All 7 Lord Duncan of Springbank contributions to the Environment Act 2021

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Mon 7th Jun 2021
Environment Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading
Wed 23rd Jun 2021
Wed 30th Jun 2021
Wed 7th Jul 2021
Wed 14th Jul 2021
Wed 8th Sep 2021
Tue 26th Oct 2021
Environment Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments

Environment Bill

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank (Con)
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I thank the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, for withdrawing and allowing me to speak a little earlier. I draw attention to my entries in the register concerning forestry, energy and wider environmental concerns. I want to touch upon three issues—the independence of the office for environmental protection, territorial co-operation, and the wider question of environmental review versus judicial review.

Let me begin at the beginning. The real question is: does the OEP have teeth or just flashy dentures? That is yet to be clearly resolved. As a former Northern Ireland Minister, I am responsible for certain public bodies there. The public service ombudsman was set out in law, not subject to the direction or control of a Minister. It was a genuinely independent body set out in statute. An obligation to be impartial is useful, but it is not the same as statutory independence. We must recognise the difference and ask the question: why are we in a situation in which impartiality is our expected and accepted situation, rather than independence?

As a former Member of the European Parliament, I recognise how important the infraction proceedings undertaken by the European Commission were to bring about change, not just by their intervention but by the fear and threat the intervention can represent. The absence of that independence may yet be a detriment to our ability to deliver the noble causes this Bill sets out. A number of noble Lords have touched upon them—as part of the Defra family, there is a question of how the Secretary of State may offer guidance and how that guidance must be taken into account by that independent office. Those elements strike at the heart of independence. We need to resolve them; I think clarification is probably all that is required, but it is required.

The notion of territorial co-operation is also important in this regard. As a former Minister in the three territorial offices of the United Kingdom, it became clear to me that the green groups in each would have preferred a common UK position to address the issues post Brexit. We do not have that. What we have instead—the Bill is not wholly clear in this area—is how we create legislative consent mechanisms with each of the legislative assemblies and nations in order to bring about co-operation. But as we all know, on many of these issues, borders are meaningless, whether in terms of the archipelago we inhabit, its biogeography, the seas that surround us and the air above us—each requires a common solution and approach. It will be very challenging to secure that if, on each occasion, we need to secure legislative consent Motions to bring them about. We need to find a way of exploring this and finding a mechanism that works to the benefit of all. I think we all share the same common ambition and common cause, but we need to be conscious that the individual Parliaments may have very different approaches. We should recognise that at the outset.

My final point concerns the notion of an environmental review versus a judicial review. Several noble and noble and learned Lords have spoken on this issue and I will not seek to echo their points, but they are valid. I shall touch on the views of the Bingham Centre on this. A judicial review is important because as it begins to explore the issues, the outcome of that exploration voids the law that it casts down, whereas an environmental review simply offers an exploration and the iniquity of the law which is identified is not voided—it can continue. Justifications are given for that in the Bill, but to me those justifications look a little creepy, if I can be frank, because they basically allow a situation in which the individuals affected can find themselves able to assert that they are negatively affected and therefore can continue with an unlawful act in a situation in which that unlawful act will have an environmental consequence. The environmental consequence must be paramount in these situations because that is why we are creating the office for environmental protection. If the environment is not paramount, what is the office for?

That begs the question, if we are looking at creating an environmental review rather than a judicial review, whether the resultant environmental review is not as powerful as a judicial review. We need to consider what that means in terms of the “would be” concerns that an operator in this area should be alert to, conscious of the risk that they face in that they could be found in breach and unable to continue but could have their situation recognised in law and be fined for their behaviour, as would happen in the European Commission through the infraction proceedings. We need to look at this again because we are not quite there yet.

Let me conclude with two points. First, this is a good Bill that does good things. I recognise the passion and the commitment of the Minister and indeed of my noble friend Lady Bloomfield. Both are passionate advocates of environmental protection and environmental reform, and I stand shoulder to shoulder with them. The points I have raised today I will take up in the future because I think that they need to be considered, and I would very much welcome an opportunity to discuss these matters further. I hope that Ministers will take them in the spirit in which they are given because I believe that this House is ready to be assured that our environmental credentials are second to none as we approach the glidepath to the COP 26 gathering and the other international gatherings that will take place on our soil. We have an opportunity to be leaders—let us embrace that.

