Consideration of Commons amendments
Tuesday 26th October 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Environment Act 2021 View all Environment Act 2021 Debates Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: HL Bill 57-I Marshalled list for Consideration of Commons Reasons and Amendments - (25 Oct 2021)
Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 1, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 1A.

1A: Because the provision made by the Amendment is unnecessary.
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait The Minister of State, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park) (Con)
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With the leave of the House, I will also speak to Motions B, B1, C, C1, D and D1. This historic legislation is now not only within sight; it is within reach. I thank Members for their conversations with me and my officials and for the debates that have taken place in this House.

I begin with Amendment 1, on biodiversity and the climate emergency, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and I thank him very much for the meetings he has had with me. I hope he noticed that last week, the Prime Minister pledged that:

“We will meet the global climate emergency but not with panicked, short-term or self-destructive measures as some have urged”,


but with the actions he set out in the net-zero strategy, and indeed through actions in this Bill.

We introduced in your Lordships’ House a duty to set an additional legally binding target to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030—a clear and significant response to the biodiversity emergency we face. However, as I have said previously, addressing these twin challenges requires action, which this Government are taking.

The net-zero strategy builds on the action from the 10-point plan, the energy White Paper, the transport decarbonisation plan, the hydrogen strategy and the heat and buildings strategy. It sets out ambitious plans to reach net zero across all the key sectors of the economy. The net-zero strategy outlines measures to transition to a green and sustainable future, helping businesses and consumers to move to clean power, supporting up to 190,000 jobs in the mid-2020s and up to 440,000 jobs in 2030, and leveraging up to £90 billion of private investment by 2030. It includes £3.9 billion of new funding over the next three years for decarbonising heat and buildings so that homes and buildings are warmer and healthier. We will boost the existing £640 million Nature for Climate Fund with a further £124 million of new money, ensuring total spend of more than £750 million by 2025 on woodland creation and management, peat restoration and so on. This will enable more opportunities for farmers and landowners to support net zero through land use change. Furthermore, the Bill’s powerful package of measures, including biodiversity net gain, local nature recovery strategies and a strengthened biodiversity duty on public authorities, will drive action towards our biodiversity targets and objectives.

We are playing a leading role in pressing for an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework, to be adopted at CBD COP 15. This is my number one international priority, but it is also the Government’s. Putting the declaration in Amendment 1 into law is therefore not necessary. However, I hope noble Lords are reassured that the Government are taking action at pace to deal with these crises, and that calls from a number of noble Lords to hear the phrase “climate emergency” from the Prime Minister’s mouth have now been answered.

Turning to Amendments 2 and 2B, on soil health, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, first, let me first make it clear that the Government take soil health seriously. As Minister Pow said in the other place:

“It is the stuff of life.”—[Official Report, Commons, 20/10/21; col. 793.]


It is a priority, and I do not think anyone doubts that. This is why we are currently working with technical experts to develop the appropriate means of measuring soil health, which could be used to inform a future soils target.

However, an amendment to make soil health or soil quality a listed priority area would require us to bring forward an objectively measurable target by October 2022, and I am afraid we do not yet have the data to do that. Until baseline data and a metric to measure success are developed, we cannot commit to setting a robust soil target at this time. However, as I have also said, that is not to say that it is not a priority for us. Defra is working with partners right now to develop the baseline data and metric needed to set that target.

As I announced on Report, we will deliver a new soil health action plan for England. Noble Lords will find more detail on this action plan in the Written Ministerial Statement published last week, but I highlight that it will provide clear strategic direction to develop a heathy soil indicator, soil structure methodology and a soil health monitoring scheme to support the delivery of a future potential soil target.

We refer to the use of “soil health” over “soil quality” because soil quality sometimes refers to a measurement of the current status of a soil while soil health more accurately captures how well the soil is functioning. The soil health action plan aims to help soil to function better to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services and wider benefits and outcomes, such as increased biodiversity, carbon storage, food production and flood mitigation.

I recognise the compelling arguments of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and commend their very successful efforts to raise this issue up the agenda. I hope that the action I have set out, and the new soil health action plan for England, demonstrate our commitment to this critical aspect of our natural environment. This includes our commitment to improve the health of our precious peat soils, in line with the England Peat Action Plan published earlier this year and supported by the extra funding I mentioned earlier.

On Amendments 3 and 3B, on air quality, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, I thank her for her time spent meeting with me on multiple occasions. I recognise the strength of feeling on this issue both in this House and in the other place; it is a feeling I share. The two targets we are currently developing—a concentration target and a population exposure reduction target—will work together to both reduce PM2.5 in areas with the highest levels and drive continuous improvement across the country. This unique, dual-target approach is strongly supported by our expert committees, the Air Quality Expert Group and the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants. They will be an important part of our commitment to drive forward tangible and long-lasting improvements to the air that we breathe.

Colleagues in the other place last Wednesday rightly called for urgency in tackling air pollution. I emphasise that we are not waiting for these targets to be set before taking the necessary action. We already have legally binding national emission reduction targets for five key air pollutants for 2030. Our Clean Air Strategy was praised by the World Health Organization as

“an example for the rest of the world to follow”,

and sets out the actions we are taking to deliver on these targets. For example, legislation to phase out the sale of house coal and deal with wet wood, and to introduce emission standards for manufactured solid fuels for domestic burning across England, came into force from 1 May 2021. We are also delivering a £3.8 billion plan to clean up transport and tackle nitrogen dioxide pollution.

