HL Deb 19 January 1995 vol 560 cc817-52

House again in Committee on Clause 6.

Lord Greenwaymoved Amendment No. 72:

Page 7, line 8, at end insert: ("() It shall be the duty of the Agency to maintain, improve and develop for recreational and navigational purposes the waterways in respect of which the Agency exercises functions as a navigation authority, harbour authority or conservancy authority.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, which brings us back to navigational matters, it may be convenient if I give a few notes on the background of what I am trying to achieve in a number of amendments connected with navigation.

It is estimated that there are about 7 million casual visits by people to the British Waterways' canal and river system and an equivalent number of casual visits or day trips to the River Thames and the National Rivers Authority waterways. The recreational 'use of the waterways is not just by those who own or hire a boat. It includes those who come down to the water's edge to picnic or walk and those who take trips on passenger boats or day launches. They enjoy the visits because of the combination of the management of the waterway and the spectacle of boats and their movements. I do not feel that many people would wish to make a visit to a waterway that was derelict.

The three organisations which look after the interests of those to whom I should like to refer as the navigators are: the British Marine Industries Federation, the Royal Yachting Association and the Inland Waterways Association. Those three organisations have sought to look after their interests in a responsible way and to recognise the quality of the management of the waterways by the NRA on the Thames, the Fens and its other navigations. However, they are concerned that navigation is a very small part of the activities of the NRA, even though it has benefited from a rather higher profile than the situation would warrant.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, is not still in his place. I should like to have paid a tribute to him on behalf of the boating interests. Co-operation with the NRA has been extremely good, especially at regional and lower levels. I believe that quite recently they have been given an even higher profile in that organisation.

With regard to the proposals for the range of activities, staff structure and management structure of the new agency, there is a genuine concern that navigation will form an even smaller part of those activities. With that in mind, I seek to raise the profile of navigation and give better representation and contact with the management in the new environment agency, without making any fundamental change to the Bill.

I turn to the amendment itself. Noble Lords will be well aware that a considerable number of government Acts contain special provision for salmon and freshwater fisheries. The amendment aims to provide a duty to improve and develop recreation and navigation similar to that which is already provided for fisheries in the Bill. I feel it is important that there is a provision to develop rather than just maintain recreation and navigation, which follows earlier provision in the original Water Act of 1889.

I do not seek any special priority provision for those who use the navigations. I merely seek parity with the fishing interests. The Minister was kind enough to accept my first amendment at a late hour the other night, for which I am exceedingly grateful. I shall be interested to hear his reply on this matter. I beg to move.

Lord Moran

I have a good deal of sympathy with the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Greenway. It is important that the agency should take proper account of recreational and navigational responsibilities. I imagine that it will take over the waterways for which the National Rivers Authority is now responsible.

The only point I wish to make is that if anything like this amendment is acceptable to the Government, it should be borne in mind that there are one or two waterways where the interests of boaters and navigators and the interests of fishermen may conflict. It will be necessary for the agency, as it is for the National Rivers Authority, to balance the interests of those two groups. Unfortunately they do occasionally conflict and I am thinking particularly of the River Wye. The lower Wye is a navigation. The National Rivers Authority is not at present the navigation authority, but it may become so. If it does, it would need to take full account of the fishing interests on one of the most important salmon rivers in England and Wales. Therefore, if wording of this kind were included in the Bill, there would need to be a few extra words indicating that those two interests must be balanced.

Viscount Ullswater

The noble Lord, Lord Greenway, asked the Committee to consider including in Clause 6 a specific duty on the agency in respect of recreational and navigational use of other waterways for which it is responsible. The Bill before the Committee transfers to the agency without change the NRA's existing responsibilities in respect of waterways.

As I said when replying to the noble Lord, Lord McNair, on Tuesday 17th January, we shall shortly be issuing a consultation paper seeking views from interested parties on the future organisation of the waterways which are currently the responsibility of British Waterways and the NRA. That will provide the opportunity for waterways' interests to advise government of their visions for the future of those waterways. It would be premature to seek to change the nature or disposition of those responsibilities as suggested by the amendment without taking heed of the outcome of that consultation.

The noble Lord, Lord Moran, pointed out that, as drafted, the amendment has the potential to conflict with the fisheries duties in Clause 6(6) and we would need to be extremely careful about whether there was a connection between them. We would want to avoid any tension between the two. Having said that, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Greenway

I thank the noble Viscount for that reply. I am of course aware of the navigation review proposed by the Government and we hope that it is on the way to coming forward. It has been a long time in the pipeline. I take his point therefore that in many ways it would be premature to do anything until we had the result of the review.

As I said when I moved the amendment, I am merely trying to achieve parity for the boating interests with the fishing interests. I accept the point made by my noble friend Lord Moran in regard to the lower reaches of the River Wye, where a possible conflict may exist. However, I do not believe that it would be beyond the bounds of the new agency—if the wording is slightly altered—to cope satisfactorily with the situation.

I accept that the drafting may be faulty and may lead to conflict. In view of that I reserve my judgment on the matter and will think about it further. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.15 p.m.

Baroness Nicolmoved Amendment No. 73:

Page 7, line 14, at end insert: ("(c) of promoting the efficient use of water in industry, agriculture and the home;").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of Amendments Nos. 73 and 206 is to extend the water resource management duties of the agency, the water undertakers and the Office of Water Services to include promoting the efficient use of water. I am glad to see that the third amendment in the group, in the name of my noble friend Lady Hilton and the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, addresses the same point. These are probing amendments. They are both supported by the RSPB, which believes that the Bill is an opportunity for Parliament to promote the efficient use of water.

As background, I understand that the NRA has been extremely worried about the increasing use of water. The demand for public water supply has increased by 50 per cent. over the past 30 years. That has resulted in serious environmental problems, quite apart from the problems for the NRA. It has caused problems for wetland birds and habitats of national and international importance, many of which we have an international obligation to protect. For example, English Nature identified over 100 sites of special scientific interest which are being adversely affected by over-abstraction.

The demand for water is likely to continue to rise—the NRA suggests that it may rise by as much as 27 per cent. over the next 30 years. That is the worst case scenario. That would mean large investment in new resources and consequential environmental damage. However, the NRA estimates that with efficient use of water that increased demand could be kept as low as 4 per cent. over the next 30 years.

The environmental agency will be in a unique position to influence demand for water through its water resource functions and the amendments will ensure that the agency has a duty actively to promote demand of management measures. I beg to move.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I intervene briefly to say that earlier this evening I tabled a new clause to come later in the Bill which will appear in the Marshalled List tomorrow. It places on the water undertakings, the companies and on the regulator—Ofwat—a duty to conserve water and provide for sustainable development. In a sense it is the counterpart of the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol.

I believe that this matter is something that the Committee will need to address on more than one occasion; it is something which certainly the regulator feels is lacking in the present legislation. As the noble Baroness rightly said, if water is used extravagantly, it inevitably leads to the need to increase resources and build reservoirs when perhaps they may not have been necessary if people had been encouraged to be more economical. There have been various discussions in the Chamber on the metering of water. I have made speeches when I have said that metering is one of the ways to bring home to people that there is a cost in that the more water they use the more they will have to pay.

The idea of putting a duty on the agency, the regulator and the companies to promote water conservation is something to which even in our watery island—and today in this part of the country it has been very watery indeed—we should give careful consideration. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will be able to make sympathetic noises not only as regards the noble Baroness's amendment but also in relation to my new clause which I have tabled in my own name and those of the noble Lords, Lord Bancroft and Lord Dainton.

Lord Monkswell

We are at a little disadvantage, in that we do not yet have before us the text of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. I support it. I have mentioned this matter in the House before—that is to say, that the efficient utilisation of water cannot be left to the market mechanism which apparently the Government espouse so warmly. In the long run the efficient utilisation of water cannot be determined by just increasing the price. That is one of the arguments for metering. I am attempting to summarise the argument, as I understand it, which is that the metering of water will enable consumers to identify the price of the water they are paying for and therefore that they will take steps to reduce their expenditure.

The fundamentals of water consumption relate to the technology which we use in our day-to-day lives. Only a change in that technology—which, unfortunately, will not come about through the operation of the market mechanism—will enable people to maintain or improve their standard of living by the utilisation of new mechanisms of water efficiency.

For that reason, I wholeheartedly support this amendment. If the environment agency has that duty and responsibility, it can look at the whole situation without the constraint of what I describe as the "market mechanism". I am sure that this amendment will introduce a new dimension to the debate about the utilisation of water. I am also sure that it will be very beneficial to the future of this country.

Baroness Hamwee

I associate these Benches with the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness. It is an important point. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, referred to "our watery island". Perhaps that is one of the problems; namely, that the public do not understand that, despite the amount of water that falls upon us from the skies, nevertheless there are difficulties in the provision of water. It is a matter of confusion that, in periods of bans and drought orders, people feel that there should be enough water to supply the need.

Viscount Ullswater

Amendment No. 73 moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, would add to the existing duties for conserving, redistributing and augmenting water resources and securing the proper use of water that the agency will inherit from the NRA a new duty to promote efficient use of water. Amendments Nos. 206 and 373 would supplement this by imposing similar duties on the director general of water services and on the water undertakers.

