HL Deb 21 January 1993 vol 541 cc966-1012

Lord Nathan rose to move, That this House takes note of the report of the European Communities Committee on the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Legislation [9th Report, 1991–92, HL Paper 53.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it will, I believe, be for the convenience of the House if, on moving the Motion, I also speak to the second Motion. I much look forward to the maiden speeches of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the noble Earl, Lord Portland, who will bring fresh light to the dark places we have explored.

Both reports are about making environmental policy and law work. Community and environmental law now consists of over 200 pieces of legislation. It is a field in which effective implementation and enforcement is particularly relevant. However, when this study started it was realised that the subject was of far wider relevance and that the problems, and many of the solutions, were likely to relate to most fields of legislation. Therefore, the implications of this debate and of the responses of Government to many of the questions that will be raised go further than just the environment.

Indeed, there have just come into my hands explanatory memoranda from the Department of Trade and Industry dated 14th January this year on the Sutherland Report and the Commission's response. Peter Sutherland is a former commissioner whose report is on the operation of the internal market. It echoes some of the recommendations in our report made some nine months ago, in particular as to formation of policy, the form of legislation and the process of enforcement. It has nothing to do with the environment; I believe that that is highly relevant.

Nevertheless, there are special features relating to the environment. For instance, in the field of competition, the undertakings regulated tend to scrutinise competitors' activities; and to that extent there is a measure of self regulation which may itself stimulate public authorities to discharge their duties. In the environmental field economic incentives are absent or more remote. It is in that context that "green watchdogs", to which I shall refer as NGOs, have an important part to play. I shall refer to that later.

There are three main stages of implementation. There is the manner in which European policy is formulated and embodied in EC law and its transposition into the national law of each member state. There is then the establishment of national policies, administration and sanctions to make it effective. Lastly there is enforcement.

Hitherto low priority has been accorded to implementation and, within the EC, great enthusiasm (perhaps too great) for legislation. Dr. Caroline Jackson, a Member of the European Parliament, vividly put it to us when she stated: Too often adoption of law is seen as the end of the procedure, and then we all go down on our knees and hope and pray that something happens". Legislation which is ineffective not only represents a waste of the time of those engaged in it but brings the system and the Community into disrepute.

The purpose of the legislation and its scientific basis, where relevant, must be explicit and open to scrutiny. That leads to the need for increased consultation prior to legislation and more Green Papers. The requirement of effectiveness, by implementation and enforcement, needs to be considered at the prelegislative stage as well as when legislation is being made. It is encouraging that in their response to the report the Government indicate their support for that view. It would be helpful if in his reply the Minister could indicate lines of action that he proposes to pursue to achieve those ends.

At the December 1992 Environment Council under the UK presidency it appears that the Commission agreed to bring implementation and enforcement regularly before the Council. I applaud the Government's initiative and the achievement of that result. However, while general discussion would represent an advance, examination of specific directives or groups of directives is also required. It is essential that the Council should know the effect of its legislation in the member states. But it is also important that the Government should be informed of any failure of the Commission itself to fulfil its obligations to report. I refer, for instance, to the five-year report on the operation of the environmental impact assessment directive which was due long ago. The European Environment Agency would have an important role to play in all that.

The Committee expressed its dismay—which is widely shared —that the Council's decision to establish the European Environment Agency has been frustrated by failure to agree a permanent seat. It could facilitate assessment of the effectiveness of Community environmental policies and improve the basis of policy making. It has a crucial role to play. Will the Government give an indication as to what action they propose to take to get the agency on foot and working?

The proposal of the former Secretary of State for the Environment for the establishment of a Community audit inspectorate appears to have fallen on stony ground. The idea of such an inspectorate has a respectable ancestry in that something along the lines envisaged now was put forward, so far as I know for the first time, by Lord Ashby in a debate in your Lordships' House on 30th April 1981. That is referred to in the Official Report at col. 1321.

Its function would be to examine the policies and performance of regulatory authorities in member states and to report to the member states, the Commission and the European Parliament. It would act as a watchdog for environmental policy, as does the Court of Auditors in relation to systems of financial control.

The Government appear to have in mind that they would confine their interests to pollution control. That seems to me to be too narrow a remit. Environmental legislation now stretches far beyond pollution to environmental assessment, habitat protection and eco-labelling to mention but a few. The collection of information, verification of data, methods of monitoring, sampling and analysis seems to me to be far more akin to the functions of the European Environment Agency than to the Commission, whose duties include enforcement of environmental laws on the failure of a member state to do so. Its separation from the Commission would also enable it to examine the Commission's role, for example, in providing financial assistance to member states through structural and other funds. I therefore urge the Government to accept the proposition that the inspectorate which they put forward should come within the European Environment Agency rather than the Commission. I note from their response that their minds are not closed to that idea. I hope that the Minister may feel able to indicate whether he would accept that view or at least confirm that his mind is still open.

I understand that difficulties have been encountered, for example, in Germany where there are constitutional problems arising from the federal structure which preclude the Federal Government from agreeing. It would be helpful if the Minister would confirm or correct what I have said about why progress has not been made and what steps the Government intend to take to overcome these difficulties.

During the Dutch presidency, the idea of creating a networking arrangement of environmental enforcement agencies was accepted and during the UK presidency this resulted in the foundation of a permanent, Community-wide network representing all member states. That approach should assist in developing a measure of uniformity of approach and action throughout the Community and is thus much to be welcomed. It is in concept and practice quite distinct from the proposed audit inspectorate.

However, it is confined to national agencies relating to industrial plant and does not concern itself with river quality or bathing waters, the environmental assessment directive, birds or habitat and other environmental matters. Is the Minister aware of any further similar initiatives in the pipeline to extend networking into other areas?

I referred earlier to the special problems relating to enforcement of environmental law. We are particularly fortunate in the UK in the number and quality of the NGOs acting as pressure groups for enforcement. Enforcement of Community obligations is primarily a matter for member states which should be answerable not only to the Community but also to the local community. It is therefore necessary that their decisions be open to review. In the UK there are difficulties in seeking such a review—including the restrictive application which the courts in England have given to judicial review proceedings.

In our report, we recommend—as we did in an earlier report—that individuals and NGOs, subject to appropriate safeguards, should be given ready access to the courts to seek review of decisions of public bodies concerning implementation and enforcement of environmental legislation. That would entail modification of the very tight rules relating to locus standi and perhaps some change in the current judicial review procedure. The Government say that they remain to be convinced that there is any need to extend the current right of access to the courts in respect of environmental questions.

I much hope that the Minister may be convinced by this debate of the need for change and that he may in his reply agree, or at any rate undertake to give further consideration to it. That might indeed be a cheaper and more convenient procedure than complaints to the Community.

The two member states against which the most complaints were made in 1990 were Spain and the United Kingdom. As regards the United Kingdom, it reflects environmental awareness and the activism of the NGOs rather than more numerous breaches than in other member states. The number of complaints relating to the environment is at present about 500 a year. That number overloads the capacity of the Commission to deal with them with speed and effectiveness.

By far the most common basis for the mounting of direct enforcement action by the Commission under Article 169 of the treaty is receipt of a complaint. The investigatory procedure should be open to scrutiny, which at present it is not. Where a complaint is not proceeded with, the complainant or private interests affected have no right to know the basis of the decision, nor have they had any opportunity as of right to make representations.

Article 169 letters and reasoned opinions sent by the Commission to the member state and the responses should be made public. At present they are not. Those documents should be regarded as having a formal, legal character and should be made public like other such documents. Negotiation and clarification between the Commission and the member state can and should be separate—and normally earlier—than the issue of the Article 169 letter. I much hope that the Minister may be able to say that these very important matters will be considered further.

If environmental policies are to be effective, they need to be considered as policy is formulated in other contexts. For example, when schemes for road construction are under consideration, the environmental factors as well as the transport factors need to be embodied in those schemes. Quite recently, development of a road and tunnel through the Pyrenees, financed by the regional fund, was stopped by order of a French court. The approach road was to pass through the last habitat available in France for the brown bear. We are not alone in having these problems!

In many fields, including industrial development, embodying environmental factors at the planning stage rather than adding them as a bolt-on requirement later is not only environmentally desirable but economically essential. For nothing is so expensive as modification or retrofitting after construction to meet environmental requirements.

Of course, conflicts may arise between environmental and other policy requirements which have to be resolved, as political issues, by the commissioners. The defect at present is that environmental factors are too frequently ignored. Cost/benefit analysis may have an important part to play in this context, particularly where there are likely to be short-term economic benefits but long-term disbenefits.

The emphasis of the Fifth Environmental Action Programme on integration of Community policies as a key factor secured the support of the informal Environment Council meeting held at Gleneagles last September, during the UK presidency. The Select Committee has been pressing for action to further integration since 1980. There have been spasmodic initiatives by the Commission, such as the environmentally sensitive area scheme in the agricultural context, the Green Papers on Energy and the Environment and Sustainable Mobility. But these were ad hoc responses to political issues rather than the result of systematic administrative processes. It is to the development of these that we paid most attention.

The Community would, in our view, achieve much by following the example set in this country, following the White Paper: This Common Inheritance. While we received conflicting evidence as to how effective the arrangements then put in place have been, structural arrangements of that character could be usefully introduced into the Commission.

We were advised by Mr. Brinkhorst, Director-General of Directorate-General XI (Environment), that a new post of co-ordinator for environmental policy issues had been created in the office of the Commission's secretary-general. We welcomed that. Would the Minister please clarify the duties of that person and ensure that the post is made effective?

I understand that new regulations governing regional, social and agricultural structures funds are shortly to be published in draft. The use of these funds can have a marked adverse effect on the environment and it is essential that the regulations contain appropriate provisions for environmental priorities to be considered. They will provide a test as to whether the council's decisions at Gleneagles are to be taken seriously. The same factors arise in relation to the White Paper on transport shortly to be issued. Will the Minister give an assurance that these matters will be pressed by the United Kingdom?

There is a close relationship between the subjects of these two reports, and it seems to me—and I hope to your Lordships—that there is merit in speaking to both together. I have in mind, therefore, to move the second Motion on integration formally after this debate. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the report of the European Communities Committee on the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Legislation [9th Report, 1991–92, HL Paper 53].—(Lord Nathan.)

3.50 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I speak from the Back Benches because I wish to represent my own point of view rather than that of the Opposition but primarily because I made a submission in writing to the noble Lord's committee, one which I say straightaway it rejected. Be that as it may, in due course of time I want to revert to what I had to say on that occasion.

I should like to commend the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, for what he had to say today and also for the deliberations undertaken by him and his colleagues which will unquestionably be of very great value to everybody interested in the development of environmental law and policy.

A notable tribute was paid by Dr. Ludwig Krämer, the law enforcement officer of Directorate General XI in the Commission, who said: It is a pleasure and almost a duty for each official in Brussels to be aware of the reports which come from this committee". As a former commissioner for the environment, I can echo that.

So far as the fifth action programme is concerned, enormous progress has been made, particularly in recent years, in the formulation and influence of European Community environment policy which is not confined in any way to the Community. It has had an international influence, and indeed a global influence. That I think is all to the good. That has been the case leading up to and including the adoption of the fifth action programme.

A great deal remains to be done. Certainly nobody can rest complacent on what has been achieved thus far. It is right that the Select Committee should have chosen the route of enabling inquiry into the area of improvement to be undertaken.

The need to integrate environment protection requirements into all other policies was recognised in the fourth environment action programme, for which I had responsibility, and in Article 130R of the Single European Act. Initially within the Commission I always sensed that there was a degree of reluctance —or even resistance—on the part of some to the practical application of that concept, vital though it is. For example, in the field of agriculture, in the field of regional policy, and particularly in the application of the Regional Fund there was frequently scant regard given, I fear, to the need for environmental protection policies. One could cite other examples.

Nonetheless, things gradually fell into place. For example — this was cited in evidence put before the Select Committee—in the negotiations in relation to the fourth Lomé agreement. The late and much loved commissioner, Lorenzo Natali, was keen to pick up the idea that environmental protection should be part and parcel of those critically important agreements. Latterly, both in my time and later on, documents relating to the importance of the environmental requirements in agriculture, in energy and last of all in transport—matters raised by the noble Lord — have been picked up by the Commission, the latter in the document on sustainable mobility.