This House will have heard these points before, but I want to emphasise that delivering our ambitious reductions in PM2.5 will require co-ordinated action. The more ambitious these targets are, the greater the level of intervention that will be needed—from national and local government, as well as businesses and individual citizens. To achieve a level such as 10 micrograms in our cities would require fundamental changes in how we live our lives; for example, significant changes to farming practices to reduce ammonia, which reacts in the air to form particulate matter. This would be likely to be in addition to a total ban on solid fuel burning, including wood, and restricting traffic kilometres by as much as 50%. That would include electric vehicles, which release non-exhaust emissions from tyre and brake wear, for example.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, for her further amendment, which challenges us to go further and set a target of 5 micrograms by 2040, in line with the latest recommendations from the World Health Organization. While we recognise that there is no safe level for PM2.5, it is also important to acknowledge that PM2.5 is not a pollutant that can be fully eradicated. The reasons for that are manifold. First, contributions to PM2.5 from natural sources and from outside the UK, particularly in the south-east of England, are currently modelled at around 5 to 6 micrograms. That is before we take into consideration the everyday activities of the millions of people who live in those towns and cities in the south-east. Essentially, our current evidence strongly suggests that it is not possible to achieve reductions in PM2.5 concentrations to levels as low as 5 micrograms in numerous locations in England, particularly in the south and south-east. Setting an unrealistic target would be disingenuous, and the target would be meaningless as a result, as well as ineffective and potentially counterproductive.

Before setting targets, we need to understand what reductions are possible, the scale of measures required to achieve them and the impact and burdens that would be placed on society. Members of the public will want, and deserve, to understand the specific health benefits and then we can decide upon the fundamental changes that would be required. So we will hold a public consultation on these targets early next year. Once we have carefully considered the responses to the consultation, we will bring forward the final, statutory targets by October 2022. That is a legally required date that we cannot and will not miss.

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Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, when the Minister, Rebecca Pow, introduced the government amendments in the other place last week she said:

“The Bill is packed with positive measures … I am delighted that the Government have improved it even further.”—[Official Report, Commons, 20/10/21; col. 791.]


But many of these improvements were ones that the Government had resisted as being not necessary or counterproductive until your Lordships intervened. However, the Government have not listened to noble Lords’ concerns on air quality, and I am disappointed that the Bill has not been changed to reflect these very serious concerns. I thank noble Lords who have expressed support for my Motion C1.

In the debate in the other place, senior Conservatives expressed concern at the Government’s lack of action on this matter. Neil Parish, chair of the EFRA Committee, said that he completely agreed with the intention behind our amendment and that we had to ensure that this is one of our great priorities, questioning whether the Government were taking the issue seriously enough. Bob Neill MP commented:

“When a coroner issues a prevention of further deaths letter, it is not done lightly”—[Official Report, Commons, 20/10/21; col. 811.]


and called for “prompt and urgent action”. Rebecca Pow, the Minister, said that

“there is no safe level of PM2.5”.—[Official Report, Commons, 20/10/21; col. 797.]

Doctors are so concerned that a team of 30 paediatric healthcare providers are, right now, cycling from London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital to the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow to raise awareness of the impact of air pollution on health, ahead of COP 26. I am genuinely at a loss as to why the Government are dragging their feet, when delay costs lives.

The revised amendment before your Lordships’ House today takes into account the reduction in the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines, which were published after our Report stage, on 22 September 2021. I find it worrying that the Minister said in his opening remarks that it is not possible to meet these new guidelines in many areas. They add to the evidence that air pollution causes early death and has been linked, as we have heard before, to lung disease, heart failure, cancer—I could go on. Across significant parts of the UK, air quality still fails to meet the guidelines that were set by the WHO in 2005, let alone the new levels. According to analysis by Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, just over a third of people in the UK are breathing levels of PM2.5 over the 2005 WHO guidelines. This is truly shocking.

These new guidelines should act as a road map to clean air, with the ambition and impetus to reach them set by central government now in order to catalyse the changes required to reduce the levels of PM2.5 in particular. The Environment Bill is still the golden opportunity to set this commitment to work towards the more robust WHO guidelines and help reach our net-zero targets, while bringing forward the health benefits. My amendment would require the Government to do just that. Government delay means that people, particularly children and the vulnerable, are paying the price with their health.

Earlier this week, I spoke to Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who told me that today is the 11th anniversary of her daughter Ella’s first becoming ill. Have the Government not waited long enough to act? I thank the Minister and his officials for taking the time to listen to our concerns. I now urge him to accept this amendment; otherwise, I am minded to test the opinion of the House at the appropriate time.

On Motion A, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that there is an imbalance regarding biodiversity that needs to be addressed.

I turn briefly to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, on soil quality. I congratulate her and other noble Lords, such as the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, on pressing the Government on this matter sufficiently that they have made a commitment—which was welcomed by us and Members in the other place, including Caroline Lucas—to publish the new soil health action plan for England. It was also good to hear Rebecca Pow state that

“soil will be one of the top priorities in our new environmental land management and sustainable farming initiative schemes.”—[Official Report, Commons, 20/10/21; col. 793.]

I listened to the noble Baroness’s introduction to her amendment, and she raises some important questions that the Minister needs to answer.