Environment Bill

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Committee stage
Wednesday 23rd June 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Environment Act 2021 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 16-III Third Marshalled list for Committee - (23 Jun 2021)
The Government say that they want to leave the environment in a better state than they found it in. I regret that the Bill fails to do this in respect of air pollution. It needs improvement, and these amendments are a good start.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, will not be taking part in the debate, so I will move straight on to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green.

Lord Young of Norwood Green Portrait Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I have found this a fascinating debate. I put my name to Amendment 49, but I support the general approach of all these amendments. Clearly, air pollution is a key issue for the Government. I hope that, when we look at this, we do so in the round.

I cannot agree with the some of the statements, I am afraid. I heard the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, say that we have to ban all roads and we must not build any more. That assumes that those towns and cities that are being heavily polluted because the roads go through the town centre should have to put up with that. Similarly, she referred to the Silvertown tunnel. The argument for that is that the current Blackwall tunnel constantly gets blocked and the traffic queues cause more air pollution. There have been many occasions during this debate when people have said that we need to look at the evidence—we do.

More generally, I regard the investment that the Government are making in more cycle lanes as fundamentally important, as is encouraging young people to cycle or walk to school. The irony of it is that those children who think—or whose parents think—that they are safely protected in their SUVs are actually breathing in more pollution than if they were out walking or cycling. Of course, if they were doing those activities, they would also be getting the benefit of exercise. I welcome the targets; they are important. How we achieve them, through monitoring, et cetera, is important.

I too read that article on leaded petrol, which remains in the city 20 years on. Above that article, and perhaps even more interesting in some ways, was one on smart traffic lights smoothing the way to reducing emissions by a quarter. It said:

“A new generation of smart traffic lights could be introduced after a government-backed trial showed that eliminating unnecessary stops at junctions can cut emissions by a quarter.”


That stresses the importance of ensuring that we do not forget that innovation will play an important part in reducing these emissions. I hope that, when the Minister responds, he will take into account—I am sure that he will—a holistic analysis, if you like, of what the Government are doing.

There may well be more cars on the road because people are a bit reluctant to travel on public transport at the moment. As someone who cycles every day and has had an electric car for a few years—I am lucky to be able to afford one—I like to think that I play my part. We are seeing changes in attitude. There are many young people these days who are not bothering to learn to drive or do not own their own car—they hire or share—so we should not be too pessimistic about the situation. It is serious, which is why I put my name down—I felt that this was a necessary probing amendment.

I hope that, when the Minister responds, he will give us that holistic analysis of how the Government intend to meet these targets and how they feel that they can respond to the very real and present impact of particle pollution, whether it is nitrous oxide or carbon emissions.

Environment Bill

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Committee stage
Wednesday 30th June 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Environment Act 2021 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 16-V Fifth marshalled list for Committee - (30 Jun 2021)
Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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My Lords, it is a delight to follow my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who is in many ways the embodiment of wisdom in your Lordships’ House. How good it is to have him back with us and speaking as vigorously and to the point as he always does.

I cannot begin to rival the expertise or knowledge of the noble and learned Lords who have spoken, but shall give my noble friend the Minister a secular analogy. When we enter this Chamber from the Prince’s Chamber, we have in front of us that great classical sculpture by John Gibson of Queen Victoria. It is flanked on either side by the figures of Justice and Mercy. The figure of Justice holds in her hands, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, reminded us earlier, the sword and the scales.

Would my noble friend Lord Goldsmith seriously think, as he entered the Chamber, of removing that sword and those scales? Because that, metaphorically, is what he is proposing to do this afternoon if he does not accept the spirit of these amendments. It is palpably absurd—I refer to the interesting contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker—to have an Environment Bill that has as one of its slogans, “The polluter need not pay”. It is absurd. Can my noble friend not recognise that absurdity?

I have said before in these debates that it is essential that an environmental Bill should command the support of Members in all parts of your Lordships’ House, particularly one that is meant to stand the test of not just some time but generations. We cannot have a Bill enacted that, in effect, does what my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay has just said and contradicts one of the fundamentals of English law.