The Commission is very much restricted in DGXI by the number of officials available. If they are to be asked to undertake a more vigilant examination of complaints, I do not believe that they can do that very well, particularly if they are asked to undertake invigilation of the practicality of matters that are applied in the member states. I believe that reinforcement is required in that area and I am glad that this matter has the support of the noble Lord's Select Committee.

I particularly welcome the support by the Select Committee for the idea that national policies and programmes, as well as individual projects, should be subject to environmental assessment, though they have added some perfectly reasonable qualifications in paragraph 24 which I need not emphasise now. The real question is whether member states would be fully prepared not only to accept that idea in principle but to adopt it in practice.

I also agree with the proposition that environmental policies should be properly costed. That is mentioned in Article 130R of the Single European Act. The article refers specifically to the need for the Community to take account of, the potential benefits and costs of action". But it goes on, or of lack of action". That point, I believe, is equally important. It is given further emphasis in the Maastricht Treaty.

So far as the fifth programme is concerned, it is a logical and necessary development from other action programmes. Emphasis in this case is not just on legislation but on other instruments: market based instruments; improved data; and new institutions to help to expose the strategy.

But the committee also recognised the importance of parliamentary oversight. That is missing in so many instances, not only in this country but in other member states, in a practical way. Transparency is another critical element which has been given emphasis by the Select Committee. I do not believe that the European Environmental Agency, when eventually it gets going, will be able to operate without those two elements. It cannot do everything itself.

But the key to the fifth action programme is involvement: involvement especially of those engaged in industry, transport, energy and tourism in motivating action towards progressively orienting human activity and development towards the concept of sustainability.

In the United Kingdom for a little time now the right words have been uttered and that is a change from the situation up to 1988, when not even the right words were uttered. Cynicism was the order of the day about environmental development. There has unquestionably been some considerable change; the White Paper is an important development. But the words have to be matched by deeds, most especially in the field of transport policy, where the lacuna is most evident.

With regard to subsidiarity, there has been an almost knee-jerk reaction on the part of some members of the Government in this country—but it is not confined to this country—to any adverse view that may be taken by the Commission toward alleged breaches of law by the Government. So we have the "nooks and crannies" argument rather unhappily introduced by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It has almost invariably been the case that whenever that kind of situation has arisen the Commission is abused or, more particularly, the commissioner is abused. I know, I myself have suffered from it. But in fact the Commission is doing its duty. It ought not to be for the Government to engage in that kind of baseless and unnecessary argument.

I have stressed the importance of the report in relation to the fifth action programme. I should like now to turn to the question of enforcement. I welcome many of the specific proposals as well as the observations that are set out in the report. It is most important to stress that no community can exist without an acceptance of and compliance with the rule of law. Legal rules must be respected. If some people feel that they are too rigorous and that the passage of time has caused them to become outdated the fact remains that, as long as the law, is there it should be respected. Avenues should be explored in order to determine how amending laws can be introduced more rapidly, if that is the will of the Community and its institutions.

It is deeply regrettable that on 11th December 1991 in a Statement on the Maastricht Agreement the Prime Minister stated: The Commission has often brought forward proposals using a dubious legal base, and the Council has found it difficult to halt that practice in the European Court". That is a very strange observation because he appears to be stating that he found the decisions of the European Court of Justice inconvenient and unacceptable.

I stand to be corrected, no doubt by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn, but I think that in nearly every case—if not in all—the court has ruled against those who have proclaimed that the Commission's choice of legal base, particularly in relation to environmental matters, was incorrect. It was a choice between qualified majority voting under Article 100A or unanimity under Article 130S. The member states always preferred the Commission to go down the route of unanimity, regardless of the facts.

Dr. Krämer was correct to cite from the Fourth Action Programme: Nothing discredits a legislator more than to set rules which then are set aside or ignored. That statement goes to the heart of the democratic deficit. In 1988 the Commission determined that there were approximately 400 different breaches of environmental law, many of those laws having been agreed on the basis of unanimity.

The Commission has the task of enforcing the proper transposition of directives and international law and to ensure as best it can that that law is applied in practice. However, it is often the case that the question is not one of how the laws can be applied but how they can be evaded.

The means of enforcement, as the Select Committee has reported, are very limited. The only effective sanction is the obloquy of being brought before the European Court of Justice. That is not a useless sanction because nations get upset about that matter. However, reinforcement is clearly necessary; and even if enforcement powers are strengthened, the task of the Commission will be to continue to seek to persuade member states to comply with the law. That task requires infinite patience and a great deal of time.

I should like to give special support to a number of points that are made in the report. The desirability of publishing Green Papers before embarking on legislation is a matter that has not been given sufficient attention by the Commission and it is not dealt with in a coherent way. However, in the environmental field where a special hazard is revealed swifter action may be required and a discussion via a Green Paper may be altogether inappropriate. More transparency is required, which entails the co-operation of industry and the member states. Access to the courts, particularly for individuals and groups, is a very significant factor, and I am delighted that support has been given to that idea.

Priorities must be established in order to aid enforcement, but the Commission did not take on board the fact that those priorities are already established within the Commission, which is a situation that has existed for a long time.

I support the systematic publication of Article 169 letters etc. The question of interim measures is more difficult because there is a risk of clogging up the agenda of the court, and the court has been chary about granting them. Nevertheless, it is right to give emphasis to that matter.

I should like to turn finally to the question of a European environmental inspectorate. One advance that has been made is the proposal that there should be a group of inspectors to inspect the national inspectors. That proposal makes a lot of sense. The Government were in the forefront of that argument. I do not often congratulate them but I do so in relation to that matter. I do not believe that all the approaches that have been mentioned are sufficiently radical to ensure that there will be a proper enforcement of the law. I have argued for a much more radical approach, which could not take effect until the renegotiation of Maastricht in 1996.

I do not wholly agree with the proposition that fines should be imposed on member states as suggested in the Maastricht Treaty, for a number of reasons. It would not normally secure rapid redress or prevent the mischief that is being complained of from continuing. The penalty would be imposed upon the taxpayer and not upon the polluter. The deterrent effect would be dubious. Above all, I fear that the court could be brought into the political arena, which would damage its independence, because governments may not hesitate to attack it for the fine or penalty that it would seek to impose.

There is an enormous contrast between enforcing environmental law and competition law, yet breaches of environmental law can lead to irretrievable damage. Therefore, I argue that action should be taken not only against member states, as is the current situation, but against the undertakings that break the law.

There should be available to the Commission or to the agency — perhaps it is more appropriate that it should be the agency—an inspectorate which is small in number and which could take the necessary investigative actions in relation to serious transfrontier threats. The Commission should be empowered to impose monetary sanctions against such undertakings, with a right of appeal to the European Court of Justice. That kind of decisive action would have the advantage of being able to stop the mischief in its tracks; it would avoid delays of several years of negotiation and ultimate litigation, after which it is usually far too late to arrest the environmental damage; and it would be the polluter and not the citizen who would pay.

I again congratulate the noble Lord and his committee. I await with very great interest the maiden speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the speech of his noble and learned friend Lord Slynn on the legal implications of enforcement that have been very well exposed by the committee.

4.10 p.m.

Lord McNair

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, for giving us the opportunity to debate the two reports. I should also like to thank him very much for guiding our deliberations not only over the course of the two inquiries, but also over the two and a half years that I have been privileged to be a member of the Sub-Committee. His chairmanship gave me a first-class introduction to committee work and I wish to record my thanks. I should also like to state that I regret the passing of Sub-Committee F as an independent entity. I cannot be bitter about that situation, however, because I was unavoidably away from the building at the time of the crucial tied vote, and had I been present, my vote would have preserved the status quo at least for the time being.

In that regard it is worth noting that the quality and substance of each of the two reports we are discussing today may give an indication of what future environment reports may be like. In fact, the hurried preparation of the report of integration was not due to the impending demise of Sub-Committee F; it was due to pressure of time for other reasons. However, in tandem with social affairs, we can expect hurried and perhaps less probing reports, which will no doubt dismay our many admirers in Europe who have such a high regard for the work of the Environment Sub-Committee. However, that is what the Jellicoe Committee wanted, and I suppose that that is what it will get.

Having said that, it is clear that the two reports we are debating are closely interwoven. As integration of environmental awareness and policies into other fields becomes a reality, it will become easier to ensure their implementation. In his evidence on implementation, Dr. Krämer commented that environmental directives suffered a double handicap. First, the relative newness and smallness of DGXI compared to other directorates-general means that DGXI resources are spread rather thin; indeed, a high proportion of its staff are seconded from the national civil services of member states, although I am sure that that is no handicap in quality.

Secondly, the directives in relation to other policy areas such as transport, agriculture or competition, directly concern various vested interest groups generally with plenty of money to spend on fighting their own corners. Those groups do their best to ensure that national and EC legislation suits their interests. On the other hand, specific damage to the environment which concerns the public interest is unlikely to engender great public disquiet until such damage has reached an advanced stage, possibly when it is irreversible and certainly more expensive in time and money to repair than it need have been. In fact, there are often powerful forces operating in the direction of putting immense pressure on habitats, biodiversity, the atmosphere, groundwater or just the aesthetic or enjoyment value of a rural environment. One example of that is the difference in land values between agricultural and development land.

In that regard the NGOs do sterling work with both campaigning and research activities. However, the resources and the international lobbying activities of large companies can bring to bear enormous pressure to create an appropriate climate of opinion for their aims. Their resources are many orders of magnitude greater than those of the NGOs. It is essential we move rapidly towards uniform implementation of environment directives as there is likely to be a gravitational flow of economic activity to the countries which present a softer option in terms of environmental controls. In that regard, I commend to your Lordships the 10 points known as the Valdez principles, drawn up as an environmental operating basis after the "Exxon Valdez" episode. They are intended to be adopted by all companies as a programme to ensure the creation and implementation of sound environmental policies. Monitoring and review of the operation of such policies are also built into the 10 points.

I should like to see the Valdez principles incorporated in some way into company law, certainly in all areas of government policy and also by the Commission. That will go a long way to undercut the resistance that companies and countries offer to the implementation of directives and to the integration of environmental awareness in thinking and planning. Should any noble Lord like a copy of the Valdez principles, I shall be happy to oblige.

The ideal situation is for each national ministry or directorate-general to have its own strategic environmental conscience in the form of a small secretariat that would be involved and powerful at all stages of the development of plans for proposals, directives and, finally, in the implementation of that directive. The Government deserve credit for giving a lead by creating a "green" Minister system. That could well be followed up by the Commission.

In most sectors the environmental action programme lacks specific targets or timetables. I offer some suggestions for improvements. We need new legislation to implement the habitats and species directive which must protect and prevent deterioration of key wildlife sites. We need an integrated approach to the common fisheries policy to take into account marine wildlife. I further suggest that any reform of the common agriculture policy should make all payments to farmers dependent on environmental conditions being met.

Regional development policy via the structural funds, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, is soon to be renegotiated. I hope that the Government will stand firm on their commitments to make all payments from the funds dependent on the best practice in environmental policies being integrated into every project starting with a prior, thorough impact assessment. Obviously no country complains that the principle of subsidiarity is being breached when the action involves the transfer of funds from the EC to that country. Surely this is an excellent opportunity to encourage the evolution of awareness in those countries where progress in that direction is slow. The sums are enormous. In the past five years to the end of 1992 the EC spent 60 billion ecus (£43 billion) on structural fund projects. In the next five years even larger sums are planned.

Perhaps the Minister will tell me how the Government will ensure that Community regional policy does not have the effect of damaging the environment. Also, I urge the Government to support the committee's recommendation backing EC legislation on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and also on integration procedures within the Commission. The strong public support for the EC environmental policy must be recognised and subsidiarity must not be allowed to weaken appropriate EC level action. There is a great need to give individuals and NGOs more ready access to courts of law to enable them to seek judicial reviews of decisions made by public bodies on environmental matters. I should like to see the Government giving greater emphasis to employing experts from the national nature conservation agencies in council working groups on environmental policy and legislation.

Finally, I congratulate the Government on taking steps to implement the EC directive on access to environmental information by means of the environmental information regulations of 1992. I have obtained a draft copy of the regulations. As the statutory instrument was due to come into force on 31st December 1992, I wonder whether the final version is yet available. The NGOs will be informing their members of the regulations through newsletters, and so forth; but perhaps the Minister could tell the House what steps the Government are taking to publicise that to the public at large.