I will now turn briefly to the revised amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Brown, and I thank her for making her case so clearly. Of course, we all accept that environmental change cannot happen overnight and needs long-term planning, which is what the 25-year environment plan seeks to do. But you can and must be able to measure progress along the way, and that is why statutory interim targets are so important. We have heard again the argument that interim targets would undermine the long-term nature of the target and make it more complicated to meet the current 25-year environment plan. However, I draw attention to the Natural Capital Committee’s Final Response to the 25 Year Environment Plan Progress Report, published a year ago, which states that

“this report … highlights the lack of progress, and some worrying declines: nine of the 25 years have already passed, and it is now looking very likely the next generation will inherit a poorer set of natural assets.”

Rather than being in contradiction, the combination of binding interim targets and legislated long-term goals is complementary. The report clearly shows that unless you have something binding, it is not necessarily going to happen. This amendment is essential for delivering sustainable progress towards our environmental goals. I hope the Minister will reflect on the noble Baroness’s amendment further and reconsider his current position.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. I begin by particularly thanking the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his comments and his probably slightly reluctant acceptance of the position we find ourselves in. I also very much appreciate the comments of my noble friend Lord Cormack.

There was really only one question, raised by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, on “panic measures”. I am certain that the Prime Minister was not talking about any of the amendments tabled in this House, none of which could be described as “panic measures”, even by people who disagree with them. It is more likely—indeed, it is clear—that he was talking about the calls made by some of the more radical protest groups, perhaps associated with Extinction Rebellion and others, some of which exceed what I think any expert would believe to be a possible and realistic solution. I do not think it is in any way a reflection on this House.

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Baroness Brown of Cambridge Portrait Baroness Brown of Cambridge (CB)
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Will the Minister reply by letter to my other question?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I apologise; I thought I had answered. I will certainly reply on any questions that I have not answered—I commit to that. I am afraid I cannot do so now as I am not sure which questions are unanswered.

I understand the strength of feeling and thank noble Lords for the amendments they have put forward. I would be grateful if, in return, they could carefully consider the arguments made today.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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Before the Minister sits down, he has not answered the points raised by my noble friend Lord Deben. Notwithstanding the evidence that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and I have received that you can in fact set a target by the appropriate time limit within Clause 1, my noble friend Lord Deben raised the point that you could have a different date for bringing in soil quality targets. As I understand it, the only way that that is possible is for the soil amendment to be passed by your Lordships and for the Government to bring in an amendment in another place to meet the specific concern. If the Minister is convinced that his advice is right and the advice I had is wrong, he could at least bring soil into the Bill with a deferred date by which the target ought to be brought in.

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My noble friend is right that I did not answer that question. I apologise—it was not deliberate. The reality is that I cannot tell him when the metrics will be ready, because I do not know; I am not sure Defra knows either. I cannot give him the deadline he requires.

I have said this before, but I think it is critical. There is zero chance of meeting any of the other targets we are setting in law unless we pay particular attention to soil. This is a matter of process rather than outcome. We will achieve the outcome, because we are legally obliged to do so and part of achieving it means dealing with soil. This does feel like a bit of a distraction.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben (Con)
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I am sorry to trouble my noble friend again. I want to be on his side on this because I know he is really on my side. He knows that if you have to write an article, a deadline is rather important. If you do not have a deadline, you will not write the article. It is like that here. We need to have a date, even if it is further ahead than we would like, otherwise we will not have the concentration that we need. Can my noble friend think again about the possibility of having a date, even though he might disappoint me in how far forward it might be?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I hear my noble friend’s arguments, but without the baseline, we do not know when we can deliver. However, we have a date, which is the 2030 biodiversity target, and if we do not meet that target, we will fall foul of the law. As he himself said, not just today but in previous debates, it is not possible to meet that legally binding target without major effort to protect and restore our soil. Therefore, we have that, and at the very least it is a pretty blooming powerful fallback position.

Motion A agreed.
Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 2, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 2A.

2A: Because it is not necessary for soil health and quality to be a priority area in order to set a target.
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16:56

Division 1

Ayes: 114


Liberal Democrat: 66
Crossbench: 35
Conservative: 4
Labour: 4
Independent: 3
Green Party: 2

Noes: 207


Conservative: 178
Crossbench: 18
Democratic Unionist Party: 5
Independent: 4
Ulster Unionist Party: 2

Motion B agreed.
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Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 3, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 3A.

3A: Because the powers conferred by clause 2 should not be limited in the manner proposed.
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17:15

Division 2

Ayes: 202


Labour: 96
Liberal Democrat: 66
Crossbench: 31
Independent: 7
Green Party: 2

Noes: 210


Conservative: 179
Crossbench: 19
Democratic Unionist Party: 5
Independent: 4
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
Labour: 1

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, I am sorry things are taking a bit longer. The voting in the Table Office is adding extra time.

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Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 12, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 12A.

12A: Because the Secretary of State should not be placed under a statutory duty to meet interim targets.
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I have already spoken to Motion D. I beg to move.

Motion D1 not moved.
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Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 28, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 28A.

28A: Because it affects the areas of taxation, spending and the allocation of resources within government, and the Commons do not offer any further Reason, trusting that this Reason may be deemed sufficient.
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, with the leave of the House I will speak also to Motions F, F1, G, G1, N and N1. We are now discussing the second half of our new, transformative system of environmental governance. This new system has been tailored specifically to a UK context, embeds the environment in future policy-making and takes the essential steps needed to strengthen environmental oversight.

