losing him money. That would extend the meaning of commercial confidentiality in a quite unwarranted way. I am sure that the noble Lord agrees that, far from encouraging the restriction of information about poor operating standards, we should make it available so that the public make informed judgments about the environmental records of operators of processes coming within this part of the Bill.

We introduced subsection (7) into the Bill in response to an amendment tabled by the Opposition during Committee stage in the other place. That amendment suggested that commercial confidentiality be reviewed every 18 months. That timescale was to short, even for the fast pace at which technology moves. After taking soundings from environmental groups and industry we concluded that four years was about right. As the onus is on the operator to apply for a renewal of commercial confidentiality, I am not persuaded that we should be able to tinker with the timescale, which Amendment No. 125 would allow us to do, without any scrutiny by the persons affected by a direction. I think that we need to frame this clause in such a way that industry can plan ahead and knows when it must apply to protect that information which it regards as commercially confidential. Amendment No. 122 tabled by the noble Lord is, we believe, inconsistent with subsection (7) and indeed his own Amendment No. 125. I think that it is right to place the onus on renewing applications for confidentiality on the operators of processes and that we have the right timescale in the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred to subsection (6). I know that this clause has been causing some concern to industry. I believe that those fears are unnecessary. Subsection (6) meets a proposal which was made in the consultation paper on public access to information which we issued last year. The paper suggested that in exceptional circumstances it would be in the national interest for information to be included on the register, even though its inclusion might prejudice some private interest.

In the other place, my honourable friend the Minister for the Environment and the Countryside explained that this subsection was designed to enable the Government to make information available should a major accident, such as Chernobyl, occur. Information which would be commercially confidential in everyday circumstances might well then need to be released in the public interest. Unnecessary secrecy could, in those circumstances give rise to all sorts of unnecessary fears and alarms and we should all wish to look very carefully at what needed to be done to alleviate the concern of people in such circumstances.

I hope that subsection (6) is a power which seldom, if ever, needs to be used. Nevertheless it is a necessary reserve power. If we do not retain it, I think that we shall be sending the wrong sort of message to the British public. We should be saying that the commercial interest is more important than the public interest, even in the direst environmental emergencies. That is not a view I share. I look forward to hearing the response in reverse to my response in advance. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I have no problem about the matter being presented in that way because the original amendment by the Minister in a sense determines the significance of all the other amendments. I say straightaway that I am sufficiently satisfied by the Minister's answer not to want to pursue Amendments Nos. 125 and 127. He has not persuaded me at all about Amendment No. 122.

Amendment No. 122 is very different. It is an extremely carefully worded amendment designed not to force, but to give an opportunity to, an enforcing authority to shorten the period of commercial confidentiality if it appears to the authority, having given notice to the person concerned together with an opportunity for him to make representations, that it should be shortened.

The Committee will recall that the provision at the moment is for a four-year period of exclusion on the grounds of commercial confidentiality. But there are many cases when a four-year period, even taking a purely business point of view—I address these words perhaps to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas—is excessive. A company might argue that the information needed to be withheld because it would indicate plans to launch a new product. But if the new product has been launched, then the four-year period is no longer relevant.

It seems to me that the very modest proposals made in Amendment No. 122 to shorten the period under those circumstances, after giving an opportunity for consultation, would not breach commercial confidentiality in any significant way and would improve the state of public availablility of information about environmental pollution.

Under those circumstances, although I do not seek to press Amendments Nos. 125 and 127, I hope that the Minister will reconsider Amendment No. 122.

1.45 a.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

Before my noble friend responds, perhaps I may speak briefly on Amendments Nos. 123 and 124. My noble friend has already addressed those amendments.

I cannot accept what he said. Amendment No. 123 is designed purely and simply to provide a mechanism for exceptional circumstances. It relates to hearings held under subsection (5) to discuss the potentially confidential nature of certain information. Such hearings cannot be held in public. If this section of the Bill is intended to protect all confidential information a public hearing would be totally inappropriate. I do not think that is what my noble friend said. The amendment provides a mechanism for exceptional circumstances.

With regard to subsection (6) I can easily appreciate that commercial and public interests do not always go hand in hand. Nevertheless, as it is worded subsection (6) allows the Secretary of State not merely to take decisions in individual cases but also to lay down blanket rules overriding particular aspects of the commercial confidentiality protection.