4.19 p.m.

Lord Woolf

My Lords, when I first arrived at your Lordships' House I was conscious of the warm welcome I received, a welcome which was echoed in the generous comments made by my noble friend Lord Nathan and the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. As part of that warm welcome I received also a generous quantity of advice. At the forefront of the advice was the recommendation that I should seek to get my maiden speech behind me as soon as possible. That was advice I resolved to follow. However, after scanning the forthcoming business of your Lordships' House, I became increasingly conscious of how unqualified I am to make any contribution. I am therefore singularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, on more than one count; first, for his sub-committee's admirable report which is being debated today; and secondly, for being responsible for my not being totally ignorant of the subject dealt with in that report.

Wearing another hat, the noble Lord was the first president of the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association. I was privileged in 1987 to be present when in that capacity he gave the first Garner law lecture on environmental law. That brought to my attention really for the first time the importance of environmental law, the fact that it had developed into a separate corpus of law and the need for that corpus of law to receive separate treatment. In his capacity as president of the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, then persuaded me—it would be wrong for me to say that he bullied me—to give a subsequent Garner lecture, and in consequence I became more familiar with the subject. I can assure your Lordships that nothing focuses the mind more—perhaps with the exception of a maiden speech on a subject—than having to give a lecture.

Having given that lecture, I was conscious that although there had been remarkable developments in the law relating to the environment since 1987, the question of enforcement of the law had not perhaps received the attention which it should. The legal profession has become conscious of the need for environmental law to receive special treatment, and the more forward thinking firms now have special sections of the firm concentrating on environmental law. Within those sections there are persons who have skills quite different from those which one would normally expect to find in a firm of lawyers. The situation is rather similar in the academic world. For example, when the Imperial College of Science and Technology came to establish its first chair in law, it chose as the subject environmental law, recognising that the special skills of that college could make a real contribution to the study of environmental law. However, in relation to the question of enforcement, the position is not so happy.

The report itself points out that insufficient attention has been paid by the Community to the enforcement of environmental law. The same can be said of our domestic law, a large proportion of which is derived from Community legislation. The report makes a passing reference to the fact that I have in the past suggested that a solution could be found by creating a new environmental tribunal for the United Kingdom. If your Lordships will bear with me, that is a subject which I seek now to develop.

The situation at present is that virtually every court in the land has some jurisdiction in relation to what is now appropriately described as the environmental law field. For imposing criminal penalties, there is the magistrates' court and, with the assistance of juries, the Crown Court. In civil proceedings, which can involve the grant of injunctions, there is the involvement of the county court and the High Court. The High Court is also involved in determining environmental statutory appeals and, under a separate jurisdiction, in dealing with environmental issues on application for judicial review. None of these bodies is able to bring to bear a continuing experience of dealing with environmental law issues which would assist in their disposal.

I do not suggest that in the individual cases the courts are not able to do justice, but I do suggest that the courts are being subject to unnecessary burdens, and litigants, including public bodies, are being subject to unnecessary expense and undesirable delay as a result of environmental law issues being forced within the existing legal system. Furthermore, the situation is going to get worse rather than better. The volume of environmental law litigation will inevitably increase, and increase at a rapid rate.

The alternative which I suggest requires consideration is a specialist court, tied into the ordinary courts by a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal; a court which is staffed by specialists and which combines all the jurisdictions to which I have already referred; a court which has a special procedure which means that concerned individuals and bodies can become involved in the important issues which are at stake and which always can have great significance in cases concerning the environment. This is not a novel proposal. In 1989 Mr. Robert Carnworth QC delivered his report commissioned by the Department of the Environment entitled Enforcing Planning Control. Although, as he acknowledges, this was outside his terms of reference, he thought it necessary to state: ideally there should be one Court or Tribunal, able to interpret and apply the law, to make orders, and to impose penalties for their disobedience". A number of distinguished academics have echoed this call.

It is not an untried theoretical concept. In New South Wales since 1980 there has been a Land and Environmental Court with very much the jurisdiction that I have in mind. It is a superior court of record. It is composed of four judges and nine technical assessors. It has no requirement of standing and therefore would meet the problems with regard to judicial review referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan. It has not been swamped with cases and can usually dispose of cases within three months. Not surprisingly, it is regarded as a success and has been and is going to be followed by other states.

I suggest that it could provide a model for this country and perhaps, in due course, for the Community. The European Court, like our own existing courts, is suffering from congestion even without the increasing volume of environmental cases which could arise for its consideration. We are all conscious that our environmental pollution is no respecter of international borders and it is therefore very much in this country's interest to ensure that there is a mechanism in place for ensuring that there is not only effective enforcement on a national basis, but on a Community basis as well.

I have not sought to indicate a blue-print, but merely a need—a need which I hope will be generally recognised as existing. I am most grateful to the House for the tolerance and the courtesy which it has again shown.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Norrie

My Lords, as we all know, the convention of congratulating a Peer on making his maiden speech in this House falls to the next speaker. It gives me great pleasure to do so on two counts: first, because I have never had the privilege of doing it before and, secondly, because the noble and Learned Lord, Lord Woolf, is clearly an environmentalist at heart. He is not only an acknowledged authority on judicial review—the procedure by which decision by Government can be challenged —but, in spite of his obvious modesty, he is also a renowned lecturer on the subject of environmental law. This is a rare combination of expertise and it was no surprise that his excellent maiden speech was so well founded and informative. There can be few Peers more qualified than him to draw attention to some of the special problems of environmental litigation. I know that the whole House will join with me in saying how much we look forward to sharing his wisdom and professionalism during future debates.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Norrie

My Lords, before speaking on these reports, I should like to add that I have enjoyed my four years on Sub-Committee F and, now that I have been voluntarily recycled, I should like to pay a warm tribute on behalf of the entire sub-committee to our retiring chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, and to thank him for his patience, guidance and good humour. We must also pay tribute to his stamina. He chaired F Committee from 1983–1987. Clearly, he was dissatisfied with that burden of duty, as he took it on again in 1990. Without fear of contradiction I can say that his authority, enthusiasm and unrivalled experience of Community and environmental issues have been of enormous value to the sub-committee, and that is particularly true of the reports that we are debating today.

The reports address issues of great importance to the environment. Both were published in 1992, a year which I am sure will remain in people's memories, first, as the year of the Rio Summit in which everyone wanted to jump onto the environmental band-wagon and, secondly, for the United Kingdom's presidency of the European Council. What a year it was! At times it felt as though the environment had become no more than a political football.

The reports have important things to say on both those issues. I want to touch very briefly on what I see as significant in their conclusions.

First, perhaps I may deal with implementation and enforcement. This of course lies at the heart of an effective Community, whether or not we are talking about the environment. What is the point of legislating if we do not carry out the law, and what is the point of carrying it out if we are not ready to take enforcement action against those who do not? Our committee found much evidence of very poor implementation and enforcement of environmental legislation. That must change. Everyone, without exception, said how important it was to improve implementation and enforcement. Yet at every turn plans to do so, whether through the proposed environment agency or through plans for an inspectorate of inspectorates, have been blocked or delayed. That is frustrating. It implies that, although EC legislators say that they want a better application of the existing law, when it comes to the point they are quite relaxed about the different standards that exist across Europe. Even our own Prime Minister seems to demonstrate increasing frustration. Speaking to the Service for the Citizen conference in December last year and referring to those countries that are less punctilious than ours, he said: Here in Britain we are sometimes over-punctilious in enforcing directives when lighter controls are tolerated elsewhere". So I urge the Prime Minister to protect our high standards of implementation and not allow the UK to become a second-class environmental citizen. The report could not make a better case for taking implementation and enforcement seriously. We must establish new procedures to enforce the highest standards of environmental protection.

I shall now turn to the Fifth Environmental Action Programme. It is extremely ambitious and important. It seeks to influence every sector of our lives. The programme was agreed in the closing stages of the UK's presidency by the Environment Council. I congratulate it on doing so.

Our committee took the theme of policy integration for its inquiry because it seemed to lie at the heart of the fifth action programme. It poses the most important yet most difficult challenge of all—how to prioritise environmental issues in any decision made by anyone, at any time, anywhere. It was clear, both in evidence to our committee and during the UK's presidency itself, that the UK Government felt that they had something important to contribute to the debate in the light of their experience in preparing the 1990 environment White Paper and the subsequent annual reports. That of course is true. The procedures and policies established under the White Paper and its successors have all helped, inch by inch, to push the environmental agenda forward, but I think we would be deluding ourselves if we thought that our Government had pushed it very far. Interdepartmental committees, "green" Ministers and an annual check-list of commitments are all useful, but progress is still far too slow. However, at least we have been moving in the right direction and the resolution adopted by the Environment Council on the fifth action programme includes many of the UK's favoured mechanisms for environmental integration.

There is one strategy not referred to in the resolution that I think would do more than any other to advance the cause of policy integration. That is the extension of environmental assessment to policies, plans and programmes of Government. I understand —indeed it was said in evidence to our committee—that the UK Government have some difficulties with the proposal. Perhaps I may press my noble friend the Minister to explain exactly when replying what those difficulties are. Perhaps he could elucidate a little. Speaking personally, although I know this view is shared by many in the environmental community, I cannot understate the importance of this strategy.

Finally, I should like to say a word about subsidiarity. For the past six months it has been on everyone's lips and I think that the vast majority of the British public must wonder what on earth it is all about. I must confess to sharing some of their bemusement. However, there is a serious point here —the question of deciding which is the appropriate level for either legislation or action. That is more relevant to the environment than to any other area of policy.

The environment will not be protected or saved by legislation at just one level, whether international, regional, national or local. The environment must be cared for at every level of policy. That is why the UK is part of such a complex legislative framework covering everything from international conventions to local litter-picking laws.

The conclusions reached about subsidiarity at the Edinburgh Summit were more reassuring than had been expected. Talk of throwing out existing laws seems to have died away and there are some sensible suggestions about making sure that new legislation is justified at EC level in the future. However, I feel sure that there will need to be more legislation, especially as our understanding of some of the more complex problems, like global warming, increases. I should like to be satisfied that we do not just legislate for legislation's sake and that, when we do introduce new legislation, we shall be confident enough both to implement and enforce it.

We have a long way to go on both those counts, but they are the central questions. If these two reports help to deliver that simple but highly desirable outcome, then we shall have made a significant contribution to the future health of our planet.

4.40 p.m.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon

My Lords, I too listened with great interest to the maiden speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and to his interesting idea of having an environmental court or tribunal. Like other speakers today, I was a member of Sub-committee F, so ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan. Under his chairmanship we teased out the complex inter-relationship between implementation, enforcement and integration of environmental concerns into other policies.

As we say in our conclusion to the ninth report, 1991–92, the formulation of Community legislation is often too complex and is drafted without sufficient attention being paid to the problems of practical enforcement. However, I do not believe that I was alone in the sub-committee in assuming, with typical Anglo-Saxon smugness, that we in this country would be better at enacting and enforcing complex Community legislation than other, particularly southern European, countries. Reality, of course, is always more complex than one's stereotypes.

Our visit to Spain was intended to explore the problems that might arise in a more devolved, federal political constitution. In fact, because Spain has had very little previous environmental legislation, it can enact Community directives quickly and directly into both national and regional laws. Spain is therefore well placed in having legislation in place aimed at protecting the Spanish environment.

In northern Europe in contrast our visits showed that enactment is often dilatory. In Belgium the recently constituted federal system is only now at last beginning to enact Community directives which are at least seven or eight years old. It was also astonishing that Brussels has no effective sewage treatment system so that the river Maas is heavily contaminated to the extent that Holland now takes its drinking water from the Rhine.

Holland has environmental legislation dating back to the 16th century—for obvious reasons in that country—in relation to water. Its problem is fitting Community legislation into the existing framework of laws and the prolonged consultative and highly democratic processes in that country which can take as long as seven years.

In this country we pride ourselves on adhering at least to the letter of the law and on implementing Community directives or regulations with reasonable dispatch. However, our civil servants tend to seize on the legislative opportunity and often add further provisions and additions to already complex Community directives which further muffle the message. The message is also delayed partly by that process as can be seen, for example, in relation to the habitats' directive which was passed by the European Community over six months ago and which is still to be enacted to protect our wildlife sites. I would therefore ask the Minister in his reply to tell us when that is likely to be brought forward.