The Department of the Environment considered, among other things, whether additional duties and powers were required to promote the efficient use of water in a consultation paper about the sustainable use of water, Using Water Wisely, which was published in 1992. We intend to publish shortly the comprehensive action plan arising from that consultation and in the intervening period we have been considering the comments that we received. We have, where appropriate, taken action.

The combined effect of the noble Baroness's proposals may seem to produce rather a large number of people trying to do the same thing. Clause 6 of the Bill already imposes a duty on the agency, similar to that currently enjoyed by the NRA, to take all such action as it considers necessary to conserve water resources and to secure their proper use. What action the agency takes will be for it to decide in the light of any guidance that it is given, but it will clearly be bound by that duty in advising those considering applying for water abstraction licences and in considering applications. In appropriate circumstances it will be able to go further, as the NRA already does—for example, in its publications advising farmers on good irrigation practice. I suggest, therefore, that no change is needed in respect of the agency. But most water used in the home, and much of that used in industry and agriculture —I note water used in commercial property seems to be excluded from the proposed amendment—will be obtained from a water undertaker rather than under licence directly from the agency. In these circumstances a specific duty on the agency to promote the efficient use of water among certain users therefore would not be effective.

Turning to the director general of water services, and dealing with him in isolation, we do not believe that he should be given a duty directly to promote the efficient use of water. That would require him, for example, to mount public education campaigns and issue publicity material about water use. That, in our view, is not the role of the director general. His major responsibility is the economic regulation of the water undertakers and the supervision of their quality of service. Rather, the determination and publication of standards which in his opinion water companies should achieve might be more in keeping and in line with the responsibilities of the electricity and gas regulators. He needs no new powers for that.

However, the third string to the bow is Amendment No. 373, in the name of my noble friend Lord Marlesford and spoken to enthusiastically by my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding. It puts water undertakers under a similar duty. This seems to us a more promising approach. Coupled with the setting of standards by the director general, it could offer helpful possibilities. The amendment is, however, defective, in that it would remove the primary duty of water undertakers to develop and maintain an efficient and economical water supply system within their area, something on which the whole of the public water supply system depends. I therefore could not accept it.

While I am sympathetic to the good intentions behind this amendment, and I accept that water undertakers should do what they can to conserve water, it is also important that any measures they implement should properly consider the costs as well as the benefits of those measures. The issues of promoting the economic and efficient use of water have been considered in Using Water Wisely and will be dealt with further in our comprehensive action plan. I am therefore happy to undertake that we will consider, during the passage of the Bill through Parliament, whether it should be amended to introduce now a duty on water undertakers to promote water conservation. With arrows directed at three targets, I believe that one may find its proper home. I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I know that my noble friend will look at the new clause very carefully. It reached me only this afternoon and that is why it is not being taken now. In any event, if one is putting duties on the undertakers, which is what the new clause does, and the power of the regulator is to monitor and supervise that which is the meat of the new clause, the new clause may come very close to what my noble friend has said he is prepared to look at very carefully. The matter will come up at a later stage in Committee. We may find that in a sense we have almost anticipated what the Government are anxious to do.

Viscount Ullswater

Perhaps I did not say that I shall study very carefully the new amendment that has only just been tabled.

Baroness Nicol

I am greatly encouraged by the support of all sides of the Committee and by the Minister's answer. I hope that we shall not all become locked into seeing water metering as the only solution. That seems to happen whenever we discuss water efficiency. We may have problems. I know that a number of water undertakers are not too happy with the clause which requires them to embark on water metering because they have encountered many problems with it. I do not think that we can rely on that as a solution, even if we supported the idea, which I personally do not.

However, I am glad that we are to have another opportunity to debate this subject under the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. I look forward to improving the argument at that stage. I hope that we shall reach that amendment a little earlier in the day.

I considered that specifying a "duty to promote" implied a little extra activity that might get us nearer to achieving water efficiency, rather than specifying simply a "duty to conserve" which is rather static. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the encouragement that I have received and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Marlesfordmoved Amendment No. 74:

Page 7, line 16, leave out ("the obligation to develop water resources") and insert ("any obligation").

The noble Lord said: I have an idea that my noble friend replied to this amendment before I had the opportunity of speaking to it, but perhaps not. At any rate, I hope that my noble friend will allow me to make a few remarks about it. I think that he said that the amendment is not acceptable, but at that time he had not had the advantage of hearing such arguments as I have for tabling it. It is a pretty innocent little amendment and I had hoped that he might be able to accept it. Yesterday one amendment was accepted on the run so surely it is about time that we had another—and I thought that this might be it. All that we are saying is that nothing in this subsection shall be construed as relieving any water undertaker of any obligation for the purpose of performing the duty, rather than focusing on the obligation to develop water resources.

When the 1989 water legislation was before Parliament—before I became a Member of this House—many people tried to move the emphasis from the development of water resources to their conservation, but they did not succeed. It is ironic that we then had three years of drought when people never stopped talking about the need to conserve water resources. Of course, the time in the calendar year to talk about conserving water resources is not on a wet January day. Nevertheless, I hope that my noble friend will recognise that this is a very important point and that we must specify in the Bill a new responsibility for the conservation and management of water resources. My amendment slightly changes the emphasis towards that.

There are three main sources of water for use in our land. The first is rain, which we all know is extremely uncertain and unpredictable. Secondly, there are rivers and underground sources of water. We all know the horrors that can result from over-abstracting from either. We have had three years to demonstrate that, if that were necessary. It is rather like Pharaoh's dream. Thirdly, there are reservoirs. In principle, reservoirs are the epitome of sustainable development. They conserve water (which would otherwise run into the sea) and raise the water level—that is, if we believe in global warming. That is a spin-off advantage. Reservoirs conserve water when it falls in excess quantity in the winter, enabling it to be used at other times in the year. So, in general, reservoirs are a good thing although their location is often extremely important—

Lord Crickhowell


Lord Marlesford

My noble friend says, "Aha!". I am not quite sure what he means but he will no doubt tell us in a moment. The location of reservoirs is obviously important and we should ensure that they do not do undue damage to the landscape. In principle, however, the conservation of water through reservoirs is right.

However, overtaking all those three questions about the supply of water is the need properly to conserve and manage our water supplies. My noble friend referred a moment ago to the arrival of the final version of Using Water Wisely—I do not know whether its arrival is imminent. That publication was an encouraging start, but it was issued in 1992 and we have since had two full calendar years without the definitive version. It would have been nice if the Government could at least have published that in time for our consideration of their important Environment Bill, of which the clauses on water must be some of the most important. I am disappointed that the final version has not yet been produced. I wonder whether we could be given a little more information as to when we shall have it. If something takes two years to produce, one tends to take it with several grains of salt, as we heard when we discussed changing our time in relation to Europe. Incidentally, perhaps I may advise the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, that I was not involved in that discussion. I did not even understand the arguments, let alone the balance of the arguments.

Lord Howie of Troon

I must apologise to the noble Lord. I thought that I heard him speak on that occasion, but I must have been mistaken.

Lord Marlesford

The noble Lord may have seen me, but that is not necessarily the same thing.

We urgently need the Government's definitive view on this matter. Two years is probably long enough for them to reach a conclusion. There is always a tremendous danger in consulting for too long. I remember reading a wonderful letter in The Times some years ago by A. P. Herbert who said that the Government were like an elderly hypochondriac, always asking for a second opinion, but never taking it. I think that we would all like to have the Government's definitive version of Using Water Wisely soon—and certainly before the Bill has completed its passage through Parliament.

The idea that sustainable development generally is independent of the question of water supply is clearly fallacious. I am particularly worried about the Government's plans for East Anglia—for obvious reasons because I happen to come from there. East Anglia can be defined in many ways, but in this context I believe that it means Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, where there are plans for huge developments which will make enormous demands on the water supply. I am concerned that such plans may involve reservoirs in unacceptable areas—

Lord Crickhowell


Lord Marlesford

My noble friend says "Aha" again and I await his argument with bated breath.

We must bear in mind that water is a limited resource in this country. My amendment seeks, in a gentle way, to suggest that, rather than specify an obligation to develop water resources, we should take into account any obligation that there may be under the general duty to maintain the water supply system which, of course, I accept.

Lord Moran

I should like strongly to support what the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, said. I agree with everything that he said. This is a question of the greatest importance. We need to conserve water in this country—surprising as that may seem. I think that it would be helpful if the Bill placed more emphasis on the role that the agency might be able to play in that. It is important that the new environment agency should take the lead in tackling that problem.

I said on Second Reading that I was concerned about maintaining and, in many cases, restoring adequate flows in our rivers. I gave two examples: the Upper Kennet and the Driffield Beck. There are many others. I believe that in 1989 the NRA identified 40 rivers in which the flow had diminished disastrously, but that was a minimal list. I can think of many other rivers that are threatened and I believe that the NRA has identified several more. I make no apology for repeating what I suggested on Second Reading, that it is very important that we should consider moving abstraction down to the mouths of rivers instead of doing it at the top. That is something that the environment agency could do. If the water is extracted from the ground near the mouth it does far less damage to the flow of the river. Abstraction at the top causes the river to run dry every two or three years, with great damage to fish life and wildlife generally, and to the rivers which we all want to see preserved. I therefore support this amendment very strongly.