I turn to Amendments 28 and 28B, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter. I sincerely thank her for our discussions on this issue and for her proposal to narrow the amendment specifically to cover “safeguarding national security”. However, I am afraid that even with this revised amendment it is the view of the Government that the original exemption for the Armed Forces, defence and national security is still required to provide flexibility to protect and secure the nation. The Government therefore cannot accept the amendment.

The primary function of the defence estate is to support our operations and maintain military capability. It provides homes for those who defend our country, offices for work, space for training, and conditions to prepare to meet the ever-changing threats that the UK faces. This means that defence land, defence policy and national security are inextricably linked. MoD land cannot be separated out; it touches on decisions across the Armed Forces, national security and defence. “National security” does not cover all defence activities. If the coverage of the exemption is reduced, as proposed in the amendment, that directly risks the readiness of our defence capabilities and could impact our responsiveness.

I know that this is a matter in which noble Lords have a keen interest and I emphasise again that these exemptions do not apply to SSSI management, where the MoD is on track to meet the 25-year environment plan target for SSSIs in favourable condition for the sites under its management. Natural England has assessed 48% of the department’s English sites as in favourable condition, which compares well with the English average of 39%.

I reassure the noble Baroness, on the back of the discussions that we have had, that the department will be providing further reassurance in writing of its intentions in relation to the protection, good conservation and improvement of the land under its management. I hope to be able to provide that to her soon.

I turn to the office for environmental protection. I will speak to Amendments 31, 31A, 31B, 31C, 75, 75A, 75B and 75C together, tabled by my colleague Rebecca Pow in the other place and by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick. I reiterate the Government’s commitment to establishing the OEP as an independent body. This guidance power is required to ensure appropriate accountability and that the OEP continues to operate effectively because the Secretary of State is ultimately responsible to Parliament for the OEP. There are other examples of independent arm’s-length bodies where provision has been made for the Secretary of State to give guidance; for example, under Section 41 of the Climate Change Act 2008 the Secretary of State can give guidance to the Climate Change Committee regarding the exercise of its functions. We are seeking only to do the same in ensuring appropriate accountability and that the OEP continues to operate effectively by focusing on the most serious, strategic cases with national implications.

None the less, I acknowledge the concerns that have been raised about this power. In recognition of noble Lords’ comments, we introduced a new provision to ensure that Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly can scrutinise draft guidance before it is issued. The Secretary of State must respond to that scrutiny before final guidance can be laid and have effect. This has been reinstated in the other place, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for adding it to his amendment in lieu. I hope noble Lords will recognise that their concerns are being listened to with this measure.

I turn to the other parts of the amendment. I should be clear with noble Lords that we are confident that the right appointment processes are in place for the OEP. These are equivalent to those for other independent scrutiny bodies, such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This retains the right balance between ministerial accountability and operational independence. Furthermore, as set out in the Written Ministerial Statement on 7 September:

“The Government took the necessary steps to ensure that the role of Chair was listed as a significant appointment with the Commissioner for Public Appointments … The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Environmental Audit Committees conducted a pre-appointment scrutiny hearing before the appointment of Dame Glenys Stacey as OEP Chair Designate.”—[Official Report, Commons, 7/9/21; col. 19WS.]


I am happy to reiterate our intention that future chair appointments should follow a similar process, ensuring fairness, accountability and independence in future, as was set out in the Written Ministerial Statement.

I hope that that provides some reassurance for noble Lords and indicates why the amendment therefore is not necessary. Ultimately, Ministers are accountable and responsible to Parliament for public appointments. While we are committed to ensuring parliamentary scrutiny, it is appropriate that Ministers should retain the ability to make the final choice.

Amendments 33 and 33B, on enforcement, were tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and I am grateful to him and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for the engagement that they have given us over the preceding weeks and months. The OEP’s enforcement powers will operate more effectively than those of the European Commission as the OEP will be able to liaise directly with the public body in question to investigate and resolve alleged serious breaches of environmental law in a more targeted and timely manner.

Through environmental review, the OEP can apply for judicial review remedies—subject to appropriate safeguards—that will work to ensure compliance with environmental law. The Court of Justice of the EU cannot issue these kinds of remedies to member states and therefore the OEP could have a far more direct impact on third parties than the previous system. The protections for third parties brought into the OEP’s process of environmental review have therefore been specifically designed in recognition of the unique nature of this type of legal challenge.

We also have to consider the direct impacts that the OEP’s enforcement function may have on third parties. Through environmental review, the OEP will be able to bring cases to court outside of standard judicial review time limits, potentially long after the decisions in question have been taken. For instance, if a quashing order was placed on planning permission or consent for a new shopping centre many months or even years after the decision was taken and where significant building work had already taken place, this could result in substantial hardship for the various parties involved, which would not be fair. We need to ensure that the key principles of fairness and certainty are upheld for third parties who have acted in good faith on the basis of certain decisions and balance this with the need to protect the environment.

Furthermore, the principle behind the provision to protect third-party rights on environmental review is not new. As I have noted in previous debates, it is an extension of the existing position for legal challenges, including under the Senior Courts Act 1981 and the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. These Acts grant the courts discretion to refuse relief where there has been undue delay, and this would be likely to substantially impact third parties or be detrimental to good administration. We are building on these precedents here in a way that reflects the nature of environmental review.