The enforcement of legislation is of course much trickier than enactment. Laws, as we know, are often passed which seem like a good idea at the time and then quickly lie fallow and are not enforced. Environmental legislation can easily fall into that category when the opposing forces for jobs and industrial development are strong and the environment lobby, as in Spain, is weak. Even in this country where we have well supported NGOs, powerful forces in the Department of Transport can still disregard environmental concerns and drive motorway extensions through environmental sites and possibly, in future, cause the destruction of places such as Oxleas Wood.

The integration of environmental concerns with all policies is essential and, as the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, said, at the earliest possible stage. In Spain, the need for development has driven a major road, for example, through the habitat of a protected species of eagle. I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, did not refer to that. It is one of his favourite stories about our visit to Spain. The great protected wetlands, moreover, of the national park at Donana (an important staging post for many of Europe's birds) is clearly rapidly being dessicated by the extensive irrigation of the surrounding horticultural areas, producing tomatoes and cucumbers, no doubt, for the British market.

Most strikingly for me, however, about our trip to Spain was that it was clear how enthusiastic the Spanish are about Europe. They are eager to be seen as good Europeans. Considerable investments have been made on the environmental front, for example, in Andalucia, in modern technology for monitoring pollution (they have splendid computer systems and a great modern building full of energetic staff) and also in recycling waste materials such as the acres of polythene used for protecting salad crops.

Our own grudging and half-hearted acceptance of Europe is exemplified by the enthusiasm with which the Government have seized on the notion of subsidiarity as a way of mollifying their Euro-sceptics. That is particularly alarming when it has been supported at the highest level of government and the suggestion made that the environment might be a suitable subject for such subsidiarity and delegation to the national level.

Clearly, if the environment were relegated to a purely domestic level it could save this country some embarrassing encounters with the European Court and therefore might be welcomed by a weak government. But surely protection of the environment is essentially by its very nature a supra-national issue. It is our acid rain which kills trees and poisons lakes in Scandinavia and our effluent and that of other countries which have contaminated rivers and so polluted the North Sea.

These are not matters which can be dealt with in cosy domesticity within a single member state. Finally, therefore, I ask the Minister for an assurance that the environment is essentially not one of the topics that is being considered by the Government as a suitable case for subsidiarity.

4.45 p.m.

The Earl of Portland

My Lords, this is not only my maiden speech, it is effectively the first of my life. I do not want it merely to add to the 5 billion words generated in connection with Rio which resulted in nothing very much happening. So at the end of the next 1,000 words I shall ask your Lordships if we can manage to make something happen here in this House. I hope that the House will forgive a beginner's temerity.

Paragraph 136 of the report calls for "substantial changes in attitude" and it is exactly that to which I shall be returning in an attempt to suggest to the House the unique opportunity which its Members have in that respect. Our attitude to anything depends on how we perceive it. It is precisely our perception of our environmental predicament that is so confused that it inhibits response. Therefore, with great modesty, I should like to suggest a clearer perspective, and welcome the charming invitation to do so offered by my noble friend Lord Nathan in his opening remarks.

We know that if civilisation and population are allowed to continue unmodified on their present expansionist courses, they will cause an ecological catastrophe which will destroy that civilisation and most of our descendants. As yet we do nothing. Why is that? It is a very extraordinary situation. We know what to do, but we cannot really figure out any proper way of doing it. Our entire way of life makes it impossible to get to grips with that. So how should we perceive our unprecedented predicament?

Humanity, in common with all life, as we know, obeys a survival instinct. Everything we do is motivated by that instinct. We invented the stone axe and then civilisation in order to pursue the best interests of ourselves and our progeny, and it worked. It worked so well that it is upsetting the balance of nature on which everything depends for survival. Thus, civilisation does not any longer serve our best interests; it threatens them. And yet we are conditioned to perceive that civilisation as normality. To have to perceive normality as wrong because it threatens our survival is what makes it so difficult for us to think how to respond to the present situation. So all we do for the most part is to try to titivate our deadly civilisation, hoping to keep it going more or less as it is.

As we know, this is not, strictly speaking, a political issue. Since it threatens us and the civilisation we have evolved, it is in fact an evolutionary—an unprecedented issue—the crux criticorum of our civilisation.

So how do we face up to it? We know that if we continue to put our best interests in front of those of our environment, we will wreck that environment and kill most of our descendants. If, however, we choose to put the needs of that environment just a bit in front of our own, not only will it survive, and therefore us too, but we will also have established a new basis for evaluating our way of life—a new basis for thinking out how to do the things that we know have to be done. We will have started to develop new aims, new values and a new normality because, for the first time, we will have started to use our minds to choose to evolve on purpose; whereas hitherto we have only used our brains to follow the instincts that we share with the rest of life to survive as comfortably as possible.

Now the decision to act like this cannot be imposed. For one thing, pollution—and I mean "pollution" in the widest possible sense, which is very wide indeed —is caused by all of us, individually and collectively, and it is only the unique, problem-solving propensity of the human mind, working individually and collectively, that is going to figure out how to evolve on purpose by putting the needs of the environment just that little bit in front of our own so that it survives and, therefore, so do we.

But this propensity needs a catalyst, an inspiration. People are anxious and afraid, particularly the young. They want to see that someone is taking the matter seriously and doing something about it. They want a lead; they want hope. It is a unique situation. And this House is a unique institution. I do not need to labour its experience, expertise nor, most importantly, its probity and its influence.

At the moment, it wears many hats. We put on our Green hats and address ourselves to environmental problems. Then we take them off and go back to organising our old, unsustainable civilisation. For example, on 4th November, for five hours, this House discussed a sustainable economy without once considering whether any of the ideas that had been advanced could be sustained by the environment. On 11th November, the Chancellor spoke about growth as being the goal. He ignored all the work done on limits to growth as being the only route to salvation.

The plea to which I have been leading, therefore, is this: could this House keep its green hat always on? Could your Lordships individually look at every piece of business that comes before you to see if there could possibly be a practical and workable way of doing it that puts the interests of our habitat just a little bit more nearly in front of our own and to acknowledge that that was what they were doing? That is the important thing: to acknowledge it. The change of attitude mentioned in paragraph 136 of the report would then have begun here. The House, being self-regulating, could even remind its Members to keep their green hats always on by saying "Attitude, attitude", so that the gravest responsibility ever faced by any parliament on behalf of humanity could be kept continually in the forefront of the mind.

But, finally, the most important thing is that, with this change of attitude, a lead would have been given and would have been seen to have been given. It would be seen that our predicament was being taken seriously—that something unprecedented was being done and, extraordinarily enough, being done here. It would help people to accept that civilisation no longer serves the best interests of our evolution but threatens it. It would influence other decision-making assemblies. It would provide a catalyst to precipitate, out of public anxiety, our unique problem-solving capacity to evolve a way of doing what we know must be done—to evolve the acceptance of the fact that unless we choose to evolve on purpose, catastrophe awaits.

There is only one thing that we cannot do either here or anywhere else in the world. We cannot look our grandchildren in the eye and say, "I'm all right, Jack, I'll be dead".

4.54 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, it is truly a great honour to follow the noble Earl, Lord Portland, whose maiden speech we have just been privileged to hear. I must say I found it a little difficult to believe that it was also the first speech that he has ever made. If so, it was all the more remarkable for that. I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I congratulate him on the quality of his speech and on the depth of his knowledge and, if he will forgive me, on the depth of his spirituality, which he so clearly displayed. I am sure that all noble Lords join me in hoping that so much time will not elapse again before he speaks to us.

Most of your Lordships who have spoken in this debate so far, and I suspect most who are to follow, seem to be taking the general position that European environmental legislation is a good thing. I am afraid I am not yet convinced of this. Of course, I agree that we must do all we can to protect our environment and no doubt internationally enforceable legislation is necessary. It is just that I am not yet convinced that the European Economic Community is going to be the right vehicle for achieving this—or, at least, not in a timespan which will bring the urgent protection which is needed. The EEC has too many inherent difficulties, it seems to me, and I shall not trouble your Lordships with a detailed analysis now. But I should perhaps mention the difficulty that EEC legislation is made and agreed at national level, whereas in countries like Germany, Spain, Holland and Belgium, responsibility for the environment is vested in the local level of government. There is also the problem, which other noble Lords have mentioned, of the fundamentally different national characteristics of the EEC member nations. Members' adherence to EEC legislation and, indeed, to much national legislation seems to diminish as the quantity of Latin blood in the veins of the people concerned increases—and I think that that is a very long term problem indeed.

Be all that as it may, I propose to concentrate on one example, a Scottish example, where enforcement of EEC legislation would be positively destructive. Some of your Lordships may remember the somewhat eventful passage through your Lordships' House in the summer of 1991 of the Scottish Natural Heritage Bill, which merged the Countryside Commission for Scotland and the Nature Conservancy for Scotland. It is a source of much comfort to me today that my noble friend Lord Strathclyde will be winding up this debate for the Government, because it was he who so wisely piloted the SNH Bill through your Lordships' House.

I think it is generally accepted now that your Lordships made a number of improvements to the SNH Bill. Perhaps the most controversial at the time was the proposal that there should be some form of appeal, or second-guessing mechanism, against the designation of sites of special scientific interest on scientific grounds. After a certain amount of toing and froing between your Lordships' House and the other place, my noble friend Lord Strathclyde brought forward a courageous and far-sighted compromise, which was accepted in your Lordships' House by a massive majority. This set up a small scientific Advisory Committee within SNH, to which owners and occupiers of land could appeal if they believed that their land had been wrongly designated on scientific grounds. The more aggressive voluntary conservation bodies, and those of a centralising European bent, were not happy, of course, and furiously predicted that there would be so many appeals to the new committee that SNH's work would be gummed up for many years and that it would be crippled financially by the additional workload. I am sorry to say that some of them even went further and claimed that that was precisely the aim of the wicked landlords in your Lordships' House who had moved the original amendments.

Well, the chairman of SNH, Sir Magnus Magnusson, came to Parliament recently to report to the all-party Heritage Committee on the first year of SNH's existence. He revealed that the new Advisory Committee had not yet received a single complaint because the contentious cases were all being resolved at local level. He said that the existence in the background of the committee was a powerful incentive to encourage the problems to be resolved at local level. This is, of course, exactly why noble Lords in this House wanted the committee—or something very like it—in the first place. Your Lordships will be pleased to know that Sir Magnus said that the committee was a tribute to the vision and wisdom of its creators, and I feel sure that that compliment should be passed on publicly to my noble friend Lord Strathclyde, the author of the amendment in question.

So at the moment all is harmonious in Scotland. Owners and occupiers of land, local communities and even deer forest owners are beginning to work together with SNH, on a voluntary basis, to preserve and enhance the natural heritage of Scotland in a sustainable manner. I must also pay tribute of course to Sir Magnus Magnusson for this happy state of affairs, and to the very high calibre of the new regional boards and their chairmen. The growing harmony is doubtless due in large part to their deep knowledge of the countryside, to their understanding of what should go on in it, and how this can prosper side by side with the scientific interest.

Alas, I wish I could leave your Lordships with this idyllic picture, but I cannot. Sir Magnus also said one worrying thing. He said he feared that the habitat directive from Brussels would require SNH to return to a more authoritarian role in future. He feared that the voluntary system which was so wisely set up by the Scottish Natural Heritage Act might be compromised by fresh legislation which would be forced upon us by Europe.

Well, taking that hint from Sir Magnus—it was no more than a hint—I have put my ear to the ground in Brussels and elsewhere, and have to tell your Lordships that it looks as though Europe may be raising its ugly, interfering head again, to destroy what the British Parliament has so carefully crafted.

It seems that the Government have signed up to the EEC's habitat directive, and that SNH must be its agent in Scotland. I understand that the directive will force SNH to identify a large number of new SSSIs, and that new legislation will be required to give SNH mandatory powers to force owners and occupiers of land to manage designated sites in ways which conform to the Brussels directive. That would completely undermine the largely voluntary principle which has been so painstakingly established in Scotland. It would render the advisory committee irrelevant for the new Euro-SSSIs. That is especially irritating because by the time it came into being, SNH reckoned that the Nature Conservancy for Scotland had already designated 95 per cent. of the SSSIs which needed to be designated in Scotland, covering some 10 per cent. of the land mass in Scotland.