Lord Crickhowell

I had not intended to delay the Committee over the amendment, but I have been sufficiently aroused by my noble friend Lord Marlesford, who I thought was urging us to build reservoirs—perhaps one in or near the village of Marlesford, suitably landscaped. But of course he meant a bigger or grander one to deal with the whole of East Anglia. Then it became clear that he was advancing the classic NIMBY argument; that he would like adequate reservoirs for storing water so long as they were not in his back yard.

There is equal opposition to the long-established proposal for a reservoir on the back door of the family home of the Government Chief Whip in another place. There is considerable excitement about the proposals there.

There is some support for a reservoir proposal in a spot in East Anglia—it is being studied by one of the water companies at the moment—which is a curious gap in the map. It is a sparsely populated part of East Anglia, with few roads, and no one seems to object. The only difficulty is that the cost of constructing it there will be a good deal higher than constructing it near the family home of the Government Chief Whip in another place. But that issue may be resolved.

While of course there is a need for reservoirs, my noble friend must not advance the case that there is something inherently good in the reservoir solution as against other means of dealing with the matter. The NRA has shown that the powers that exist in the legislation are capable of having a very strong influence on the decisions taken. There is at present one water company in the south east of England which is complaining fairly strongly that we are taking a particularly austere and restricted view about its plans for building a reservoir and that we are being altogether too tough about it. Particularly in Kent, we are insisting on the need for conservation—for cutting waste and other conservation measures—before approval will be given for the construction of reservoirs.

The difficulty does not lie in anything that might be resolved by my noble friend's amendment; the real difficulties that will hang over the agency are the existing abstraction rights presently held by companies. The environmental regulator's problem is that if those abstraction rights are damaging the rivers in the way described by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, then the possibility has to be faced that very considerable compensation will have to be paid. The problem can sometimes be solved. There was a notable case with the Darent in Kent whereby, as a result of careful negotiation with Thames Water, a contribution through the NRA— from the other licence holders effectively—and a contribution by Thames Water covered by the pastoral arrangements in the system regulated by the financial regulator, the Darent is to be rescued. A river that was dry for two or three years during the summer may now be restored.

The problem at the heart of achieving effective control of the system and protecting the environment lies more with the existence of substantial abstraction rights already held— whether needed or not, they are not lightly surrendered—rather than anything that I suspect will be dealt with here. In cases where reservoirs are needed I hope my noble friend will encourage them to be built, but he should not offer them as a total solution. If he is impatient with the Government over producing their document, he should at least acknowledge that the NRA has produced a strategy for water resources which has suggested that, with sensible economy measures and a drive to reduce waste, it should not be necessary to have any new, large scale transfer schemes or reservoir schemes for about 20 years. The drive for economy and efficiency is already producing a beneficial result.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Howie of Troon

The Committee will be aware that a few weeks ago—I think in November, although I am not quite sure—we celebrated the centenary of the Thirlmere Reservoir in the Lake District, which supplies water to the great conurbation of Manchester.

The proposal for that reservoir—when it was a proposal and before it became a project—was greeted with the lack of enthusiasm with which projects of that kind are met nowadays. People decried it; they said how wrong it was and that it would destroy the Lake District—the kind of argument that we get nowadays.

We have had Thirlmere for 100 years. It is a large reservoir, it has been wholly beneficial to Manchester, and it is now regarded as an addition to the Lake District and not a subtraction from it. I am inclined to look at reservoirs with great and increasing sympathy, and I hope many more are built.

Viscount Ullswater

I think my noble friend Lord Marlesford misunderstood me. I was speaking to Amendment No. 373, which was grouped with the previous amendments, to which he did not speak. It was in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, and it was to that amendment I was speaking not to the current one.

Again in my previous answer I indicated that the Government would publish shortly the comprehensive action plan which follows Using Water Wisely. I understand that shortly means shortly in this instance. I can go no further than that.

Amendment No. 74 would widen the proviso which says that the duties of the agency under Clause 6(2) shall not affect the obligation of water undertakers to develop water resources to meet their water supply obligation under Section 37 of the Water Industry Act 1991, so that the proviso would cover all their obligations flowing from that section.

I share the aim of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness that the agency's duties should not become a substitute for those of the water undertakers. We believe that the present drafting of Clause 6(2), which follows that of the existing provisions, achieves this aim.

I am quite tempted to enter into the discussion about reservoirs. As everybody will know, my name is resonant of a reservoir. I remember when I was at Cambridge there was a headline in the paper which said, "Ullswater will become sterile." That, I must say, was before I got married.

Joking apart, I should like to examine carefully what my noble friends and other Members of the Committee have said about the matter to see whether there is something we can bring forward.

Amendment No. 76 seeks to make it clear that the extension of the flood defence functions of the agency to parts of the territorial sea is without prejudice to the general environmental duties of the agency. There is no difference between me and the noble Lord on this point. We believe it is clear that the general environmental duty under Clause 6(1) extends, as the subsection says, to coastal waters, and the general environmental duty under Clause 7 extends, in one way or another, to all the agency's functions. The risk of putting in a special reference of the kind proposed by the noble Lord is that of unexpected effects elsewhere where the presence of the special reference here, and the absence of anything comparable somewhere else, might lead to some restriction being implied where it is not intended. There may be some confusion. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will not wish to press the amendment.

Lord Marlesford

I am grateful to my noble friend. I accept his offer to examine the way in which he might accommodate my amendment. On that basis I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Addison

moved Amendment No. 75: Page 7, line 18, at end insert: ("() In exercising its powers under subsection (2) above the Agency shall at all times endeavour to protect and safeguard the interests of any owners of land insofar as those may be adversely affected by its actions."). The noble Viscount said: The Committee will be aware that Amendments Nos. 376 and 377, which involve changes to Schedule 18, and thus to enabling legislation, are included in this group of amendments. Therefore I should like to speak to those amendments on the basis that they are all related to the abstraction of water.

Amendments Nos. 75 and 376—the first of the Schedule 18 amendments—concern the predicament of people, including landowners and farmers, whose interests are affected adversely by the operation of abstraction licences held by others in the vicinity.

Clause 6(2), as currently drafted, sets out the agency's duties in relation to the provision of water. I consider that those duties should not be exercised so as to damage third parties in any way; in particular, I am concerned that the interests of landowners who may suffer adverse effects where water is abstracted by others under a licence granted by the agency, but who have no opportunity to secure compensation under current legislation because of the narrow definition of "protected rights", are safeguarded.

The costs faced by those landowners should be taken fully into account whenever the agency considers an application for a licence to abstract water. Under Section 39 of the Water Resources Act 1991, the agency may not issue an abstraction licence which derogates from protected rights. If such a licence is issued, the person whose rights are affected may claim damages from the agency by virtue of Section 60 of the Act. Conversely, the holder of an abstraction licence is protected by Section 48 of the Act from any action which may be brought against him in respect of the abstraction of water.

"Protected rights" are defined in Section 39(3) as either the rights prescribed in an abstraction licence or the right to abstract small quantities of water without a licence under Section 27(6). No protection is currently provided for landowners who enjoy the use of a small stream or a pond which may be affected adversely by water abstraction. Similarly, there is no protection against the lowering of the water table, leading to a loss of crops or trees or to the subsistence of land or any other private property, including buildings. Indeed, Section 48 of the Act denies landowners thus affected the rights which they otherwise might have had under common law to take action against the abstractor. There have been several cases in recent years where landowners have suffered in that way without any remedy in law, and that is grossly unfair.

The third of my amendments (Amendment No. 377) to line 14 of Schedule 18 deals with a related problem. Under current legislation, the NRA has the power to make emergency variations to licences for spray irrigation to curtail irrigation in times of dry weather before the authority resorts to a formal drought order which would control the use of water much more widely for purposes such as golf courses or car washes. The Bill as drafted will transfer those same powers to the new agency.

That power places an unjustified additional burden on the users of spray irrigation at the time they most need to irrigate, particularly for the high value salad and vegetable producers. Their products compete with imports, thus benefiting our balance of payments. Generally they receive no CAP support payments. Those users are being obliged to "take the first hit" on limiting water in the hope that other users will not, as a result, need to make sacrifices themselves.

What is the objective justification for singling out one user of water in that way? I see none, as the arrangements jeopardise the livelihoods of efficient British rural businesses. The argument is inequitable, illogical and unnecessary.

Amendment No. 377 would remove that inequality by removing the power to make emergency variations to irrigation licences. The amendment would not remove the agency's powers to curtail water use when necessary. It would merely put agriculture on an equal footing with other users of water, as agriculture's use of water would be limited at the same time as everyone else's, through a formal drought order.

I am sure that the Government are as anxious as I am to encourage efficient, consumer-oriented agriculture, especially production which does not make a call on taxpayers through CAP subsidy. So I hope that I can look forward to a favourable reply from my noble friend the Minister. I beg to move.