While I thank the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, for proposing Amendment 33B, I am afraid that it does not offer such protections for third parties against the quashing of decisions outside of normal time limits. The factors that it sets out, which the court would have to have regard to, would not provide sufficient protection or certainty, and therefore we cannot support it. The Government have reflected on this new amendment, but I am afraid that it still offers no further protections for third parties. I hope that noble Lords can understand our position on this matter and on the other amendments that we have been discussing.

Motion E1 (as an amendment to Motion E)

Moved by
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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, first, I am grateful to the Minister for the discussions that he has had with us since Report. Secondly, we are disappointed that the Government have not seen fit to make a concession to the revised amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, to include defence in the scope of the Bill. However, we understand her generous decision to pull up stumps at this point, bearing in mind some of the other pressures on us this evening. Thirdly, we are very grateful, as ever, to the noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord Anderson, and my noble friend Lady Ritchie for continuing to pursue the independence of the OEP and the need for effective remedies.

These noble Lords have all made hugely impressive and convincing contributions this evening; they do not need me to repeat their arguments. I also thank all other noble Lords who have added their voices in support. I hope that the Minister is getting a sense of the mood of the House on these issues. We very much hope that he can therefore agree to revisit them. If this is not possible, we urge the noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord Anderson, to test the opinion of the House.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. Beginning with Amendment 28B, the Government maintain the position that exempting the Armed Forces, defence and national security from the environmental principles duty is required to ensure the flexibility for our defence capability. I appreciate the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, but I am afraid that, as I said in my opening remarks, this is a red line for the MoD. I will secure the reassurance that we were promised together on a call that we made, which has been followed up since, and I very much hope that it directly addresses the plea that she has made to this House. We will continue those discussions afterwards.

In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, I am very happy to reiterate something that I, she and many others have said many times: nature and climate change are inextricably linked. Indeed, climate change is in many respects the fever that the planet is experiencing as a consequence of the degradation of its natural environment. All the science tells us that there is no pathway to net zero, or to staying within 1.5 degrees, without massive efforts to protect and restore nature on a scale that we have never seen before. That is absolutely understood. I simply add that it is not just a reflection of my view but the position of this Government as they take us towards COP 26. We have sought to put nature at the very heart of our response to climate change, both here and internationally. I think, and hope, that we will see some real movement over the coming weeks from the global community.

I turn to amendments 31, 31A, 31B, 31C, 75, 75A, 75B and 75C. We believe that the guidance power is necessary to ensure that the OEP continues to operate effectively and provide appropriate accountability. To elaborate on a point I made earlier in response to comments by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, the OEP will have an extremely broad scope and remit, encompassing all environmental law and with powers to investigate alleged serious breaches by any public authority, ranging from a local authority to a Minister of the Crown. Given this huge breadth, the guidance power is important to ensure that Ministers who are ultimately responsible for the OEP’s use of public money can ensure that it is functioning as intended, focusing on the most serious strategic cases. My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked for comparable examples of such guidance being issued. My understanding is that the Secretary of State has the power to provide guidance to the Climate Change Committee, and that power is enshrined in the Climate Change Act.

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Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 31 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 31A and 31B in lieu.

31A: Clause 24, page 14, line 35, leave out subsections (3) and (4)
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18:19

Division 3

Ayes: 223


Labour: 94
Liberal Democrat: 65
Crossbench: 48
Conservative: 8
Independent: 6
Green Party: 2

Noes: 172


Conservative: 161
Democratic Unionist Party: 5
Independent: 3
Crossbench: 2
Ulster Unionist Party: 1

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Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 33, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 33A.

33A: Because the circumstances in which the court may grant a remedy on an environmental review should not be altered in the manner proposed.
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18:34

Division 4

Ayes: 207


Labour: 94
Liberal Democrat: 62
Crossbench: 36
Conservative: 7
Independent: 6
Green Party: 2

Noes: 172


Conservative: 158
Democratic Unionist Party: 5
Crossbench: 4
Independent: 4
Ulster Unionist Party: 1

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Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 43, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 43A.

43A: Because the law already makes provision to protect pollinators from the effect of pesticides.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, as well as Motion H, with the leave of the House I will also speak to Motions J, J1, K, L, M, Q and R. It is a pleasure to open this debate focusing on the protection of nature, and I am grateful to noble Lords who have contributed throughout the passage of this Bill on these issues.

I begin by speaking to Motions H in my name and H1 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville. I have listened intently to the concerns of this House on this matter and of course I share them. Countless plants in our gardens, towns and countryside simply could not exist without pollen being spread by bees and hundreds of species of other insects. Bees and other insect pollinators contribute more than £500 million a year to UK agriculture through improving crop quality and quantity, but in truth this figure barely touches the sides in terms of the true value of our pollinators to our country. They add immeasurable beauty and wonder to our environment and, indeed, our lives.

The Government wish to see pollinators thrive so they can carry out their essential services for the environment and for food production and provide such joys for people. We are committed to taking action to improve their status, and action through the national action plan, the National Pollinator Strategy and our Healthy Bees Plan 2030 will help better protect pollinators and allow them to flourish. I will set out a bit more detail on these plans for the House today.

