HL Deb 08 October 1990 vol 522 cc73-134

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 2.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 5B: Page 4, line 24, leave out from ("authorisation") to end of line an d insert ("shall not be granted unless the enforcing authority is satisfied that any pollution likely to result is sustainable in relation to any environmental medium, in accordance with section 6(4A) below").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 5B I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 26, 29, 30, 34, 44, 45, 49 and 50. Perhaps this is the most extreme example that can yet be found of the conflict between the flowery words of the White Paper and the reality of the Bill before us. We are talking about the concept of sustainable development. That is the key phrase of the Brundtland Report of 1980. In the introductory chapter of the White paper, the Government pay tribute to the principle of sustainable development. The Prime Minister has done so on more than one occasion in the past. The White Paper states in paragraph 1.5: Economic growth is not an end in itself…We should naturally avoid policies which secure growth in the short term at the expense of blighting our broader, long term ambitions". Paragraph 1.14 similarly has the notion that stewardship is the foundation of environmental policies.

What do we find in the Bill? We find something very different. Clause 2 defines substances which are to be covered by integrated pollution control. Clause 2 gives the power to the Secretary of State to define those substances. Clause 3 sets standards for integrated pollution control and the Secretary of State has the power to set those standards. Why? The Bill does not say. There is no reference in the Bill to the sustainable development which is the principle behind the Brundtland Report and a large part of the environmental White Paper, as we understand it. What we have is simply a matter of political control. The Secretary of State shall make up his mind according to his own judgment and that of his colleagues as to what shall be acceptable definitions of the substances to be controlled and the standards that shall be set for them. Any explanation as to why the Secretary of State should act is totally lacking from the Bill.

In a sense one could argue that that is not too important, that we are all agreed about what we should be aiming for in pollution control and that there will not be much disagreement about either the processes and substances which should be covered or the standards that should he set. Debates earlier this afternoon have made it clear that, if we arc all agreed, some are willing to do something about it and some are unwilling. I refer respectively to the Opposition and the Government.

What can we do about it? The series of amendments which begins with Amendment No. 5B seeks to enshrine the principle of the White Paper: that sustainable development should be the guiding principle of pollution control and of environmental policy. The necessary concomitant of that is that fuller and more public information is necessary to ensure that the principles are carried out in practice.

We are not opposing the public information provisions of the Bill. They are all valuable so far as they go. However, it is clear that as soon as one states on the face of the Bill that a major element in Government policy is that sustainable development is the criterion by which the substances in Clause 2 and the standards in Clause 3 will be judged, one then has to provide for the Secretary of State to explain himself. I suggest that the Secretary of State then has a duty to explain why he is acting in the way that he does and to gain a public reaction to what he says. That is why the later amendments are included in the group.

The concept of sustainable development and of wider public information may not seem on the face of it necessarily to be related. However, I strongly argue that they are related. A government programme to improve the environment and to maintain the principle of sustainable development is not capable of being implemented without public consent, understanding and information. That is the reason for including the later amendments in this group.

I very much hope that on this occasion the Government may feel that what is being proposed does not go beyond the principles that they have already established in the early part of the White Paper. I hope that they will feel that, far from being destructive, the amendments add to the Bill and give it more effect, and that they take advantage of what we have learned since the matter was considered earlier in the summer at Committee stage.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I wish very briefly to give my support to these amendments. I speak in particular to Amendments Nos. 26, 29 and 30 to which I have put my name.

Sustainable development is surely the criterion behind all the efforts towards environmental control if society is to continue to provide a standard of living to which we have become accustomed and is to prevent our own destruction as a result of damage to the environment.

I suggest that the aims behind these amendments are very important. If the public do not have the awareness, if there is no general access to information about what is going on, it will be more difficult to ensure that this sustainable development is achieved. Without public pressure, which can only come with knowledge, we may not have the driving force towards sustainable growth.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the aim of this series of amendments demonstrates the common purpose that unites us today in our consideration of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, with the support of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, has explained the objectives. I have to say, however, that the amendments have failed to identify a loophole in our proposals. Their thrust is already achieved in the Bill and in the regulations that we are currently drawing up on application procedures.

Clause 7(2) (a) provides that BATNEEC must be used to prohibit any release that might cause harm as defined in Clause 1(4). The BATNEEC duty of environmental protection bites both for first applications and for variations. Our regulations on applications will require the applicant to include an appraisal of the expected environmental consequences of all anticipated releases. The power to revoke authorisations will be used if the process is causing unacceptable harm. Therefore, unsustainable pollution cannot be permitted under the Bill.

Moreover, the amendments have one glaring defect; that they prohibit the whole system from coming into effect. Amendment No. 5B deletes the requirement on an operator to hold an authorisation, so the whole complex structure elaborated under Part I would fail to bite on a single process. Therefore, I have no hesitation in asking the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

The series of amendments raises other issues. Clearly, as Amendment No. 29 suggests, one of the factors that the enforcing authority will need to consider when reviewing an authorisation is the environmental effects of the process. Assessing the effectiveness of the controls will be just as important as considering whether new techniques have become available or whether there is new evidence of the environmental risk posed by the releases from a process. But I suggest that the comparison that is really important here is not, as the amendment suggests, between the actual environmental effects caused by the pollution from a process and the perceived risk as identified in the application, but between the environmental effects, the terms of the authorisation and the environmental risk that it was designed to prevent. The amendment misses the point that it is the authorisation and not the application that defines what level of releases will be allowed. What account does the amendment take of cases where conditions have been varied as a development from the original application?

Amendments Nos. 49 and 50 relating to registers merely reiterate what we have announced to he our intentions. I am happy to take this opportunity to assure noble Lords that such information will be made available on register. Authorisation conditions will spell out clearly what monitoring data the operator is required to send to the enforcing authority. Abnormal emissions and other pollution incidents relating to an authorised process must be reported. Those who have read the first batch of draft guidance notes issued by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State on consultation to local authorities for some of the processes that they are to control will have seen that such details are clearly included.

In line with the announcement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, Clause 20(1) (g) secures that all monitoring information supplied in pursuance of the conditions of an authorisation will be placed on the public register. Therefore, Amendments Nos. 49 and 50 add nothing to the existing provisions of Clause 20(1) (g). We have a series of amendments that are unnecessary and. in places, inadequate and even disastrous. Nor do I find them entirely lucid. How does it help, for example, in Amendment No. 26 to refer to a single medium and the environment as a whole? No, as it stands the Bill works. It already achieves all that the noble Lord says that he wishes his amendments to procure. The amendments only confuse and obfuscate and therefore I hope that the noble Lord opposite will agree to withdraw them.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, that answer is quite unsatisfactory. In order not to draw out the proceedings unnecessarily I shall concentrate on the issue of public information and the public registers. The Minister confidently said that no loopholes can be found in the Government's provision. I refer to the speech of' the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, who was the Minister during the Committee stage on 19th June. His answer in respect of Amendment No. 111 was reported at cols. 902 to 903 of Hansard. We then proposed that the public registers should contain estimates of pollution likely to arise from an authorisation which should be updated annually by the licensee. The Minister then said that enforcing authorities would be able to require the operators to furnish details of actual releases, rather than estimates, at regular intervals. However. the loophole is that there is no requirement for such information to he requested or to be placed on the register. In other words, the provision is not contained in the Bill but depends on the Secretary of State and, on occasions, the local authority. In either event, the position is by no means as secure as the Minister would now have us believe in her reply.

I shall take a second and more serious example. The applicants under Part I are not required at present to furnish estimates of the likely pollution consequences of a particular process. It is true that paragraph 1 of Schedule I will enable the Secretary of State to make that a requirement by regulation. However, it is not made a requirement on the face of the Bill either in Part I or in the schedules to Part I of the Bill. Unless the provision is contained on the face of the Bill it is an inadequate provision. The Secretary of State, a local authority or any authority concerned can neglect or fail to require that information to be available. If they fail to require the information it will not be placed on the register.

I have chosen only two examples but I could choose many more. There are many occasions on which we could show that there is no suggestion, let alone a guarantee, that the Secretary of State will require examples of pollution incidents after the licences have been granted. We say that the granting of a licence is not the end of the process. There must be an assurance that the information will be made available on the public registers. The Bill does not provide for that and the loopholes which the Minister denies are still present.

This is a complex series of amendments, as so many are. It may well be that there are points of force in other parts of the Minister's answer which make it necessary for me to withdraw the amendment. However, I am certainly not satisfied that we have adequately enshrined the principle of sustainable development or that we have dealt with the issue of the public information which is necessary to ensure that the principle of sustainable development works. Without prejudice to whatever may be done at a later stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 6 not moved.]

8.15 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No.7: Page 4, line 24, at end insert ("and to which conditions as specified in directions in accordance with section 7(3A) below shall apply").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment is grouped with Amendments Nos. 37 and 38 to which I shall also speak. They are extremely important amendments. Their purpose is to bring into British legislation the Valdez principles. Noble Lords will recall that after the disastrous incident of the "Exxon Valdez", when a large quantity of oil was spilt on the coast of the United States, there was a movement, not by the United States Government but by ethical investors in the United States, to draw up a series of principles which would be applied to companies to ensure that their tasks are audited in such a way as to promote sustainable development. With relatively minor changes those principles are enshrined particularly in Amendment No. 38 standing in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Newport.

Environmental auditing is not in conflict with any of the regulatory provisions of Part I of the Bill but has now adequately been shown to be a necessary complement. It is all very well for there to be a formal legal process of identifying substances and processes which need to be the subject of regulation, identifying standards to which those substances and processes should adhere and then giving authorisations for those which fall within the regulation. We do not object to any of those matters which are the essence of integrated pollution control and an important part of the Bill. We do not suggest that they should be removed. However, we say that there are responsibilities on firms which are not adequately reflected by the regulatory procedure.

Unless companies systematically collect environmental information, they cannot even anticipate when they may be in conflict with the regulatory mechanisms. That is important because clearly we do not want this all to be done by conflict. We want companies to avoid the need for regulation rather than falling foul of it and being penalised for it. However, we also want environmental protection to be a management tool. We want it to be part of the day-to-day thinking about the way in which to determine which processes are to be used, the substances to be used, the waste products produced and all aspects of business life which are reflected in environmental principles.

We must integrate environmental policy with economic policy in order to obtain the Brundtland goal of sustainable development about which we spoke on the last amendment. It is not just a matter of determining the means of achieving environmental improvement although of course that is part of it. We must establish the ends and why that is being done. We must establish what targets we are setting for ourselves. Management cannot work by simply looking at a process and saying that one process scrapes through while another one does not. It can only work effectively if it sets to all the managers and workers within the organisation the target of saying that by such and such a date that reduction will he achieved in the output of dangerous waste materials, not just because the law will require it in due course but because that is the right thing to do and that has been set as a management target.

That may be thought to be capitalist thinking; I do not know. It may be that, because that is what happened in the United States as a result of the "Valdez" instrument, somehow we as socialists—and I refer only to my immediate colleagues—should not be adopting such a principle. However, my experience is that unless management is given an opportunity to use environmental considerations as a management tool and unless clean technology is made to be a really effective environmental objective, then one will achieve neither the environmental results which we all need nor will there be the competitiveness which I am convinced will be available to those companies which achieve a higher level of environmental monitoring and management.

Therefore, because we know that managers in industry frequently underestimate the seriousness of environmental problems which surround them, and because they underestimate the benefits available to them from selling to green consumers, we believe that these amendments are important.

In the words of Amendment No. 38, we believe that it should be made a condition of authorisation that there should be: the minimisation of pollution to environmental media; the protection of the biosphere; the development of the sustainable use of natural resources; the reduction, minimisation and acceptable disposal of waste; the conservation of energy; the minimisation of environmental health and safety risks to employees and to other persons; the adoption of voluntary controls over the safety of goods and services produced for sale; the undertaking of adequate provision for compensation for damage caused by the person authorised, or his processes or products; the disclosure of adequate information to employees and enforcement agencies … and the undertaking of periodic assessments and audits to monitor the effectiveness of any principles of actions adopted".

Those principles should not in any way be foreign to the Government's thinking. In fact, I believe that many of them, although not quite in that form, are reflected in the White Paper. They should now be reflected in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Ross of Newport

My Lords, I support this amendment and Amendment No. 38 which appears also in my name. This amendment would add an extra Clause 3A to the Bill where the Secretary of State may give directions to the enforcing authorities as to the conditions which are or are not to be included in authorisations.

This matter was drawn to my attention by my wife. When we were modernising our house, she insisted upon having a wooden lavatory seat. I did not want a wooden lavatory seat. However, we were shown one. I immediately questioned the whereabouts of the mahogany and whether it came from the forests of South America or somewhere else. We were assured that the wood did not come from South America and that no forests were being broken down and ravaged to provide lavatory seats for the Ross family. Therefore, we now have a wooden lavatory seat in our house.

However, that is the sort of question that the public are now asking. One of the great things about the Government's White Paper is that it is printed on recycled paper. As they go round the supermarkets in this country more and more people are now inquiring as to where products originate, what damage is being done to the environment and whether paper is recycled. Therefore, I believe that we are on the right lines.

As usual, the West Germans have shown the way in this matter. I have been told that: emissions of organic chemicals by West German industry fell by 90 per cent. between 1970 and 1987 despite output increasing by 50 per cent.". That shows that there can be growth while at the same time looking after the environment. That is why I feel that this is a worthwhile amendment.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the list of considerations put forward by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, at first sight seems unexceptionable. For example, integrated pollution control is about the minimisation (and indeed where practicable the prevention) of pollution. Similarly, the fourth item on the noble Lord's shopping list is the reduction, minimisation and acceptable disposal of waste. What is Part I of the Bill about if not this?

Clause 7(2) states that BATNEEC must be used to prevent or minimise the release of prescribed substances and that all substances released must be harmless. That means protecting the environment (or biosphere if you will) by not harming the health of living organisms or interfering with the ecological systems of which they form part.

However, as we go down the list the alarm bells begin to ring. Some of the obligations which would be required by this amendment would run counter to the true objectives of pollution control. Take the conservation of energy, for example. The Government's commitment to energy efficiency is clear. That is why the White Paper contained a host of proposals to improve the efficiency with which energy is generated and used and encourage the use of energy from renewable sources.

That is not the main concern of pollution inspectorates. They will of course be interested in energy. But it is far more likely that they will wish to ensure that if something is being incinerated, for example, that the temperature is fierce enough to ensure that any harmful substances will be rendered harmless, say, during the industrial car painting process. In that process the particular temperature is important. That is why we have included a power at Clause 7(8) which will allow an authorisation to impose limits (upper or lower) on the amount of any substance (including energy) produced by or utilised in the process in any period.

