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Lords Chamber

Volume 416: debated on Monday 19 January 1981

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House Of Lords

Monday, 19th January, 1981.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Derby.

Gatwick Trains: Intercom

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government why there is no system of intercom on trains to and from Gatwick Airport.

My Lords, this is a matter for the Railways Board. I understand that the board expect to submit soon to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport a proposed scheme for improving the rail services to the airport which would include the provision of trains equipped with a public address system.

My Lords, while thanking the noble Earl for that reply, may I ask whether he realises that the time envisaged is three to four years for new trains; and would he not agree that, if British Rail are putting intercommunication into other trains, it is a priority to have them on the line to Gatwick so that the ever-growing number of airline passengers and those meeting them may learn, not only at Victoria Station but in the train itself, of delays to aeroplanes?

My Lords, I understand that the modified rolling stock used on the Gatwick Airport service has now more luggage capacity than normal. However, because of the make-up of the trains—that is, the airport stock is attached to and detached from through trains at Gatwick Station—I understand from the board that there will be operational difficulties in providing a public address system on only the airport portion. There is insufficient justification for the expenditure now needed to equip those trains with a public address system. May I assure the noble Baroness that the new scheme put forward seems to produce a satisfactory answer.

My Lords, will the noble Earl ensure that these two points are included in the report or request being made to British Rail? Is he aware that when I arrived at Gatwick at around 4.30 p.m. on a recent Thursday I found that that part of the train detached and remaining in the station was under no roof and passengers were entirely exposed to the elements, and not a single porter was available? Is he further aware that when I returned from Gatwick to Victoria at about 6.30 p.m. on a Friday there was not one porter and not one trolley on the platform? This is disastrous for tourists, apart from the poor regulars.

My Lords, I was not aware of those points. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for bringing them to my attention. So far as Gatwick Airport is concerned, the station is under rehabilitation at this moment. The lifts should be in by the spring and the station, undergoing a £6 million refit, should be ready by 1982. I am sure that that will be something that we can be proud of at Gatwick. So far as this end at Victoria Station is concerned, the scheme which is under consideration at the moment has considerable improvements for Victoria as well.

My Lords, can the noble Earl explain why it is that Questions can be put about Victoria Station, and about trains proceeding from Victoria Station which are equipped with first-class compartments, when I have not been allowed in eight years to put something like 200 separate Questions that I wished to ask about the service being provided and contemplated in the immediate future relating to practically all the productive workers in London, and, as far as I am concerned, particularly about the Orpington line?

My Lords, on any Question where the Railways Board is concerned, I have to reply that it is a matter for the Railways Board. The point the noble Lord now raises is outside my purview.

My Lords, the Question was about intercommunication on trains. I should like to ask questions about the absence of lavatories on trains. This is a terrible grievance for older people who are travelling backwards and forwards.

My Lords, if I may answer the noble Lord, there are well accepted practices with regard to Questions that are asked and answered on the nationalised industries. In the end, it has always been thought right that it is up to any noble Lord or any Member of another place to decide whether a Question is proper for him to ask, whereas it is up to the individual Minister to decide whether it is a proper Question for him to answer.

My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether when this new communications system is installed he will ensure that announcements are made in more than one language? Many people travelling on the trains do not understand English.

My Lords, I understand that British Rail are proposing to use multi-lingual tapes.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that he will have to have a Tower of Babel at Gatwick judging by the passengers I see every day I come up to London?

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, so far as I know, there is generally no means of intercommunication between the guard and the driver on any of the older trains, although there may be on the more modern high-speed trains? Would he not agree that safety would be enhanced by so equipping trains? Can he say whether British Rail have any plans so to equip their older rolling stock, which we understand will be in service for some years to come?

My Lords, I think that that question is a slight digression from the original Question, but I am sure that British Rail will bear in mind what the noble Lord has said.

Namibian Independence Conference

2.43 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement on the proceedings of the conference on Namibian independence; and what action they propose following its failure.

My Lords, Her Majesty's Government are deeply disappointed by the failure to achieve agreement on a date for a cease-fire in March leading to independence for Namibia by the end of 1981. It proved impossible to reach agreement at the Geneva meeting in view of the statement of the delegation led by the South African Administrator-General that it was "premature" to agree on an implementation date. This is an especially regrettable set-back after the great efforts of the United Nations, the Western Five and the front line states to meet the reasonable concerns of South Africa and the internal parties. We support the chairman's closing appeal to those concerned to reconsider their position. The Five will review the position with the other participants in the negotiations and we shall discuss the problem with the new American Administration. Meanwhile, the progress made so far in preparing the ground for a settlement should not be thrown away.