I hope that my noble friend Lord Goldsmith will do what I urged him to do when speaking to an amendment on Monday. I said that because it was so important that the Bill should command the support of your Lordships in all parts of the House, he should convene some sort of round table and talk to us all. There is an answer to all these conundrums and problems that we are highlighting, because we all support the basic premise of the Bill. However, if we support that premise and intention, we cannot allow the Bill to go on to the statute book so fundamentally flawed as it is at the moment. So I say to him again, “Please talk to those of us who wish you well, who wish the Bill well, but who can never lend support on Report to a Bill that is so riddled with absurdity”.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank (Con)
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My Lords, I begin by drawing attention to my interests in the register, notably the chairmanship of the National Forest.

I was pleased to put my name to Amendments 105 to 108, because they are necessary and they make the Bill better. We have heard echoed by a number of noble Lords how that can be achieved and I hope that the Government hear that. In many ways, this clause is like a Monet painting. It looks fine from a distance, but the closer you get the more the detail seems to disappear. What we need now is clarity and for that detail to be recognisable. Non-compliance must affect validity. That is a simple statement of fact. The beneficiary of an environmental deterrent or damage cannot escape sanction because he is materially affected by the sanction. That cannot be a useful way of moving forward. The remedies available must be a deterrent. If they are not, the system will be gamed. Individuals will find ways through, between and under, and they will be able to make a mockery of what should be a very important institution.

The OEP is a successor to a body that was able by its threats to bring about fundamental change in how environmental laws were enforced—and it made the environment better, safer and healthier by doing that. The successor body must be able to do the same and have available to it each of the elements that can allow it to achieve that outcome. That is why I was very pleased to put my name to these amendments.

Baroness Parminter Portrait Baroness Parminter (LD) [V]
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My Lords, we on these Benches thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady McIntosh of Pickering, and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, for these amendments, which expose the fundamental flaws in the proposed enforcement powers of the environmental watchdog. We support all the amendments, particularly Amendment 107. As others have said, lawyers in this Chamber have eloquently made the case, so I will merely reflect on two points.

First, the Government have said that they want the OEP to be world-beating in its role. Yet a cursory review of its remit, as opposed to that of the body in Scotland, Environmental Standards Scotland, suggests that that is absolutely not the case and that the powers of the OEP are far more prescriptive than those of Environmental Standards Scotland, which has the power to take the steps that it considers appropriate—I repeat, the steps that “it” considers appropriate—to secure public authorities’ compliance with environmental law and how it is implemented or applied. So, if the Government want the OEP to be a world-beating watchdog, they need to look at the options rather more carefully in order to ensure that that is delivered.

Secondly, on Amendment 107, which seeks to remove the restriction on the ability of the court to grant remedies, such as squashing orders, where that could cause severe hardship, we agree very much with the noble and learned Lord, Lords Thomas of Cwmgiedd, who said that we should trust the judges. As it stands, the Bill fetters the discretion of the judiciary and radically alters the balance of power in favour of the Executive.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, asked: who bears the brunt of this weight in the change in the balance of power? He rightly reflected that it is nature—but, equally, it is the people of our country. It has been a fundamental cornerstone of British democracy that people have a right to environmental justice and to hold the Government to account. It is also a right guaranteed to the British public, given that we are signatories to the Aarhus convention. Therefore, as it stands, unless these amendments are accepted, we the British public will have weaker rights to environmental justice than we had previously under the European Union. We therefore urge the Government to accept these amendments and to ensure that the OEP has the robust powers that it needs in order to be—and, as the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, said, to be seen to be—an effective and robust environmental watchdog.

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Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I declare two interests—one as a member of the Commission on Food, Farming and the Countryside, and the other in the mental well-being of the Minister. We are picking on him and I feel deeply sorry for him, because he is between a rock and a hard place. This is another example of an amendment that, in a normal world, he would simply accept and we could all go home happy.

I support Amendments 110 and 112, which rightly specifically include “soil” in the definition of the natural environment. As other noble Lords have said, we have already touched on the importance of soils during our debate on a previous amendment. Indeed, many of our older Members of the House will remember Kenneth Williams who, in character, used to say in response to any question at all, “Arr, the answer lies in the soil.” He was right. However, for a period, with the exception of the organic movement, soil came to be regarded as nothing more than a handy medium for holding plants up, especially crops. It was nothing more complex. Of course, the pendulum has now swung and it is generally acknowledged that soils are complex ecosystems with huge importance for a whole range of things such as carbon storage, flood alleviation, crop health, biodiversity and water quality. Other noble Lords have gone through these.