We have to remember that this part of the Bill addresses systems of pollution control. That is why the requirement to include in an authorisation conditions relating to the development of the sustainable use of natural resources is also inappropriate. I do not argue with sustainable development. Indeed, the Government's approach to the environment begins with the recognition that it is mankind's duty to look after our world prudently and conscientiously. We have a moral duty to look after our planet and hand it on in good order to future generations. But that is not going to be achieved by stipulating that all the wood used in a process must be used from particular forests, or that all energy must be derived from renewable sources. If we tried, industry would soon run short of wood and energy; and HMIP would run out of inspectors who had the remotest idea about how to meet every environmental objective in one authorisation.

The noble Lord would have us also include in the authorisation conditions relating to the health and safety of people at work. We already have such an inspectorate in the form of the Health and Safety Executive to protect workers and the public from risks arising from work activities. HMIP and local authorities should not try to second guess the HSE, whose responsibilities and expertise these are. That is why we have provided explicitly in the Bill, at Clause 7(1), that no conditions shall be imposed in an authorisation for the purpose only of securing the health of persons at work.

The last item on the noble Lord's list—namely, compensation—is also addressed in the Bill, although in a slightly different way. The noble Lord's amendment would require the undertaking of adequate provision for compensation for damage caused by the authorised person. That term is a little vague. Far better to have the clear provision in the Bill at Clause 27 to give a power to remedy harm and cover the cost of that clean-up from any person convicted of the offence which caused the harm. Rather than having inadequate provision for compensation we have a provision in the Bill which will bring home to the operator and to the people who live around the process that where an offence is committed it may not just be a question of paying a fine or compensation as an end of the matter, but of a continuing commitment to putting right the local environment.

In conclusion, the Bill already achieves those items in the amendment of the noble Lord which are necessary for these systems of pollution control. I hope that that explanation will enable the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

8.30 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, that was a curious reply. It did not comment on the really important issues contained in this series of amendments. It did not comment on the important argument, which is well accepted in the United States, that it is important to have a series of explicit principles which may be used by companies in forming their own management policies for the protection of the environment. There was no reference to that in the Minister's reply. The Minister chose instead to look specifically at three of the 10 items included in Amendment No. 38. Her comments on those three items, I am bound to say, were curious, contradictory and in conflict with the grand words which appear repeatedly in the White Paper.

The Minister objected to the inclusion among the conditions of authorisation of reference to the conservation of energy. The noble Baroness said—I am sure that I quote her correctly—that the conservation of energy was not the main concern of pollution inspectorates. Indeed, it is not their main concern. But unless it is part of their concern, unless they have regard to the conservation of energy in the judgments they make regarding the substances and processes to be controlled under integrated pollution control, the standards to be applied and the authorisations to be given, they are not doing their job. If the Minister and the Government do not understand that then they do not understand the fundamental relationship between energy conservation and the protection of the environment.

These are fundamental principles referred to over and over again. It is not good enough for the Minister to say in reply that it is not the main concern of pollution inspectorates. Of course it is not the main concern, but it must be a concern. Energy conservation is an essential element of any effective policy to preserve the environment.

The Minister next chose to criticise item (f), the minimisation of environmental health and safety risks to employees and to other persons". The curious reason given for doing that was that somehow that would mean the pollution inspectorate would be second guessing the health and safety inspectorate. No such thing. There is no question of second guessing the health and safety inspectorate. What should be obvious—if it is not obvious to the Government it must be obvious to everybody else—is that many of the risks which occur in places of work to the health and safety of the people employed there are strongly related to the risks involved for people using the products being produced.

That is not a blinding scientific observation; it is a matter of fact. If a process is dangerous or producing a product which is dangerous, it will be dangerous not only to the people producing the product but also to the people using the product at the end of the process. The links between the health and safety of the people at work in factories and the environmental concerns of the pollution inspectorate must therefore be obvious. There cannot be any question but that these should be treated together. The pollution inspectorate should be working closely with the health and safety inspectorate to ensure that there is not a totally artificial division between one inspectorate and another. That is a fundamental principle of what we are trying to achieve in environmental protection legislation.

The Minister then moved over the question of, voluntary controls over the safety of goods and services produced for sale". I was interested that she did not choose to mention that provision. The noble Baroness moved to item (h), the undertaking of adequate provision for compensation for damage caused by the person authorised, or his processes or products". In support of her opposition to item (h) the Minister drew attention to Clause 27 of the Bill. I am not opposed to Clause 27; it is fine. However, it is one thing to provide a clause which incorporates the power of the chief inspector to remedy harm, and another to provide adequate protection for the prevention of harm from industrial processes. One can remedy harm after it has happened. However, one must provide for it to be part of the management tasks of a company to ensure that that harm does not occur in the first place.

I suggest to the House that the way to achieve that is for there to be adequate provision incorporated in the accounts of the company. A provision must be made for compensation if there is any risk. The auditors must say: "Have you made provision in your accounts for any compensation for damage that might be caused? Have you examined the actions of your servants? Have you examined the processes and products which your company is producing? Have you made adequate financial provision for them in the accounts?"

I suggest to the House that if adequate financial provision has not been made any subsequent provision for action by the chief inspector to remedy the harm will not be as effective as it might have been. Clause 27 closes the stable door after the horse has escaped. These amendments propose a more effective way for companies to take management action to avoid the conflict inherent in a legal regulatory system.

It is always a matter of amazement to me—speaking as a socialist as well as a businessman—that a government which claims to be capitalist, claims to be on the side of business, can be so ignorant regarding the way businesses are run, and the way that capitalist and private businesses are willing, anxious and able to take account of social responsibilities if given an opportunity to do so. One does not find the vast majority of businesses attempting to evade their responsibilities under fair employment legislation. They know that the success of their business depends on the relationship that they have with their employees and they act accordingly.

Almost everybody acts in advance of fair employment legislation rather than reacting to it. One does not find the vast majority of businesses reacting to their customers as though they were enemies, and only responding when they are forced into line by draconian legislation. That is not the way it works. Most businesses recognise that their business life depends on their customers; they act to anticipate the needs and the welfare of their customers. That is the way business life goes on. It is the only way in which businesses can survive.

When it is suggested to a Conservative Government that we should adopt the principles already adopted by ethical investors in the United States, the Valdez principles, and incorporate them into the legislation in order to help businesses anticipate the needs of, and avoid the necessity for conflict in, environmental protection, that is the stage at which the Government say that the amendments are either not necessary or, if they are necessary, they are damaging. I find that deeply unconvincing. I am disappointed in the reaction of the Government to what was intended to be a helpful series of amendments, and I feel I should test the opinion of the House.

8.40 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 7) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 71; Not-Contents, 50.


Division No. 4
Addington, L. [Teller.] Jenkins of Putney, L.
Airedale, L. John Mackie, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Kirkwood, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Listowel, E.
Briginshaw, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Longford, E.
Bruce of Donington, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Carmichael of Macaulay of Bragar, L.
Kelvingrove, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Castle of Blackburn, B. McNair, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Meston, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Mishcon, L.
David, B. Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Nicol, B.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Northfield, L.
Falkland, V. Ogmore, L.
Gallacher, L. Parry, L.
Galpern, L. Peston, L.
Graham of Edmonton L. Phillips, B.
[Teller] Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Gregson, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Grey, E. Rea, L.
Hampton, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Robertson of Oakridge, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L. Rochester, L.
Hooson, L. Ross of Newport, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Seear, B.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Serota, B.
Jay, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Tordoff, L. White, B.
Turner of Camden, B. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Underhill, L. Winstanley, L.
Varley, L.
Aldington, L. Greenway, L.
Arran, E. Henley, L.
Balfour, E. Hesketh, L.
Belstead, L. Hives, L.
Blatch, B. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Blyth, L. Long, V.
Borthwick, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Lyell, L.
Brookes, L. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Caithness, E. Mersey, V.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Mills, V.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Milverton, L.
Cox, B. Norrie, L.
Craigavon, V. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Craigmyle, L. Reay, L.
Crathorne, L. Renton, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Saint Levan, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Stanley of Alderley, L.
Denman, L. Strange, B.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Strathclyde, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Strathmore and Kinghorne E.
Faithfull, B. Trumpington, B.
Ferrers, E. Ullswater, V.
Gisborough, L. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Glenarthur, L. Wise, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

8.48 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 7A to 8A not moved.]

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

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 8B: Page 5, line 16, at end insert ("and shall make such regulations in relation to emissions from motor vehicles in accordance with subsection (2A) below").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I speak also to Amendment No. 11A. Both amendments relate to the emission of pollution from vehicles. Amendment No. 8B refers to the making of regulations in relation to emissions from motor vehicles. The critical amendment is Amendment No. 11A which provides that any regulations made, shall have effect for the purpose of requiring the fitting of catalytic converters by 31st December 1992 to all new petrol driven motor vehicles". Catalytic converters have been debated at length in this House on many occasions, not least during the consideration of this Bill. It is well known that catalytic converters do not completely get rid of all the damaging effects of emissions from motor vehicles. For example, they do not get rid of carbon dioxide which, although not the most concentrated emission, is probably the single most important one. Nevertheless, catalytic converters are important, at any rate to us, because it has been shown very clearly that with government encouragement the fitting of catalytic converters can be made to work.

I shall not provide advertising for any individual manufacturer but it is possible for any manufacturer to be supplied with catalytic converters. It is certainly possible for all motor vehicles to be produced now in such a way that catalytic convertors can be retro-fitted —I believe that is the correct phrase—without undue expense. The Government's White Paper is strong on that principle In paragraph 10.3 the Government talk about preventing pollution at source. They acknowledge teat transport contributes about 20 per cent. of carbon dioxide emissions. In my view they quite rightly cite the success of the Government's pricing policy for unleaded petrol.

It is certainly true that, by a discriminating pricing policy, one can reduce the proportion of vehicles which use leaded petrol and therefore reduce the emission of airborne lead into the atmosphere. I understand that the effect of this policy has been that the amount of airborne lead released into the atmosphere has been reduced by about 50 per cent. since the early 1980s. Yet the Government are not taking any comparable action concerning catalytic convertors.

In paragraph 11.54 of the White Paper there is reference to the EC directive that all new vehicles should be capable of using unleaded petrol. That is fine. Are the Government going to confirm that? Do they intend to act on that in accordance with the European Community directive? In the White Paper the Government say that they are going to introduce changes in the MoT test to control emissions from vehicles. Can the Minister say when the Government are going to do that? I am asking these questions seriously because the Government have made these statements in the White Paper. They should he prepared to answer on the Floor of the House specific questions that arise directly from the White Paper.

The Government say in the White Paper that they intend to encourage the operators of car fleets to buy cars fitted with catalytic convertors. How are they going to do that? Will there be some kind of financial encouragement and, if so, what is it going to be? Will there be some kind of prohibition on the fleet-buying of can. without catalytic convertors? If that is so, how is that prohibition to be applied?

Not so much in the White Paper, but in government statements, there is a great deal said about larger and smaller cars and cars of different capacity. Is there any good reason why catalytic convertors should not be fitted to all cars? I see no reason why they should not be. That is the reason why the amendment refers specifically to all new petrol driven cars.

There is no question but that the intentions are good. However, the Government hesitate in putting those intentions into effect. The section headed Action for Individuals reflects a constant theme throughout the White Paper. There is action for somebody else but no action by the Government. The Government say in that section that travellers should choose cars fitted with a. catalyst and use unleaded petrol. Unless some positive e action is taken comparable to that in relation to unleaded petrol—and that may be the way to deal with it—to encourage catalytic convertors, then we shall not achieve that improvement. We have the opportunity to do that. We also have the Government's statement of intent that it will be done, though we have no action. We have the opportunity in this Bill to achieve the action required. That is what these amendments, and particularly Amendment No. 11 A, actually provide.

When we talked about transport matters in Committee we were told that this was not the right Bill for them and that they were issues for the transport department. That argument will not survive the publication of the White Paper. The White Paper quite properly takes into account the environmental effects of the activities of a large number of departments, including energy and transport. Indeed, when speaking in support of the White Paper, the Minister, when replying to the first amendment moved this afternoon, made a virtue of the fact that the White Paper gives such a comprehensive coverage of all aspects of environmental pollution.

If that is the case and it is the responsibility of a White Paper produced by a group of Secretaries of State whose lead Minister is Secretary of State for the Environment, there is no good reason why this legislation, which is essential for environmental protection, should not be included in this Bill. That is why we are moving this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Ross of Newport

My Lords, the Government can take pride in the fact that they have made a very sensible decision in making a tax concession on lead-free petrol. Almost overnight the filling stations in this country were suddenly selling lead-free petrol. Until then it was quite difficult to obtain. I changed my car from a British-made Mini which could not run on lead-free petrol to a Ford which does run on lead-free petrol. Now I read that, as from a date which we shall soon reach, no new cars will be manufactured that do not run on lead-free petrol.

I also understand that this country has the capacity to produce more catalytic convertors than any other manufacturing country in the world. In fact, we export them all over the world. We are the largest manufacturers of catalytic convertors. Therefore, it seems absolutely right that the Government should take heed of the success that they had with lead-free petrol and do the same with catalytic convertors. I do not take a hard and fast position on the date 31st December 1992 because that might be a little too soon. However, if the Government said 1993, then I believe that would be acceptable. It is possible that a little longer time is needed. If we are really serious about this matter we should be going down that path. Having had a success with lead-free petrol the Government should do the same concerning catalytic convertors. That is why I support this amendment.

Lord Renton

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has raised a very important matter. When we hear the reply from the Front Bench I hope we shall learn that there is no great disagreement between him and the Government on this matter. I do not know whether the method he suggests is technically the best one. However, I see no reason why the matter should not be dealt with in this Bill. If it is not dealt with in this Bill it will have to be dealt with in some other primary legislation in a later Session. In this Bill we purport to be dealing with integrated pollution control and air control by local authorities. Therefore, I cannot see that it would be inappropriate to deal with this matter now. It has to be dealt with sooner or later.

As I say, I do not know whether the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is the best way to do it, but it does not appear to me to be entirely unreasonable. I shall be very interested to hear what my noble friend has to say.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, these amendments are unnecessary and could well put us in breach of the European Community directives that cover this subject. Vehicle emissions would be brought within the purview of the Bill, but there is sufficient statutory control for controlling them through regulations under the Road Traffic Act 1988. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport has already made regulations that will apply the tightest standards possible to new cars by the end of 1992.

