HL Deb 04 June 1992 vol 537 cc1019-20

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress is being made in establishing the environmental protection agency for Scotland and the proposed similar agency for England and Wales.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie)

My Lords, The Government intend to create environment agencies for Scotland, England and Wales at the earliest legislative opportunity. We are currently examining the results of the recent separate consultation exercises and will announce our plans for the agencies as soon as possible.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for his reply. I welcome the progress which has been reported in Scotland, where the Secretary of State for Scotland possesses all the environmental functions and his own corps of inspectors. However, what is happening in England and Wales? I ask that because a year ago there were high hopes for a body which would exercise overall vigilance to forestall pollution and damage.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, as my noble friend will appreciate, in the consultation paper published by the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Wales four options were spelt out. A large number of responses were received in answer to them. The Secretary of State is currently considering which of the options should be the one to go forward.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, in view of the fact that some sea defences are no longer cost effective to maintain, can the Minister assure the House that the proposed environmental protection agencies will be given sufficient funds to enable them to compensate landowners where land is lost through flooding?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, the noble Baroness will appreciate from the answer that I have just given that we are considering a number of options which set out what might be the appropriate model for an environmental protection agency in England. At least one of those options would not embrace anything to do with sea protection, which will remain with the National Rivers Authority. In those circumstances, we will need to know what particular model is to be selected for England and Wales before a complete answer can he given.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord given any indication of the length of time involved? I know that he has given some clues as to the period of consultation, but is there any possibility of him giving the House some idea of a likely timetable for the legislation? As regards Scotland, will it at least include the much-promised establishment of a national parks authority?

Does the Minister agree that some effort will be needed to consolidate as much of the legislation on environment as is possible? While I fully understand the point made by my noble friend Lady Nicol about compensation for landowners—and I believe that that will be necessary—I hope that the legislation, if it comes, will be much more thoroughly drawn than the present legislation which has caused a great deal of discomfort and criticism in Scotland on the question of compensation to landowners.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, in answer to the first part of the noble Lord's question regarding a national parks authority, the short answer is no. I cannot go further than to say that the plans will be announced as soon as possible. As the noble Lord will appreciate, there was no mention of that in the legislative programme announced in the Queen's Speech. However, I should indicate to the noble Lord that drafting of the Bill will proceed as soon as possible so that we are in a position to take advantage of an early legislative opportunity.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I apologise for following my noble friend but I have a most important question to put to the noble and learned Lord. He referred to an environmental protection agency for England, but may we all assume that there will also be an environmental protection agency for Wales?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, with respect to the noble Lord, in my original Answer I referred to environmental agencies for Scotland, England and Wales. Certainly Wales will not be excluded from the ambit of an agency.

Viscount Caldecote

My Lords, can my noble and learned friend explain the division of responsibilities among the environmental protection agency, English Nature, and similar bodies in Scotland and Wales?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, the short answer to my noble friend's question is no. The particular model which is to be selected for the environmental protection agency has not yet been established.

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