It is true to say—the Commission on Food, Farming and the Countryside very much supports this—that agroecology and restorative agriculture, which focus on the importance of soils, are going to be vital components of the future of farming and food production. Of course, the mycorrhizal elements of soils are the telegraph systems for trees and plants and are capable of warning colleague trees and plants many metres away of attack by something nasty, so that they can prepare to repel boarders. Basically, soil is pretty cunning stuff. However, it has been the poor relation in terms of environmental action and safeguarding in the past, and more than one-third of the world’s soils are degraded. That is no less the case in this country, with factors such as erosion, sealing, compaction and contamination causing this deterioration.

I very much welcome the 25-year environment plan highlighting the need to manage all the UK’s soils sustainably by 2030. Signalling the importance of soils in environmental protection ought to be the purpose of including soil in the definition of the natural environment in this Bill. It is not just a practical step; it is a signalling step of the fundamental importance of soil.

The noble Lord, Lord Curry, reminded us that one of the reasons given by the Minister for not including soil was that to include it would require a target and the science was not there yet to do that. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, said that we need a soil metric now and it does not need to be perfect. I very much agree with that. Indeed, that has been endorsed today by the report from the Environmental Audit Committee in the Commons, which stressed the need for the rapid development of soil indicators and for a shadow target to be established urgently in the meantime.

We are going to need soil metrics for a whole variety of purposes, not least because soil is going to be fundamental to the environmental land management schemes. Let us get on with it and establish a metric. It will not be right but it will be something, and it will be a huge signal of the importance of soils in this section of the Bill.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is not taking part in the debate so I call the noble Duke, Lord Wellington.

Duke of Wellington Portrait The Duke of Wellington (CB)
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My Lords, I wish to speak briefly to Amendment 112, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. As other noble Lords have said, Amendment 110 has very much the same purpose.

In Clause 43, in defining what is meant by “natural environment”, mention is made of “land”, “air” and “water”, but I really do think that the Bill would be much improved by including “soil”. All scientists tell us how much the quality of soil has been degraded in this country in recent years. There is an increasing risk of erosion from flooding. There is an increasing occurrence of compaction caused by the regular passing of heavy agricultural machinery. There is a decline in organic matter in the soil, brought about by modern farming methods and the use of chemical fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides. I am sure that the new environmental land management schemes will indeed encourage farming methods that will avoid this steady and continuous degradation. Let us hope they will go further and encourage and support farming systems that restore soil quality. However, in the meantime, I encourage the Minister to accept either Amendment 112 or Amendment 110, which would demonstrate that the Government intend to take very seriously the question of soil quality and to include it in the various proposals to improve the natural environment.

I turn briefly to Amendment 194AC in this same group, which deals with biodiversity gain in planning. Of course, I would be minded to support any improvement in biodiversity in rivers and lakes as a result of any new planning application. I must say that I am doubtful whether it can really be practical to place on all developers an obligation to demonstrate on each occasion a biodiversity gain in water. Surely, connection to a wastewater system that will not create any increased risk of sewage discharges in the adjacent river system should be a condition for all developers. The most important point for improving aquatic biodiversity is to reduce in the short term and eventually eliminate discharges that pollute our rivers. Therefore, although I know it is well intentioned, I personally could not support Amendment 194AC.

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Clause 44 agreed.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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We now come to the group consisting of Amendment 113F. Anyone wishing to press this amendment to a Division must make that clear in the debate.

Clause 45: Meaning of “environmental law”

Amendment 113F

Moved by
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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I thank my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering for Amendment 113F and reassure noble Lords that the Government are fully committed to the important aims of the Aarhus convention and fulfilling our obligations under this agreement.

The definition of environmental law in the Environment Bill has been designed with the primary purpose of defining the scope of the OEP. The OEP’s remit is to oversee the implementation of domestic legislation, rather than international law. Separate mechanisms exist to regulate compliance with international agreements.