Lord Northbourne

I support the noble Viscount, Lord Addison. He has presented the issue clearly. The Bill proposes the transfer to the agency of the existing powers to close down agricultural businesses merely by giving notice. Such a notice is likely to destroy the business. It affects no other industry in the same way. I should like here to speak personally. I was responsible for a large vegetable and mainly salad producing business. We were producing about 800 acres of high grade salad during the summer months as well as dealing with major imports and distribution during the winter. That business was dependent entirely upon irrigation.

The quality of product required by the supermarkets could not be produced without irrigation, and fairly regular irrigation. During drought the need for irrigation is maximised and often the fullest possible irrigation is not sufficient to sustain the quality of the product. In the context that I still retain some small partnership interest in that business, I must declare an interest to the Committee.

I want to ask the Minister whether he believes that the efficient agricultural business interests of this country are expendable; and, if so, why?

Lord Crickhowell

There is a dilemma here. It is the kind of dilemma which runs right through environmental protection, because there is always a conflict of interest. It is an odd irony that many of the problems that have been described—I understand them well—relating to spray irrigation have occurred in areas where the environment is under threat during droughts.

One often has the situation that in the area where people are complaining about restrictions on spray irrigation, they are complaining almost equally strongly about the devastating impact of excessive extraction on their local wetland, or whatever it may be. In recent years, a good deal of care has been taken by MAFF and those responsible to ensure that the greatest possible flexibility is introduced into the handling of spray irrigation licences.

There is no doubt that without the ability to have that control there would be real difficulties in dealing with the approach of drought. We should be careful. The original statutory provisions go back to the Water Resources Act 1963 which sought to strike a balance between the provision of water for water supply and the protection of individuals. We must be careful before we overturn an arrangement which for many years has got the balance about right.

The conservation duty has provided and will continue to provide protection from damage to the environment as a result of abstraction. Subject to the guidance from Ministers on aims and objectives, and the references which they will include to sustainable development, that provides an alternative route for protection to agricultural businesses and others.

These are a complex set of relationships and I do not believe that they should be overturned by a single amendment passed in this Committee. It is a legitimate subject for further debate and examination and perhaps more work and study needs to be carried out. I should be most nervous of accepting an amendment of this kind without having worked out the consequences.

9 p.m.

Lord Northbourne

Perhaps I may explain to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, that we are extremely sympathetic to the impact of extraction on the environment and would not want to extract in a destructive way. However, in my view it is manifestly unjust that the agricultural industry should suffer. For instance, as regards my particular case, just down the road is a chemical industry which, I am told, is using a million gallons per day. There is no restriction on that.

Viscount Mills

Although I understand the anxieties expressed by my noble friend Lord Addison, I wish to add a further point to the debate; namely, the apparent contradiction between Amendments Nos. 376 and 377. Surely, one of the precise reasons for the emergency variation of licences for spray irrigation is to protect the environment. That may also protect the owners of land. Thus abolition of the emergency powers in Amendment No. 377 could, in certain cases, work against the protection of the owners' land as advocated in Amendment No. 376.

Lord Monkswell

I hesitate to intervene because I know that the hour is late and we must get on. On my initial reading of the amendment I was antagonistic towards it and wondered why landowners should have a special interest. The noble Viscount, Lord Addison, has explained the matter to the Committee but I wish to make two points because we need to recognise the need for fairness.

As regards Amendment No. 75, I should be concerned if we were to concentrate only on the owners of land and not include the interests of other third parties. The noble Viscount mentioned streams and ponds. I can think of some landowners who may say, "I am not interested in that stream or that pond". I can also think of people who like to visit the countryside and who believe that small streams and ponds are very important. We need to have a wider perspective and include those other than landowners in that category.

Secondly, it must be totally unfair that people can wash their cars when water is scarce but farmers are prevented from protecting their crops. That is ludicrous and I hope that it is not the situation. However, if it is, something needs to be done about it.

Lord Marlesford

I have great sympathy with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. Obviously, the mistake that was made in the past was to give abstraction licences. However, if people build up businesses on the basis of the abstraction licences that they have been given one must think very hard indeed before one starts taking them away. That is retrospective action which I believe will be deplored on all sides of the Committee.

At the same time as there are such shortages, the Government are urging more development, for example, in the south-east. We know that water supplies in the south-east are not adequate for the Government's housing plans in that area. To do serious damage to totally legitimate enterprises—and legitimised by the Government—must be a mistake and unfair.

Viscount Ullswater

My noble friend Lord Crickhowell was correct in saying that the duties under Clause 6(2) effectively carry on the work of managing water resources in England and Wales introduced by the Water Resources Act 1963. I do not think that it needs the qualification that my noble friend Lord Addison proposes in Amendments Nos. 75 and 376. In carrying out this duty, the agency, like the NRA under existing legislation, will be bound by its more general duties under Clause 7(1) to exercise its powers in the water abstraction licensing system in the way that my noble friend seeks. It must take account of the likely effect on, among other things, the amenity of rural areas, plant and animal life and buildings. In that way, the interests of the land are protected and with them the interests of the landowners. In so far as any damage might result from any works undertaken by the agency, it, like the NRA, is bound by the specific works provisions, which provide for compensation. Parallel provisions apply to others who are authorised to carry out work for water resource development.

Amendment No. 377 would repeal Section 57 of the Water Resources Act 1991 and curtail the existing powers of the NRA to manage the effects of spray irrigation during drought conditions.

These powers form part of the armoury available to manage water resources during droughts. Water companies have powers to impose hose-pipe bans. The NRA has these powers in respect of spray irrigation because spray irrigation is a highly consumptive use of water; much of the water is lost through evaporation. Further powers can be conferred on both by drought orders. I understand the dilemma identified by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. The fact that the spray irrigation powers are vested in the NRA does not mean that they should be used first. The aim is to put the decision on the use of powers as close to the area affected as possible, since local knowledge is essential.

I believe that my noble friend's anxieties have been answered by my reply and I ask him to withdraw the amendment.

Viscount Addison

I thank my noble friend the Minister for his reply and I thank all Members of the Committee for taking part in the debate. I wish to reflect on what has been said and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 76 not moved.]

Clause 6 agreed to.

Lord Moranmoved Amendment No. 77:

After Clause 6, insert the following new clause: ("Integrated catchment management .—(I) It shall be the duty of the Agency—

  1. (a) from time to time prepare a draft catchment management plan in respect of each catchment or such group of catchments as it shall designate;
  2. (b) to consult in relation to such draft plan—
    1. (i) the statutory conservation agencies;
    2. (ii) any abstractor or class of abstractors having the right to abstract water from within the catchment;
    3. (iii) any discharger or class of dischargers having the right to discharge granted in accordance with the pollution control functions of the Agency into the catchment;
    4. (iv) the drainage board for any internal drainage district which lies within or partly within the catchment;
    5. (v) any navigation, harbour or conservancy authority having functions in relation to waters within the catchment;
    6. (vi) any local planning authority exercising functions in relation to land within the catchment;
    7. (vii) such other interested persons as the Agency shall determine;
  3. (c) to adopt the plan modified to such extent if any as it considers appropriate;
  4. (d) thereafter so to exercise its powers and duties to further the objects of the plan.

(2) In this section "catchment" means the area drained by a single surface water system and any associated groundwater together with the adjoining sea as designated by the Agency.").

The noble Lord said. This is essentially a probing amendment. I should like to know what is the Government's attitude towards the concept of catchment management planning.

The National Rivers Authority has been producing, as time goes on, a whole series of catchment management plans which it produces one by one on individual catchments. Those plans are put out to consultation and the advice and views of everyone concerned are sought. Catchment management plans cover everything—water resources, the needs of water for drinking or for irrigation or for other purposes, fisheries, wildlife, navigation and so on. It has been an extremely successful exercise. What I have seen of it has impressed me greatly. Therefore, the object of my amendment is to ask the Government what is their view in relation to catchment management planning. I hope that they will assure us that they favour the concept and that in their guidance, they will encourage the environment agency to pursue it.

I am not anxious to be too prescriptive towards the environment agency. I believe that that is a sensible planning mechanism. The words "from time to time" appear in my amendment. There is no suggestion at all of trying to impose a rigid timetable. That concept enables all the features of a catchment to be looked at from an environmental point of view. It is a great advantage to have integrated planning over the whole of the catchment from the tributaries and the source to the mouth of the river as against piecemeal planning. It enables water resources to be used in the best way for environmental standards; for example, in relation to statutory water quality objectives and biodiversity targets. It is a thoroughly good concept and I hope that the Government will agree to pursue it and that they will encourage the environment agency to do so. I beg to move.

Viscount Mills

As an employee of the NRA, I have some experience of catchment management plans. Indeed, at present I am part of a team involved in drawing up such a plan for the River Ribble in Lancashire. I endorse fully what the noble Lord, Lord Moran has said. Catchment management plans are proving to be effective in helping to direct the work of the NRA; in bringing together all its functions; and in ensuring that the NRA consults with other river users. In short, those plans are an integral part of the NRA's strategy for improving the water environment.

