HL Deb 26 July 1999 vol 604 cc1357-8

10 Schedule 1, page 6, line 36, after ("information") insert ("— (i)") .

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 10. 1 wish to speak also to Amendment No. 11.

This is a measure inserted in response to the procedures in another place. This Bill covers a number of regulatory matters regarding pollution. This measure will cover the entitlement of people to know exactly what is coming into their homes and elsewhere.

In May my right honourable friend the Minister for the Environment launched the Environment Agency's new pollution inventory giving people access to up-to-date information about emissions from the installations which the agency regulates under the integrated pollution control regime. It is proving extremely popular, with 700 to 800 visits a week on the Internet.

The Government would like to see the inventory become even more informative. The Environment Agency will consult on extending it to cover the landfill sites and sewage works which it now regulates and my department will consult on the possibility of including information on emissions from the 13,000 or so installations which local authorities regulate under the local air pollution control system. The Bill already contains the power to cover those additional installations.

These amendments would permit information also to be gathered on energy use and the destination of waste from installations. They are enabling powers and they do not in any way presuppose that we shall choose to collect this information in all instances. The expansion of the inventory must, of course, proceed at a sensible pace in the light of full consultation and with any burdens on business properly considered and justified by reference to the benefits. We may, for example, find that we already have sufficient information about energy use as a result of the energy efficiency requirements of this new regime and other initiatives. We would not expect businesses to have to track the journey of their waste through its various multifarious stages. Nevertheless I believe that it is sensible to take the opportunity provided by this Bill, as the Commons felt was sensible, to enable such information to be gathered in future if it would prove beneficial.

Access to information about pollution is a vital part of a fair, modern and open society. It has proved a powerful force for environmental improvement in other countries including the United States. This Government intend that information should be similarly available here where appropriate. As I say, these are enabling powers and each enactment would need to be considered carefully together with the industries to which it applied.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 10.—(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.