First, I can confirm to all noble Lords that we will publish a national action plan for the sustainable use of pesticides by the end of this year. The purpose of the plan is to minimise the risks and impacts of pesticides to human health and the environment while ensuring pests and pesticide resistance are managed effectively. Integrated pest management is central to the plan, and we are supporting a shift towards greater use of those techniques. The technique will benefit the pollinators that we all value, as it will involve designing pesticides out of farming systems as far as we possibly can and will include increased use of nature-based, low-toxicity solutions and precision technologies to manage pests.

In addition, the Government are taking action under the national pollinator strategy. This includes restoring and creating habitats for pollinators to thrive; raising awareness across society so that people can take action themselves; and supporting monitoring and research, including a national pollinator monitoring scheme, to improve our understanding of pollinators’ population status. Our Healthy Bees Plan 2030 provides a blueprint for how we will improve honeybee health, including working in partnership with beekeepers and bee farmers.

Finally, I will address the specific concern raised by Amendment 43B, which seeks to introduce a requirement to conduct a pollinator risk assessment report before a decision can be taken. I assure the House that, when we update the national action plan, we shall assess the use of pesticides in the round and their impact on the natural environment. Given the action that the Government are taking to protect pollinators and the existing regulations in place, as well as the upcoming national action plan for pesticides, I ask that the House agrees with Motion H.

I turn to storm overflows. Before I go into detail, I would like to talk briefly about the debate itself. Of course, we all feel very strongly about this issue, and it is right for the Government to be held to account. However, it has to be said that some of the language that has been used in recent days, including by one or two Members of this House, has been simply unacceptable. It has led very directly to a torrent of abuse, some of it extremely violent, directed at colleagues in the other place. It is obvious to anyone who follows this process that absolutely no one wants raw sewage anywhere near our waters and seas, and it is objectively the case that, even without any further improvements to this Bill, we will have regulations and standards to deal with this issue that significantly exceed what we had before; in other words, the Bill already represents a major improvement on the status quo. I have made it clear previously that we have been working for some time on ways in which to improve and significantly strengthen it, further details of which I shall come to in just a few moments.

With respect, I am going to address the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who is in his place, engaged yesterday in an orgy of tweets, telling his followers:

“Zac Goldsmith … proposes pumping raw sewage into rivers & the sea.”


When he talked about

“Zac Goldsmith’s plans to allow water companies to pump raw sewage into rivers and the sea”,

he was spreading a malicious falsehood.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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It is a disgrace.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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It is a disgrace, and I am glad for that reassuring remark from behind.

Over the course of dozens of tweets, the noble Lord was trying to make his—let us face it—not always balanced Twitter followers believe something about me and the Government that is simply not true, and which he knows to be untrue. Indeed, by suggesting that we are making it easier for companies to pollute our waters, he was spreading a grotesque inversion of the truth. I understand why he has done so; it is nothing to do with the environment, an issue on which he has almost no record whatever. It is about wanting people to believe that Brexit means more sewage in our waters. He knows that this is not true—this is a matter of fact, not a matter of opinion—but he also knows that, because of his position, many will believe him. Some will be driven into a frenzy of rage, as we have seen—rage based on a blatant untruth. The noble Lord may have been driven to distraction by Brexit, but he is not a stupid person; he wants his words to have consequences. In this debate on sewage, the noble Lord has absolutely covered himself in the stuff—and I say shame on him.

There is, rightly, concern in this House, and indeed the other place, wider society and the Government, about the unacceptable frequency with which sewage is discharged from storm overflows into our rivers, lakes and seas. It is because we share that concern that we have moved so far already on this issue. In this spirit, I hope that noble Lords will allow me to outline in one simple list the measures in the Bill and outside it which will indeed deliver progressive reductions in the harm caused by storm overflows.

The Bill places, first, a new duty on government to produce a statutory plan to reduce discharges from storm overflows and their adverse impact, and report to Parliament on progress. Secondly, it creates a requirement for government to produce a report setting out the actions that would be needed to eliminate storm overflows in England and the costs and benefits of those actions. Both publications are required before 1 September 2022. Thirdly, it creates a new duty directly on water companies and the Environment Agency to publish data on storm overflow operation on an annual basis and, fourthly, a new duty directly on water companies to publish near real-time information on the operation of storm overflows. Fifthly, it creates a new duty directly on water companies to monitor the water quality upstream and downstream of storm overflows and sewage disposal works and, sixthly, a new duty directly on water companies to produce comprehensive statutory drainage and sewerage management plans, setting out how they will manage and develop their drainage and sewerage system over a minimum 25-year planning horizon, including how storm overflows will be addressed through these plans. The seventh thing the Bill does is to create a power of direction for the Government to direct water companies in relation to these plans if they are not good enough—the “big stick”. Eighthly and finally, it creates a duty on government to set and achieve at least one new target to drive progress in the priority area of water.

This significant package will work hand in hand with the action that we are taking outside the Bill. Significantly, for the first time, the Government made it crystal clear in our draft strategic policy statement to Ofwat that we expect water companies to take steps to “significantly reduce ... storm overflows”, and that we expect funding to be approved for them to do so. These are not just warm words: the price review is the mechanism by which funding for the water companies and their priorities are determined. This is our biggest lever to clamp down on sewage discharges from storm overflows.