I believe that such provision is implicit in Amendment No. 122. I cannot rest too easily with what we have heard about Amendment Nos. 122, 123 and 124. A balance has to be struck. Although commercial confidentiality is sometimes wildly exaggerated, nevertheless there should be some reasonable provision to protect it. Like the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity between now and another stage to consider the matter again to see whether a better balance can be drawn.

Lord Hesketh

I feel rather like a trout at the bottom of a small stream with gunfire being exchanged over the top of me. If I do not make my noble friend Lord Lucas, or the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, entirely happy, I am probably steering a steady middle course.

I accept the point made by my noble friend Lord Lucas. In the final analysis the Government have to ensure that there is a right that exceeds that of private confidentiality. That provision is in subsection (6). I accept the point of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, if one refers to a product. The greater difficulty is where the process is of an important commercial nature. That is where there may be a problem regarding confidentiality over a four-year period. If one produces a motor car which comes out of the factory into the showroom, everyone has seen it, and there is no point in having four years of confidentiality. Where one has a process that is the key to the success of the company, it is very hard to expose the company by saying that one will reduce that period of confidentiality.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

It is a government amendment. It is therefore for the Minister to wind up. I believe that I could persuade him between now and a later stage that processes as well as products are finite. There may be scope for advance on that basis.

Lord Hesketh

On that happy note, I commend Amendment No. 121.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 122 to 125 not moved.]

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 126: Page 24, line 38, at end insert: ("( ) The Secretary of State may, by order, substitute for the period for the time being specified in subsection (2A) above such other period as he considers appropriate.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 127 not moved.]

Clause 22, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 23 [Offences]:

[Amendment No. 128 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 129: Page 26, line 1, leave out subsection (5) and insert: ("(5) Any person may prosecute before a Magistrates' Court proceedings for an offence under subsection (1) above.").

The noble Lord said: I am sorry but I must move this amendment. I do so fully aware of the fact that the local authority associations which advise me on many of the issues do not agree with me. They are afraid that too open access to the courts to bring proceedings under Part I—I remind noble Lords that Clause 23 is concerned with offences under Part I—would cause difficulties for local authorities. I do not doubt that. However, I believe that in the end we must accept that the range of offences which has been identified under Part I, and which is dealt with in Clause 23, is such that the opening up proposed in subsection (5)—namely, to enable an inspector who is not a barrister or solicitor to prosecute before a magistrates' court—although welcome does not go far enough. Air pollution is so widespread an evil that it may well be that under certain circumstances members of the public may have to have the right to institute proceedings and therefore to prosecute. On that basis I beg to move.

Lord Reay

In another place there was some debate about whether the draft of the Bill brought forward by the Government would allow a person to bring proceedings against the operator of a process without requiring the consent of the enforcing authority or the Director of Public Prosecutions. My honourable friend gave an assurance that it did.

There is a link with this amendment. We are not proposing in subsection (5) that an individual wishing to initiate proceedings should have to use an inspector of the enforcing authority to present his case—far from it. Magistrates' courts procedures insist that proceedings for an offence must be initiated by the laying of information and that information must be laid by an individual. An individual who lays that information before the magistrates' court—and thus meets the concern of the noble Lord—has the right to prosecute in person. If he prefers he may employ a barrister or a solicitor to bring the case for him.

Subsection (5) does not alter that right in any way. It meets a point which arises where enforcing authorities bring their own proceedings. In these cases it is not axiomatic that the person who lays the information before the court will necessarily be the person in the authority to prosecute the proceedings in the court. The effect of subsection (5), which is precedented in existing environmental legislation, is therefore to allow any inspector to prosecute before a magistrates' court, even though he or she may not have laid the information before the court in the first instance. That is why we wish to retain subsection (5). It does not limit the rights of individuals but allows for more effective public administration.

As the current wording of the Bill already meets the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, I hope he will not press his amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I was fascinated by the Minister's reply and I shall struggle to understand it between now and a later stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 23 agreed to.

Clause 24 [Enforcement by High Court]:

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 130: Page 26, line 9, after ("Court") insert ("or, in Scotland, in any court of competent jurisdiction").