The Scottish Natural Heritage Act also introduces the concept of natural heritage areas. These are to encompass much larger areas than SSSIs which tend to be smaller and "site-specific".

The new sites demanded by Brussels are therefore not only certain to be superfluous (because our bureaucratic friends in Brussels are hardly likely to know what is of real scientific interest better than our own SNH), but they are also to be of the wrong size. And they are to be backed up by legal coercion which is certain to lead to the sort of conflict which all of us involved with the Scottish Natural Heritage Bill worked so hard to avoid. Not only that, the number of new sites anticipated will be enough to gum up the works of SNH until the end of the century. The cost will of course be very high, and not budgeted for at present. I do not suppose that the Italians, Greeks, Portuguese or Spanish will be exactly falling over themselves to fund our resultant deficit from the absurd cohesion funds which we send their way. Indeed, the Spanish will also be hit very hard by the habitat directive themselves, at least in theory. One rather doubts of course whether they will be quite as assiduous as us in carrying it out.

So I fear that it is a little ironic that what our narrow-minded conservation bodies wrongly accused the wicked landlords in your Lordships' House of attempting to achieve may be actually achieved by the enforcement of ignorant directives from Brussels.

Of course I hope that my noble friend Lord Strathclyde, when he comes to reply, will be able to tell us that my fears are groundless; that after the glorious triumphs of the British presidency of the EEC at the Edinburgh Summit, this sort of interference from Brussels is a thing of the past. But if he takes that line, I hope that he will not base it on any interpretation of our old friend, subsidiarity, other than the one which is actually to be found in Article 3b of the Treaty on European Union, signed at Maastricht. I say that because I am afraid that the Foreign Office has just issued, no doubt at taxpayers' expense, a sly little piece of propaganda in the shape of a booklet entitled UK Presidency of the European Communities; July-December 1992.

That booklet tells us that the Edinburgh Summit agreed new "procedures" and new "guidelines" which reduce our subsidiarity or subservience to Brussels. It is a hard fact of life that "procedures" and "guidelines" do not overrule the printed text of a legally binding treaty. So can my noble friend assure me that my fears are groundless? Can he assure me that SNH will be able to continue on its present laudable course without becoming subservient in any way to the habitat directive? If he can do that, he will put a lot of minds at rest.

5.5 p.m.

Lord Bridges

My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in a debate in which we have heard two such distinguished maiden speeches from the Cross-Benches. I should like to congratulate both noble Lords who have spoken for the first time. My noble friend Lord Portland was right to remind us of the broad human and spiritual elements which enter into the framework of environmental policy, something which we are perhaps apt to overlook when we devote our lives to its details. The speech made by my noble and learned friend Lord Woolf was most interesting. He reminded us of his proposal for the environmental court, which I hope will be pursued. At the local level it has often seemed to me that there was a definite need to bring greater coherence to the decisions taken by planning tribunals, which I trust will be included in the supervision of a court of the kind he mentioned.

As a member of the sub-committee which prepared these reports I should like to support the Motions presented by my noble friend. The debate provides a convenient opportunity to look at the next stage of the Community's policy on environmental matters and to examine the way in which it is being implemented at present.

There is a widespread belief in this country that the British have faithfully applied regulations and directives emanating from Brussels and that our record is much superior to that of other member states. There are also frequent suggestions, as in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, that bureaucrats in Brussels meddle too much in our domestic affairs and that sometimes the gentlemen in Whitehall make matters worse by adding their own pernickety requirements on top of those emerging from the Commission. It does not appear to me from the inquiries made by the sub-committee that those complaints are well-founded in the field of environmental policy. I shall attempt to offer a rather different and, I hope, more balanced perspective.

The broad picture over the past decade is that we have seen an active period of work by the Commission. The Commission has reacted positively to the pressures of public opinion throughout the Community to improve environmental standards in all member states. That concern has been expressed in national parliaments, in the European Parliament and by voluntary organisations, which are especially strong in this country. Governments have responded to such public anxiety when drawing up the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty. Those important texts state the objectives of environmental policy and introduce decisions in the Council of Ministers by qualified majority vote on environmental matters.

The broad result has been to produce a large volume of new legislation setting higher standards to be observed by all member states on subjects such as the purity of drinking water, the cleanliness of beaches and the control of emissions generally. There have also been significant changes of procedure—for example, in the environmental assessment directive —intended to ensure that large projects are properly and professionally assessed and brought to public notice before they are proceeded with.

I do not believe that those objectives and the sum of that activity can be regarded as controversial in principle. The question is how well and how uniformly they have been carried into effect. My impression is that we need to shift the emphasis from legislation to enforcement. On that I believe that I detect a broad current of agreement in the debate. I suggest that there are two significant current problems and one future anxiety.

The first current problem concerns the performance of member states with strong regional systems of government. It is understandable that countries in that category should put the legal responsibility for meeting EC environmental rules on those regional authorities. However, as we found, those authorities often lack the human and financial resources to put them into effect. That seems to be the case in Italy, surprisingly also in Belgium and, for rather different reasons, in Greece. The problem occurs in Spain too. Great efforts have been made to safeguard the beautiful region of Spain which we visited—Andalusia. It was interesting to observe the way in which the widespread commitment in Spain to the broad European idea is being translated into serious efforts to apply the Community's environmental rules. I agree with what the noble Baroness said on the subject. I should add that that is not an attitude I have encountered very often in this country, which I regret.

The largest problem we saw in Andalusia was the threat of commercial development on the coastline and the damage to groundwater levels in the Doñana National Park, which is the largest designated national park in the Community. As to that regional question in the Community as a whole, I believe that there is a current problem of real magnitude in a number of important member states which may transpose the Community's rules into national law but fail to supply the regional authorities with the resources which they need to apply them properly. That subject requires political attention at Community level by the Council of Ministers.

The second current difficulty concerns the inadequacy of the statistical base. Each member state compiles its own statistics and it is often difficult to compare them. I believe that as a matter of some urgency we need to create a proper Community statistical base on environmental matters to ensure that the facts and data are promptly collected in the same way and are collated and published in a common series. We shall not be able to assess the environmental situation thoroughly until that has been done. Nor shall we be able to plan properly future environmental legislation.

Clearly, that is a prime task for the future Community environmental agency. I share the great regret expressed by other noble Lords that the establishment of the agency, while agreed formally several years ago, has been blocked by France, which has linked that practical matter with the quite separate and long-standing vexed question of the seat of the Community institutions—in which France has a vested interest. I note that in Annex 6 to the presidency conclusions of the Edinburgh Summit there was a suggestion that the French may now have got what they wanted as regards the seat of the institutions. If that is the case, it may lead to the establishment of the agency. Perhaps when the Minister replies he will enlighten the House on that subject. We need the agency and I beg the Government to do all that they can to promote its early establishment.

Those are the two current problems which I identify. My anxiety about the future concerns the way in which the Government may intend to apply the subsidiarity principle to environmental legislation. There have been suggestions, as others have noted, that the Government may wish to repatriate responsibility for environmental legislation and its enforcement. Some people believe that the standards set by the Community are unnecessarily high and would wish them to be modified, while others apparently see the Community's purposes in passing the environmental impact assessment directive as both intrusive and burdensome. In general I believe such suggestions to be misleading and mostly dangerous.

The fact is that many of the Community's rules show how much we must do to reach the high standards which our citizens expect. That applies particularly to water quality, an area in which the Government agreed to the standards but did not provide the resources necessary and then transferred responsibility to the water plcs, which are now raising funds from the consumers and markets to do so. That seems to me to be the main reason why we have lagged behind in meeting the water directives.

I do not suggest that all the Community's rules and regulations are perfect. Indeed, I have served on committees in this House which have criticised the draft directives on water and nitrates. However, I believe it would be a mistake to embark on a wholesale repatriation of responsibility for those matters. I submit that it is right that the standards should be high, that they are properly of Community concern, that the volume of Community legislation in the past decade has been fully justified and that it is in our interest that the policies should be made to work with our full encouragement and support. I hope that the Government will be prepared to follow that approach and to back it up in practical ways. It is in that spirit that I commend the report to the House.

Finally, perhaps I may say how much I have benefited from serving on the sub-committee. Like the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, I am no longer a member of it—indeed, the sub-committee no longer exists as such—but it has been a particular pleasure to serve under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Nathan, who has contributed a great deal to the work of the House.

5.16 p.m.

The Earl of Lindsay

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, and his colleagues on the environment sub-committee on the two excellent reports. I congratulate also the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the noble Earl, Lord Portland, on the maiden speeches and the issues which they raised.

As a practising landscape architect, I welcome in particular the 9th Report. Environmental regulations and their objectives can become meaningless if their implementation and enforcement are ineffective. They can become controversial and derisory if their enforcement is noticeably erratic or widely abused. Therefore, a critical issue is that, even where directives and legislation are properly considered, and are well drafted, their potential remains compromised by the inadequacy of the attention given to their implementation and more especially to their enforcement. The latter is the final stage of the process but it is the most crucial factor in achieving compliance and progress.

It is disturbing that the experience of myself and others parallels the views which the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association put to the committee; namely, that the weakest link in environmental regulation tends to be the enforcement stage. One must wonder why that is so and how it can be improved.

As in planning law, much environmental legislation gives those responsible for its enforcement a significant measure of discretion. However, that is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is vital and desirable that within each national border and within the EC's wider boundaries a single principle may have to be applied to extraordinarily diverse sets of circumstances. An element of discretion enables the interpretation of that principle to be sensitive to those circumstances. Therefore, its application should be more effective, more equitable and more locally accountable. The more locally accountable is the implementation and enforcement, the more successful is the compliance. Among many others, I can vouch for the progress that environmental initiatives can achieve where there is local motivation and participation.

Local interpretation and enforcement is both a source of strength and the cause of considerable anxiety. The exercise of discretion is only as good as the competence, experience and professionalism of those in whom that discretion is vested. The local human factor in the discretionary interpretation of environmental legislation very often illustrates extraordinary and colourful variability. Therefore, it is inevitable that within and between each EC nation, enforcement will be subject to every kind of inconsistency.

A further problem in the UK of which I am aware is the management priorities of many local authorities. They are very often driven by economic, development and traffic needs, for instance, and the monitoring and enforcement of environmental legislation are low priorities with comparatively low staffing and resources. It is therefore difficult for compliance to be pursued with sufficient consistency or dedication, and where it happens it is sometimes a result of political considerations. As an aside, I should mention that the recession has enabled some local authorities to transfer resources to enforcement and away from development control. However, I imagine that when the economy picks up that trend will probably be reversed.

Given the desirability of enforcement at a local level, efforts must be made to improve consistency of performance. Central governments should insist that local authority conservation officers and statutory agency field officers are both well qualified and reasonably experienced. That is not the case here in the UK but I believe it should be. Perhaps a formal qualification should be established for such officers and a formal body through which they must be registered should also be established. Central governments should also insist that through their employers, or through a professional body, conservation officers are subject to continuous professional development. This would include instruction on new environmental legislation. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, pointed out, the volume of environmental legislation is set to rise rapidly.

It is not that uncommon at present for those in private practice to know more about recent developments than those charged with their enforcement at ground level. Conservation and environmental officers should in addition have a stronger voice in decision making. Many at the moment are in relatively junior positions and exert insufficient influence given the importance of their brief. Their sometimes insufficient status can be frustrating for those who are anxious for progress. On a number of occasions I have experienced reluctance on the part of conservation or field officers to express a professional conviction fully and formally where it is contrary to the thinking of a local planning officer.

Central governments can do more than insist on minimum qualifications, experience and status for such enforcement officers. They can also do more than giving their due consideration to legislation before implementation and ensuring that there is proper enforcement legislation in parallel. They could, for instance, provide "best practice" notes for local authorities and statutory conservation agencies. Against such notes the actions of individual authorities and agencies could be measured. Given that significant inconsistencies are occurring both in the UK and in other EC countries, I believe that the track records of authorities and agencies should be monitored. That job should be primarily a national duty with secondary monitoring, where appropriate, to EC standards being carried out by an EC body such as the EEA.