However, the responsibilities of the proposed environment agency will be considerably wider than those of the NRA. The catchment management plans developed for the management of the water cycle may require radical changes to accommodate the additional responsibilities of the environment agency.

In addition, certain other problems may arise if catchment management plans are based on a statutory basis. For example, rights of appeal would be required. Some flexibility may be lost in the way in which catchment management plans are carried out. At present there is room for flexibility according to need across the country.

I believe also that statutory catchment management planning may rival the existing town and country planning system which decides land use and planning issues. In summary, catchment management planning is successful on a non-statutory basis. It is very much to be hoped that integrated water management will be continued into the new agency. However, to make it a statutory duty may compromise the future work of the agency, and for that reason I cannot support Amendment No. 77.

Baroness Nicol

My noble friend Lady David regrets that she is not able to be here this evening, although her name is to the amendment. It pursues a point made by my noble friend and many others on Second Reading.

I too support the view that ICMP is the most effective unit by which to plan for and deliver environmental protection. I am sorry to hear someone from the NRA apparently drawing back from the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, at an earlier stage when he seemed to support the idea that that should be done by the agency.

I understand that the hour is late and I shall try to be brief. However, I should like to give Members of the Committee one example of the effective working of the NRA in the Anglia region which has attracted a good deal of attention this evening. In the Anglia region, the NRA does much more than simply pay due regard to conservation. Conservation is at the heart of project and catchment management planning.

In the Fenlands of East Anglia, the NRA has been involved in conservation projects that have great significance for endangered species. I shall not go into too much of the detail, but I must tell the Committee that the authority has succeeded in almost rescuing—and I hope will soon completely rescue—a very important site in which the fen raft spider, which is almost extinct, has been preserved. I should not like to see any change in the management of that area which would result in an end to that particular project.

The NRA is part of the working group that is halting this slow "death by drying" through much of East Anglia. It is working with Suffolk Water, Suffolk Wildlife Trust and English Nature to relocate boreholes and to restore the River Waveney. I hope that nothing that we do in the process of passing the Bill will interfere with the work that the NRA has been doing. I support the amendment.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Renton

At first sight, I was interested by the amendment. I was rather impressed by the desirability which the noble Lord, Lord Moran, explained to us. However, perhaps I may speak from practical experience of what the position was in the fenland area of my old constituency of Huntingdonshire. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Moran, and indeed my noble friend the Minister to consider the application of the proposed new laws to the fenland drainage boards. There are many such boards in that particular part of the world; for example, there is the North Level, the Middle Level and the South Level.

Let us take the Middle Level, which is the one that I know best. In that respect, we come up against a difficulty as regards the definition of the word "catchment" in subsection (2) of the proposed new clause. The section says that catchment, means the area drained by a single surface water system and any associated groundwater". The Middle Level is, I suppose, drained by the Middle Level Commission, which is a single surface water system. But it is fed by the Great Ouse, the Cam and the Nene rivers, together with a number of other minor streams.

When considering the new clause, we need to consider the present responsibilities of the drainage boards in those fenland areas. I see that the noble Lord wishes to intervene. I give way.

Lord Williams of Elvel

I apologise for intervening during the noble Lord's speech. However, as I am sure the noble Lord realises, we have reached a late hour in today's proceedings. In the interests of the staff, it has been agreed through the usual channels that we should try to finish the business of the day by about 10 o'clock. From the Opposition, I do not wish in any way to inhibit the noble Lord, but I believe that the Minister will support what I have said. If we could get on with the proceedings, I am sure that we would all be most grateful—and that includes, if I may say so, the Doorkeepers.

Lord Renton

I am grateful for the noble Lord's advice. I was only going to continue for about a further minute and a half, which would have expired by this time.

Nevertheless, in considering the matter, we should not ignore the effect that it would have on the present responsibilities of those drainage boards.

Viscount Ullswater

There is no doubt that catchment management planning is valuable. With the support of the Government, the NRA already employs catchment management planning as the main tool to achieve integrated environmental management. A river, and the land, tributaries and underground water connected with it, is treated as a discrete unit or catchment.

The catchment management plan is drawn up in consultation with all interested bodies and the public. All the bodies which the agency would be required to consult under the proposed new clause would in fact be consulted by the NRA under the present arrangements. From that description, it is clear that the only difference between our view and the proposals in the amendment is whether or not the management catchment plans should be statutory. It has always been our view that the National Rivers Authority should have a good deal of flexibility and discretion in the way that it carries out its responsibilities for river management and pollution control. Local circumstances can vary and change quickly.

All the processes which control the implementation of a catchment plan—abstraction licences, discharge consents and so on—have their own statutory consultation procedures. We think that, coupled with the commitment to the use of catchment management plans that already exist in the NRA, and which we would wish to see continue, is sufficient to ensure a proper foundation for the work of the agency. I noted that the noble Lord, Lord Moran, in moving the amendment, said it was a probing amendment. I hope therefore with this assurance of the importance which we attach to the use of non-statutory catchment management plans, the noble Lord will be able to withdraw the new clause.

Lord Moran

I am grateful to all the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I think my main concern was that as the new agency will include responsibilities for air and for land as well as for water, that perhaps this concept might have become less urgent and in some way got buried. But I am greatly encouraged by what the Minister said and by his magic words that the Government would wish to see this practice continue. That is exactly what I wanted to hear and I am grateful to him.

With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said, he knows much more about the fenlands than I do; but I think the answer simply is that circumstances vary greatly in different parts of the country and therefore this must be dealt with—as it is, and has been—on a regional basis by people who know the circumstances of each part of the country. Having said that, I am grateful to the Minister and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 [General environmental and recreational duties]:

(Amendments Nos. 78 to 82 not moved.]

Lord Howie of Troon

moved Amendment No. 83: Page 8, line 38, after ("buildings,") insert ("engineering structures").

The noble Lord said: In speaking to this group of amendments, I wish to draw attention also to Amendments Nos. 169, 170, 171, 172 and 174 to Clause 30, which is in the "Scots" part of the Bill. I do this because those amendments are identical to the group which I have been asked to speak to now and I do not wish to bother the Committee by speaking to them again when we reach Clause 30. I need do no more than refer to them at this point.

The point I am raising here in this group of amendments is a very narrow one; but I do not think that it is an insignificant one. The aim is to ensure that in the Bill architecture and engineering are seen to be of equal importance and of equal status in the duties which fall upon the various boards concerned. Engineering has climbed the social ladder in recent years a little. What was once the Science Research Council later became the Science and Engineering Research Council which was a step forward. I think I am right in saying that it has now become the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, but I stand to be corrected on that. This is a matter of importance to engineering.

I have raised matters of this kind several times before in the past, as the Committee may recall. I raised this matter as long ago as 1988 during the passage of the copyright Act. On that occasion, where a similar problem arose, the word "building" was defined to include fixed structure somewhat in the manner of the present Bill which defines "building" to include structure. I do not think that that method of dealing with the problem is really helpful as it is only after turning to the definition in the first part of the Bill that one realises that "building" includes structure, and not everyone would be inclined to do that. That is far too oblique an approach. I am really asking that the Bill should be direct. I wrote to the Minister outlining my arguments and what I am about to say this evening will be closely based on the letter that I wrote to him.

My argument is simply this. There are many artefacts which are worthy of being protected and conserved but which are not buildings in any sense of that word. That is especially true with regard to the waterways, where dams, water courses, locks, tunnels and other structures abound. Of course numerous engineering structures are also well worthy of protection, such as pumping engines, which have nothing to do with architecture or buildings in any sense of the word. A notable example is the Anderton Lift at Northwich, on the River Weaver. It is to be restored with the blessing of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and the Department of National Heritage. If ever an artefact ought to be called an engineering structure and not a building, the Anderton Lift is it.

There are many more examples and I notice that the principle at least appears to be recognised in Clause 35(9) of the Bill. That refers to "engineering or building operations", and it clearly distinguishes between the two different types of activity. If the activities are distinct and are so recognised in the Bill, it seems to me to follow that their results must be distinct and different as well.

It has been argued in the past in this House that such objects which I describe as being of engineering interest are already covered by their historic interest. Sometimes that may be true, though many of them are merely old rather than historic. The two words "old" and "historic" do not mean quite the same thing. In any case, that is also true of architectural objects. If an object or an artefact, as I prefer to call it, can have both an architectural and a historic interest, or an architectural interest instead of a historic one, it is obvious that another object could be worthy of preserving because of its engineering qualities, in exactly the same way as such an object might be protected because of its architectural qualities. There is no distinction between architecture and engineering in that case, so far as I can see.

To refer to it again, the Anderton Lift might possibly be of historic interest, but its engineering qualities are much more important than any historic qualities or age qualities which it might possess. It is for those engineering qualities that it is worthy of preservation.

It has been argued in this House—I must confess, a little to my annoyance—that the artefacts to which I refer are covered by their archaeological interest in the wording in the Bill, on the ground that archaeology includes industrial archaeology. I find that an amazing argument; I have been amazed by it before and I hope that I shall not be amazed by it again tonight. Archaeology clearly refers to ancient history and the study of antiquities. So far as industrial archaeology has any meaning at all, it is the study of industrial history by reference to its artefacts.