My Lords, may I thank the Minister for that very full statement. May I ask him whether he will accept that I am so gravely concerned about the consequences of this failure that I will refrain from criticism of South Africa and the DTA and seek to suggest a way to settlement? Is he aware that the proposal is made for economic sanctions but that would be vetoed by the Security Council? Is there not another approach? SWAPO, with the support of the front line states, has proposed that United Nations' support for it should be withdrawn when a date is fixed for the cease-fire. Would it not be possible for the General Assembly of the United Nations to carry a Motion to that effect? If they did, would it not be very difficult for South Africa and the DTA to resist it?

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for what he has said and I certainly should like to look at his suggestion. There is no doubt that one of the factors which affected the South African decision to say that the implementation was premature was their feeling that the United Nations was not impartial. There were attempts to give undertakings to satisfy the South Africans and the internal parties about this. But they were not sufficient. This may be one way of doing it and I am grateful to the noble Lord for suggesting it.

My Lords, may I very warmly welcome the forthright and clear statements made by the Foreign Secretary on this matter and strongly support the suggestion made by my noble friend. We agree that the best way to move forward without losing the momentum which the Foreign Secretary, foremost among others, secured for us in this matter towards the end of last year, would be to reconvene the Five and other countries and to consult them with a view to reconvening the conference as soon as possible under United Nations' auspices on the basis that the unilateral and singular recognition of SWAPO, as the only negotiating body, would be dropped in favour of a more comprehensive basis for negotiation.

My Lords, I am equally grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts. What I think is absolutely essential—because I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has said about the gravity of the breakdown of these negotiations—is that we should continue to seek a settlement and do what we can to avert a complete breakdown. Consequently, any suggestions which are made will be looked at most carefully by Her Majesty's Government.

My Lords, could the Government say what would be the earliest date on which the General Assembly, if it were so minded, could pass a resolution such as has been suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway? In view of what the Foreign Secretary said about progress not being thrown away, could he in the meanwhile seek an assurance from the South African authorities that they would be prepared to adhere to the original timetable if such a Motion were passed?

My Lords, the last part of the noble Lord's question is going a little fast. What I said was that we would look and see whether there was anything that could be done on the lines of what the noble Lords, Lord Brockway and Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said. With regard to his first supplementary question, I must confess that I am afraid that I do not know.

My Lords, is it correct that the General Assembly, under the charter, has no power to give effect to its resolutions and that is one of the difficulties?

My Lords, the original resolution was passed by the General Assembly and consequently a further resolution by the General Assembly would have the effect of rescinding it.

My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord two questions. First, his statement that the South Africans doubt the impartiality of the United Nations on this issue. In his view are the South Africans correct in having those doubts? The second point that I should like to ask him is this: In a general way have we any preference as to whether the future Government of Namibia is on our side or the other side? If we have a preference in the matter, what are we doing about it?

My Lords, whether or not the South African Government are right or wrong about the partiality of the United Nations, before any United Nations' agreement comes into operation what we must make sure is that the United Nations is impartial. That is absolutely essential. Regarding the second part of the noble Lord's question, I always prefer people who are on my side; but, on the other hand, perhaps it is better for the people of Namibia to make up their own minds.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that I have written to a leading member of the un-aligned nations suggesting that they should propose a Motion of this kind at the General Assembly and I have informed the chairman of SWAPO and of the front line states? Will the British Government indicate to them their support if such a Motion were introduced?

My Lords, the noble Lord has sprung this suggestion on me without any previous notice. I think that I should like to consider it a little more before making so positive a statement. But I will certainly examine it.

Hospital Equipment: Donations And Tax Relief

2.50 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider zero-rating for VAT purposes the ambulances and wheelchairs which are given to hospitals by voluntary organisations.

My Lords, wheelchairs and a wide range of other items can, under certain conditions, be supplied free of tax to chronically sick or disabled persons for their domestic use and to charities for onward supply to such persons. In the case of articles donated to hospitals, relief is confined to medical or scientific equipment solely for use in medical research, diagnosis or treatment and does not extend to transport or general hospital equipment. Changes in tax relief are a matter for my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. I hope he will realise that the voluntary organisations are now supplying…many things which they used not to supply, because of the various cuts in supplies that have occurred. Perhaps the noble Lord would be kind enough to pass this point on to his right honourable friend the Chancellor, so that he might accept it in the coming Budget.