Both national and international monitoring can then be the basis for public comment. Where practices are suspect or poor, the publicity may act as an agent for change. Where practices are good, the methods involved in their success will act as a pointer to others. The latter I believe to be of great significance in striving towards consistent standards of enforcement and compliance. In my experience comparable authorities, agencies and their officers with access to similar resources, similar salary structures and similar training facilities can produce extraordinarily different professional standards when it comes to interpretation and enforcement.

There is, furthermore, a consistency to the variation in performance between comparable bodies. The more one explores this problem, the more convinced one becomes that its causes lie in the quality and priorities demonstrated by the management systems. It is therefore not a difficult proposition for improvements to be wrought through greater government insistence on minimum standards for enforcement officers and through the greater exchange of information on policy and practice between those who can get things right and those who cannot. The fruits of such labours would be the better enforcement of environmental legislation and a better achievement of those objectives at which such legislation was aimed in the first place.

5.24 p.m.

Lord Slynn of Hadley

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the noble Earl, Lord Portland, chose an important topic for their maiden speeches. I hope it is not impertinent for one who has so recently gone through the same hoops to say how valuable I found their contributions and to add that it is a great personal pleasure to have heard the speech of the noble and learned Lord. For some 11 years we together defended government action and legislation and now that we are free of those responsibilities noble Lords will not be surprised if from time to time we find defects in both.

I said that this was an important topic because it is quite plain now that environmental protection is needed not just on a domestic basis but on an international or an intranational basis. We still need, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, has indicated, some form of domestic redress. But actions in tort and actions in nuisance in the British courts and in the other national courts are, if necessary, no longer sufficient. They are not sufficient in the Community because it is quite obvious that pollution of air, land and sea causes environmental damage across boundaries. They are no longer sufficient because of the interaction of environmental issues and commercial needs or demands.

We have already seen in the Community that the disposal of hazardous waste has to be dealt with not just to protect the environment but also to ensure fairness of competition between traders in different states involved in that industry. We have already seen in the Community that the commercial interest in the free movement of bottles of beer across boundaries of member states may have to give way to the protection of the environment in the shape of small boys hunting on a Sunday evening through the hills and valleys of Denmark to collect the beer bottles which have been rejected to recover the deposits on them. That kind of balance between commercial interests and environmental protection may be important.

The Community, which until recently had only general powers relating to the Common Market to deal with environmental issues, now has wide powers. They may be precisely defined but they are certainly wide in their scope. In the exercise of those powers the Community has, with the member states, a special responsibility and, perhaps no less important, a special opportunity to deal with these matters. The objectives and principles which are spelt out in the Single European Act and which are closely linked to improving the condition of life in the Community will be extremely important.

However, the Commission can only carry out those responsibilities and seize those opportunities if there is proper discussion on what is needed to protect the environment and how it is to be achieved. For that reason the reports of the Select Committee on, for example, environmental impact agreements and on the freedom of access to environmental information have played a prominent part in provoking discussions throughout Europe. From my experience I can echo what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. The Community as a whole at all stages and at all levels has found these reports of immense value. The two new reports which your Lordships are considering today add to that process in a significant way.

As noble Lords have said, the House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, for introducing the debate and also for all his work as chairman of the sub-committee and as president of the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association. It is highly significant that under his presidency in a short time the number of members of that association rose from 50 to over 1,000. That shows the persuasive force of his activities in relation to the environment. Not only did he induce the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, to give the Garner Lecture, but with less desirable effect he induced me to take over his presidency of that association.

Of the two reports with which the House is concerned the action programme report is important in showing that environmental priorities should be observed in other areas of activity such as industry and energy. However, it is to the report on the implementation and enforcement of environmental legislation that I should like briefly to refer.

It is plain that with the new powers in the Single European Act to which I have referred we can expect much more activity from the European Community. It will clearly have to be worked out what should be dealt with by the Community and what should be dealt with by member states, largely at the government and political level, and perhaps at the administrative level. There may be a residual function for the European Court of Justice.

Having seen the performance of Article 130 of the Single European Act since it came into force, noble Lords may think that there is less need for anxiety in the application of the principle of subsidiarity in relation to environmental issues than is often expressed in regard to other matters. It is difficult to see how some measures, if they are to be effective, can be taken otherwise than under the leadership of the Commission and the Community. That is not just because they cross boundaries and because the activities involve a number of member states. It is quite plain that some member states—and we must remember that we are not the only member state— may be reluctant to adopt environmentally protective measures which penalise their economies for the benefit of the Community.

Although the European Parliament itself, through its questions, resolutions, petitions and inquiries, has had an important effect, at the end of the day it is for the Commission to take the necessary lead. It is for that reason that I suggest that the emphasis in the Select Committee's report on the collation of information and on collaboration between member states and the institutions of the Community is crucial. I was very glad to see that the Government had largely accepted the recommendations of the committee in that respect. It is quite plain that without the necessary exchange of information and without appropriate collaboration these environmental rules will not be effective.

I recall being impressed by the small staff of the Commission and their realisation that they could not monitor everything in the Community which from the environmental point of view needed attention. I remember when the Germans began to build dykes which interfered substantially with land that had been set aside for migratory birds. Their action may not have been a violation of the relevant directives, although it was argued that it was. In that case it was striking that the Commission received the information necessary to enable it to take steps only at a late stage. It was only at an even later stage that it took action. I have no doubt that if there had been full collaboration between the national and Community institutions it would have been possible for effective action to have been taken earlier. I entirely agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and that injunctive relief may sometimes have to be considered and must be available in an effective form.

If there is to be collation of information and co-operation, I suggest that the report of the Select Committee, with its emphasis on the need for publicity, is of considerable importance. The committee is right to stress the need for publicity in the relevant documents, not only to assist the Commission to do its job but also to enable those who are interested in what is being done to ensure that steps are not taken by the Commission, and by the member states in collaboration, without their point of view being put forward.

Quite often when the Commission is minded to go against a member state one finds that some form of negotiation or settlement is reached. If that is done without the necessary publicity then those who are interested in what is being considered do not have any right to make representations on the subject. That is particularly important in view of the very limited opportunity for the citizen, the trading company, the pressure group and the lobbyist interested in environmental matters to go to the European Court of Justice. For a long time I have considered, and I am not alone in this, that the restriction of the right of the citizen, the trading company or the group to approach the European Court of Justice is too limited. The need to establish an individual and direct concern has become too technical.

Some of us hoped that Maastricht would address that point and introduce a relaxation. I very much hope that over the next few years and before the 1996 discussions the Government will keep an eye on what is happening in the environmental area and consider whether there should not be a wider right, under both Articles 173 and 175, for the citizen to complain that nothing is being done or to attack what the Commission is doing.

In so far as concerns the court, a question arises in relation to Article 169 of the treaty. I agree entirely with what the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, said about the importance of the Article 169 letter setting out very precisely the Commission's complaint. It is not enough for that to come at a later stage in the reasoned opinion of the Commission. I hope that the Government will follow up that suggestion and remind the Commission of the importance of the allegations being made at the beginning, otherwise they would not be allowed to be raised before the court.

It is no less important, in view of the amount of work which appears before the European Court of Justice, that some way should he established by which a breach of the treaty by a member state in the environmental area should be dealt with expeditiously. At the moment when there is no defence by a member state to a claim that it is in breach of the treaty the whole litigation procedure has to be gone through. I hope that the Government will consider with the other member states introducing in 1996 some more expeditious procedure.

Finally, I have two further brief points. It is said that enforcement and implementation are now more important than questions of legislation. That may be so, but in view of the fact that one citizen cannot rely upon a directive to complain about violation of some rule of environmental protection unless that directive has been implemented, it is extremely important that legislation should adopt the directives fully and properly. Until now we have had every reason to be proud of the way in which the governments have adopted this legislation.

The question of fines has been raised. I do not believe that anybody is enthusiastic about the idea of introducing the imposing of fines as a punishment for a member state's failure to carry out its treaty obligations. It was felt necessary to do so. Whether that will in future be an effective remedy may become an academic question. The European Court has now held that if a member state is in breach of treaty obligations, and the citizen can prove damages flowing from it, he may be able to recover compensation against the member state. I suspect that an award of damages against the member state may be a more effective remedy than a fine. It may not be necessary to impose fines.

I endorse the compliments that have been paid to the reports. They make an important contribution to an important subject.

5.40 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, I join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, and the committee for the report produced. Unlike some speakers, I have not had the advantage of being a member of the committee, although I was a member several years ago. I had intimated to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, recently that I should like to sit in on its proceedings. However, I then learnt that it was hastily being abolished—possibly as a result of that intimation! I hope that its work will continue with the new joint committee. I sincerely hope that the forecast of my noble friend Lord McNair—he foresees that such work may deteriorate in a joint committee —will not be borne out.

It is a tremendously important subject. We have only to consider the course of this debate to understand how important it is. Even in your Lordships' House we seldom have a debate with such an immense amount of expert opinion. I refer in particular to the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf. We seldom have such a meaty maiden speech. I include also the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn of Hadley. I particularly welcome the maiden speech of the noble Earl, Lord Portland. Although he is probably unaware of it, he is a distant kinsman of mine. He will recognise the allusion if I say that we are tied together by Eyres and Graces. I can tell him that I wear a green hat on almost all occasions and very seldom take it off.

I wish to touch first on implementation and enforcement. I believe that there is a slight difference of emphasis between the two sides of the House on those matters. I have always found it difficult to reconcile the Conservatives' devotion to the voluntary principle and their slightly misplaced faith in the likelihood of people acting voluntarily against their short-term economic interests with their most admirable belief in the doctrine of original sin as part of their basic philosophy. It seems to me that the latter is slightly more credible.

Ecological protection is too serious to be left to voluntary effort. The Government do not make the control of physical violence a matter for voluntary effort. They should not make control of violence against the world in which we live a matter for voluntary effort. There is a need for laws and regulations, and for them to be implemented and enforced. The destruction of 1,200 SSSIs in the past five years points to the lacunae in present procedures. The Government have a new opportunity with the EC habitats directive to insert some teeth into that area.

The destruction of habitats is the most important and striking current feature. But also what do the Government intend to do about the neglect and deterioration of sites? Reference has already been made to that issue. I have given notice to the Minister who will reply to the debate that I should ask those two questions. In the present economic state of agriculture there is no reason why farmers should not be given money to protect the wildlife and the environment since they no longer have the temptation to produce a massive oversupply of food.

The noble Lord, Lord Bridges, referred to a question on which I have not given notice. I refer to progress on the location of the European Environment Agency. That is an important matter. It ought to be able to be pursued now that other matters are out of the way. What is being done to pursue the idea of an inspectorate of inspectorates? It was an extremely good idea for this Government to seek to introduce when they were president of the EC. It appears to have become massively diluted in the course of events.

Because of the party that this Government represent, their stance is, "Of course the country must be protected. Since most of it is owned by noble Lords who are Members of that party, and who are all good chaps, it will be protected. However, laws and so on are disagreeable; they get in the way. They get good chaps' backs up. They interfere with the financial well-being of good chaps. On top of all that, intervention by foreigners is quite unnecessary". I penned that paragraph before I heard the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. If he can tell me that none of the losses of the SSSIs to which I have referred occurred in Scotland, I shall withdraw it. But I do not believe that he can do so.

That approach to the preservation of the environment, to the ecology of our country, will not do. Rigour is needed. We now have an opportunity with the new European environmental legislation. We now have an opportunity with the very worthwhile last report of the committee. I hope that that opportunity will be taken.

5.48 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, the House will be extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, not only for chairing the committee which produced the two excellent reports but for introducing them in his usual eloquent fashion. I am sure that the House equally enjoyed the maiden contributions from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the noble Earl, Lord Portland. I shall come back to some of the points that they made. It is a welcome opportunity for us to have an environment debate; it is some time since we had one. It is good that the House should from time to time, in the words of the noble Earl, Lord Portland, wear its green hat and look at the environment in the round. The two reports offer us an opportunity for doing that.

There is a feeling abroad that the environment has slipped down the public agenda. Perhaps that is natural in a recession. Whereas in times of prosperity one can allow oneself the luxury of thinking about how to preserve natural resources, in a time of recession its seems that we must try to work those natural resources for all they are worth because the economy has been brought to such a sorry state by the Government.