There again, if we study industrial history through its artefacts, those artefacts or objects, as the Bill would have it, might be architectural or they might be engineering in character. If architectural interests are to be considered as a separate item, in addition to or instead of archaeological, historical or any other interest, so should engineering interests. My minor proposal, to leave out line 42, seems to follow logically from that. If these arguments are sound, we do not need the definition on page 9.

An item might be preserved for a variety of interests. Let me put forward just one example. Let us consider, for instance, Tower Bridge, which is not terribly far from here and which we all know. It is barely a century old. I do not think that it has any historic significance. It certainly has no architectural interest; its architecture is quite grotesque. What it has is very substantial engineering interest—because of its structure and because of the nature of the bridge itself. Tower Bridge would be preserved for its engineering interest and not for any other.

There is a precedent here which can be followed. In Public Bills, I have not been successful in convincing the Government to follow my arguments, cogent, precise and desirable though they might appear. On the other hand, I did manage to convince the British Waterways Board in the British Waterways Act a couple of years ago and the precedent was accepted. Although that was a Private Bill, I think it has the same standing in law as a Public Bill. That precedent can be followed if we apply ourselves to precedent, as we often do in this House.

I received in the post today an extremely agreeable letter from the Minister in reply to my letter to him. In the course of the letter he said that I would receive a very full reply this evening. I do not demand a very full reply. I merely want a very short reply in which he agrees to accept my amendments. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Viscount Ullswater

In Amendments Nos. 83, 84, 85, 89 and 91, the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, seeks to ensure that architectural and engineering matters are treated equally and that engineering structures are properly protected. As the noble Lord said, I know that this is a matter about which he feels keenly, which he raised at Second Reading and on which he has subsequently written to me.

We agree that the Bill should provide for such protection and conservation where such structures or objects are of special interest. I have to say to the noble Lord that the provisions are broadly drafted in the Bill and it is not clear that the effect of his amendment would be to increase the protection of the kinds of engineering structure with which he is concerned. But I am advised that they would remove the protection from other forms of structure. They would therefore tend to limit rather than enhance the protection that is afforded under Clause 7.

The provisions in the Bill on these matters build on existing legislation. I do not believe that we should change them lightly. However, if the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment—

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

The noble Viscount said that the amendments would remove the protection from other elements or other classes. Would he care to elaborate on that? It is very difficult to see how they would.

Viscount Ullswater

To define one form of structure might indicate that other forms of structure were not included and protection would be removed; therefore there would have to be a long list.

What I am saying to the noble Lord is this. If the noble Lord will withdraw his amendments, I will undertake to consider carefully whether the wording provides sufficient protection for the kinds of structure with which he is concerned and whether there is need for some amendment.

The noble Lord indicated that he wanted to include other amendments which fall under the Scottish provisions. I do not feel that I can commit my noble and learned friend in the Scottish Office to respond in the same way as I do. But I will certainly draw the noble Lord's remarks and my remarks to his attention.

Lord Howie of Troon

I find that a very acceptable reply, except for one thing. I would like the Minister to consider these amendments in consultation with me. If that could be done, I should be very happy to withdraw my amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 84 and 85 not moved.]

Lord Northbournemoved Amendment No. 86:

Page 8, line 42, at end insert: ("(iii) to have due regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry and to the economic and social interests of rural areas").

The noble Lord said: I am under considerable pressure not to press this amendment. I am prepared to withdraw my amendment if the noble Viscount is prepared to see myself and the noble Lord, Lord Wade, between now and Report stage to discuss the proposal. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater

For the convenience of the House, I believe that that is a very good proposition.

Lord Northbourne

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 87 to 92 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Coleraine

I wish to detain the Committee for just a brief moment to put to my noble friend a point that has been made to me by the Law Society on behalf of planning practitioners and applicants. I believe that it is a point of which my noble friend has notice.

It is thought that in its present form Clause 7 may unduly impede, prolong and make more complicated the planning application process. I am advised that the clause as drafted may give the agency power to act as a second planning authority, introducing a potentially conflicting second level of regulation. Under the normal development control process an applicant obtains planning permission for a development from the planning authority. As part of the determination process the local planning authority consults the regulatory authorities, currently the NRA and HMIP. The responses of the regulatory authorities are taken into account by the local planning authority when it issues its decision. If having considered the representations of the regulatory authorities planning permission is granted and the developer has to seek consent for works specifically involving a regulatory authority, e.g. land drainage works—

Lord Williams of Elvel

I apologise for intervening. I understand that we are now discussing Clause 7 stand part. I am afraid that I had no notice of what the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, would raise on this matter. I wonder whether it would be better if he raised it with the Minister at an appropriate stage so that the Minister could reply to it after consideration. I really do not believe that the Minister can reply off-the-cuff to what appears to be a rather technical point.

Lord Coleraine

I believe that it is a point of which my noble friend has had notice. However, if he feels that I am wrong and he has not had notice I will sit down here and now.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Environmental duties with respect to sites of special interest]:

[Amendments Nos. 93 to 97A not moved.]

Lord Derwent

had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 97B. Page 10, line 18, at end insert ("finalising any plans,").

Lord Airedale

I do not believe that "finalising" is a very good English expression. I suggest "completing".

[Amendment No. 97B not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 98 to 101 not moved.]

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Codes of practice with respect to environmental and recreational duties]:

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon

moved Amendment No. 102: Page 11, line 16, at end insert: ("() such organisations as he deems representative of local authorities in England and Wales").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 105 and 106. These amendments deal with attempts to increase democratic accountability. Amendment No. 102 requires that Ministers should not make an order without consulting organisations representative of local authorities in England and Wales.

Amendment No. 105 requires that: No order shall be made under this section unless a draft … has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament".

Amendment No. 106 deals with a slightly different matter. It attempts to restore into the Bill the obligation on contraventions of codes of practice which appear in the Water Resources Act 1991 and the Water Industry Act 1991. It would require Ministers to take into account contraventions of codes of practice which currently exist in those Acts but which are not in the current Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Greenway

My amendments, Amendments Nos. 103 and 104, have been put with the other amendments and I shall speak to them briefly. This is another instance of trying to give a higher profile to the navigation interests in the Bill. The amendment seeks to apply new words—basically, "seen to represent" —to words which are based on civil aviation legislation. They make it clearer as to whom exactly the Minister should consult. I need not say any more than that at the moment. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

Viscount Ullswater

Clause 5 prescribes the list of persons whom Ministers must consult before approving a code of practice in respect of the agency's environmental and recreational duties. The codes offer practical guidance to which the agency must have regard in respect of the underlying proposals in Clause 6(1) and Clauses 7 and 8. These amendments seek to add to that list.

Amendment No. 102, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, seeks to add organisations which are representative of local authorities in England and Wales. Amendment No. 103 seeks to insert the words "and bodies" after "persons". Amendment No. 104 seeks to add "recreation and navigation" organisations to the list.

As it stands, the list contains the names of national bodies which have a particular interest in environmental and recreational matters. But the provision also puts Ministers under a duty to consult others as he considers it appropriate. In some cases that might well include local authority associations or navigational or recreational bodies; but there may be others, for example, fisheries groups, which would also need to be consulted in particular cases. It would not be appropriate to single out particular bodies.

On a technical point with regard to Amendment No. 103, there is no legal need to insert the words "and bodies". In law, the word "persons" encompasses both individuals and bodies.

Amendment No. 105 seeks to make an order to approve a code of practice subject to affirmative resolution in each House. Those codes of practice are not statutory guidance, which the agency is under a duty to follow. They provide practical advice and examples of desirable practice, to which the agency is to have regard when exercising duties which Parliament has conferred upon it. For that kind of guidance, the negative resolution procedure provides adequate parliamentary scrutiny.

Amendment No. 106 proposes that a subsection which is included in the parallel provisions of the Water Resources Act 1991 should be reinstated. I imagine that the noble Baroness is looking for an explanation of its omission in the Bill. That subsection derives from a corresponding provision in Section 106 of the Water Act 1989, which dealt with codes of practice for the privatised water companies as well as the NRA. As a public body, the agency, like the NRA, will be susceptible to judicial review. Anyone who is aggrieved can go to the courts and will not need to take the case to Ministers. Amendment No. 106 might have the opposite effect to that intended by introducing an element of doubt about the availability of judicial review in the circumstance stated. I invite the noble Lord and the noble Baroness to withdraw these amendments.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon

I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation, particularly in relation to the contraventions of codes of practice, which is clearly a point of law that I had not understood. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 103 to 106 not moved.]

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 107 not moved.]

9.45 p.m.

Clause 11 [Advisory committee for Wales]:

Lord Elis-Thomas

moved Amendment No. 108: Page 12, leave out lines 25 and 26, and insert ("to oversee all matters relating to the function of the agency within Wales.").

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 108 to 111 and the amendment that comes under Clause 12 are an attempt to strengthen the committee structure for Wales proposed in the Bill. At this late hour I do not need to repeat the discussion we had on Tuesday.