We are constrained by the existing Community directives in this area. Although the directives will mean the fitment of catalysts to all new cars, they are defective in two particular areas. First, the standards for medium-sized cars, which are those between 1400 cc and 2000 cc, are not strict enough to require the fitting of the most effective three-way catalysts. Secondly, these same medium-sized cars are not caught by the standards until 1st October 1993. We regard that as too late.

That is why we are keen to get agreement in Europe on the Commission's proposals to amend the vehicle emissions directives so that uniformly tight standards are applied to all car sizes from the end of 1992. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will be pressing for an agreement when the environment council meets at the end of this month. I can assure the House that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport will bring forward regulations to give effect to any agreement as soon as possible.

Regulations which came into effect on 1st October require all newly-manufactured petrol engine vehicles to be capable of running on unleaded petrol. Unleaded petrol is a success story. More than 35 per cent. of all petrol sales in the United Kingdom are now unleaded.

The Government are pressing the Community to adopt the strictest possible standards for diesel engines fitted to trucks and buses. The latest Commission proposal is not nearly tough enough. We believe that the standards and test procedures to be applied in the United States in 1994 should also be adopted by the European Community. Finally, the Government are now consulting on the details of the emissions test that is to be added to the annual MoT test for cars. This will put us in the forefront in Europe, with the Germans and others, when it comes to in-service checking. We are encouraging the Commission to bring forward proposals to require the whole of the Community to follow our lead.

In my answer I believe that I have met all the objectives of the amendments. I want the whole House to know that we are absolutely determined that these objectives will be achieved. I believe therefore that the amendment is unnecessary. We share word for word the objective of the noble Lord.

9 p.m.

Lord Renton

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down—and perhaps I may say that I welcome what she has said—can she make it abundantly plain that there is already statutory power to make such a regulation? Is there a statutory obligation to do so?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I understand that there is statutory power to make regulations but we are bound by the European directives. I can say in advance of those directives that we are ready and committed to achieving what is called for by the amendments.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am not convinced that the Minister's answer meets the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. The distinction he was making was between statutory powers, which the Minister has quite convincingly said are available, and statutory obligations. The European Commission issues directives. The Government then take steps to implement them, whether by regulation, if possible, or by primary legislation. In other words, there is a gap between the issuing of a directive and the date of implementation by the British Government.

The most extreme examples arose on drinking water quality debated by the House last year. I shall not go over that painful ground again. By this amendment we seek to ensure that when the European Commission makes directives, achieving, we hope, all that we want to achieve in these amendments—I have no reason to suppose that that will not happen—the Government will not then say, "We agree with the objective of the directives. When there is a gap in the legislative programme we shall find an occasion to give the Secretary of State power to implement those directives". That is what I fear will happen. I am not convinced that it has been controverted by the Minister's reply.

I am always deeply grateful for any support from the noble Lord, Lord Renton. To be told that my amendment does not seem to be entirely unreasonable is the highest praise that I can expect from him. He has made some valuable points which ought not to be ignored by the Government. I gladly give way to him.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way and for his kind words. Does he not remember that our country is a member of the EC and is bound by directives issued by the EC and by regulations made by the Council of Ministers and approved by the European Parliament?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I do indeed recall that. The noble Lord will recall that when we debated the Water Bill last year we found that directives had been issued. Targets had been set and dates had been set by the European Community but the Government had completely failed to do anything about them. In 1981 the European Commission in a directive set the Government a target of 1985 in order to improve drinking water quality to a specific standard. In 1989 we debated the fact that the Government had not done so. It is one thing to be bound by European Community directives: it is another thing to do something about it.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. If it is helpful to my noble friend Lord Renton and to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, we are obliged to introduce the directives. We halve no choice but to introduce them. But I am saying more than that. We are pressing for the directives. We are absolutely committed to implementing them. We do not need primary legislation. We have all the powers to make regulations as soon as is possible. We are pressing for them.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am delighted to hear that. I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, when he responded to a similar debate in Committee, had given the same kind of assurance. At that time he said that although we were committed to tough new standards a distinction had to be made between different sizes of car. In her reply this evening the noble Baroness said something different. She said that the same standard should apply to all sizes of car. I find that a welcome advance. On the basis of what she said, one must hope that we have made enough progress to justify my asking leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Dean of Beswick moved Amendment No. 8C: Page 5, line 16, at end insert: ("(1A) The Secretary of State shall, from time to time after the mating of regulations under subsection (1) above, lay before parliaiment a report setting out an environmental assessment of the activities of each Department of State in relation to such standards, objectives or requirements for processes or substances as may have been prescribed in such regulations.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to provide a mechanism whereby the Government's undertakings to monitor and ameliorate the environmental effects of their own activities may be brought before Parliament for regular scrutiny and verification. Chapter 18 of the White Paper, regretfully, is not included in the executive summary. Only in the full document does one find the following statement: Environment policy affects all Government Departments: most or all of their policies have an effect on the environment, as does the way in which they manage the buildings and land for which they are responsible". There follow a number of promises as to how this responsibility will be reflected in government practice. These include continuing the co-ordinating machinery involved in preparing the White Paper, including a standing committee of Cabinet Ministers; designating a Minister in each department to be responsible for considering the environmental implications of all that department's policies and spending programmes and for following up relevant parts of the White Paper; annual plans to include action to follow up the White Paper and any other initiatives; and a more systematic approach within government to the appraisal of environmental costs and benefits before decisions are taken. These principles are entirely admirable and demonstrate a clear intention that the greening of the Government is intended to be a long-term commitment. However, they are not underpinned by legislation and appear to he isolated from Parliament, to which this Government are, and any successor government would be, constitutionally accountable. The Bill gives an immediate opportunity to write the Government's stewardship into the statute book. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am not sure what useful function this amendment is intended to achieve. Once environmental standards, quality objectives and process and substance requirements have been set by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State it will be incumbent on everyone, within government as well as elsewhere, to meet those obligations. Let there be no misunderstanding about the duty on government departments in this respect. Our proposals on the application of the Bill's provisions to the Crown in Clause 149 have put beyond doubt our determination that all operators of prescribed processes, including the Crown, will fully comply with tough authorisation conditions designed to achieve the maximum practicable environmental protection.

Although departments of state cannot be prosecuted, the High Court, or in Scotland the Court of Session, may declare unlawful any acts or omissions by them under Part I of the Bill. Government operators or processors will have to comply with such declarations. The duties on them and their compliance record will be placed on public register, just as they will be for all other operators of prescribed processes. I see no need therefore for a separate report to your Lordships' House and another place.

The amendment does not ask for reports on the records of other groups of operators, and rightly so. Our public registers will already provide the data. So why should government departments be singled out? Their record will be known, as well as that of the other industries. Any inadequacies in their performance will be on public record. No more is needed. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I shall not press the amendment. However, I am not completely satisfied with the Minister's reply. Having been involved over a number of years with legislation from various governments, I have always accepted the principle that unless a provision is included in a Bill and declared as such it is not a commitment.

I trust that noble Lords will forgive me for introducing a little sourness at this stage, but the present Government are not unknown for going back on some of the promises that they have made—some of which were much more severe and binding than anything that has been mentioned tonight. I only have to point out one example as an indication of what I mean. Successive Secretaries of State said both in another place and in your Lordships' House that the money raised by council house sales would be given back to the local authorities which sold them in order to build new council houses. Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, is not in the Chamber at present, but I seem to recall that he is on record as being the Minister who gave a copper-bottomed guarantee to local authorities in that respect. However, as soon as the Government thought it no longer necessary to keep to a total copper-bottomed commitment they reneged on it.

I trust that the Minister will understand that I am not launching a personal attack upon her because of the reply she gave. But, as I said, I happen to believe that if a provision is not written on the face of a Bill it is certainly not hard and fast. If a course of action has to be adopted in this instance, I believe that it must be written into the Bill and not merely mentioned in government promises. I have put my feelings on record and I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 9: Page 5, line 19, leave out from ("prescribe") to first ("the") in line 21 and insert ("standard limits for —

  1. (i)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 11, 32, 47 and 48. The first two amendments, Amendments Nos. 9 and 11, simply clarify the drafting of Clause 3. As currently drafted this provides for the prescribing of standards of limits. The amendments express this as the prescribing of standard limits, which is what it should be.

Amendment No. 32, to Schedule 1, clarifies that it is the Secretary of State who may prescribe the manner in which applications for hearings of appeals are made. Amendment No. 47, to Clause 15, clarifies what is already made explicit elsewhere in the Bill; namely, that appeals cannot be made against directed decisions of the enforcing authority.

Finally, Amendment No. 48, to Clause 19, settles beyond peradventure that the powers of the various authorities concerned to request information relate only to the discharge of their own functions and not to the discharge of those of any of the other authorities.

I commend these amendments to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 11: Page 5, line 23, leave out ("limits on").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 11A and 12 not moved.]

Baroness Robson of Kiddington moved Amendment No. 13: Page 5, line 29, at end insert: ("(2A) Before the publication of any regulations concerning emissions to air under subsection (1) above, the Secretary of State shall publish a national strategy for the conservation of energy, including:

  1. (a) measures to promote and encourage the development of combined heat and power schemes by local authorities;
  2. 92
  3. (b)measures to promote and encourage the development by local authorities of the production of energy from landfill sites;
  4. (c)the promotion by local authorities and other persons of energy conservation and insulation in domestic premises;
  5. (d)measures to develop improved use of energy and good practice in industrial and commercial premises; and
  6. (e)the development of public awareness of the implications of energy conservation for the environment.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is another amendment which attempts to put into the Bill what the Government stated in the White Paper to be their intent. Under the Bill pollution control relates basically to dirty factory chemical plant, and so forth. It does not cover two aspects of global warming: transport and the use of energy. The amendment calls for a national strategy for energy conservation. At the same time as setting emission limits for industry, the Secretary of State should establish a national strategy for energy conservation.

The amendment fills a gap in the Bill and gives legislative backing to the proposals contained in the White Paper. The amendment is divided into five headings, the most important of which is (a) which relates to combined heat and power schemes. That system has tremendous potential for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is used in about 500 industrial plants in this country and covers about 2 per cent. of electricity output. The only large-scale CHP system in this country is in Nottingham. It is based on burning refuse.

The White Paper plans a doubling of capacity from 1,000 megawatts to 2,000 megawatts over the next five years. It is estimated that that would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent. It is also estimated that the heat loss from United Kingdom power stations is enough to heat every home in Britain. As a nation we are backward in installing district heating systems. They should at least be installed in all major new developments. That cannot be done without government finance for local authorities, which also need special borrowing powers to fund energy conservation. Combined heat and power could help more than any other method to reduce our demands on the energy industry.

Another possibility is to tap the energy contained in methane gas from landfill sites. That would serve a dual purpose. Not only would it give us electricity but it would prevent a leakage into the atmosphere from one of the most lethal gases. It is estimated that there are 438 sites available for potential methane tapping in this country, and only 24 have so far been exploited.

The amendment also asks for conservation in and insulation of domestic premises. Until recently, insulation grants were available to householders. They have now been reduced and are available only to those on income support. Nevertheless, it is estimated that with proper insulation domestic carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by 39 per cent. Another way of saving electricity which the Government should take on board is to publicise the use of energy efficient light bulbs. I was told that if the whole country used energy efficient light bulbs we might save the output of two power stations. However, that may be an overestimate. To publicise them and persuade consumers to take them up, the Government should consider consulting our EC partners because they must Face similar problems. Perhaps we could consider zero rating energy efficient light bulbs for VAT, thereby saving much wasted electricity.

The White Paper and also this amendment talk about conservation and insulation in industrial and commercial premises. In particular the White Paper speaks of the government estates and special mention is mad, of educational establishments. I wish to add one other aspect that the Government should consider: the hospitals. I was a regional chairman of an authority and we were encouraged to conserve energy. but we did not have the money to put in thermostatically controlled heating and we were not given the funds to do it. I believe that the Government must give at least a bridging loan to such establishments to allow them to implement proper heating control.

Above all, we must make certain that there is public awareness of what people can do for themselves. Here, the Energy Efficiency Office has a large part to play. It is therefore with great sadness that we heard in 1986–87 and 1988–89 that the funding for the Energy Efficiency Office was reduced. In this House the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, replying in a debate, said that the reason for the proposed reduction was a direct result of the successes achieved in the earlier campaign. I do not believe that we could say that the success was so great. I am glad to see in the White Paper that the Government now propose to increase the funding for the Energy Efficiency Office.

The amendment would require the Secretary of State to produce a proper national strategy for energy conservation. It would involve action by individual consumers, the development with industry of energy -efficient practices, combined heat and power, electricity generation from landfill and a public education programme on the benefits of energy efficiency. However, without clear national targets for the reductions in energy use and the resultant greenhouse gases, emission limits set for industry under the Bill cannot be clearly targeted and geared to the alleviation of global warming. Again I hope that the Government can accept this amendment, because it was taken almost verbatim from the White Paper. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I wish to add my support to the amendment and I recognise the able way in which it has been moved. The noble Baroness, Lady Robson, was in some ways too kind to the White Paper. It is not so much that the amendment reproduces what the White Paper says, but rather that it reproduces what the White Paper would like to appear to have said without having committed itself to anything practical.

Time after time, as we look through the White Paper for evidence of commitment to energy conservation, we find a recognition of the problem but, as the noble Baroness said, no practical action to do anything about it. She gave the clearest possible example when she described the work of the Energy Efficiency Office, pointing out that it has in many ways been run down and underlining the ambivalent attitude that the Government have towards it. What they really think is that the work should be undertaken by private industry rather than by government, although they do not come out quite so clearly as to admit it.

It is all very well to have an intention to develop energy labelling of buildings. However, what is required is not just an intention to have energy labelling of buildings nor to say that they should be able to be incorporated into building regulations—that is what Annex C says: there should actually he detailed proposals for including energy labelling of buildings in building regulations. That could be done by regulation. It does not require primary legislation. It requires consultation, but it could be done within a period of 12 months from now. lf, in responding to the amendment, the Minister says that the Government are prepared to agree to that and that building regulations will be amended accordingly, that will be an advance on the White Paper and it will be a real improvement.