Nevertheless, even in a recession—and the recession still continues—we have to think about what happens afterwards. We must continue our commitment to the environment for the simple reason—and this cannot be too often emphasised, as it was in the Government's own White Paper: This Common Inheritance—that we have this planet Earth in trust for future generations. What we leave to future generations should always be in the forefront of our minds.

Further, as my noble friend Lady Hilton and the noble and learned Lords, Lord Woolf and Lord Slynn of Hadley, said, pollution is no respecter of boundaries. As the noble Earl, Lord Portland, said, we are all causers of pollution. So this debate takes place around an important series of topics and I treat them with the seriousness that other noble Lords have done during this afternoon.

Perhaps I may first talk about implementation and enforcement. I do so with a certain amount of diffidence, partly because I note on my left—as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn, said—two Treasury juniors who were responsible for defending government legislation for rather a long time and who became extremely expert in the law. Therefore, not being a lawyer myself, I find it embarrassing to speak in front of the noble and learned Lords. Secondly, it is rather a long time since the Select Committee's report was published and we have not had an opportunity to debate it. Various things have or have not happened. Various things which have not happened should, in the context and the spirit of the report, have happened.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, said, what has not happened is that the European Environment Agency has not been set up. After all, it was decided and agreed on in 1990 and because of apparent bickering about the location of the European Parliament or the European Central Bank or whatever it was, for some reason no one has got round to setting up the European Environment Agency which we were promised.

Equally, what has not happened—as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, said—is the setting up of the inspectorate of inspectorates. It seemed to me that that was an excellent idea. We fully supported it and it was said to be one of the major objectives of the United Kingdom presidency of the Community. It has not appeared and we can only regret that all that has appeared is a general agreement between members of the Community that the various inspectorates in each country will in some way speak to one another rather more cordially than they have done in the past. It is not a happy substitute.

However, worse than those two—the EEA and the inspectorate of inspectorates—is that in some respects we have gone backwards. Here I am afraid I shall say things with which the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, will profoundly disagree. I believe that we have gone backwards in repatriating some of the policy areas of the environmental regulations in the name of something which is described as "subsidiarity", whatever that may mean. I am afraid that I do not accept the definition in Article 3b of the Maastricht Treaty as being a full definition of subsidiarity. Indeed, it was the Secretary of State for the Environment himself who said that a number of areas could legitimately be taken out of Community control and repatriated back to individual member states.

I believe that, given my major premise which all sides in the debate have recognised, environmental regulation must be no respecter of national boundaries. I believe that form of repatriation is a retrograde step. I say that straightaway.

I very much hope to hear from the Minister when he comes to reply what are the forward moves that we can envisage in the future. Have the Government reached any conclusions about the European Environment Agency? Will they press ahead with it? Are our colleagues in the Community also prepared to press ahead with it? What is the status of the inspectorate of inspectorates? Is it just yet another good idea that has fallen by the wayside as a result of bickering within the Community?

I should like to hear from the Minister a positive commitment to those two items. If I receive that, I promise him that he and the Government will have the support of the Opposition, provided, of course, that the rules that are set out and the arrangements that are decided for those two bodies are satisfactory.

Any remarks about implementation and enforcement of environmental legislation must take account of paragraph 134 of the report of your Lordships' Committee. It may be for the convenience of your Lordships if I read it out because it is such an important paragraph that it is worth paying attention to it. The paragraph says: Implementation and enforcement of environmental legislation go to the heart of Community policy. But Community environmental legislation is being widely disregarded, and the Community has paid insufficient attention to how its policies can be given effect, enforced or evaluated. The time has come to redress the balance". That is where your Lordships' Committee starts. I do not wish to set out in detail how we think we should go from here, but there are a number of principles which we wish to enunciate and which I hope the Government will support.

The first is that in general all that can be done by member states in the first instance should be done by them in the first instance. Clearly, if member states fail in their programmes of enforcement and implementation, there will be further demands for direct centralised Community action. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn of Hadley, reminded us that the implementation of the Single European Act and the role of the European Court—despite some of the cumbrous procedures to which I shall come in a minute—allowed or imposed a considerable burden on member states to implement the various regulations which derived from the Act. That must be the first port of call. If those fail, there must be a proper procedure for it to be dealt with by the Commission at a Community level.

How not to react to paragraph 134 of the report is quite simple. It is to say, "Well, if other countries do not enforce European environmental standards, then we are not going to do so either. We will adopt the lowest common denominator approach. We will relax our own standards in the level of enforcement to that which prevails in the rest of the Community". That seems to me to be dangerously close to what the Prime Minister was saying when he said that he wanted a bonfire of controls.

The second thing we must not do—how not to react, paragraph 2—is not to try very hard. It is to say, "Well, we are not really bothered". Here, because I happen to be president of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, I instance a letter from the Secretary of State for Wales about the agri-environmental scheme of which Regulation 2078/92 is binding on member states. In the letter of 11th January 1993, he writes: My officials are, with others, exploring these matters but there is no possibility of these deliberations being concluded in time to meet the EC's deadline of July 1993 for member states to submit their agri-environment proposals under [this regulation]. This does not, however, mean that the opportunity of introducing such a scheme is lost forever". That is one way not to react to a regulation which imposes on member states a strict obligation under Community rules. So how should we react?

Clearly there has to be a proper complaints procedure. Several noble Lords mentioned better access to the courts and better possibilities of access to judicial review. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, suggested in his speech that there was now a corpus of environmental law which required some kind of environmental tribunal which was able to oversee or intervene at the right stage. It is a very interesting idea on which I should like to hear the Government's views. Perhaps there should be greater access to the courts for aggrieved individuals or non-governmental organisations so that implementation and enforcement could be done that way.

Perhaps also, in the course of time, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn of Hadley, said, the European Court will devise less cumbrous procedures for environmental cases than it has at the moment. But we must accept that the ultimate responsibility for implementing Community legislation rests with the Commission. The Commission must be properly staffed, accordingly.

I turn to the fifth environment action programme, which, generally speaking, we welcome. I believe it was welcomed on all sides of this House this afternoon, and indeed by all political parties. We welcome particularly the concept of sustainability and the view that the key to sustainability is in the integration of the environment into decision-making and policies at all levels and in all spheres. That is the fundamental concept of the fifth action programme and one which we support. It is generally welcome.

However, I have two important general points which I should like to put. First, it is only a declaration of intent. It does not set out any precise proposals. It has to be translated into something that we can put into a real action programme as opposed to a series of principles.

Secondly—this is a welcome point but with a caveat —the shared responsibilities to which he refers in the fifth programme between all levels of public authority, NGOs, the private sector and everybody involved require resources. And it is unfortunate that, when local authorities in this country are being starved of resources by the Government, they are required to undertake extra responsibilities in the environmental field.

I have some specific points on which I should like the Minister's view. Some of them, I accept, may not be very attractive to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. First, I suggest that the Government should move to a position whereby each directorate inside the Commission—each and every directorate, not just that dealing with environmental affairs—should have an environmental unit to monitor and influence the policies of that directorate.

Secondly, I believe that the key to a lot of what we are talking about is in increased efficiency in the use of energy. There is no sign at the moment of a national programme. We have argued endlessly in this House for a national programme for energy efficiency. We find that expenditure by government departments on energy efficiency is now falling.

Thirdly, we should like to see the legislation which would implement the habitats directive introduced as soon as possible. We believe that that will be a strong measure which will improve our environmental situation.

Fourthly, I ask the Minister whether the Government have done any work—if so, what is the result?—on new economic indicators to measure environmental "diseconomies" as suggested by the fifth environment action programme: resource depletion; pollution, etc. What progress has the Government made?

Lastly, can the Government explain how they see the economic inducements which we are told by the Minister in another place are to be the important way of implementing the fifth environment action programme? I would certainly argue that if one of the economic inducements is the use of the non-fossil fuel levy for energy conservation, that would be a useful economic inducement. But to rely simply on market forces—which appears to be the implication, unless the noble Lord can tell me otherwise—seems to be somewhat less than adequate.

The two reports are excellent. They have taken the debate on the environment somewhat further forward. In the end, these two reports come together. Progress will be made only as a result of the proper enforcement of practical measures. Economic forces may help, but they are no substitute for a properly organised system of regulation and control. That is the principle that we on these Benches believe in. That is the principle we expect to hear spelt out by the Minister.

6.5 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Strathclyde)

My Lords, I too am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, for introducing the debate. I congratulate him and his sub-committee on producing two typically comprehensive and thoughtful reports. I should also like to congratulate our two maiden speakers; first, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, who made some very interesting points and offered some good ideas about environmental litigation and the need for an environmental tribunal. I shall draw these ideas to the attention of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor.

Similarly, I should like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Portland, on a first-class maiden speech on the environment, on coming out and talking about wearing our green hats. I hope that the noble Earl agrees that in this debate many noble Lords have displayed their green hats.

I am also grateful to other noble Lords for their contributions and for the letters I have received over the course of the past few days, giving me notice of some of their questions. I have been asked many questions during the course of today and I do not pretend to be able to answer them all. I would also like to agree at the outset with the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, that it is about time that this House had an environment debate. It has been a good one. I also agree with him that the reports are excellent.

As the Government's response to the report on implementation and enforcement made clear, we very much welcome the committee's views. I can also say that our response to the report on integration and the fifth action programme will be equally welcoming. Both reports address themes to which we attached particular importance—as we did during the UK's presidency of the Environment Council—and aided us as we tackled those themes. In both areas, we made significant progress.

Let me turn first to the report on implementation and enforcement. It offers conclusions and recommendations with which the Government largely agree. But these are not only directed towards the Government. Many of its finding apply as much to the European Commission and to other member states. The Government have therefore taken every opportunity to bring the committee's report to the attention of other interested parties. I can tell the House that it has been well received.

The Government share the committee's view that the effectiveness with which Community environmental law is implemented and enforced is an issue of great importance, and one which does not currently enjoy the priority that it deserves. Action must be taken to ensure that the law is applied more effectively. But to do so we must also remain aware of why member states sometimes have difficulty in putting Community law into practice. The committee's report identifies a number of important reasons, such as the quality of the legislation and particular national administrative systems as well as simply inadequate enforcement.

The Government's experience in implementing legislation bears out the committee's conclusion that sometimes problems arise from the legislation, in part as a result of the inevitable political bargaining which forms part of the EC's negotiating process. The Government therefore support the committee's call for improved clarity and greater involvement of legal draftsmen in the early stages of preparing legislation. We should also like to see difficulties of interpretation that are thrown up by existing legislation systematically taken into account in future legislation.

At Edinburgh the European Council took steps to improve the situation by adopting a declaration on openness and transparency. Among other matters, that aims to simplify and improve access to Community legislation, for example, by drawing up criteria against which the quality of drafting of legislation should be checked, by involving the Council legal services on a more regular basis in reviewing draft legislative acts, and by improving the consolidation and codification of Community legislation. Those are welcome developments. Other elements of the Edinburgh declaration on openness will contribute to improved public access to the Community, an area on which your Lordships' committee commented in its second report.

The Government entirely agree that there should be wider consultation on Commission proposals and that the consultation should preferably take place before the Commission's original proposal is published. I am pleased that the Commission has accepted that point and has pledged to increase its use of green papers.

We share the committee's concern that the quality of environmental legislation is frequently affected because the proposal is developed on the basis of inaccurate and inconsistent data. We hope that the early establishment of the European Environment Agency and the implementation of the Standardised Reporting Directive will help to remedy that situation. I will return to that subject in a moment.

While poor quality legislation may be difficult to enforce, it does not excuse non-compliance. A number of member states do not devote enough resources to enforcing the law. That widespread problem is not at present given the amount of attention that it merits, either at national or Community level.

The United Kingdom has regularly called for more effective enforcement of Community environment law. Our presidency allowed us to seize a prime opportunity to move forward. In doing so we took careful account of the views and recommendations in the Committee's report. There were four principal elements to our package: more political attention; improved enforcement; validation of enforcement performance; and more accurate data on which to base legislation and analysis of enforcement performance.

First, my right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State for the Environment persuaded the Commissioner to produce a report on implementation and enforcement for Council. That was discussed in December and the Council agreed that the Commission should henceforward produce an annual report on implementation for Council discussion. That is an important step forward. For too long the Council of Ministers has been viewed primarily as a forum for discussing new legislation; it must also take time to step back and evaluate the effectiveness of existing measures.