The intention of the amendments is to strengthen the committee structure in terms of name, function, representation, frequency of meeting and, in reference to the environmental protection advisory committee, to the actual territory covered. I shall refer only to Amendment No. 108 because the proposed wording seeks to strengthen the functions and ensure that the committee for Wales is an executive committee and not merely an advisory committee, and that it will have oversight of the functions of the agency within Wales. To me that is an acceptable compromise bearing in mind that the proposal for a separate agency moved by the official Opposition was rejected on Tuesday, and I request the Government to think again about the nature of those functions.

Amendment No. 109 seeks to include on the committee for Wales people who have also been nominated by the Secretary of State on to development agencies, the countryside council and land authority, to bring together within the body of the Welsh committee people who have the expertise to enable it to be an effective committee of the agency relating to its own function and also relating to the rest of the structure of intermediate government in Wales. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Elvel

The Committee is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, for moving Amendment No. 108 and, like him, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 109 to 111 and Amendment No. 120.

I do not want the Committee to feel that the Opposition abandoned the idea of a separate Welsh agency. We had lengthy arguments on the matter. If this Chamber or another place decides that there should not be a separate Welsh agency, then we wish to support the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, in his views that the advisory committee should be strengthened. However, I reserve my position on that matter until we come to a later stage of the Bill.

Viscount Ullswater

Amendment No. 108 seeks to require the advisory committee for Wales to oversee all matters relating to the functions of the environment agency within Wales. Clause 11 already gives the committee a remit covering all of the agency's activities in Wales and any matters affecting or connected with the discharge of the agency's functions in Wales; but the existing clause gives the committee the role of advising my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales, as the minister responsible for setting the policy framework for the agency in the Principality. The amendment does not specify how such supervision of the agency's activities would be translated into action, whether by Ministers or by the agency. It is essential that the committee's purpose be to advise my right honourable friend, who is accountable for the agency's operations in Wales, not itself to oversee directly the agency's operations and remove ministerial responsibility. This parallels the arrangements for the existing National Rivers Authority Advisory Committee for Wales, which have worked well. I ask the noble Lord to withdraw that amendment.

Amendments Nos. 109 and 110 relate to the composition of the advisory committee for Wales. They seek to ensure that membership of the committee reflects a balance of views. I agree that the advisory committee for Wales will need to comprise a wide range of representative views, knowledge and experience relevant to the discharge of the agency's functions in Wales. Indeed, that will be vital for the committee to provide effective advice. Nature conservation and pollution control experience will be useful to the advisory committee, but they are only two of the numerous areas of expertise which it may need. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales has already committed himself to include locally elected members on the committee, as that is important to facilitate responsiveness to local needs.

I also agree with the principle of aiding communication and co-operation between the Welsh bodies mentioned; but specifying a need for common membership of all these other bodies could cause unnecessary complication. These amendments, specifying a considerable part of the composition of the advisory committee, would constrain my right honourable friend's flexibility to choose a balanced and effective membership, to which he is committed. He will of course take account of the importance of all the factors cited in making his appointments to the committee.

Amendment No. 111 requires the committee to meet at least four times a year. I agree that the committee is likely to need to meet more than the minimum of once but of course the provisions do not preclude that. This requirement is based on the legislation under the Water Resources Act which the existing National Rivers Authority Advisory Committee for Wales operates. In practice, that committee usually meets around three or four times a year, as necessary. I think a similar flexibility would be most useful for the Advisory Committee for Wales.

Finally, Amendment No. 120 seeks to require the agency, in determining its regions which will each be covered by an environment protection advisory committee, to include as its Welsh region the whole of the geographical area of Wales. It is important that the agency's Welsh region has a strong identity, and it is for that reason that the Bill as drafted requires the Welsh region to consist wholly, or mainly, of Wales. The boundary will, however, need to be consistent with the overall structure determined by the agency.

The Government did not believe it sensible to come to a decision on the boundary of the agency's Welsh region in isolation from the agency's proposals for its organisational and management structure. It is intended, therefore, that the boundary of the agency's Welsh region will be determined by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales, in consultation with my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, on the basis of proposals from the environment agency.

The environment protection advisory committee will be established by the agency to advise it on how best to carry out its functions in its Welsh region. It makes sense, therefore, that the committee for the Welsh region should not have a remit which may extend beyond that region. This is different from the position in relation to the advisory committee for Wales, which will be set up to advise my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales on the carrying out of the agency's functions in relation to the whole of the Principality, whatever the organisational boundary of the agency's Welsh region. I would ask the noble Lord, therefore, to withdraw this amendment.

Lord Elis-Thomas

In view of the fact that the noble Viscount has responded in detail to the content of the amendment, I am very pleased to withdraw it with the caveat that whereas I would warmly accept the extension of the Welsh boundary eastwards, I am not so happy about its withdrawal westwards. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 109 to 111 not moved.]

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Environment protection advisory committees]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding

moved Amendment No. 112: Page 12, line 41, leave out ("consider any representations") and insert ("have regard to the recommendations").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I understand that we are also taking Amendments Nos. 113 to 119. We seem to have seven minutes left for a number of quite substantial points. I shall curtail my remarks in order to try to observe the spirit of the Rippon arrangements.

Clause 12 contains some very odd wording. Why does it say, "consider any representations"? It makes the regional advisory committees sound like pressure groups. Surely to goodness the agency should have regard to their recommendations. In those circumstances and with those stronger words, which lawyers may argue about, it clearly makes the advisory committees part of the agency structure and not some kind of tiresome appendage. Papers may have to be read but presumably they do not need to be given any substantive replies. I hope that my noble friend will feel able to accept the amendment.

If my noble friend believes that the words have the same meaning, I commend to him the words of the Secretary of State for the Environment who said to a Select Committee in another place that, if the words are different but mean the same, why do we not have the same words as they want —that is to say, what I want— so that they are not unhappy". Perhaps my noble friend can make me happy by giving me my words.

Turning to Amendment No. 114, the Committee will know that there has been a great deal of criticism about ministerial patronage in relation to appointments. Why does the Secretary of State have to appoint the chairmen of these bodies? Why cannot the regional advisory bodies appoint their own chairmen? After all, the Secretary of State appoints the members of the agency and it seems perfectly straightforward to allow the advisory committee, when it has been established, to elect a chairman by its own majority.

Finally, on Amendment No. 118 and echoing points that have been made in earlier debates, I ask that, not less than one third of the members … are elected members of a local authority". That reflects the fact that the waste advisory authorities have been local authorities and have, in almost every case, operated very satisfactorily. They are now to be taken into the agency. Those local authority committees have a great deal of expertise. They have been accountable locally and it seems highly desirable that a proportion—I suggest one-third—of the membership of the advisory committees should consist of local authority members.

Again when the Secretary of State gave evidence to the Select Committee in another place—I shall not go into the argument about boundaries because my noble friend has just dealt with that—he said: I would have to say that in environmental terms the crucial importance of the river catchment area is something one could not possibly [over]state. On the other hand, we do need to have proper relationships with local authorities and we do want to be very sensitive to local views". I cannot think of any better way of doing that than that the Bill should provide that one-third of the members of the advisory committees should come from local authorities. I could have said a great deal more, but perhaps I had better not at this hour. I beg to move.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon

I should like to speak to the amendments that are in the same group as Amendment No. 112. I refer to Amendments Nos. 113, 115, 116, 117, 119 and 121, which stand in my name. I strongly support what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said about his amendment. One of mine goes rather further and suggests that more than half of the membership of the environment protection advisory committee should be made up of local authority representatives.

My other point in Amendment No. 113 is that the boundaries of the regions should be coterminous and the same as those of the local authorities. Throughout my police service I was bedevilled by different boundaries for police stations, courts, coroner's offices, and so on. It causes absolute chaos. I urge the Minister to accept that this straightforward amendment would make the administration of the regions very much simpler and more sensible. It would enable them to relate to local people—quite apart from the local authority members who are represented on the regional committees.

Amendment No. 119 goes further in attempting to get local representation to be balanced and to include the views and expertise of those who have knowledge of pollution control and nature conservation. Amendment No. 121 is merely a consequential definition of what constitutes a local authority.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I rise to support the amendments relating to the question of local authority representation on the regional advisory committees. There is an additional fundamental reason why local authorities should be involved at this level, and I look forward with interest to hearing what my noble friend the Minister has to say about it. That fundamental reason is that the local authorities are the planning authorities. Anybody who has seen a planning permission for waste disposal, which is inevitably and always highly controversial, will realise that it is exceedingly difficult to make a distinction between where a planning permission begins and ends and where the matter of waste regulation begins and ends. The two are intimately and inextricably intertwined. Since the agency is taking over the matter of waste regulation, I believe that the future development of this aspect of its work would be helped enormously if local authorities were intimately involved in discussions at this level at the very least and as of right.

10 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee

Apart from the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, I argued at about the same time—a couple of days ago—for the retention of waste regulation as a local authority function. I hope that we shall find a way of coming back to this subject later in the proceedings at a time when we can spend a little longer on it, otherwise we shall inevitably fail to do justice to the very important issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, and others.