Where the OEP determines a complaint to be outside its scope and considers that the complaint is regarding a failure to comply with the convention, the OEP would be expected to advise the complainant to approach the Aarhus convention compliance committee. This committee considers complaints related to obligations under the Aarhus convention, which is international law, and submits recommendations to the full meeting of the parties.

I assure my noble friend that where the provisions of the Aarhus convention have been given effect in UK law and meet the definition of environmental law, they will fall within the remit of the OEP. The OEP will consider which legislation falls within the definition on a case-by-case basis.

There are, of course, areas in which, appropriately, provisions implementing the convention may not be included in the OEP’s remit. For example, under Clause 45(2)(a) provisions on the

“disclosure of or access to information”

are specifically excluded from the definition of environmental law and therefore from the OEP’s remit. This is to avoid overlap with the role of the Information Commissioner’s Office, as we discussed in one of our earlier debates. Amending the definition as proposed would therefore result in confusion, including over the functions of the OEP and the Information Commissioner’s Office.

In response to the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, on air pollution, Defra makes air pollution information available through a range of channels. It also informs a network of charities, including the Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation partnership, the British Heart Foundation, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the British Thoracic Society, when elevated air pollution levels are forecast to ensure that information reaches the most vulnerable. It will not be bullet-proof or foolproof, but the attempt is there and the mechanism is there to provide that information to those who need it. More broadly, there are several ways in which the public can access air quality information, including through mainstream media, air quality alert systems and dedicated websites, such as those of the UK air and health charities and numerous campaigns. There are a number of alert systems, including in Manchester and London, that people can sign up to, often funded by local authorities. As I say, this is not a bullet-proof or foolproof process. Like everyone in the Committee’s, my heart goes out to Ella’s family. What happened to her absolutely needs to be the basis for all kinds of lessons learned and adds another layer of urgency to the work we are doing through this Bill in relation to air quality.

This group concludes the governance part of the Bill. I have appreciated the interest of all parties in the Committee in this important part of the Bill. I conclude by reaffirming that my door is open to continued discussions on these and other essential issues.

Before I ask my noble friend to withdraw her amendment, I note the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. There are plenty of areas in which I expect the Bill will improve, but it is not within the gift of a Minister unilaterally to decide which amendments should be accepted. I do not think there is any doubt in the department I work for that there are areas in which the Bill can and should be improved. Plenty of very helpful amendments and suggestions have been put forward by the Committee. With that, I ask my noble friend to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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I have received no requests to speak after the Minister, so I move to the mover, the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all those who have spoken in the debate, so movingly in the case of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. I welcome the opportunity to have pressed my noble friend in this regard.

I will revert back to practitioners at the Bar Council to ask whether they are completely satisfied with this. From their briefing, my understanding is that there are already similar exclusions in the Aarhus convention. I congratulate my noble friend on his pronunciation. I am extremely impressed and I think we will be speaking Danish together before we even know it. There are similar exclusions to our own freedom of information as exist under the Aarhus convention.

The subsection (2)(a) to which my noble friend referred is a blanket exclusion about which I have some fear. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, highlighted that we need to be very clear about what is being excluded. If it is information that could make a life or death change to someone like the parent of Ella, it is very important that we are cognisant of that and try to work within the law as much as possible.

I support both my noble friend Lord Caithness and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. I am grateful for her support for the sentiments behind this amendment. When my noble friend Lady Bloomfield and I joined, which was the same year, it was around the time that the procedures here changed. I welcome the fact that in Committee we can have much more probing and lengthier debates, but there was possibly some merit, on a case-by-case basis, to disposing of some of those amendments that could possibly be accepted by the Government or easily disposed of either way, rather than storing up problems when the Government have given us such a tight deadline, as they have. If we can work together and find a middle way on this, that would be very helpful indeed.

With those remarks and the fact that I will go back and take further advice from the Bar Council, I am delighted to have had the debate but beg leave to withdraw the amendment at this stage.

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Schedule 4: Producer responsibility obligations
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 119. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in debate.

Amendment 119

Moved by

Environment Bill

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Lord Colgrain Portrait Lord Colgrain (Con)
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My Lords, I refer to my interests in the register. I rise to support my noble friend Lord Carrington and to add my name to his Amendment 178. I also echo his words of thanks to the Minister for the time that he and members of his department gave us during our virtual meeting to discuss this amendment and for his subsequent letter.