The noble Earl said: Amendment No. 130 adapts Clause 24 for Scotland. It provides that where an enforcing authority in Scotland wishes to take court proceedings to ensure compliance with an enforcement or prohibition notice such proceedings can be taken in any court or competent jurisdiction; that is either the sheriff court of the Court of Session. The wording of the amendment follows the precedent of Section 58(8) of the Control of Pollution Act 1974. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 24, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 25 to 27 agreed to.

Clause 28 [Authorisations and other statutory controls]:

Baroness Nicol moved Amendment No. 131: Page 27, line 49, at end insert: ("(5) Where the Nature Conservancy Council are of the opinion that any area of land—

  1. (a) is of special interest by reason of its flora, fauna or geological or physiographic features; and
  2. (b) may at any time be affected by an authorisation given by an enforcing authority to release substances from a prescribed process into water,
the Council shall notify the fact that the land is of special interest for that reason to the relevant enforcing authority. (6) Where the activities comprising a prescribed process include the release of any substances into water likely to affect any area notified under subsection (5) above, the enforcing authority shall consult the Nature Conservancy Council before authorising any release.").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of Amendment No. 131 is to require enforcing authorities to consult the Nature Conservancy Council where an authorisation to release substances into water may affect special sites.

At present, the National Rivers Authority authorises releases into water from prescribed processes. Under Section 9 of the Water Act 1989 it has a specific duty to consult the Nature Conservancy Council before authorising any discharge likely to affect an SSSI.

The Nature Conservancy Council is also obliged to notify relevant SSSIs to the NRA. It is important that those duties towards areas of special scientific interest for nature conservation are maintained when responsibility is transferred to the new enforcement authorities. The NCC has established a good working relationship with the NRA. That was strengthened when new duties to consult the NCC on activities affecting SSSIs were introduced in Section 48 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It will be unfortunate if that link is not passed over to the chief inspector of HMIP.

The Department of the Environment has declined to take forward an amendment requested by the Nature Conservancy Council. It said that many bodies have a legitimate interest in being consulted and that they could not all be listed. That may be true. However, it is clear from Section 9 of the Water Act 1989 that only the Nature Conservancy Council, the National Parks Authority and the Broads Authority in their respective areas have a statutory basis as consultees. We feel that the statutory basis of that consultation is very important and we wish to see it carried forward. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

It is a natural desire of organisations to be statutory consultees. But the difficulty of prescribing such organisations on the face of the Bill is to decide where one stops. No matter how many organisations we include, there is always the risk that somebody may be left out, or circumstances may change and an organisation which did not need to be consulted 10 years previously is clearly appropriate now. For such reasons we concluded that, apart from the NRA, whose interest is of particular importance to the setting of conditions relating to releases to water, we should not provide for other statutory consultees on the face of this part of the Bill.

I note, additionally, that the NCC is already a statutory consultee under planning legislation for development in an area of special scientific interest which has been notified to the local planning authority. There are likely to be few, if any, cases where an IPC authorisation for new process does not involve development requiring planning permission.

I am not persuaded that an amendment placing a duty on the NCC (and its successors) to notify SSSIs to the enforcing authorities is necessary. However, my officials have already given an assurance to the NCC, which I am happy to repeat, which goes further than the second part of the amendment moved by the noble Baroness. She requires releases to water to be notified to the NCC only when such a release may affect an SSSI; but why not releases to air, and land too? We already propose to prescribe the NCC as a statutory consultee for IPC under Schedule 1 where releases may affect an SSSI. It will therefore be in the interests of the NCC and its successor bodies to notify HMIP of the location of SSSIs and it is therefore unnecessary to place the council under a duty to do so, as the amendment does.

While I am giving assurances to the NCC perhaps this is also a convenient moment to state that it will be consulted on the regulations prescribing processes and substances. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Nicol

Although I appreciate the limited areas in which the NCC is to be consulted, I am rather disappointed at the Government's attitude, as indicated in the first part of the Minister's reply, that the NCC is just another body. Surely as the Government's statutory adviser on conservation matters it requires special status.

I do not propose to press the amendment. I shall read carefully what the Minister has said, but I am not very happy that he has felt unable to accept the first part. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 28 agreed to.

Lord Hesketh

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at two o'clock.