Significant investment has been unlocked on storm overflows in the current price review period 2020-25. Water companies will invest £7.1 billion on environmental improvements in England; of this, £3.1 billion will be invested in storm overflow improvements. This is supplemented by an additional £606 million as part of the green recovery announcement. We have also committed to reviewing the case for implementing Schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 in England, which would set mandatory build standards for sustainable drainage schemes on new developments, something that numerous noble Lords called for in Committee. In August 2020, we established the Storm Overflows Taskforce—indeed, it was my colleague, Rebecca Pow, who was here a second ago, who established it—to bring together key stakeholders from the water industry, environmental NGOs, regulators and government to drive progress in reducing sewage discharges. That task force has agreed a long-term goal to eliminate harm from storm overflows.

I and my colleagues across government have been clear that we are determined to tackle the harm from storm overflows and stop untreated sewage flowing into our rivers, lakes and seas. Last Wednesday, the Government and their Back-Benchers actively voted into the Bill six pages of new law directly on storm overflows. To imply that the Government and their Back-Benchers are voting to dump sewage into our rivers is factually incorrect. However, all that said, we have listened carefully to the feeling in the other place and this House and among the wider public. I am absolutely delighted to confirm that the Government will bring forward an amendment in lieu in the Commons at the next stage; it will place a direct legal duty on water companies to progressively reduce the adverse impact of storm overflows.

I want to heap thanks on my right honourable friend Philip Dunne and other Members in the other place who have spoken so strongly about this issue, in Parliament and on broadcast media. Indeed, they have driven action in their own constituencies. I am delighted to say that Philip Dunne has indicated that he is in agreement with the Government on the wording of our proposed amendment, which will follow the clear direction already set by the Government’s draft strategic policy statement to Ofwat, published in July, that we expect water companies to take steps to

“significantly reduce the frequency and volume of sewage discharges from storm overflows”.

We cannot accept the amendment proposed by the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, as it is, but I assure noble Lords that the Government’s amendment in lieu will deliver the same action in reducing sewage discharges into our rivers. We cannot accept the amendment exactly as drafted, since we need to ensure integration with other legislation, including new measures in the Bill and existing duties in the Water Industry Act 1991. For example, although we absolutely support the noble Duke’s premise, his amendment does not dock in with the enforcement regime in the Water Industry Act or the range of enforcement remedies available to Ofwat within that Act. Consistency with the draft strategic policy statement to Ofwat and Ofwat’s price review mechanism is also important. Aligning the new duty with the existing framework in this way will ensure that the price review does its job, balancing the need for investment with the need to protect customers from disproportionate prices.

I thank again noble Lords across this House and Members of the other place, in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, and the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, but many others as well. I hope that noble Lords will be able to support our position today. I look forward to setting out more detail before the Bill returns to the other place.

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Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab)
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My Lords, in view of the Minister’s remarks, I should intervene briefly. The noble Baroness just made the crucial point that there appears to have been a major change of government policy. Let us not delude ourselves: that is because of the strength of parliamentary and public opinion. We have been doing our job in making it clear that the disgraceful situation which my noble friend Lord West, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and others have referred to, should not continue.

The Minister was so busy criticising me that he did not say explicitly that he is accepting the amendment in the name of the noble Duke. Are the Government accepting it? I see that the noble Baroness is shaking her head. Is it the case that they are not accepting the amendment? So we will have to vote. That is quite a significant point. The Government are still not in a situation where they are clearly accepting what the noble Duke said. The Government could, procedurally, accept the amendment in the name of the noble Duke, it would go back, and they could then move a further amendment.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I will give the noble Lord an answer. The Government encourage the noble Duke, the Duke of Westminster—I have done it again. I will go to jail voluntarily after this. The Government encourage the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, to press his amendment to a Division. The reason for doing so is because we will then be able to send it back to the House of Commons so that the Commons can then table our amendment in lieu. I would have thought the noble Lord would be aware of that and I suspect—in the same way that he continues to send absurd messages on Twitter in the last few minutes—that he probably already knew the answer.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab)
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My Lords, I am well aware of the procedure of the House; I have been here rather longer than the noble Lord. The question is whether the Government are accepting it. Are they going to vote? No? So they are not voting. If they are not voting, that means that the amendment in the name of the noble Duke will go back to the House of Commons, and the right thing to do then is for it to be accepted or for them to move whatever technical changes they want.

On the substance of this issue, obviously the House congratulates the noble Duke on the stand he has taken. It is because of that stand that we are in this position this evening. On the business of criticisms of the Minister, let us make this very clear. Speaker after speaker in this debate has pointed out that unless there is this duty—an actual duty on water companies to reduce these illegal or unacceptable discharges—the current unsatisfactory position would not only continue but would probably get worse. The noble Earl referred to this.

With the scale of further development, the cutback of two-thirds in the Environment Agency—I am not giving way to the noble Lord; he can make his own remarks in a moment if he wishes to. I was criticised by the Minister so it is perfectly reasonable that I should reply. There has been a cutback of two-thirds in the staff of the Environment Agency over the last 10 years. In addition, the new guidance from the Environment Agency says that because of Brexit—yes, Brexit—where water companies cannot get the chemicals they need because of the HGV crisis, they are allowed exemptions from current rules. For all those reasons there is very good reason to believe that without the amendment in the name of the noble Duke, the situation would get worse and not better. My statement was clear, that without the change which the noble Duke is proposing, the situation over which the Government are presiding—the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, is the Minister responsible—would get worse.