While my noble friend focused his concerns on abstraction rights for arable and horticultural farmers and businesses, my concern is for licences that relate to spring chambers that are gravity fed from underwater strata. These are most often used to provide water to domestic dwellings and livestock troughs and many of these licences have been granted since the 1960s and before. Consequently, they have attached to them over 60 years’ worth of infrastructure investment, whether pipelines or reservoirs, and have become an integral property right and business asset, as my noble friend has already rightly said.

In the overview paragraph of his letter to us, the Minister says that a licence can be varied or revoked to protect from serious damage to the water environment. How this would apply to gravity-fed licences is not clear, since, after all, water appears from a spring and finds its own way to a watercourse. Where is the potential damage in that? In the paragraph dedicated specifically to gravity-fed licences, the Minister’s letter says that abstraction from springs of under 20 cubic metres a day does not need a licence at all, since at that volume they are exempt, but that over that the Environment Agency will balance the needs of abstractors and work with them to find alternative solutions if a revocation or variation is required. Frankly, I do not understand what that means, unless it refers to utilising mains pipelines, which defeats the original objective.

I am mindful of the words of the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, in opening this debate that the Bill must satisfy the five Cs. If there is to be no compensation for the revocation or variation of these licences, the Bill will have failed in its defence of this category, in a manner where no environmental benefit is to be gained anyway.

During our virtual meeting, I understood the Minister’s officials to say that they did not think that gravity-fed licences would be included in revocation or variances. It is, after all, faintly ridiculous to think, King Canute-like, that water would be prevented from discharging itself from geographical fault lines. I look forward to confirmation from the Minister either that there is indeed scope for them to be excluded, or that there is scope for compensation for this category to be paid.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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I call the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick. She is not with us. I call the noble Earl, Lord Devon.

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Amendment 187B not moved.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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Before we move on, perhaps we need a pause to allow people to escape from the Chamber.

They have escaped. We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 188. Anyone wishing to press this amendment or anything else in the group to a Division must make that clear during the debate.

Clause 83: Water quality: powers of Secretary of State

Amendment 188

Moved by

Environment Bill

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Relevant documents: 3rd Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 4th Report from the Constitution Committee
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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I will call Members to speak in the order listed. During the debate on each group, I invite Members, including Members in the Chamber, to email the clerk if they wish to speak after the Minister. I will call Members to speak in order of request.

The groupings are binding. A participant who might wish to press an amendment other than the lead amendment in a group to a Division must give notice in debate or by emailing the clerk. Leave should be given to withdraw amendments.

When putting the Question, I will collect voices in the Chamber only. If a Member taking part remotely wants their voice accounted for if the Question is put, they must make this clear when speaking on the group.

Debate on Amendment 262A resumed.
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Amendments 288 to 293B not moved.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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We now come to the group consisting of Amendment 293C. Anyone wishing to press this amendment to a Division must make this clear in debate.

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for her Amendment 293C and the noble Lord, Lord Khan of Burnley, for introducing it. I reassure noble Lords that the Government are proactively involving local authorities in preparations for implementing the measures in the Environment Bill. Local authorities are key partners for delivering the Bill, from introducing consistent recycling collections and delivering biodiversity net gain to improving air quality. We have worked closely with local authorities in designing the Bill’s provisions and are committed to engaging with them as we implement it, seeking to maximise effective delivery and minimise unnecessary burdens. We have held over 15 public consultations, which provided a critical perspective on the Bill’s measures and received extensive contributions from stakeholders across all parts of society, including local authorities. These were on key measures such as consistency in household and business recycling in England, updating planning requirements with biodiversity net gain and introduction of a deposit return scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The responses to those consultations have been used to develop the Bill’s measures as well as informing upcoming secondary legislation, with further detailed consultation on measures to come.

Noble Lords will know that the Government have committed to funding in full all new burdens on local authorities arising from the Bill. We are working closely with MHCLG to ensure that funding for local authorities is delivered sensibly. We have to be conscious of the established process for funding local authorities through the local government finance settlement. The settlement is unring-fenced to ensure that local areas can prioritise based on their own understanding of the needs of their local communities. However, as I said, we have committed to fully fund all new burdens on local authorities through the Bill. This is in addition to making sure that the costs of protecting the environment, which currently fall on many local authorities and consumers, are shifted to those who may damage it, including through extended producer responsibility or biodiversity net gain. When we look at the global figure, there is of course increased expenditure, which we will cover, but there are also various sources of income.