Secondly, we followed up a recommendation of the Amsterdam Informal Council in 1991 for the establishment of a mechanism for contact between national enforcement agencies. We agreed to host the first meeting of such a network in Chester in November. Representatives from the Commission and from enforcement agencies from all member states attended that extremely successful event. It was agreed that the network should be set up on a permanent basis, and Denmark offered to host the next meeting during its presidency. A future work programme was also agreed and is now well in hand.

Thirdly, we have continued to press for the establishment of a mechanism at Community level to validate the enforcement performance of the authorities in the member states. I was grateful for the committee's endorsement of our proposal for a so-called "audit inspectorate". We believe that such an organisation could play a valuable role. It would lead to an increase in the amount of consistent data that was available on the application of EC environment law and should increase confidence in the performance of the national authorities. The response from other member states and the commission has so far been mixed, but we will continue to promote the idea at every possible opportunity.

Fourthly, we have sought to take forward mechanisms to improve the quality of available data on which new legislative proposals can be based. The United Kingdom has always been fully supportive of the standardised reporting directive, and expects this to prove a useful tool in future. However, more urgently, the Community needs the proposed European Environment Agency to be set up. The committee's second report also made clear the importance which your Lordships attach to that point.

I well understand the widespread dissatisfaction with the Community's failure to agree on a site. The noble Lords, Lord Bridges and Lord Nathan, asked specifically about progress. The Government made strenuous efforts during the presidency to secure agreement. Although it proved impossible, there is every indication that the main obstacles have now been removed following the agreement on the sites of certain other Community institutions at Edinburgh, and agreement should be possible under the Danish presidency. In the meantime, we worked closely with the Commission to identify tasks which could usefully be set in hand to anticipate the future work and needs of the agency. The Commission has now called a meeting of high level national representatives on 9th February to take that matter forward.

There has been a significant debate throughout the Community over the last year in regard to the interaction between the principle of subsidiarity and the means of delivering effective enforcement of Community legislation. The Government fully endorse the Committee's view that subsidiarity must not be used as an excuse to reduce vigilance on enforcement. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State made that view clear throughout his term as President.

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, argued that the Commission or the European Environment Agency should have the right, as in the competition sector, to take direct enforcement action against individual undertakings which breach environment law. The Community as a whole and the Commission, as guardian of the law, have a clear interest in the outcome of the national enforcement process. However, we believe that the application of the law should rightly be left to the member states so that it can adequately reflect national legal and administrative structures and decisions.

Our proposal for an audit inspectorate would complement the subsidiarity principle. By increasing the information that is readily available about the enforcement record of member states, it should in time increase confidence in the ability of national authorities to do the job effectively. It should also reduce the pressure for any centralised form of inspectorate, which, especially in an enlarged community, will prove impractical.

I can confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan that we retain an open mind as to the future relationship between an audit inspectorate, if it is established, and the European Environment Agency.

In sum, the Government have been encouraged by the progress that has been made. But however effective the measures I have described, implementation and enforcement will only really be improved when there is real political will in each member state to do so.

Let me now turn to the committee's second report, on the 5th action programme, and more specifically the question of the integration of environmental concerns into other policies. The Government warmly welcome the report. As the report notes, the 5th action programme covers an enormous range as it sets out the broad strategy for the Community's environmental policy until the end of the century.

Among the many issues that are addressed by the programme, the committee rightly highlighted the question of integration as an area that is crucial to the implementation of the programme and to the achievement of the Community's environmental protection objectives. The Government fully endorse the committee's assessment of the importance of integration and agree that, while there has been some progress in that area in recent years, more needs to be done.

For that reason, we chose to make integration the second key theme of our presidency. We also made particular efforts to ensure that environmental issues were addressed in other areas. In the event, no less than eight different councils during the UK presidency discussed environmental issues, and the presidency organised or supported a number of special conferences which related to integration.

The action programme addresses only broad objectives and gives little detail of how the objective of enhanced integration is to be achieved. There have been some positive developments over recent years, but more needs to be done to facilitate greater horizontal co-ordination. The creation of the new post of environmental co-ordinator in the Secretariat-General of the Commission is a welcome initiative and the Government look forward to seeing the practical benefits of that appointment. However, as the committee has reported, the Commission has pursued an essentially ad hoc approach. We agree that a more structured approach to administrative reform is needed.

That was the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Williams, when he asked me if I agreed that we should introduce a greater environmental network in all directorates of the Commission. I am pleased to tell him that we do.

As the committee acknowledges, in the UK we have introduced new systems and procedures in the wake of the 1990 White Paper This Common Inheritance. The Government are grateful for the committee's view that those could provide a model for enhancing integration in the Community. We therefore welcome the committee's suggestions for possible structural proposals within the Commission, based on the UK experience. Many of them featured in the conclusions of the Informal Environment Council held at Gleneagles in September, which are reproduced at Appendix 3 of the report.

Greater integration is a desirable objective in itself, but the Maastricht Treaty will also require greater efforts. The language of the Single European Act has been strengthened to impose a new obligation that, environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of other Community policies". The Government entirely share the committee's view that the concept of integration does not detract from the principle of subsidiarity, or indeed vice versa. Subsidiarity determines the level at which action is most appropriate. Integration should be an essential element of policy-making at whatever level it takes place.

Perhaps I can say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, that the Government are not singling out the environment in the debate on subsidiarity. The principle applies to all Community policies. The environment is not exempt. We are determined that the application of subsidiarity will not lead to an overall lowering of standards.

The Government have noted the committee's view that environmental factors have frequently been ignored in Community action. We share that concern. The recent report of the Court of Auditors is germane in that context. It is quite critical of many aspects of the Community's environmental policy, including the frequent failure to take environmental considerations properly into account in projects receiving Community support through the structural funds, as was pointed out by the noble Lords, Lord Nathan and Lord McNair. The present structural funds regulations do not go far enough. When changes to the structural funds regulations are discussed during the course of 1993, the Government will be seeking closer integration between Community environmental policy and the structural funds, as we shall for the new cohesion fund.

A further success for the presidency was the adoption by the Environment Council in December of a resolution on the fifth action programme. Building on some of the ideas canvassed by the committee, we wrote into the text a request to the Commission to consider and report in due course on initiatives to improve the integration of environmental concerns into other policy areas. We look forward to the outcome of the Commission's studies.

The committee's report raises a number of other issues besides integration. I have already mentioned both the environment agency and openness. My noble friend Lord Norrie asked about a directive on environmental assessment for policies, plans and programmes. As yet, the Commission has made no formal proposal. It clearly recognises the potential difficulties, including issues of subsidiarity. We shall of course consider whatever proposals may eventually be tabled. The Government are fully committed to integration. But we do not accept that it is practicable for the Community to establish detailed prescriptive procedures to be applied on a uniform basis across all member states. They have widely differing administrative practices and constitutional traditions. The formulation of policy is an iterative process which does not readily lend itself to a single procedure for environmental assessment as does planning for a specific project.

The noble Lord, Lord McNair, asked how the Government intended to publicise the environmental information regulation to the general public. We consulted widely in regard to how best to give effect to the regulations. Implementation, of course, will have implications for both central and local government. It is important that the regulations are made available and acted upon in the UK as in the rest of the Community.

My noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch discussed the problems of the habitat directive and the advisory committee in the Scottish Natural Heritage Act. I thank my noble friend for his kindness in singling me out for praise. Of course it was a team effort and a measure that was supported by the whole House. With regard to his substantive point, we do not envisage that the legislative and other measures needed to implement the habitat's directive in the UK will have any impact on the advisory committee on SSSIs established in Scotland. We intend that any sites notified as being of Community importance will already have been notified as SSSIs before being given the additional designation of special area of conservation under the directive. Thus the arrangement set out in Section 12 of the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 1991 will continue as at present.

I feel also that my noble friend Lord Pearson was given a bit of a hard time by some noble Lords. My noble friend's record on environmental matters is excellent. He has been a great propagator of environmental standards in his personal life and that is to be greatly encouraged.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, perhaps I can say that we are considering with the nature conservation agencies how that directive should be implemented in the United Kingdom. We hope to come up with some views shortly. Furthermore, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, asked what measures the Government should introduce to prevent sites from falling into neglect or deterioration due to lack of management. The planning policy guidance note on nature conservation will be issued shortly. It will give guidance on how the Government's policies for the conservation of the natural environment are to be reflected in land use planning. I hope that that will go some way to answering the point.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, asked how we were coming along with our study of the use of economic instruments. I agree that economic instruments will complement regulation. Such instruments will not amount simply to market forces. For example, the Community is discussing a carbon energy tax and the Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment recommended that we should have a waste landfill levy. I recognise that there is still a great deal of work to do on the use of economic instruments. However, I hope that what I have said will please the noble Lord, Lord Williams.

In conclusion, we can be proud of the progress made under the UK presidency on both issues we have debated today. But we recognise that we have only made a start. We need to keep up the pressure for action in Brussels. That we shall certainly do, and we shall look to future presidencies to carry on in the same vein. The committee's thoughtful reports will be most valuable to us as we seek to make progress. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions today.

6.28 p.m.

Lord Nathan

My Lords, I am grateful for the full review the Minister gave to all the points made in the debate. I, and I am sure others, look forward to reading what he said. It was difficult to take it all in as he was speaking.

My function at this stage, and I do it with the greatest pleasure, is to express my thanks to those speakers—I believe all of them—who made extremely kind remarks regarding the reports which were the subject of the debate. I express also my great appreciation for the remarks made in regard to myself and the chairmanship which I have so much enjoyed over the years.

Much has been said in regard to the maiden speech of my noble and learned friend Lord Woolf. I agree with everything that was said in his praise. I would only add that I feel how right I was to invite him to give that Garner lecture, which was the reason why he applied his great mind to the question of an environmental tribunal which has now matured and has featured so much in the debate. I echo the remarks from all quarters of the House about the excellence of his maiden speech.

I was very impressed too by the maiden speech of the noble Earl, Lord Portland, because in the committee and in the studies we were very much concerned with legalities and administrative procedures. Those are clearly of great importance. Neither can do more than provide a framework within which an environmental policy can evolve and work. But behind that there must be inspiration and motivation to pursue an environmental policy which laws by themselves cannot provide. The noble Earl's speech addressed that point which is of the greatest underlying importance. We are grateful to him for that.

It is curious that when I first began the sub-committee was lower in the alphabet. We have been climbing up the alphabet ever since. We started as G, the reports produced were under F and it is now C, so Heaven knows where we shall end up. It is naturally a matter of regret to me that the committee as it was constituted is no longer to be, at any rate for the time being, but I am sure that under its new chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Lewis, it will do admirable work.

The two reports before your Lordships today are, as will have been noticed, of an entirely different character. That on implementation and enforcement was prepared over a period of some four months or so. It went into matters in some detail. It is quite long and quite a substantial amount of evidence was published with it. It is, if one likes, a more relaxed report than the other. On the other hand, it went into matters in far greater detail. The report on integration was prepared in considerable haste in order to meet the requirements of the UK Presidency and to be of assistance in that context. It was therefore a short report, with only a little evidence taken in the context of the very large subject which was addressed. If I may be permitted to do so, I should like to express the hope that the recommendation which was made to your Lordships on another occasion that our reports should all be short and sharp is an excellent notion but it should not deprive the House in the future of carefully considered and full reports which have featured hitherto. That would be a pity.

This is an unusual debate on a Select Committee report given that the speakers were not drawn largely from members of the sub-committee carrying out the study. We certainly had ample representation, but I think it is a very good idea that other Members of your Lordships' House should play a full part on these occasions. I am grateful to all those who participated in the debate.

Finally, perhaps I may refer to the chairmanship which I have had the pleasure and honour of holding for quite a number of years. The membership of the committee has been perhaps the most powerful I have encountered. We had a very agreeable relationship among ourselves. It is one of the matters to which perhaps your Lordships' House might wish to give some consideration to ensure that committees of this kind secure the quality of membership which certainly we enjoyed and which lay behind the reports which have received such kind comments.

My duty now is to return to the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper, which I commend to your Lordships.

On Question, Motion agreed to.