§ 3.9 p.m.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.
Perhaps I may say one or two things in general about this Bill on the subject of this Motion before we consider the Commons Amendments in full, as the list is fairly compendious.
I stand here with a certain amount of temerity. Some of your Lordships have had cause to be deeply involved with the Bill in its earlier stages. That has not been my good fortune so far, as I have been involved with other matters. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, will avoid the temptation of treading all over the "new boy" and inadvertently thereby over the Government as well. The noble Lord is a kindly person and I am sure that that would be far from his mind. But in case it did enter the inner recesses of his mind, I hope that he will exorcise it forthwith.
The list of amendments is pretty formidable. However, a very large proportion of them meet concerns which were expressed by your Lordships before. As a listening, caring government, we listened to your Lordships and took the opportunity of the Bill's passage in another place to table amendments to meet the concerns of your Lordships. I hope in that respect at least that we shall receive some brownie points.
Air pollution was an issue on which many of your Lordships felt strongly. The noble Lords, Lord Lewis of Newnham and Lord Nathan, and my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, among others, all spoke with much conviction. We have now brought forward important new clauses introducing an air quality strategy.
We have also introduced a new clause and substantial schedules on old minerals planning permissions, which I hope will meet the concerns expressed by my noble friends Lord Addison, Lord Glenarthur and Lord Campbell of Croy.
The contaminated land provisions have been substantially amended, and I think improved, in the light of comments and concerns which were raised by your Lordships. In particular, we have removed the separate 1473 identification and handling of closed landfills, as was suggested by my noble friends Lord Lucas of Chilworth, Lord Crickhowell and Lord Mills.
We have introduced arrangements for consultation and negotiation on remediation requirements, as was suggested by my noble friend Lord Coleraine; and we have refined the provisions relating to liabilities, which were the subject of amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and my noble friend Lord Kinnoull.
Other amendments address matters which were raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, on water conservation; by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, on spray irrigation; by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, on fish gratings, and by my noble friend Lord Wade on combined heat and power.
Having considered some of the points which were made by my noble friends Lord Crickhowell and Lord Mills, we have also made some amendments to the agency provisions. The Government have also accepted one of the two amendments on which your Lordships voted when the Bill was laid before your Lordships earlier, even though it was against the Government's preference. We have made further amendments in order to clarify the amendment which was originally tabled by my noble friend Lord Stanley and which was accepted by your Lordships, and also to bring the Scottish provisions into line with it.
In discussing these amendments, I hope that your Lordships will feel that the Government have come a long way to meet many of the desires of your Lordships and that the Bill will be much improved as a result.
I apologise for the list of amendments, which I am sure that many of your Lordships, as I did, found mildly daunting. But many of them are connected and we shall be able to speak to a great many at a time, according to the way in which they are grouped, if that is to the convenience of your Lordships. I point out that those are the reasons why the list is as long as it is.
§ Moved, That the Commons amendments be now considered.—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Lord Williams of Elvel
My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Earl for introducing what will possibly be a long debate. I shall be the first to congratulate the noble Earl on his debut on the Environment Bill. We have had many debates and I am sure that the noble Earl in his new capacity has read through all of them with the greatest of interest. I have no intention at all of treading on any of the noble Earl's or the Government's corns or whatever.
However, I find 337 amendments coming before your Lordships this afternoon rather a heavy menu. Your Lordships may remember at Second Reading I described this Bill as a curate's egg—good in parts and bad in others. The putative curate—I cast the noble Earl in that role—may now be satisfied with the Bill he is putting before us. In so far as the amendments produced by the Commons satisfy the concerns of your Lordships' House, we shall give them a very fair wind. However, 1474 there are other amendments produced by the other place, which are contrary to the decision of your Lordships and the wind may not be so fair. Having said that, let me say from the Opposition that we wish to deal expeditiously with the amendments and not take up the time of the House.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.