It is all very well the White Paper saying that the Government will promote wider use of combined heat and power to make use of waste heat from electricity generation. It is fine to identify a potential of combined heat and power of 2,000 megawatts by the end of the century. But what is required is not just promotion and recognition of a potential. There must be a practical means of achieving the target. That is not in the White Paper. As usual, the White Paper is completely ineffective in that respect.

The noble Baroness referred to the difficulties of regional health authorities in undertaking energy conservation work because they do not have the money up front—that is when it is needed—to undertake the capital investment to save energy costs in the future. Exactly the same is true in local authority housing and in public buildings throughout the country. You need to have approval for the capital expenditure now in order to make the energy savings in the years to come. The Government show no signs of understanding that and no signs of recognising that they must give specific capital authority in order to produce energy-efficient buildings. Why is that not being included, for example, in this Bill as an amendment to the 1988 Housing Act? It could perfectly well be included. I offer that as a free suggestion to the Government. I have not even drafted an amendment on the subject, but it could be done. It would be evidence of the Government's good intent.

In almost every respect, the White Paper points out the modest amount of work that has already been done for energy conservation and things that could be done in the future. But it does not say that the Government will take any positive action. To that extent, it would be highly desirable if the Government accepted the amendment of the noble Baroness.

Lord Reay

My Lords, no one doubts the value of energy efficiency measures as a contribution to our objectives in improving the environment. I welcome the opportunity to confirm the Government's commitment to helping the nation improve its performance in that area. But the amendment before us could lead one to assume that the Government do not already have a strategy for improving energy efficiency. Our past record and the White Paper on the environment demonstrate that that is far from the case.

Central to our strategy is the Energy Efficiency Office which works to encourage the adoption of cost-effective energy efficiency improvements both for economic and environmental reasons. Energy savings now worth over £500 million per year are being realised by consumers as a direct result of the EEO's programmes since 1983, which have also led to a high level of general awareness of the value of energy efficiency. The proposals in the White Paper represent another phase in the work of the EEO which will, I am sure, continue to build on that impressive performance.

The strategy includes a new ministerial committee, chaired by the Secretary of State for Energy, which will maintain interest in energy efficiency and raise its profile still further. The committee will monitor the Government's current programmes and progress on other initiatives announced in the White Paper, including a promotional drive on high efficiency lighting, proposals for common schemes of appliance labelling and minimum standards in the EC, and a new scheme of project management grants to assist with the implementation of energy efficiency measures in industry and commerce. Other departments will play their part too. For example, the MOT test will in future check on engine tuning.

That is all in addition to what is happening already, much of it in the specific areas which the noble Lord and the Baroness mentioned. In the domestic sector the new scheme of grants towards the cost of basic insulation measures in low income households, the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme, will begin in January 1991. It will build on the success of existing community insulation projects, which have insulated over 750,000 low-income homes.

In industry and commerce the EEO's main scheme is the best practice programme, which provides independent and authoritative advice and information on energy efficiency, as well as some R&D support. The best practice programme will also continue to promote the use of combined heat and power, mentioned by the noble Baroness, which is a highly fuel-efficient technology that generates electricity and puts to good use the heat which would otherwise be wasted. The programme will aim to ensure that an identified potential of a further 2,000 megawatts of CHP capacity will be achieved by the year 2000—representing a doubling of capacity.

The Government also have a substantial programme to promote the use of methane from landfill sites. They have spent some £2 million on research, development and demonstration projects to encourage its exploitation as a fuel. The Electricity Act 1989 encourages electricity generation from non-fossil fuels through the introduction of the non-fossil fuel obligation. This will provide an unprecedented opportunity for renewable energy sources, such as landfill gas, to establish themselves in the electricity market. The Government are considering what more can be done to reduce emissions of methane from landfill sites by encouraging its use as an energy source. They are also supporting action by local authorities over the next five years at some 1,000 landfill sites requiring remedial work. Some of these will be suitable for methane recovery for heat and power.

In summary, the Government already have an effective and developing strategy on energy efficiency, which will be kept under close scrutiny by the new ministerial committee which meets for the first time later this month. The amendment is therefore unnecessary.

9.30 p.m.

Baroness Robson of Kiddington

My Lords, I am very sad that the Government have decided that my amendment is not necessary. I thought that the Minister's reply was rather complacent as regards what we have achieved. He said that combined heat and power capacity will be doubled by the year 2000. So far as I know —and I stand to be corrected—we have only one large district scheme in this country, in Nottingham. I come from Sweden, where half of Stockholm is heated by a district heating system using combined heat and power. We have a long way to go. To double the 500 small units in this country by the year 2000 is not making the best use of its wasted heat, which just goes into the air.

I should have thought that the Government would welcome the amendment. Despite the fact that they have, I admit, introduced certain measures through the Energy Efficiency Office to educate the public about the need for energy conservation, I should have thought that the Government would welcome having the amendment written into the Bill, particularly as all the proposals, except for the zero-rating of electric light bulbs, are measures that can be introduced in this country. On other occasions when I have raised such issues with the Government the answer has always been that they will do it when there is agreement within the EC. None of these proposals has to be agreed by the EC. I should have thought, therefore, that they were eminently suitable for inclusion in the Bill.

However, as usual I have not been given any concessions, and at this late hour I do not propose to press the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 14: Page 5, line 33, 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 relative environmental impact of renewable and fossil fuel sources of electricity;
  2. (b)the desirability of providing, or of securing the provision (whether by pricing or otherwise) of financial incentives to such renewable sources; and
  3. (c)the availability of electricity supplies from renewable sources.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 14 deals with a related subject, but one which deserves serious attention in its own right. The amendment is concerned with renewable energy resources. I am very pleased to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, for the amendment.

The amendment would make sure that emissions to the atmosphere from electricity generating stations fell within the ambit of regulations under Clause 3. We assume that these power stations will be prescribed polluters for the purposes of Part I. I understood the noble Baroness to say in response to an earlier amendment that this is one part of integrated pollution control which will not be delayed into 1992 but that large power stations will be brought within the scope of the regulations in 1991. I very much welcomed that statement.

We go on to say that when setting emission limits for carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, they should be considered within the context of a policy for looking at the relative environmental effects of renewable energy compared with fossil fuel energy In response to the previous amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Reay, referred to the non-fossil fuel obligation under the 1989 Electricity Act. He was quite right to refer to that measure but it is necessary to remind the House of the amounts involved. The non-fossil fuel obligation refers to only 102 megawatts of electricity by 1998. Even if we talk about matters which could be the subject of regulations under the non-fossil fuel obligation between now and 1998, that would still add only a further 600 megawatts to what is being produced from non-fossil fuel sources in that eight-year period.

However, the White Paper refers to 1,000 megawatts by the year 2000. We look for confirmation that the Government see that figure as a minimum rather than a maximum and that they view the non-fossil fuel obligation in proper context. The fact of the matter is that in other parts the 1989 Electricity Act makes it more difficult for renewable energy, not by banning it but because, in order to assist in privatisation, the Electricity Act writes off the capital costs c f the former CEGB plant; in other words, the plant of National Power and PowerGen. That means that renewable energy, which has to be capital intensive and involve capital expenditure, is competing on unfair terms with fossil fuel energy produced by National Power and PowerGen. That has never been contradicted by the Government, nor have there been any proposals to rectify this completely new element of discrimination against renewable energy sources.

The Department of Energy's 1988 strategy statement provides, even by the year 2005, for a maximum of 25 per cent. of our energy use coming from renewable sources, and that only if all the development projects which are under consideration are completed and exploited. All the evidence about renewable energy resources, whether it be wind power, wave power or any of the other methods that are being suggested, such as the burning of methane gas and so on, indicates that any one of those sources could well account for, say, 20 per cent. of our energy resources. The total maximum potential must be considerably higher than the 25 per cent. mentioned in the Department of Energy strategy. It would be interesting to know from the Government what revision of the 1988 Department of Energy strategy is planned and whether there will be any improvement in the situation for renewable energy.

I do not underestimate the difficulties. Yesterday on the radio I heard the Secretary of State for the Environment talking with Open University energy conservation scientists about the difficulties of wind power. It is true that we do not want all our hillsides to be covered with windmills, making the noises that windmills make. But that does not mean that in the right places—some of them perhaps offshore—there is not considerably more scope than is at present being considered for wind, wave and tidal power.

At the moment the scales are weighted against renewable energy sources rather than loaded in their favour. This amendment goes some way toward correcting that situation and encourages the Government to take renewable energy more seriously. I beg to move.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

My Lords, I know that my noble friend has read what was said in Committee. I therefore shall not repeat what I said. However, nothing seems to have developed with regard to the discrimination against renewables because of a capital write off, to which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred.

Farmers and landowners considering diversifying into renewable energy factories—in particular wind power—are still in the dark. I should like to ask my noble friend the following questions. First, is it true that 90 per cent. of the non-fossil fuel obligation will go into nuclear produced power? That leaves only a minuscule 10 per cent. for renewables. Secondly, the recent White Paper produced by the Department of the Environment appears to support renewable energy other than nuclear because renewable energy is environmentally friendly whereas nuclear energy should not be so classified because of its decommissioning problems.

However, the Department of the Environment seems to be at odds with the Department of Energy which, according to a recent report in The Times, does not intend to accept any more applications with regard to wind power.

As one who has an ideal site, I am totally confused by the double talk. Will the Government offer incentives and encouragement for farmers and landowners in suitable areas? I fully understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. We do not want the whole country covered with windmills. But will the Government look again at wind power schemes?

In that context will my noble friend say whether the Ministry of Agriculture would be prepared to consider claims by farmers under the farm diversification scheme for plans to diversify into renewable energy, in particular wind power?

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I should like briefly to support the amendment. I have recently returned from Denmark where I stayed at Roskilde. It is the equivalent of Canterbury and Westminster Abbey rolled into one. Two or three miles outside this historic and beautiful town I came across a very large wind generator. It was at least one hundred feet high with a proportionate span of rotor blades. It operated virtually silently. I thought that it fitted extremely well into the rather attractive landscape.

I believe that this is a practical amendment. I hope that the Government will accept it.

Lord Reay

My Lords, the purpose behind the amendment, namely, to reduce emissions from electricity generating plant, is on the face of it unobjectionable. However, the amendment seeks the impossible on the one hand and the already available on the other.

While I have every sympathy with the underlying objective of trying to give maximum encouragement to renewable sources of energy, we must be realistic. Such sources could make only a relatively minor contribution to electricity supply over the next decade or so. The amendment would also require the Secretary of State to take into account the direct quantitative comparison of the differing environmental implications of the various energy sources. The fact is that this is at present simply not possible.

We should not be under any illusion that renewable sources can have significant environmental impacts of their own. A tidal barrage scheme or river dam can profoundly affect the ecology of the surrounding area. Wind generated electricity relies on equipment which is visually intrusive and noisy and which more than likely needs to be sited in the most sensitive parts of the landscape, and so on.

The generation of electricity from fossil fuels to meet the demands of consumers is a major source, but not the only one, of the pollutants which cause acid rain; namely, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. The UK has accordingly committed itself, along with its European partners, to reduce acid emissions from all large plant under the large combustion plant directive. We have undertaken to bring down emissions of SO2 by 60 per cent. by 2003, and of NOx by 30 per cent. by 1998 based on 1980 levels. Therefore, that problem is recognised and significant action is already in hand to do something about it.

Power generation from fossil fuels is also a source of carbon dioxide, one of the gases which leads to enhanced global warming. CO2 is produced whenever carbon-based fuel is burned, from the domestic coal or log fire to the motor vehicle. While power stations are an obvious source of such pollution because they are big, they represent only about a third of UK CO2 emissions and a fifth of our contribution to global warming. The Government recognise the potential impact of our Co2 emissions and have announced their intention, if other nations will take similar action, of returning our emissions of the gas to 1990 levels by 2005. That will not be an easy task and will entail costs to the economy, but we believe that it is realistic and achievable.

The amendment calls for the balancing of the relative environmental impact of renewable and fossil fuel sources of electricity. Work is in hand in the UK and internationally to devise methodologies to assess the full range of environmental impacts of energy technologies. It will be a long and difficult task, not least because of the international nature of some of the issues. The global warming potential of carbon dioxide is an international problem, with potentially worldwide effects. We can say at present that a windmill will produce less CO2 than a power station but we cannot yet say to what extent the power station's CO2 represents an environmental threat. That is not least because that threat may manifest itself on the other side of the world.

How can one value and compare the possible inundation of low-lying Pacific islands in 50 years' time; or, to take a different example, the possible disturbance to migrating birds from a tidal barrage scheme? I will not suggest that it cannot be done, but the fact is that it cannot be done yet or for some time to come.

I now turn to the second part of the amendment. The Government are already encouraging the growth of renewable sources of energy via the Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation on electricity suppliers under the Electricity Act 1989. An order was recently laid covering the first tranche of renewable generation to receive a subsidy under the NFFO and there will be further tranches during the next few years. As was recently announced in the White Paper, the Government will be working towards increasing renewable electricity generation tenfold to 1,000 megawatts by the end of the century. The need for this support under the NFFO illustrates one of the fundamental problems for renewables—many of them are not yet economically competitive with conventional generation.

The hoped-for tenfold increase in renewables by 2,000 (excluding conventional hydroelectricity) will still provide only about a further 2 per cent. of UK needs. While there is no doubt that renewables will make a valuable and increasing contribution to our electricity supplies, that contribution will build up slowly over the next few years.

My noble friend Lord Stanley asked several questions. I should like to study them and write to him I hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

9.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, that was a peculiarly unsatisfactory reply. It was almost as though the Minister had not heard the points raised by the noble Lords, Lord Stanley and Lord Hylton, let alone anything that I had said. In Committee the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, gave the Minister plenty of warning about his anxiety as regards renewable energy. He asked the specific question, which he asked previously, about whether grants would be available to farmers who use this form of diversification. I believe that he deserved an answer on the spot rather than be told that he would be written to afterwards. It was not as though it was not obvious that the question would be asked again.

In his speech, the noble Lord, Lord Reay, repeated the statement about noisy wind generators. He did not appear to hear the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. At least he could have asked for more evidence as to why there are virtually silent wind generators in Denmark but not in this country, if indeed there is such evidence. I should have thought that more consideration could have been shown to noble Lords in that reply.

Quite apart from that, there are fundamental defects in the Minister's answer. When the amendment asks for an assessment of the relative environmental impact of renewable and fossil fuel sources of electricity, it is no good the Minister replying that that is not possible. It is no good him brushing off an intended comparison between submerging a South Sea island and damage to the ecology from estuarial work.