I support the raft of amendments. It will be only second best if local authority input is at the level of advisory committees; but it must be there for waste regulation and in connection with the other functions that the agency will undertake.

Lord Greenway

My Amendment No. 123 is also grouped with these amendments. Looking at the Clock, and bearing in mind what was said earlier, as I wish to speak to the amendment I wonder whether it will be convenient to the Committee if I do not speak to it now but bring forward the amendment again at a later stage. I do not know how the noble Viscount feels about that.

Lord Moran

I would welcome that because I should like to add a word on it as it affects fisheries. As there is minus half a minute, I should much prefer to deal with it in a more orderly way at a later stage if that is possible, or talk to the Minister with my noble friend Lord Greenway.

Viscount Ullswater

I am in the hands of the Committee. If the Committee feels that that would be a suitable way to proceed, I am quite content to go along with it.

The new provisions in Clause 12 and Schedule 3 for appointing members to regional environmental protection committees are designed to provide an open and transparent method of ensuring that those committees reflect a wide range of interests in the agency's work in a region.

Amendment No. 112, introduced by my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, seeks to change the agency's duty "to consider any representations" from an advisory committee to a duty "to have regard to" its "recommendations". There is little difference between "considering" and "having regard to" representations or recommendations—in either case they must be taken account of and given due thought. But "representations", in the current wording, would include recommendations and might also include complaints or requests for information. I think my noble friend's proposed formulation is rather narrower than what we have at present.

The group of Amendments Nos. 113, 115, 116 and 121 appears to attempt to ensure significant local authority representation on the agency's regional environment protection advisory committees. I can understand the wish of the noble Baroness to ensure that local authority interests are taken into account in the way the agency carries out its functions in any region, but I do not think this is an appropriate way of going about it. First, by seeking to ensure that regions for these purposes follow local authority boundaries, she is effectively removing the discretion of the agency to decide what the appropriate regions should be. It seems to me important that this should be left for the agency to decide.

Secondly, I do not think that giving local authorities the power to nominate 50 per cent. of the membership of a committee is the best way of ensuring that local interests in general are taken into account. Amendment No. 118 makes a similar proposal, but with one-third elected members for each committee. I should expect to see some local authority members on a committee—although not as representatives, rather as individuals who would play an active part in the work of that body. But I would not wish to specify the numbers that would be included. There are many other organisations and bodies which will need to have a place, and it is important to ensure a balanced membership with a wide range of expertise and experience relating to the agency's functions.

The agency will be required to draw up schemes for the appointment of members, specifying the kinds of organisations or individuals which the agency believes are likely to have a significant interest in the way the agency carries out its functions in that region, and indicating how the membership of the advisory committee is to reflect these different interests. Regional interests will be consulted both on the preparation of schemes, and on the appointments to be made under them. The decision on the proportion of local authority membership on a particular committee will be taken in the light of that consultation. I would not wish to limit the effects of this new provision by laying down in the legislation that local authorities would have the power to nominate, with no further consultation, half or one-third of the committee's members.

Amendment No. 117 seeks to establish regional advisory committees made up entirely of elected members. That would be even less appropriate than the noble Baroness's other proposal and I do not believe that it would necessarily result in balanced committees.

Amendment No. 119 proposes further express provision in respect of the balance of members on REPACs. It is by no means clear to me how that could possibly be achieved if Amendment No. 117 were accepted. The provisions for appointing members are designed to ensure that these committees reflect a wide range of interests in the agency's work in a region. These provisions, with their requirements for consultation, will provide an open and transparent way of ensuring a balanced committee; I do not think there is any need for the amendment to make further express provision that representation on the committee should be balanced, and in particular include those with views and expertise on pollution control and nature conservation. Schedule 3 to the Bill should achieve that result; other amendments put forward by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness would not.

Amendment No. 114 proposes that chairmen of REPACs should be elected by the other members. I think it is right that the chairman should be a ministerial appointment. These advisory committees will be important and influential bodies. The Secretary of State, in appointing a person to take on that role, will be under a duty to have regard to the need for appointing someone with relevant experience and expertise, and will be answerable to Parliament for the appointments he makes. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I shall not detain the Committee at this hour. These are important points, and it is sad that we have had to debate them in a ridiculously short time. I shall reflect upon what my noble friend has said, but we shall want to return to the matter at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn

[Amendments Nos. 113 to 121 not moved.]

Clause 12 agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Environment protection advisory committees]:

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

moved Amendment No. 122: Page 123, line 28, at end insert: ("() make provision for inclusion on the advisory committee of a person who has experience in, or knowledge of, the waste management industry.").

The noble Lord said: This is a different argument from that I deployed when we discussed a similar matter on the first day of Committee. The last series of amendments which were discussed so briefly has thrown up a number of variations in the membership of the advisory committees. That is a point that I would have brought up. It seems to me that I can best serve the Committee by considering what my noble friend the Minister said in relation to the other amendments relating to membership, set that against what I am seeking in the amendment, and come back at a later stage. Upon that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Regional and local fisheries advisory committees]:

Lord Greenway

had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 123: Leave out Clause 13 and insert the following new clause: ("Regional and local fisheries, recreation and navigation committees 13.—(1) It shall be the duty of the Agency—

  1. (a) to establish and maintain fisheries, recreation and navigation advisory committees;
  2. (b) to consult those committees as to the manner in which the Agency is to carry out its functions relating to fisheries, recreation and navigation; and
  3. (c) to consider any representations made to it by those committees (whether in response to consultation under paragraph (b) above or otherwise) as to the manner in which the Agency carries out those functions.
(2) (a) Each fisheries, recreation and navigation committee shall consist of—
  1. (i) persons who appear to the Agency to be interested in salmon fisheries, trout fisheries, freshwater fisheries or eel fisheries;
  2. (ii) persons who appear to the Agency to have knowledge of recreation interests; and
  3. (iii) persons who appear to the Agency to have knowledge of navigation interests.
(b) The members of fisheries, recreation and navigation advisory committees shall not be members of the Agency. (3) The duty to establish and maintain fisheries, recreation and navigation advisory committees imposed by subsection (1) above is a duty to establish and maintain—
  1. (a) a regional fisheries, recreation and navigation advisory committee for each region of England and Wales; and
  2. (b) such local fisheries, recreation and navigation advisory committees as the Agency considers necessary to represent fisheries, recreation and navigation interests in the different parts of each region;
and it shall be the duty of the Agency in determining the regions for which regional committees are established and maintained under this section to ensure that one of those regions consists (apart from territorial waters) wholly or mainly of, or of most of, Wales. (4) If the Agency, with the consent of the Ministers, so determines, it shall also be under a duty to consult the fisheries, recreation and navigation committees, or such of them as may be specified or described in the determination, as to—
  1. (a) the manner in which it is to perform its duties under or by virtue of such of the enactments relating to conservation as may be the subject of the determination, or
  2. 851
  3. (b) such matters relating to conservation as may be the subject of the determination.
(5) Where, by virtue of subsection (4) above, the Agency is under a duty to consult those committees or any of them, there may be included among the members of the committees in question persons who are not members of the Agency but who appear to it to be interested in matters—
  1. (a) likely to be affected by the manner in which it performs the duties to which the determination in question relates, or
  2. (b) which are the subject of the determination, if the Ministers consent to the inclusion of persons of that description.
(6) There shall be paid by the Agency—
  1. (a) to the chairman of any regional or local fisheries, recreation and navigation advisory committee established and maintained under this section such remuneration and such travelling and other allowances; and
  2. (b) to any other members of that committee such sums by way of reimbursement (whether in whole or in part) for loss of remuneration, for travelling expenses or for any other out-of-pocket expenses,
as may, with the consent of the Treasury, be determined by one of the Ministers.").

The noble Lord said: I shall not move the amendment, and so I do not need to withdraw it officially. But on the basis of what I said previously, and, subject to the agreement of the Minister and my noble friend Lord Moran, I should like to discuss this matter with him and reserve the right to bring it forward at a later stage.

[Amendment No. 123 not moved.]

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Regional flood defence committees]:

Viscount Ullswater

moved Amendment No. 124: Page 15, line 12, leave out ("existing") and insert ("old").

The noble Viscount said: I can save the time of the Committee by saying that Amendments Nos. 124 to 127 are of a minor technical nature. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 14, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Clauses 15 and 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Local flood defence schemes and local flood defence committees]:

Viscount Ullswater

moved Amendment No. 125: Page 18, line 12, leave out ("date on which this section comes into force") and insert ("transfer date").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 17, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 18 [Composition of local flood defence committees]:

Viscount Ullswater

moved Amendments Nos. 126 and 127: Page 19, line 41, leave out ("a regional flood defence") and insert ("an old regional"). Page 20, line 8, at end insert: ("(9) In this section "old regional committee" means a regional flood defence committee for the purposes of section 9 of the 1991 Act."). On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 18, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 19 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 128 not moved.]

Schedule 5 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 129 not moved.]

The Earl of Lindsay

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.

House adjourned at eleven minutes past ten o'clock.