We have also built in appropriate transition periods. For example, the Government have built in a two-year transition period post Royal Assent for local authorities on biodiversity net gain. The Government are also providing training to local authorities on biodiversity net gain and are in close dialogue on how local nature recovery strategies will be delivered, including through recent pilots. In answer to a number of questions raised, including by the noble Lord, Lord Khan, I say that the Government have committed to providing training and guidance to local authorities on, for example, biodiversity net gain. We have been working closely with local government organisations on implementation matters. Furthermore, we have funded a multi-year project delivered by the Planning Advisory Service for a suite of training and guidance resources for local authorities to ensure that they have access to the right skills and knowledge to implement biodiversity net gain.

I hope I have reassured the noble Baroness who tabled the amendment and others of how we have already worked closely with local authorities on these measures and how we will work going forward. We believe that setting an arbitrary date for reviewing the preparedness of local government to deliver on the Bill, which would not reflect the different timelines for the respective measures, is unnecessary, but this is an important issue and the noble Baroness is absolutely right to raise it. I hope I have reassured her and that I can persuade her to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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My Lords, I have received no requests to speak after the Minister, so I call the mover, the noble Lord, Lord Khan of Burnley.

Lord Khan of Burnley Portrait Lord Khan of Burnley (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank all noble Lords for taking part in this very informative debate and for the many thoughtful contributions across the House.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, that the amendment will allow the weight on a local authority to be eased. She talked about councils coming under huge pressure, as they have done during the pandemic. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, also mentioned how brilliantly local authorities performed in providing support to communities during the difficult, challenging times of the pandemic.

In her excellent, detailed and comprehensive contribution, my noble friend Lady Quin talked about having consultations with various councils and through them finding out the important shortfalls in skills that must be addressed, and about local authorities being concerned about not having the necessary resources and wanting clear guidance. Goals must be set that are deliverable and financially possible.

The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, was very succinct in saying that the amendment would help laws to be carried out properly at local level. As always, the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, talked about the difficulties and challenges of 25 councils that are looking at bankruptcy. Funding is a huge concern and the point was made very eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe. I thank the Minister for his reply to that, but there was a lack of discussion about the different funding streams that the noble Baroness talked about, in particular looking at whether this would be a local government settlement grant increase or whether Defra would have a funding stream. I thank the Minister also for his reassuring commitment to work closely with and consult local authorities and not to overburden them, as well to training and guidance—but there was no detail on funding streams to local government.

I welcome the very important points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, in relation to stepping up to the mark. From her contribution I took away the fact that there are huge expectations on local authorities to deliver on the important outcomes of this Bill. We expect the Government to ensure that they recognise the challenge that lies ahead. The noble Baroness mentioned the great work of local authorities during the pandemic. When I was a local council cabinet member for finance and introduced iPads, getting rid of papers and documents in meetings, people looked at me in a very bizarre manner, as if to say, “What is he talking about? Why are we doing this?” I got a lot of distress, but after the pandemic and 16 months of being Teamsed out and Zoomed out, they were very appreciative of innovation. We would like local authorities to continue being innovative but also for it to be recognised that to be innovative and creative they need support and guidance.

For now, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment, but I am sure that these arguments will come up again.

Amendment 293D not moved.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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We now come to the group consisting of Amendment 293E. Anyone wishing to press this amendment to a Division must make that clear in debate.

Schedule 20: Amendment of REACH legislation

Amendment 293E

Moved by

Environment Bill

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Report stage
Wednesday 8th September 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Environment Act 2021 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 43-II Second marshalled list for Report - (6 Sep 2021)
The OEP, in seeking relief, and the courts in deciding whether or not to grant it, can be counted upon to weigh the competing considerations and to act responsibly. I think the Minister well understands—whatever he is required to say from the Dispatch Box—that the Government cannot credibly claim to have independent and effective safeguards while protecting themselves from being held to account by the very body established for the purpose. The Minister continues to offer discussions and I thank him for that, but if those discussions are to be productive, I sense that one of two things will have to happen this evening: that he undertakes to think again, or your Lordships encourage him to. With that in mind, I propose to test the opinion of the House, if necessary, on Amendment 27.
Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank (Con)
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My Lords, I am not a natural rebel but I stand in rebellion today. I am troubled by what I see before me. It is always difficult to follow the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, because he has nailed all the key elements. I seek not to repeat but rather to associate myself with what he has said.