If there are difficulties in making such an estimate, those difficulties are in conception. They would not be overcome by greater work and more detailed study in the next few years. Either it is possible, in which case it is possible now with all the defects of making environmental impact assessments, or it will never be possible. However, to say that it is not possible now, without giving any reason for that statement, is not a good enough reply to the debate raised in your Lordships' House.

Environmental impact assessments—a well-established principle within the Department of the Environment—have for many years been making comparisons between things which may be thought to be unlike one from the other. Alternative developments for a particular piece of land have been looked at and it has been decided that one sort of development is less environmentally acceptable than another. Of course there is an element of judgment in that which nobody denies. What one person likes visually and aesthetically will be different from another. Nobody will reconcile that difference. However, there must be a way of assigning values to those matters where a choice needs to be made. If we are not able to do that, under certain circumstances so be it. However, the Government seem to be saying that they are not willing to do that.

Again, the issue of the write off of the capital of CEGB plant and, therefore, the write off of PowerGen and National Power investment is not new. That point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, and my noble friend Lord Williams in Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, raised the further point about the shortness of the contracts available for renewable energy. The noble Lord opposite made no attempt to reply to that question although he had had plenty of notice of it. I believe that it is a discourtesy to the House for a reply to be read out without any concession whatever to the thrust of the debate and for there to be no adequate answers to the questions raised, not for the first time, by noble Lords on all sides of the House. I shall not divide the House on this occasion but, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, we must return to this matter. We hope that there will then be a better response from Government and a better awareness of their obligations to this House in this debate.

Lord Reay

My Lords, I am now in a position to answer the question raised by my noble friend Lord Stanley as to whether funds will be available for wind power schemes under the farm diversification scheme. The answer is: no. Grants are for projects which call on the skills of the farmer and which relate to the normal activities of the farm and farm facilities. Industrial power generation would not be covered by that.

I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that further study and experience may enable us to discover what will be the consequences as regards certain matters while others require valued judgments. I believe that as regards certain cause and effect relationships—for example, what exactly is the effect of certain wind schemes on migratory birds—we do not know as much as we need to. I take his point that on certain conceptual aspects, political judgments have to be made.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, with great reluctance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 15: Page 5, line 37, at end insert: ("The best practicable environment option must be included in the consideration of any regulations covering the release of substances into any media.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I see that my Amendment No. 15 has been grouped with Amendments Nos. 36, 41 to 43 of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. I do not mind the enjoinment. It is for the noble Lord opposite to express his view when I finish speaking.

Perhaps at the outset I could thank my noble friend Lady Blatch for a series of consultations and exchange of letters during the Summer Recess on a number of issues, most of which do not appear as amendments on the Marshalled List as they have already been dealt with. Others do appear and this amendment is one of those.

The purpose of integrated pollution control is surely to achieve the best environmental result weighing up the benefits of discharge to land, water or air according to the type of industrial operation and the environmental circumstance. In the last analysis there should be one body and one body alone to make that judgment. In my view that should be Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution, which the Government consistently promised shall be the one-stop shop to which businesses should address their questions.

When we discussed earlier this afternoon the group of amendments which included Amendment No. 5, the Minister said that HMIP must determine the various levels and the actions to be taken. As this clause is written it appears that specific pollution control authorities may be able to overrule HMIP. In that regard I mention the National Rivers Authority, which takes a somewhat narrower view.

In an exchange of correspondence on 21st September my noble friend Lady Blatch wrote to me concerning the best practicable environmental option. The letter continued, It is true as you say that HMIP will need to take account of the NRA's conditions relating to releases to water, bearing in mind water quality objectives under last year's Water Act. But HMIP will need to take account additionally of air quality standards, the objectives achievable through the use of BATNEEC, our international obligations, and indeed any plan made under clause 3 of the Bill. Marrying these objectives together will not necessarily be easy, but then I would not expect a decision on the BPEO to be reached lightly".

Quite so. That is the point. As the Bill is currently drafted it is not specific in that regard. I believe that it should be if the Government fully accept and intend to develop the principle of best practicable environmental option. The current wording of this part of Clause 3 makes no mention of any consideration to be given to the relationship between the various environmental media. That is when prescribing either standards or the requirements for inclusion in regulations.

I believe that that undermines the authority of HMIP which we understand is in pole position. I venture to suggest that the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, support Amendment No. 15 in perhaps different ways to those described, but in general terms underlying my suggestion.

I apologise to the House in that I believe there is an error in my amendment. The last word—"media"—should be "medium", but if that is so it is an easy matter to put right. I commend my amendment to the House. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for agreeing that my amendments should be discussed with his. I agree that to a considerable extent my amendments support his amendment, which, if I may say so, is a neat little amendment. It goes very well in Clause 3.

My amendments relate to Clause 7, which covers conditions for authorisation. They seek to impose a degree of harmony into the way in which BATNEEC (best available technology not entailing excessive cost) and BPEO (best practical environmental option) are used in the course of the Bill because we believe that at present there is still an inconsistency between their use.

This is not just a matter of words. These are real differences which have an effect on the way in which the Bill operates; otherwise we would not be putting forward these amendments. Noble Lords will recall that the concept of BATNEEC is a formulation to fit in with European Community legislation, whereas the concept of BPEO comes from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. It is easy to talk as if they were relatively unimportant differences and as if they were alternatives to be used at random, but that is not the case in practice. The real issue we should be considering in these amendments is whether we are using these standards simply to minimise environmental damage or whether we are seeking to use them to prevent environmental damage.

The Bill says in more than one place that BATNEEC is there to minimise environmental damage and that the authority should have regard to the best practical environmental option. There is not, in that, any requirement to take preventive action. Therefore, my amendments seek, first, to put the prevention of environmental damage above minimisation and, secondly, to ensure that minimising environmental damage—a necessary fall-back condition—should be based on the possibility of environmental damage rather than on the likelihood of environmental damage; in other words, that it should be triggered more readily than it would be simply under "likelihood". I believe that is fully consistent with the principle of seeking to avoid trouble from the beginning rather than seeking to deal with it once it has occurred.

That is the thrust of my Amendments Nos. 41, 42 and 43. As I said, the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is a valuable one which in many ways encapsulates the thinking we wish to have in the Bill and brings it neatly into Clause 3. I hope that the Government will accept his amendment and, in doing so, will look favourably on my amendments.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, this is a very complex issue and I hope that noble Lords will bear with my rather lengthy response. First, I deal with an outstanding point raised by my noble friend Lord Lucas. The external considerations such as environmental quality standards which have to be taken account of do not entail the overruling of a best practical environmental decision of an inspector. It is a method of ensuring that essential considerations relating to one medium are met. That does not undermine the position of HMIPs in any way.

I refer now to Amendment No. 15 tabled by my noble friend Lord Lucas. I sympathise with the intention behind this amendment. Subsection (4) of Clause 3 allows the Secretary of State to make regulations which specify quality objectives or standards for environmental media. These regulations may relate to individual substances released into those media. So, for example, one might specify that levels of a cadmium in a certain river should not rise beyond a given concentration. Individual processes discharging into the river would thus have to ensure that that standard was not breached, and Clause 7 provides the mechanism for ensuring that.

It is surely reasonable that, in setting such standards, one should take account of their possible knock-on effect on the other environmental media. For example, what if a tight limit set on the permitted concentration of cadmium in water merely encouraged processes to divert it up the chimney to pollute the air instead? In the case of some substances that might be a perfectly justifiable way to deal with the pollutant, but in others it might be unacceptable. One needs to be quite sure that the interests of the environment as a whole are secured.

However, I think it fair to point out that in practice the environmental quality system deals with what is a rather different, complementary piece of the jigsaw. Quality standards ensure that, come what may, essential requirements relating to a single medium are met. In the example I mentioned, if the cadmium covered by a water quality standard was also unacceptable above a given level in air, then a standard would be set for air, too.

In other words, a quality standards is, if I may put it so, a statement of what the best practical environmental option is for an individual environmental medium. Whenever particular circumstances require a standard to be set, it should rightly constrain the BPEO judgment at process level. Indeed, the mechanisms for securing the various objectives that Clause 7 requires of an authorisation secure just that. Not only does an authorisation have to secure the use of BATNEEC and the BPEO; it also has to secure that any environmental quality standards are met. If they are tighter than what might otherwise have been judged to be the BPEO, it is those tighter standards which will prevail. In effect, the BPEO in these circumstances has, by definition, to reflect these standards.

To include the BPEO judgment explicitly in the context of determining quality standards would be wrong The BPEO judgment can only apply to an individual plant when the enforcing authority considers how best to ensure that the plant has the minimum environmental impact possible. If a process cannot meet a quality standard it cannot be operated. A quality standard for a single medium should not take account of whether individual plants can meet it, as the amendment implies. It should be determined solely according to the environmental requirements of the medium concerned. I hope that this explanation has persuaded my noble friend that the purpose of his amendment is effectively met already through the admittedly rather complex mechanisms of the Bill as it stands.

I now turn to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I understand and appreciate the noble Lord's desire to be quite certain about the effect of Clause 7, and in particular the relationship between the objectives of subsection (2) and the BPEO objective in subsection (7). I do not believe that there is any argument at all between us on what the overall objective of the clause should be in this respect.

The question is whether Clause 7 as drafted secures the BPEO in practice for a given process. I hope to reassure the noble Lord that it does. Subsection (2), which the noble Lord seeks to amend with Amendment No. 36, relates only to emissions to individual media. For releases to individual media the concept of BPEO is not an issue. The best option for an emission in these circumstances is obviously to prevent it; or, if that is not possible, to minimise it and render harmless any release which takes place. There can be no room for debate about that and it is exactly what the subsection delivers. The noble Lord's amendment seeks to introduce the cross-media concept here where it has no relevance.

If there were a choice to be made here—for example, between alternative control technologies—it would be a simple one of whichever technology best secured the objective to prevent, minimise and render harmless in one medium. However, if, as the amendment seems to imply, the choice was actually between options that related to different disposal routes or different methods of disposing to the same medium with alternative consequences for these different disposal routes, subsection (7) and the BPEO duty come into play.

Subsection (7) makes clear, without the need for any amendment, that the duty to consider the BPEO comes into play whenever it is likely that there will be releases to more than one medium. Based on that very wide criterion the BPEO judgment will in practice arise in just about every case. That is something which should be borne very much in mind.

I do not see that the subsection would be improved by substituting "may" for "is likely to" in line 27. The current wording implies that the BPEO judgment must be made before the releases are actually taking place, which is right. It applies at the earlier stage before options are closed. But it also implies that there has to be at least a reasonable chance that the releases would be to more than one medium. I have already made clear that that is likely to be the case in virtually every instance. I cannot see the virtue of lowering the threshold at which the judgment should be made to include even those very rare cases where the possibility of releases to more than one medium is remote.

In turning to the other two amendments in this group, I think it might be helpful if I emphasised once again that the BPEO objective in subsection (7) does not supersede the various objectives set out in subsection (2). It clearly states that in any case where there is a question of releases to more than one medium, those objectives should additionally include the securing of the BPEO overall. I do not think that any elaboration of that relationship is either necessary or helpful. There is no conflict between what the two subsections require. The addition of the BPEO objective in subsection (7) simply means that one meets the individual requirements at subsection (2) in whichever way secures the greatest protection for the environment as a whole.

The words in Amendment No. 42 merely duplicate part of the single medium requirements in subsection (2). The noble Lord seems in fact to be trying to do the very reverse of what he is attempting in Amendment No. 36. The effect would be to ensure as a first step in the BPEO judgment that BATNEEC is used to prevent releases of prescribed substances into the medium for which they are prescribed. That is precisely what subsection (2) already delivers. To repeat that requirement within the BPEO requirement seems at best unnecessary and at worst highly confusing.

I fear however that beyond that the amendment might actually weaken the requirements. Where prevention of releases to the medium concerned is not possible, it implies dropping the requirement to minimise them. Instead, the requirement is the minimisation of such releases to the environment as a whole. There is no case for that. It is at odds with the whole system of prescribing substances for specified media. It certainly contradicts the requirements at subsection (2). Minimisation has to be in the first instance for the prescribed medium. After that, the BPEO judgment applies.

Even more important is the fact that this amendment and Amendment No. 43 have the effect of limiting the BPEO judgment to prescribed substances and their prevention and minimisation. But that judgment must be made across all releases, not just those of prescribed substances. I believe that the clause as drafted gives us exactly what we want. The first objective is that BATNEEC must be used to prevent and minimise releases of prescribed substances into the medium for which they are prescribed. The second objective is that BATNEEC must be used to render harmless any releases of any substances which do occur. And in cases where releases to more than one medium are likely—that is to say, with most if not all IPC processes—there is an additional objective that BATNEEC must be used to secure the best environmental option overall. There is in my view no potential for conflict in expressing that BPEO objective as an additional judgment to be taken on top of the single medium ones. That conflict, as the present amendments show, is only likely to arise if one seeks to delineate the relationship unnecessarily.

I apologise for having detained the House with such detail over this point. I hope that I have demonstrated to the noble Lord opposite that his amendments would run counter to the requirements of the situation and that subsection (7) as drafted meets those requirements.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, I am grateful to her for setting out in detail the Government's position. I think that I followed a good deal of it, although I certainly cannot claim to have followed all of it. As I understand it, when we are talking about any possible conflict between subsection (2) and subsection (7) of Clause 7, BPEO is a fallback position. It is what comes into play if BATNEEC does not operate when there is emission into more than one medium. Okay, so far so good. However, BATNEEC in its very formulation does not entail excessive costs. But what happens if there is no technique not entailing excessive cost when there is only emission into one medium? What we were trying to get at—whether we have succeeded, I do not know—was that surely BPEO should be there as a longstop for emissions into a single medium as well as into more than one medium.

I am slightly reassured to hear the Minister say that in the great majority of cases it will be more than one medium. However, BATNEEC is not as strong as BPEO and if it is not available as, so to speak, a safety valve in subsection (2) then surely there is something missing.

10.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I believe that I made it clear in part of my answer that if the process fails the BATNEEC test and the BPEO is triggered off—that is, if it actually fails and is damaging to the environment by one medium or another by emissions into one medium or another—it would simply fail to be authorised.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her response. As she said, it was indeed complex. Like the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, I think that one would wish to have a further look at the matter to try to slot into place the various points she made, especially as regards which of the authorities is in the pole position.

