Environment Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Lord BerkeleyMain Page: Lord Berkeley (Labour - Life peer)
(1 month, 1 week ago)Lords Chamber
75: After Clause 88, insert the following new Clause—
“Isles of Scilly: disapplication of water quality legislation
(1) Article 3 of the Isles of Scilly (Application of Water Legislation) Order 2020 (S.I. 2020/214) has effect as if—(a) at the end of paragraph (1) there were inserted “and to paragraph (3)”, and(b) after paragraph (2) there were inserted—“(3) Part 3 of the Water Resources Act 1991 does not apply to the following islands—(a) Bryher;(b) St Martins;(c) St Agnes.”(2) Accordingly, no charges may be levied under the Environment Agency (Environmental Permitting) (England) Charging Scheme in relation to the application of the Order on those islands.(3) Subsections (1) and (2) are repealed if a nominated water or sewerage undertaker has demonstrated to the Water Services Regulation Authority and the Environment Agency that it has invested in infrastructure so as to comply with the requirements of the Order.”Member’s explanatory statement
The water and sewerage regulations came into force on the Isles of Scilly in March 2020 but, on some islands, there is a statutory undertaker appointed for water supply but none for sewerage and no ability to comply with the sewerage regulations. This amendment would disapply the related Environment Agency charges until the necessary infrastructure is built and a statutory undertaker appointed.
So, if the Minister can give me assurances in the way I have suggested, I certainly will not divide the House. If the Minister can say nothing, well, we will see—but I hope that will not happen, because I have had some really good discussions with officials. This is not anything like as important as everything else we have been discussing in the Environment Bill, but it is an opportunity for me to bring this to your Lordships’ attention and, hopefully, not only get the Minister to give me the assurance I want but encourage islanders to get on and do this and make sure that their water quality and sewage quality are compliant with the Water Resources Act, as the rest of the country should be. I beg to move.
I too thank noble Lords for this debate on Amendment 75 from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I was going to start with some background, but the noble Lord provided the background very well. I admit that, if this only arrived on his desk two weeks ago, it arrived on mine probably even more recently than that.
As he said, water, wastewater and corresponding environmental management legislation were applied to the Isles of Scilly for the first time in April 2020. This was the culmination of a project lasting more than 10 years. It addresses water-quality risks to public health, risks to the environment from over-abstraction of water resources, sewage treatment and resulting pollution on the Isles of Scilly. The Environment Agency is now working with the Council of the Isles of Scilly, the Duchy of Cornwall, Tresco Estates, residents, and other local partners to ensure that environmental legislation is complied with, and practices modernised over time. I urge all parties to continue their valuable work toward this endeavour.
I know that everyone involved shares the aim of helping isles such as Bryher to avoid long-term environmental damage and risk to human health. It is therefore crucial that the legislation that so many people worked so hard to apply to the Isles stays in effect. The Environment Agency recently consulted on a charges scheme regarding environmental permits to help support the work. Currently a risk-based transition plan for the management of septic tank waste and sludges on the Isles is being developed as a priority, ensuring that the fragile environment and groundwater resources are as well supported as possible into the future.
Very briefly, in response to comments from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, I can tell him that septic tank wastes are currently disposed of outside the above permits under other legislation, but we will need an evolution and transition to a better system, hopefully aligned with the development of water company assets in the future. Again, we are working very closely with partners on the Isles of Scilly to achieve that future.
The Government recognise that this will involve change for residents, and the Environment Agency is managing that change sensitively and through partnership. I am very grateful to the noble Lord for taking the time to discuss this issue with my officials and for bringing this to my attention, and I reassure him that we will continue to monitor progress on this issue. I will ensure that my colleague Rebecca Pow, in whose portfolio this sits, is kept fully abreast of the issues. I beg that the noble Lord withdraws his amendment.
I assure the noble Lord that I absolutely commit to continuing to work with the residents to implement the changes in as sensitive and sensible a way as possible, but I do not think I am able to commit to specifics or comment on specific cases at this time. I hope that is enough for the noble Lord.
Amendment 75 withdrawn.