We are doing the right thing in supporting the noble Duke. The House has shown itself in its best lights in supporting him so strongly, I am glad that the Government have come to this position and now, I hope, they will start moving in the right direction rather than the wrong direction.

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Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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In the interests of time, and due to the fact that noble Lords have made important contributions to this debate, I hope that your Lordships will not be too disappointed that I have decided to completely tear up my speech. Instead, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, for giving us the opportunity to return to the important issue of protecting pollinators from pesticides. I also thank the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, for his tenaciousness in continuing to press the Government on this very important matter and for making serious progress. If he wishes to test the opinion of the House, he will have our full support, but I hope that the Government will not vote against.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I thank noble Lords again for their contributions to this debate. I will briefly address Amendment 43B. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, for, as I understand it, agreeing not to press her amendment—I hope I have not pre-empted a decision—but more importantly, for her work on this vital issue. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, that she has been very effective at raising this issue on the agenda. I am grateful to her for that, and I hope we will be able to continue to work together on this issue as we develop a robust pesticide action plan. I thank her very much indeed.

Much has already been said regarding storm overflows, so I will keep it brief. I thank Members across the House and in the other place for their informed, valuable and passionate contributions. I am pleased that we were able to announce progress today. In response to the noble Baroness on the Front Bench I say that, while the Government must vote against this amendment today, for procedural reasons and to ensure that the House of Commons has an opportunity to deliver the proposed amendment in lieu, that is not a reflection of an ideological difference; it is simply a procedural issue.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked a number of questions, in particular about a timeline for the implementation of Schedule 3. It has already commenced and will be completed in 2022; I cannot give a month, I am afraid.

I very much appreciate the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. On the costs that she talked about, there is a difference between the cost of eliminating harm from overflows and the cost of eliminating overflows. It is the cost of eliminating overflows to which those figures apply. I will not pretend that I have been through the figures myself but, based on everything that I know, the range is anywhere between £150 billion and £500 billion. In real terms, it is not a relevant figure, in that no one is proposing that this amount of money should be spent on infrastructure. The key is the elimination of harm, which would allow the overflow to happen in some cases and for investment in sustainable systems such as reed beds and the like. That would not be the elimination of overflows but it would be effective management of them. It is, however, the correct figure for eliminating overflows.

The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, asked a question on the chemical issue. Again, it is not the case that there is a shortage of chemicals preventing the water companies doing their job. There is currently no disruption to the supply of water, water treatment or the treatment of wastewater. The shortage of HGV drivers had meant that there was a risk that deliveries of ferric sulphate, a water treatment chemical, would be delayed, but the Environment Agency successfully and very quickly mitigated that risk.

On Amendment 65, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, I assure noble Lords that the Government will publish a nature recovery Green Paper in the coming months, setting out our approach to supporting nature recovery in England. It will show our commitment to and focus on this matter, which I know is enormously important to almost everyone in this House.

On Amendments 94 and 95, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, I reiterate that we will not have in one year meaningful data with which to assess the effectiveness of this legislation. However, the disagreement that we have is entirely practical; it is not based on our hopes for the effectiveness of this legislation. As I said before, if it is clear before two years that something bad has happened and the Government have chosen to exploit or create a loophole, we will act long before the review deadline of two years. It will be very obvious to us should that be necessary.

Moving on to Motion K, although I ask the House to disagree to Amendment 66, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, I very much appreciate her remarks and her commitment to the issue; she has pushed it right up the political agenda in a very effective way. I hope that your Lordships’ House will welcome the Government’s progress and the commitment to enhancing the protection of ancient woodlands, on which the noble Baroness and I have agreed, I am delighted to say.

On Motion M, I hope that noble Lords can support the Commons in its Amendments 67A to 67E, which will provide further reassurance to landowners on the issue of conservation governance.

I hope noble Lords agree that, in addition to the progress made in Committee and on Report, we have moved further today to protect our waters, our trees and our landscapes for future generations.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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I thank the noble Lord for his comments, and I beg leave to withdraw Motion H1.

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Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment 45A (to Lords Amendment 45).

45A: Leave out lines 7 to 14
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19:55

Division 5

Ayes: 213


Labour: 86
Liberal Democrat: 60
Crossbench: 37
Conservative: 18
Democratic Unionist Party: 5
Independent: 5
Green Party: 2

Noes: 60


Conservative: 59
Independent: 1

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Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 65, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 65A.

65A: Because the powers conferred by clauses 105 and 106 should not be limited in the manner proposed.
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Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 66, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 66A.

66A: Because the National Planning Policy Framework and the Forestry Commission and Natural Englands standing advice already make provision to protect ancient woodland in England.
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Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 67 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 67A, 67B, 67C, 67D and 67E in lieu.

67A: Clause 110, page 109, line 13, leave out “in writing signed” and insert “executed as a deed”
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Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 75 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 75A and 75B in lieu.

75A: Schedule 3, page 155, leave out lines 12 to 14
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Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 85, do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 85A, 85B and 85C in lieu and do propose Amendment 85D as an amendment to Commons Amendment 85B and Amendment 85E as an amendment to Commons Amendment 85C—

85A: Clause 54, page 32, line 39, leave out “plastic”
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Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 94, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 94A.

94A: Because the timetable for the Secretary of State’s review of legislation relating to forest risk commodities should not be brought forward.
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Moved by
Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 95, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 95A.

95A: Because the timetable for the Secretary of State’s review of legislation relating to forest risk commodities should not be brought forward.