We have talked cheerfully about BATNEEC. Of course there are two definitions, and this worries me. The UK interpretation of it is, the best environmental technique not entailing excessive cost". However, the European interpretation is, the best available technology". The two definitions could he somewhat opposed. I do not expect to receive a response to that aspect of the matter this evening. However, where you have two measures which may well fail the test and where the BPEO then has to be called into play, I suggest that there would have to be some authority which would be the lead authority and which would make the final decision.

I was a little sorry to hear the terminology used by my noble friend when she spoke about cadmium being discharged to water. I understood her to say that were that to be excessive there would be nothing to stop a polluter discharging up a chimney. That was perhaps an unfortunate expression. I say that because what industry is looking for in integrated pollution control is a clear set of guidelines so that it will know what it may and may not do. I do not believe that the recognised, responsible industries want to find an easier way to discharge in order to get around a regulation; they want a clear and absolute understanding in the matter.

Perhaps I may conclude by saying that I think my noble friend's response expressed rather more hope than promise—a hope that I do not actually share. However, I am grateful to her for the little note that I have just received which tells me that, as in so many such matters, the word "technology" is embraced by the wider UK term "best available techniques".

Therefore, it would seem that we are talking about the same thing. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Norrie moved Amendment No.16: Page 6, line 7, at end insert ("and any plan shall include an assessment of the likely significant effects of the plan on the environment").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I start by echoing the concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Robson, about the effects of emissions from power stations or industry, be they in the form of air or water. In devising any national plan for reducing such emissions it would seem prudent to assess the likely effects of any particular plan on the environment. The amendment seeks to include on the face of the Bill an environmental assessment for national plans.

I moved a similar amendment in Committee, but, on reading Hansard and after meeting my noble friends Lord Hesketh and Lord Reay, I am still not sure that the Government have fully understood the reasons for that earlier amendment. The Government have said that they are not convinced of the value of applying the principles of EA to strategic plans and programmes. I am sorry if that is the case, because it may mean that the Government will again find themselves in conflict with the EC over the issue, because the European Commission is currently drafting a proposal which would extend EA to strategic plans.

It is not sufficient to argue that there is no experience of applying EA to plans and programmes. There is ample experience abroad, especially in the United States, California being a prime example. I can point to at least one excellent example of the application of EA to an action programme in the United Kingdom. Let us consider the EA carried out in 1988 on the lower Colne Valley flood alleviation scheme to the west of London by what was Thames Water and is now the Thames region of the NRA. That involved an EA of the whole scheme with subsequent individual assessments carried out for separate projects along the river valley. While some projects may not have had an immense impact on the environment, taken together the whole scheme was significant. The fact that an EA on the whole scheme was carried out meant that all aspects of flooding and impacts on residential areas, wildlife and landscape were considered.

There is a good case for applying EA to all plans and programmes, but there are few better places to start than a plan for environmental protection. We do not want to solve one environmental problem by creating another.

I turn now to air emissions from power stations. We know that flue gas desulphurisation installations are to be fitted to a number of power stations. One process known as limestone-gypsum requires large quantities of quarried limestone and produces large quantities of gypsum. A significant proportion of that gypsum may find no suitable market and will therefore have to be disposed of, and thus the transport of limestone and gypsum will have a significant impact on local roads and the environment.

The alternative—for instance, the Wellman-Lord regenerative process—requires much less raw material and produces smaller quantities of byproducts. In this case it would be sulphuric acid or sulphur. While the initial cost is likely to be 15 per cent. higher, when the installation is in close proximity to chemical works it is a cost-effective process.

How then can we decide which process to use and in which power stations? The answer is to carry out an EA to identify which mix of processes and technologies would have the least adverse impact on the environment. Other considerations should be included in that assessment. To what extent, for instance, can a proper programme for energy conservation reduce our dependence upon the dirtiest power stations? Other options such as clean-coal technologies and the use of low-sulphur coal and alternative energy sources such as gas should also be considered.

Unfortunately that has not been done. We have seen that FGD equipment is being installed at Drax power station in Yorkshire and is likely to be at Ferrybridge and Ratcliffe-on-Soar. Which process is to be used, one may ask? The answer is the limestone-gypsum process. Has that been chosen after properly assessing the impact on the environment? No. In fact the environmental statements produced by PowerGen for the applications to build FGD plant at both those stations contained no mention of alternative processes. Ferrybridge, for instance, is situated in reasonable proximity to both chemical plants and limestone sources. The possibility that the regenerative process might be less damaging to the environment has not even been considered, let alone dismissed.

An environmental assessment of the plan would look at the options before National Power or PowerGen decided which process to plump for. But the decision has been made without anyone having considered the alternatives or their relative impact on the environment. Perhaps my noble friend on the Front Bench could say whether this decision was made on the grounds of cost alone. I am sure that she will confirm that the draft national plan for emissions is now out for consultation. I am sure that the various conservation organisations will reply to the draft. However, I am of the opinion that an environmental assessment would be immensely valuable.

I hope that my noble friend will feel that there is still scope for including an environmental assessment for national plans on the face of the Bill. I stress that we do not wish to be seen to be dragging our feet on the European proposals to extend EA plans and programmes. We should recognise the benefits and lead the field. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with the purpose of the amendment of my noble friend Lord Norrie. The circumstances are unusual. It is not often that one sees in a statute a power given to a Minister to make plans. It is generally assumed that Ministers will make plans without having to be given the power by Parliament. Here it is merely an optional power to make plans for the purposes stated in paragraphs (c) and (d) of subsection (5).

My noble friend presumably accepts the power of the Secretary of State to make plans but says that if he does make a plan he shall include an assessment of the likely effects on the environment. When Parliament gives powers to Ministers to do this or that, we expect them to do so. It is unusual to ask them to justify that action. Parliament has given them the power and no justification would seem to be needed.

It is also unusual for Ministers to give reasons when carrying out the wishes of Parliament or the powers given by Parliament. For example, with a statutory instrument in pursuit of a subordinate power, even the explanatory note does not give the reasons for it. It merely says what the statutory instrument does. So both the provision in the Bill and my noble friend's amendment are unusual.

In the special circumstances of this matter, especially in the light of its European context, which my noble friend described so clearly, I should have thought that if we were to have these plans at all it would be a great advantage if they included an assessment of the likely effects on the environment. I can see no harm in that. I see advantage in it. I hope that we shall have an interesting and perhaps sympathetic reply.

10.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I hope I shall not disappoint my noble friend Lord Renton. The noble Lord, Lord Norrie, returns to a point he raised in Committee. His amendment would require a statement of environmental impact to be attached to any plan made to limit national emissions of a particular pollutant. Those plans, however, would generally operate over a number of years. The one which is currently out for consultation—that to implement the large combustion plants directive—will cover the period up to 2003. It deliberately does not prescribe the methods which will be used over that period to achieve the cuts in emissions required by the directive over such a long period. Instead, it sets out a clear strategy backed up by legally binding controls for ensuring that the targets are met, but allows some flexibility to the pollution inspectorates and to operators over how those targets will be met. We do not believe that it could sensibly and reasonably adopt any other approach.

With such a strategic document it is hard to see how one could devise a meaningful assessment of environmental impact since the detailed means of its implementation are not set out in the plan. The place for environmental impact assessments is in relation to particular planning applications and proposals where the impact and the alternatives can be more readily and clearly assessed. An application for a flue gas desulphurisation plant, for example, would always need to be accompanied by an environmental impact assessment. I use this example because I recognise that flue gas desulphurisation and the need for limestone to operate it is one of my noble friend's concerns. He fears that much of that limestone may be quarried in the national parks. I hope that he is reassured by National Power's undertaking not to take the limestone for its plant at Drax from any of the national parks.

It is important to stress for my noble friend Lord Norrie that National Power has said that it will not use limestone from the national parks. It is also worth noting that the electricity industry will be only a small customer for limestone. I understand that Drax is likely to require 500,000 tonnes of limestone per annum and that the two other proposed retrofits will require about 300,000 tonnes. However, the Drax retrofit accounts for only 0.4 per cent. of the total UK production of limestone whereas the construction industry accounts for almost 90 per cent. of UK production.

My noble friend Lord Norrie asked me about limestone-gypsum from the FGD process leading to the creation of large quantities of gypsum which then have to be disposed of. Much of the gypsum might be sold to the construction industry for the manufacture of plasterboard, for example, and I understand that some could be used for ballast in road building. On the other hand, why not use the regenerative FGD process—the Wellman-Lord process—which does not need limestone and which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Norrie? That process leads to the production of large amounts of either sulphur or sulphuric acid, as my noble friend said, for which a market would have to be found. It would need to be transported from the station to the purchaser's premises or it would have to be disposed of safely. Returning to the amendment itself, I am bound to say that, while I understand my noble friend's concerns and have listened carefully to what he has said, I am not persuaded at this stage that what he proposes is the right approach. Given those assurances, I hope that he will not press his amendment.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, perhaps I may raise one brief point before the noble Baroness sits down. One group of people has been of great value in affecting the environment in a beneficial way. I am talking about HM Alkali Inspectorate, which perhaps possesses more knowledge on the subject than any other group of professionals. I may have caught the Minister on the hop on this subject, but perhaps she can give an indication whether the inspectorate's views will be sought.

I recently visited Renfrew, where the first desulphurisation plant for Drax was being manufactured. I understand that at that time negotiations were under way with about three groups of companies for the second plant to be fitted with the desulphurisation equipment. Can the Minister tell us where the second contract is now? I understood that only one contract had been let and processed up to about three months ago.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, it is difficult for me to give a specific answer to a specific question, but I am informed that the Alkali Inspectorate is an old name for HMIP. The inspectorate for which the noble Lord has such high regard has been subsumed in HMIP. I can assure the noble Lord that views will be sought from all sources.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I am grateful for that information.

Lord Norrie

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for such an explicit explanation. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for making the situation clearer. In view of the Minister's full explanation at this stage I shall beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 17 and 17A not moved.]

Clause 4 [Discharge and scope of functions]:

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 19: Page 6, line 42, at end insert: ("(3A) The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament in respect of each of the first five years of the operation of this Part a statement that he is satisfied that the resources available to the Chief Inspector in that year are adequate to enable him to carry out his 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 in respect of specialist and other staff and equipment; and
  2. (b) initial costs in relation to staffing, equipment and training.").

The noble Lord said: We now turn to the issue of resources for Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution. It has been referred to in passing but not in the concentrated form of Amendment No. 19.

The amendment provides that the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a statement that he is satisfied that the resources available to the chief inspector are adequate to enable him to carry out his functions. In considering whether the resources are adequate the Secretary of State will take account of the availability of specialist staff and the initial costs in relation to staffing, equipment and training.

I do not believe that the House would welcome any further rehearsal of the difficulties which Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution has experienced over recent years. The Government sought at Committee stage to give assurances about their plans to reinforce the pollution inspectorate. They gave assurances that there were no restrictions on the number of appointments that would be made and that substantial improvements had been made to salary levels in the inspectorate. So far so good. However, since we last considered the matter in Committee more than three months have passed and there has not been any improvement. At the time of the publication of the White Paper there has not been, so far as I know, any reduction in the number of vacancies still to be filled in Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution. Although the Government appear to be committed to finding more staff they have not done so.

If the measures taken by the Government to remove any restrictions on resources for the inspectorate have not succeeded one has to ask what further measures they now propose. One cannot take expenditure on Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution by itself. Everything that the inspectorate does must be undertaken in conjuntion with investment in research and development work by industry, with work by local authorities and so on. The Government claim to be reinforcing the inspectorate but seek to pay for that reinforcement by increasing the charges made by the inspectorate; it must be recognised that the cost of the inspectorate falls on us all and must be met by us all. It should not be related to, or restricted by, the charges that are made.

If existing methods of staffing the inspectorate have failed the Government must consider other methods. They must consider closer co-operation with the environmental health officers in local authorities. They must consider whether some of the work could be done on an agency basis rather than by the inspectorate itself. They must consider whether greater specialisation within the inspectorate as between research work and inspection work should be considered. It should not be necessary for all the members of the inspectorate to have both profound technical qualifications and experience of inspection work within industry. There may be some advantage to be gained from having a corps of people with a high degree of technical knowledge and a number of people to do the legwork who are perhaps not so highly qualified.

I offer these comments not in any criticism of the inspectorate as it is now and not in rejection of the offers that the Government made earlier to try to help the inspectorate. I simply want to bring the position up to date and give the Government an opportunity to offer further assurances. I should like to know whether they are considering creatively the possibilities that are open to make the inspectorate more effective by giving it the opportunity to have enough qualified staff to do the work. I beg to move.

Lord Ross of Newport

My Lords, very briefly, I support this amendment. It is a fairly mild amendment, which asks the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament in each of the first five years of operation a statement that he is satisfied that adequate resources are available to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution. Unfortunately there are rumours still around that it is proving difficult to fill vacancies. Perhaps the Minister can bring us up to date on that point.

There is also the point that many local authorities feel that they could work for HMIP on an agency basis. They have the expert knowledge and it could rationalise some of the spending. Personally—and I daresay the noble Baroness will agree with me—I feel that in our local authorities there is a lot of expertise which is being overlooked at this time and possibly will not be made use of.

I made the same remarks when the Water Bill was being debated. I felt that environmental officers, health officers and others could play a major role in helping the NRA with its problems. I am sure that the same can happen with HMIP. Could we please have an up-to-date report on the staffing situation in Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, our first objective must be to ensure that HMIP is an effective inspectorate so that it can continue to raise the quality of the environment. So, although we considered institutional change in the White Paper, we concluded that the benefits were not strong enough to outweigh the disadvantages of further administrative upheaval at a time when the inspectorate is beginning to get into its stride.

But that decision does not lessen by one iota the Government's commitment that HMIP will have the resources that it needs to do the job. There are currently 225 staff in post in the inspectorate, compared with 148 when it was established in April 1987 and 193 one year ago. The staff complement has recently been further increased to 250 and inspectors' salaries were increased by 28 per cent. last autumn. There are 25 vacancies within the increased complement, 11 of which are reserved for successful candidates from the current recruitment competition. We are continuing to recruit actively to fill the remaining posts.

We continue to look at ways of improving the recruitment success rate of the inspectorate, including keeping under review pay levels. But recruitment is not just about pay, as recruitment consultants will tell you. 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 on which HMIP rightly insists and which industry expects.

The noble Lord's amendment mentioned training. Of course one cannot introduce a sophisticated new system of pollution control without training. So here too the inspectorate is taking action, not only in providing internal training on IPC but also in developing plans for a postgraduate MSc course in integrated pollution management at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. Both the inspectorate and the university are looking forward to the course, which incidentally will be of benefit to industry and local government as well.