I will draw attention to only one aspect. The Explanatory Notes, which, very helpfully, were sent out earlier today, drew attention to one aspect: that the smooth functioning of the planning system depends on investors and developers having confidence that, past a certain point, permission will be upheld. I cannot help but think that we are looking at the smooth functioning of the planning system rather than of the environment, and that would cause me some unease.

For that reason, I am afraid that I must support the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and will continue to do so until we can achieve a change, which I believe is both necessary and proper.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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My Lords, I spoke in support of the amendment in Committee, and I think it is right that I comment on the slightly changed amendment before us. I support it entirely and there are elements in it I would have thought the Government would welcome, particularly proposed new subsection 8A(b), where the court has to have regard to

“the likelihood that the grant of a remedy would cause”,

among other things,

“any detriment to good administration.”

This is a very carefully drafted amendment. It has all the elements one would expect to find in a Bill dealing with the subject we are concerned with. It is also looking at the interests of justice, which any court would want to do in any case. I support the amendment.

Environment Bill

Lord Duncan of Springbank Excerpts
Consideration of Commons amendments
Tuesday 26th October 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Environment Act 2021 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 57-I Marshalled list for Consideration of Commons Reasons and Amendments - (25 Oct 2021)
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.

Motion C agreed.
--- Later in debate ---
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, when these amendments were dealt with in the House of Commons, the Minister said that she was very satisfied to have the office of environmental protection independent. That is what I want, and I believe that that is what the Government want, but she went on to say that the Secretary of State will be accountable for the OEP. I am in difficulty about the precise nature of that accountability. This is not the easiest question to answer, so I gave notice this morning that I proposed to ask it, so that my noble friend might have an opportunity, if he wished, to think it over. Obviously, the Minister dealing with this in the House of Commons must have had an idea in mind.

This arises in connection with the giving of instructions. The strange thing about the instructions and guidance is that the guidance does not need to be followed. It has to be seen by the Houses of Parliament before it passes, but once it is passed, it need not be performed. To my mind, that is a rather exceptional situation. Why should Parliament be asked to study carefully what the department—the Secretary of State—is proposing but then the organisation that is to receive the instructions need do nothing about it? That is a remarkable situation, but it ties into the idea of the accountability of the Secretary of State for this independent body.

I should be glad to know precisely how this operation is supposed to work. How is the Secretary of State responsible, apart from saying that the OEP is independent and he must secure that at all costs? If that is all, very good, but I suspect that the Minister in the Commons was thinking of something a little more complicated than that, and I hope the Minister can explain it to us in due course.

I think that the Motions in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord Anderson, are pretty essential to the working of this arrangement, but the principal fact that I wish established is that the OEP should be independent, as the Minister said in the House of Commons.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait Lord Duncan of Springbank (Con)
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My Lords, I took the opportunity to support the noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord Anderson, in the previous rounds of this proposal, and I will continue to do so.

The office for environmental protection is the beating heart of the Environment Bill. We are about to embark on an extraordinary gathering of people about climate change here in the UK, in Glasgow. The eyes of the world are upon us. There are suspicions that this particular element of the Environment Bill is not as strong as it needs to be. The amendments that have been put forward are a useful adjustment to previous amendments and I believe that they are workable. Without them, the pressures that we put upon Dame Glenys Stacey will be immense. The suspicion will linger always that she is somehow or other beholden to the Government in one fashion or another, and there will be continued requests for clarification, and for clarity about her behaviour as well as that of her board and her team—this will go on.

We need the absolute certainty of independence, which we can achieve here today, through these amendments. If we can do that, we can set sail upon a fine voyage—we set sail just before COP, with a very clear successor body to the European Commission, which can do what the European Commission once did—that is, hold power to account.

The amendments are before us. It is up to this House to decide what to do with them.

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.