I recognise that 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. That is one reason why we intend additionally to strengthen HMIP's position in the longer term so that the inspectorate becomes an executive agency. That will enhance its status and strengthen its authority in controlling pollution.

As The Times newspaper recognised just over a week ago, HMIP is now making headlines, by manifesting its determination to carry through what will be the toughest industrial pollution control system in Europe. (It) is establishing a firm public profile and a confident tone". Awareness is heightened about HMIP. Resources are being increased. Recruitment is buoyant. Salaries, training and career development provision are improved. HMIP has an important job to do. We have undertaken to ensure that it has the resources it needs. That is why it is looking forward to the implementation of IPC. I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.

10.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, from the tone of that answer the Secretary of State should have no fear about the proposal in the amendment that he should present a report to Parliament. It all sounds grand, does it not? I am only partly reassured because some of the evidence goes in the other direction. Much of the integrated pollution control as proposed in Part I of the Bill will not be introduced in April 1991 but only in April 1992. I accept that some specific parts will be brought in next year. However, most will be postponed until the following year. That must be in part at least because of the lack of skilled staff to carry out the work.

I am also less than fully reassured by a statement in the White Paper. I meant to comment on it during an earlier amendment. The White Paper raises the possibility that HMIP might be merged with the NRA. That raises another possibility: that HMIP might take over certain waste disposal functions in addition to its existing functions. However no answer is given to those questions. The possibility of organisational change in the future having been raised, it is simply left in the air. That does not provide a secure basis for the inspectorate to plan its future and to know what its future is likely to be.

I am pleased to hear about the training opportunities which are being taken. I am pleased to hear that recruitment is up on the last figures we were given. However, I am still far from convinced that if the Secretary of State made the proposed report to Parliament he would be able to be as optimistic as the noble Baroness has been in her reply.

I do not intend to press the amendment. However, it has elicited some useful information for which I am grateful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 20 to 22 not moved.]

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 23: After Clause 5, insert the following new clause:

("Publicity for IPC

.—(1) This section shall have effect, together with sections 3(7) and 4(4) above, for the purposes of promoting awareness of the operation of this Part among the general public and persons who may be affected by determinations made or authorisations granted under it.

(2) The Secretary of State or, as the case may be, the enforcing authority, shall give notice in—

  1. (a) the London, Edinburgh or Belfast Gazettes as appropriate; or
  2. (b) at least one local newspaper covering an area likely to be affected by an authorisation, or by any conditions attached thereto

as specified under subsections (3) and (4) below.

(3) The matters in respect of which notice shall be given under subsection (2) (a) above by the Secretary of State shall be as follows—

  1. (a) the laying of draft regulations under sections 2(1) or 2(5) above;
  2. (b) the laying of draft regulations under sections 3(1) or 3(4) above;
  3. (c) the laying of draft regulations under sections 5(1) or 5(2) above;
  4. (d) the making of a direction under section 6(5) or 6(7) below;
  5. (e) a determination of an appeal under section 15(6) below.

(4) The matters in respect of which notice shall be given under subsection 2(b) above by the enforcing authority shall be—

  1. (a) those matters which the enforcing authority has a duty to place on a register under section 20(1) below; and
  2. (b) any conditions included in an authorisation under section 7(1) below").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that there is greater public knowledge about what the Government are providing in the Bill. It follows from the debates in Committee. If I remember correctly, we then asked the Government if they would consider publishing all the relevant regulations in several of the serious national dailies. The reply was that that was not needed. However, the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, stated that Government had a firm commitment towards letting the general public know what was going on.

The amendment effectively follows the firm commitment that the Government apparently have. It asks the Government to publish in the Gazettes of London, Edinburgh or Belfast, or in a local paper, depending upon which is more appropriate, a series of regulations on such matters as the prescribed substances and the setting up of pollution standards.

There is no real need to go through the provisions in detail, especially at this time of night. However, I do not believe that putting them on to the face of the Bill will seriously inconvenience the Government in any way. It will give the general public easier access to the information that is there but not readily available. It will reassure the public and let people know when something goes wrong. If the general public does not have confidence in the new regulations the Bill will fail to some extent. We are asking for trouble if the public does not believe that we have some form of environmental protection. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

My Lords, the Government want to ensure that the public and operators of processes are fully aware of the progress of integrated pollution control and local authority air pollution control. That is why we have provided for public registers of information about prescribed processes, and information will be locally available, free of charge for anyone who wants to see it. The information on the registers will include copies of applications for authorisations, the authorisations themselves, notices served by the enforcing authority, details of convictions for offences, and monitoring information. That is in addition to the two examples cited in the noble Lord's amendment, details of any direction made by the Secretary of State and the result of the determination of any appeal under Clause 15.

But that commitment to giving people information should in our view go further than registers alone. That is why under the draft regulations that we shall be issuing shortly we shall be proposing that details of applications for authorisations shall be advertised in at least one newspaper circulating in the area of the process. The public will have a chance to comment on the application before an authorisation is given. That is why in the same regulations we shall be proposing that appeal hearings must be advertised in at least one local newspaper—so that the public has the opportunity to put across its point of view.

I hope that the explanation goes some way to reassuring the noble Lord. However, in our view it would be an excessive burden of time and money to require HMIP and local authorities to advertise in local newspapers every change that they make to the public register, as the noble Lord's amendment would require. The registers will change many times every year; for example, to incorporate new monitoring information. But that does not require changes to be advertised. I repeat that the public has a right to inspect the register free of charge and at any reasonable time.

Nor do I believe that it is either necessary or sensible to provide that the draft regulations that we shall be making under Part I should be advertised in the Gazettes. We intend to consult widely and we intend to consult soon. We intend to consult widely because we want to involve people in the new systems of pollution control. We want to consult soon so that we can give people enough time to consider our proposals in detail and give ourselves enough time to take account of their views before the new pollution systems become operational on 1st April next year. That is why we intend to issue the draft regulations for consultation later this month. We look forward to hearing what people have to say.

Lord Addington

My Lords, the Minister's answer shed a certain amount of light. I would rather have a publication that is more readily available than the register so that we can see what is going on. When all is said and done, that is what the amendments are about. We should like to make access as easy as possible. However, as the Government are moving more towards that line of thought, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment at this time.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 24 to 29 not moved.]

Schedule 1 [Authorisations for Processes: Supplementary Provisions]:

[Amendment No. 30 not moved.]

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 31: Page 149, line 28, at end insert ("or exclude any class of information contained in applications for authorisations from those requirements, in all cases or as respects specified classes only of persons to be consulted.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 33 and 35. At the outset, I underline industry's wish to be as open as possible in matters of pollution control and waste disposal. Nevertheless, when we discussed the matter of confidentiality of commercial processes at an earlier stage, I expressed some reservations.

Although Clause 22 allows confidential information to be omitted from registers of information if an appeal is successful, and Clause 21 makes the same provision as regards national security information, the terms of Schedule 1 state that the whole of an application for an authorisation must be copied to any statutory consultees prescribed under paragraph (2).

At this stage we do not know who those statutory consultees are to be. However, if any one is a commercial organisation, it seems to me to be wrong that that organisation should be copied in on the commercial secrets of another because in what is undoubtedly a hi-tech business commercial secrets can be very valuable to an individual company. Amendment No. 31 simply allows the Secretary of State, in the regulations he is to make under Schedule 1, to exclude national security and commercially confidential information from being copied to statutory consultees. In other words, there is a discretion on the Secretary of State.

Amendments Nos. 33 and 35 allow the same exclusions to be made in respect of applications for variations. I do not believe that these amendments detract at all from the general sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, nor indeed from the right for registers to be inspected and the public to be informed about what is happening as regards pollution control. I hope that your Lordships will agree to this amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend for spotting these anomalies. He has made a good case and I have no hesitation in accepting the amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 32: Page 150, line 25, leave out ("a request is made in the prescribed manner") and insert (", in the manner prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State, a request is made').

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 33: Page 151, line 23, at end insert ("or exclude any class of information relating to action to be taken by holders of authorisations from all or any of those requirements, in all cases or as respects specified classes only of persons to be consulted.").

On. Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 35: Page 152, line 8, at end insert ("or exclude any class of information furnished with applications for variations of authorisations from all or any of those requirements, in all cases or as respects specified classes only of persons to be consulted.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 7 [Conditions of authorisations/]:

[Amendment No. 36 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 37: Page 10, line 1, after ("the") insert ("matters specified in subsection (3A) and the").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 7. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 38: Page 10, line 5, at end insert: ("(3A) The Secretary of State shall give directions under subsection (3) above to require the inclusion as conditions of authorisations of the following—

  1. (a) the minimisation of pollution to environmental media;
  2. (b) the protection of the biosphere;
  3. (c) the development of the sustainable use of natural resources;
  4. (d) the reduction, minimisation and acceptable disposal of waste;
  5. (e) the conservation of energy;
  6. (f) the minimisation of environmental health and safety risks to employees and to other persons;
  7. (g) the adoption of voluntary controls over the safety of goods and services produced for sale;
  8. (h) the undertaking of adequate provision for compensation for damage caused by the person authorised, or his processes or products;
  9. (i) the disclosure of adequate information to employees and enforcement agencies on matters relevant to the environment and health and safety; and
  10. (j) the undertaking of periodic assessments and audits to monitor the effectiveness of any principles of actions adopted").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 7. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

11 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 39: Page 10, line 14, leave out ("and").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 39 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 40. Noble Lords will recall that the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, tabled an amendment at Committee stage which put the enforcing authorities under duties to conserve and protect flora and fauna along the lines of the duties applicable to the NRA under the Water Act 1989. He was concerned that there should be a smooth relationship between the pollution inspectorate and the National Rivers Authority. However, he feared that there was not the same environmental duty to further conservation and amenities in the pollution inspectorate's terms of reference.

I am sorry that the noble Lord is no longer present. He gave examples of disposal routes for waste and pollution which could harm feeding bird populations and drain into water courses. Once the pollution enters the water courses it is the responsibility of the NRA. In the meantime it is the pollution inspectorate which is involved with discharge from factories, and indeed local authorities in so far as they are concerned. It seems reasonable to pursue his line of argument by tabling Amendment No. 40, which adds to the conditions for authorisation, furthering so far as practicable the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty and amenity and the conservation of flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features of special interest".

When the noble Lord, Lord Reay, replied to that debate he said that creating a conservation duty would cut across the structure of Clause 7, and that Clause 7 already included general requirements to use BATNEEC. He did not see how an amendment specifically devoted to further conservation which did not cut across BATNEEC could be drafted. That is what the amendment seeks to do.

At Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, thought that possible. His amendment at that time sought to place on the enforcing authorities duties which presumably they would deal with by their licensing activities. This amendment directly incorporates a conservation duty into the conditions of licences and applies directly to licences. Clause 7(4) sets out the general conditions which are applied in the licence so that the licensee must use BATNEEC to prevent releases, and make harmless any releases which occur.

The amendment adds a third general condition, that as far as practicable the interests of conservation should be adhered to. Therefore the rather technical and negative response from the Government Front Bench to the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, at Committee stage ought not to apply. The amendment as drafted meets those obligations. It is self-evidently a good thing to protect conservation in this way, and ensure that HMIP and the National Rivers Authority have comparable interests and powers. I hope therefore that the Government will accept these amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

My Lords, these amendments seek to make the promotion of nature conservation an explicit objective of the authorisation procedure. Worthy though this aim is, we cannot accept its relevance to Part I of the Bill. Industrial pollution control is designed to ensure that releases cause no environmental harm, whether to organisms or ecosystems; not to promote nature conservation.

Many noble Lords will be aware of schemes that individual industrialists and their companies have funded to enhance the environment; the creation of nature reserves and educational sites, the cleaning up of estuaries and other areas, the protection of particular habitats. These are to be applauded and encouraged. But it would be inappropriate for us to legislate, as this amendment would have us do, to require such schemes from all scheduled processes.

The objective of this part of the Bill is to protect the environment from harm from industrial activity. This indeed is the primary aim of authorisations. And our system of public consultation on applications for authorisation and publication of monitoring data will allow all those interested in the environment to ensure that the duty imposed on operators and enforcing agencies is fully met.

We are offering an additional safeguard in respect of sites of special scientific interest. We have agreed that the two Nature Conservancy Councils and the Countryside Council for Wales will be statutory consultees for all applications which may involve a release of any substance which is likely to affect an SSSI within their area. They will therefore be able to ensure that the enforcing authority is fully aware of the conditions they would wish to impose to ensure no harm is caused to such SSSIs. We do not believe that the more positive objective sought by the amendments is practicable. What might "furthering the enhancement of natural beauty" be taken to mean? Does it mean providing new amenity facilities?

We believe the requirement to prevent environmental harm and the nomination of the councils as statutory consultees on applications for authorisation to be a sufficient safeguard for nature conservation. I hope the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, that response is simply an assertion and no evidence whatever is produced to support it. The arguments that the Minister put forward in Committee were shot down in flames. Indeed, he has not sought to revive them. He has not told us again that what we are proposing would cut across the aims of Clause 7. He now says that it is not appropriate or not relevant to Part I in general.

However, in Clause 7 there are references to the duties of the National Rivers Authority. I cannot find them for the moment but the Section 7 duties under the 1989 Water Act are enshrined in Part I of this Bill. As the noble Lord will recognise, the National Rivers Authority acts on water pollution for the pollution inspectorate. Therefore, we already have in the Bill provisions for conservation in so far as concerns the National Rivers Authority acting for the inspectorate.

There is no difference in principle in accepting that there should be this additional general condition for a licence to be given by the pollution inspectorate. In any case, as the Minister failed to say, this is not laying down something hard and fast. The amendment states only that so far as practicable the licence should pay attention to conservation matters.

I am not at all satisfied with the Minister's answer. If it were not for the lateness of the hour I should certainly seek the opinion of the House, but for that time reason alone I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 40 to 43 not moved.]

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

[Amendment No. 44 not moved.]

Clause 12 [Revocation of authorisation]:

[Amendment No. 45 not moved.]

Clause 14 [Prohibition notices]:

[Amendment No. 46 not moved.]

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

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 47: Page 17, line 22, at end insert ("(except where the decision implements a direction of his)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 19 [Obtaining of information from persons and authorities]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 48: Page 22, line 18, after ("their") insert ("respective").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 20 [Public registers of information]:

[Amendments Nos. 49 and 50 not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 50A: Page 23, line 7, at end insert: ("(j) any report of an investigation which it has carried out into pollution of the environment").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I speak also to Amendments Nos. 50B and 51 to 53. These amendments deal with different aspects of freedom of information about the environment. This is a most important principle established by the Opposition, at any rate, on Second Reading and I am glad to see it is reflected to a considerable extent not so much in the Bill but in the White Paper.

It is now generally recognised that the effectiveness of environmental protection depends considerably on the extent to which environment information is available to the general public so that they can take action to protect the environment. One of the features of the White Paper is that instead of proposing government action it continually proposes action by the general public, who can only act if they have the information on which to act. Amendment No. 50A to Clause 20 provides that the public register of information should include any report of an investigation which it has carried out into pollution of the environment". At the moment the only information that is available is the sampling results and any enforcement notice. So there is no requirement that a report into the health effects, for example, of a pollution incident or the cause of the incident should be included in the public register.

That is not just a theoretical point. There is the history of the cover-up that took place after the Camelford water pollution incident. For those whose health was seriously affected by the releases into the water it took many months to get anywhere near the truth. It was not just damaging to their health that they did drink the polluted water; it was also damaging to their health that they did not know and were not told what was wrong. A number of so-called investigations were set up which had the intention, I have to say, of covering up rather than revealing to the people affected what had happened. It was a really disgraceful incident. In many ways it is still going on. There is still no full acceptance of responsibility for the damage that was done at Camelford. There is no full understanding of what the long-term medical effects are likely to be. In addition to the other matters that should be included on a public register, there should be a report of any investigation that has been carried out into pollution of the environment.

Amendment No. 50B has the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, attached to it, and I am glad to see that. Here we are concerned that we should exclude from public registers matters affecting national security. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, is better qualified to speak on that subject than I am and I leave that matter to him.

Amendments Nos. 51 to 53 are concerned with Clause 22 and the exclusion of certain kinds of confidential information. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is still in his seat. I know that he is very concerned, perhaps from a slightly different point of view from mine, that there should be adequate protection of commercial confidentiality. I have to say to him that the thrust of our amendments is in the other direction. We feel that commercial confidentiality has not only been adequately covered by the Bill but in many senses has been excessively covered. Therefore, in Amendments Nos. 51 and 53 we are proposing that where an enforcing authority is of the opinion that information which has been excluded because it is commercially confidential is no longer commercially confidential, the enforcing authority, with certain precautions—in other words, informing the person concerned and giving the opportunity for representation and so on—should take account of the representations and delete the commercially confidential label and include the information on the register.

Amendment No. 52 does the same thing: it excludes the provision for commercial confidentiality when information has ceased to be commercially confidential. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, as well as the Government, will feel that this is a reasonable restriction on the commercial confidentiality exclusion and that the public interest will indeed be well served without damage to any particular person if these amendments are agreed to. I beg to move.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, perhaps I may speak to' Amendment No. 50B. I support what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, has said on the other amendments in the group. In terms of commercial confidentiality, it is right that we should try to maintain a proper if delicate balance in these matters. It would be foolish to have a Bill that fell over on one side of that point of balance. In the interests of industry itself as well as in the interests of the public it is foolish to treat things as confidential when they have ceased to be so.

I wish to address my remarks to the anomaly which exists within the Bill between those matters which are treated as commercially confidential information and are excluded from the register under Clause 22 and those matters where information is excluded under Clause 21 on the grounds of national security and where no similar acknowledgment of the existence of these items is included in the Bill. The purpose of the amendment is to require an acknowledgment that these sources of pollution exist.

Under the Bill it would be possible to suppress from the registers all reference to the very existence of highly polluting sources from, for instance, defence establishments. We should not pretend that the existence of these establishments is not well known. It is already public knowledge and therefore the reference to them in the register is not in itself harmful. I understand the sensitivity of some of these establishments to people mentioning their very existence, but their existence is known. It would be foolish to pretend in the Bill that it is not.

On the other hand, there is a downside to this argument in that the undeclared censoring of the register may encourage the suspicion to be directed towards innocent parties. In other words, if pollution is coming from one of these establishments which is not on the public record, people might look for other sources of pollution. That would be unfair to those who are innocent. That situation is likely to occur if pollution damage is visible but where the real source has been suppressed in the public records. This amendment would require the registers to include a note acknowledging that information about an establishment had been withheld in the interests of national security.

This is not a new concept. It is already acknowledged as normal practice in existing pollution registers. For instance, Section 117 of the Water Act 1989 requires that the NRA should maintain a register of water pollution information. Paragraph 1(7) (b) of Schedule 12 to that Act allows for details of particular premises to be withheld from the register where the Secretary of State issues a certificate that disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. That certificate is placed on the register. But the very existence of that source is not denied. Similar arrangements exist for air pollution registers established under Part IV of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, where again the Secretary of State can direct that information about premises should be withheld in the public interest. But the fact that he has done so must be inscribed on the register.

Some premises have been exempted altogether from air pollution disclosures under the 1974 Act but there is nothing secret about the identity of these premises. They are all listed under the Control of Atmospheric Pollution (Exempted Premises) Regulations 1977. Among those specified are the premises of the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment, the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Boscombe Down, the Rocket Propulsion Establishment, the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment and others—in other words, the sort of places which may well be excluded by the provision in this Bill.

These examples indicate that the normal practice is to acknowledge when information about particular premises has been withheld on national security grounds. That fact was accepted by the Government as recently as 1989 during the passage of the Water Act. Amendment No. 50B would merely bring the Environmental Protection Bill in line with what is accepted as a precedent for such establishments.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, mentioned my name, perhaps I may say a few words on the matter. In my view he is somewhat confusing secrecy and confidentiality. I say that because to claim commercial confidentiality the information will have to be divulged to a body which will determine whether it falls within that category. If it does not, then the information is open and will appear on a register. However, if the information is deemed to be commercially confidential then it is known only to a number of people.

In terms of a process, bearing in mind the fact that a technological process is soon overtaken by newer and better processes, is the noble Lord suggesting that there should be another body of people to determine when commercial confidentiality shall cease? Surely there will be a natural cessation and then, I imagine, the process would automatically find its way to the register. Frankly speaking, I do not think that these amendments are necessary for that very reason.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I shall deal first with Amendment No. 50A. I can assure your Lordships that a report of an investigation into pollution of the environment will be made publicly available. The regulations we are preparing will certainly require simple monitoring data collected by the enforcing authorities specific to a particular prescribed process to be placed on the register. If a fuller report is prepared which relates to the environment around one particular process, then that too should go on the register along with other information about that process. But if the report is more general and does not relate to a particular prescribed process, then there is no need for the information to go on the register. However, the information will be made available to the public in line with the requirements of the European Commission's directive on public access to environmental information which this Government did so much to support and which was agreed earlier this year.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, not only on his patience for waiting to speak to what is almost the last amendment of the day but also for his research through previous legislation. However, I am not convinced that we are comparing like with like. Although Section 79 of the Control of Pollution Act makes positive provision for local authorities to obtain information about the emission of pollutants and other substances into the air it must consult interested bodies, such as council members, nominees of local industry and suitably qualified local individuals at least twice a year about how far and in what way information collected should be made available to the public. That is perhaps why local authorities have made almost negligible use of these discretionary powers.

The Bill offers no such prior discussion with interested parties about how information is to be collected. This Bill gives them much more power to collect the information they need. Additionally, Section 79 of the Control of Pollution Act did not apply to the main polluting processes controlled under the Alkali Act which now pass to control under this Bill. Again, we are not comparing like with like.

There are differences too between the water registers and those intended for IPC. The water registers are concerned with discharge limits. IPC registers will contain a copy of the application, including a detailed map marking precisely where the prescribed process is located, detailed information about the process, the materials to be used and produced and many other detailed descriptions of elements of the process.

The information goes way beyond what is contained on other registers; it has to be right therefore that we take the proper powers so that information which could damage national security is not identified.

That is not to say that information will be exempted lightly from the public register on the grounds of national security. The guiding principle behind this clause is that information is made freely available to the public in as comprehensive a manner as it is possible to do. For example, the noble Lord mentioned the fact that premises exempted from the air pollution disclosure provisions of the 1974 Act are listed in regulations. My response is that if they are listed in that way there would be no grounds for excluding that same information from the registers established under this clause.

As with applications for commercial confidentiality, we shall require cogent and specific evidence to substantiate a claim that disclosure would prejudice national security. By cogent and specific we mean a detailed examination of why each and every item which could be included in the register should be excluded. I do not expect blanket exemptions to be given in any but the most exceptional case.

I hope that that explanation will have reassured the noble Lord that we do not intend, as he feared, that national security will be used systematically to suppress references to such establishments. Nor should he worry about suspicion being directed at innocent parties. Their records will be on the register for all to see. I urge him not to press his amendment.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 51, 52 and 53, I have listened to the arguments put forward by the noble Lord about the way in which information which has ceased to be commercially confidential should be handled. The Bill provides for that under Clause 22(7).

I have to confess that that subsection resulted from an amendment tabled by the Opposition in the other place which provided that commercial confidentiality should be time limited and that it should be renewed only by an application to the enforcing authority. We consulted industrial trade associations and environmental groups before concluding that four years was about the right time for information to remain confidential before such a renewal application should be made. As was only to be expected, some parties wanted a very much longer period and others a much shorter one. We believe that four years strikes the right balance, and it has the important advantage of meshing in with the four-yearly review cycle of authorisations.

The problem with Amendment No. 53 is that it would remove that degree of certainty that the current provision has. For example, having been told that information was commercially confidential one day, an operator would not know whether he would be told the next that it should go on the register. I suggest that that uncertainty of continuous review would provide a disincentive to invest in research into less polluting technology as the operator would fear that the commercial advantages of doing so would be destroyed by the information appearing too quickly on the public register; and for the enforcing authority the implied duty to review continuously would be completely impractical. We think a fixed time-scale is appropriate; and, having consulted, four years seems about right. The last point may have answered my noble friend Lord Lucas.

I considered Amendment No. 52 most carefully. Subsection (9) of the clause meets the point of the noble Lord's amendment by applying subsections (5) and (6) to cases where an authority has determined that the information has ceased to be commercially confidential. That has the same effect as the noble Lord's amendment. I hope that he is reassured by this explanation.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that comprehensive reply. I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, will be happy with the answer that he received because, as I understood it, he was making a relatively simple point: not that national security should in any way be endangered by his amendment but that the extension of the concept of national security to deny even that such establishments existed and that people did not know about them was going too far. That point was not answered.

On Amendment No. 50A, as I understand it the Minister was telling me that reports of investigations will be made public but that they will not be made public on the public register. Despite what she said about the European directive on environmental information, I urge her to consider whether it might not be to the public benefit if the public register were to be the comprehensive, unique and well-recognised source of environmental information and whether the European directive might not be better complied with if the public register, which is provided for in these clauses, were to include reports of investigations. If the public have to go to different sources for different bits of information, I suggest that the information is not as effective as it would otherwise be.

I turn now to the noble Baroness's answers on Amendments Nos. 51, 52 and 53. She is quite right in saying that the original impetus for a recognition of the cessation of commercial confidentiality came from Opposition amendments in another place. What she does not say is that the Opposition amendments argued in the first instance for a shorter period of review, in other words every 18 months, and that the four-year compromise which the Government reached did not have the support of the Opposition. I do not think that we can be tarred with that particular brush.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, argued that there would be a natural cessation of commercial confidentiality. That is not the case. The Opposition in another place brought about the unnatural cessation, so to speak, of commercial confidentiality. I still do not think that the case for greater flexibility has been adequately refuted by the Government's arguments. I draw particular attention to the care taken in the drafting of Amendment No. 53 to make sure that when the enforcing authority—it is the enforcing authority and nobody else which has this responsibility—is of the opinion that the information has ceased to be commercially confidential, it has to give the person to whom it relates notice. It has to give him a reasonable opportunity to make representations and if, after taking account of representations, it decides that the information has ceased to be commercially confidential, it, shall notify the person concerned of its intention to include the information in the register". In other words, all the appeals procedure is fail-safe for the person whose business it is. Nothing will be put on the register until the entire procedure has been concluded.

I consider that we have gone not just a very long way but all the way that anybody could reasonably demand to make these reasonable and acceptable amendments. I do not think that this part of the Bill as drafted is adequate for the purpose. Again, this may be a matter to which we have to return at Third Reading. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 50B not moved]

11.30 p.m.

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

[Amendments Nos. 51 to 53 not moved.]

Lord Tordoff moved Amendment No. 54: Page 26, line 4 after ("may") insert ("have been determined to").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 54 standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran and speak also to Amendment No. 122. In doing so, I should declare an interest as a non-executive director of a chemical company. I am advised on this matter by the Chemical Industries Association, a worthy body for which I have considerable respect.

In Committee, the Minister defended the need for subsection (7) in circumstances such as the aftermath of a Chernobyl type catastrophe. To alleviate unnecessary public concern, it might be necessary to release information that was otherwise regarded as commercially confidential. That is well understood and accepted, even though we find it hard to envisage such situations and even harder to envisage situations where the operator himself did not agree to the release of information in such terrifying circumstances. However, we accept that the Secretary of State needs powers to take action if the operator refused to allow the information to be released.

The problem with the subsection is that it goes beyond this position and appears to empower the Secretary of State to give blanket directions decreeing, for example, that henceforth no information about substances emitted from any prescribed process should be accepted as being confidential. This clearly goes beyond the scope of what is intended in relation to what the Minister said. I cannot for the life of me remember which Minister it was; we have had so many dealing with the Bill. Perhaps I may take the opportunity of welcoming the noble Baroness to the seat of power on the other side of the House at this stage, late though it is in the evening.

The amendment preserves the Secretary of State's power to override previous decisions while preventing him from limiting the overall scope of the clause. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I have listened carefully to the noble Lord. The amendments looked convincing from a drafting point of view when I first saw them on paper, but, despite the arguments that the noble Lord has advanced today, I do not think that it would be right to accept them.

There may be occasions when information has not been determined to be commercially confidential—for example, if it is the subject of an appeal—but which would need to be placed on the register in the public interest. It would not be right for information which had gone through the appeal process and been determined to be confidential to go on the register while exempting that still at the appeal stage.

With that brief explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, with the greatest respect to the noble Baroness, with that brief but almost unintelligible explanation, I seek leave to withdraw the amendment on the basis that I need to look carefully at what she has said at this late hour. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Reay

My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at twenty-four minutes before midnight.