My Lords, I do, indeed, entirely appreciate the point that my noble friend makes. I will certainly draw the attention of my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what she says.

My Lords, are the Government not being a little inconsistent in this matter? We all know that the Government are anxious to foster more interest in the National Health Service by the public and by voluntary organisations. If, on the other hand, people find in so helping that part of the money that they have given is going in VAT, will this not be a disincentive to encouraging voluntary organisations to make this kind of gesture—a gesture which Members on all sides of the Houe would want to encourage?

My Lords, while, of course, I appreciate the point which the noble Lord makes, I do not think that a charge of inconsistency really lies. There are problems with the extension of selective reliefs. This is why, last year, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave very substantially improved conditions for charitable giving. The period for deeds of covenant was reduced from seven years to four years, and for donations up to £3,000 a year relief is now available against the higher rates of tax. The object of this was to enable people to give increased donations to the charities in which they were particularly interested, and I hope very much that the charities will take advantage of these improved conditions.

My Lords, while appreciating what the noble Lord has said about the benefits already conferred upon the charitable organisations, as one who wholeheartedly supports the request of the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, for aid in this field, may I ask whether he would also ask his right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give very sympathetic consideration to the request made by the seven leading voluntary organisations for relief from VAT, so that people who give to a charity give to the charity, and not to the Government?

My Lords, I note what the noble Lord says. At this time of the year representations are received from a wide range of bodies and organisations. All of these are given the most careful consideration by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I can assure the noble Lord that what he says will be considered very carefully.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the question of relief in relation to VAT, as asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, received what in my judgment and, I think, in the judgment of those who were present, the unanimous support of every speaker who addressed the House in the recent debate on disablement?—a debate which, in my judgment, demonstrated complete justification for the existence of the House of Lords. Why does the noble Lord come along and say that this is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer? This is a matter for the decision of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and not for the Chancellor of the Exchequer alone. When the noble Lord speaks on behalf of the Government, he speaks not on behalf of the Chancellor of the Exchequer but on behalf of the Government.

My Lords, I note what the noble Lord says. Nevertheless, the tradition is that the Budget is presented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and not by anybody else.

My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that any relief from paying VAT on these articles which are supplied by voluntary organisations will only relieve the hospital of any extra unnecessary expenditure on the same articles?

My Lords, I appreciate the point which the noble Lord makes. I can go no further than to say that the comments that he makes will certainly be considered.

British Rail: South-East Commuter Services

2.56 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made to improve the efficiency of rail services on the commuter lines in the South-East of England.

My Lords, an important step was the Government's decision to ask the Monopolies and Mergers Commission to investigate the efficiency of British Rail's London and South-East services. In their report published last October, the Commission made a number of detailed and constructive recommendations for improving the performance of these services, most of which the Railways Board are now implementing. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport will be discussing with the chairman of the Railways Board the progress that is being made.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. In connection with the Monopolies Commission, has he any information about their investigation of British Rail's publication Towards a Commuters' Charter?

My Lords, the Commission concluded that in providing the London commuter services the board are not pursuing a course of conduct which operates against the public interest. Indeed, the report praised a number of achievements of British Rail's management. But the Commission did identify a number of serious weaknesses, and made positive recommendations for eliminating these faults and improving performance to the general benefit of London and suburban commuters. The 300-page report is a wide-ranging document, which is not easy to summarise in a few words, but it covers matters such as more effective targets for management, better methods for controlling costs and greater efficiency.

My Lords, would the Minister confirm the statement made by Sir Peter Parker recently on television, that the London commuter pays two-thirds of the cost of taking him from wherever he lives to the centre of London and back again, whereas the average commuter in Paris pays only one-third of the cost? Does the noble Earl not think that there is something wrong in such a comparison, and that the Government should be more generous in the grants that they make to British Rail for supporting commuter services?

My Lords, I cannot, of course, comment on the figures which the chairman gave on TV. I should, however, like to say that the proportion of the budget which goes towards London and the South-East area is 25 per cent., and that has stayed more or less constant, so that the South-East does get looked after well. As regards the level of money which the Government give to British Rail, this has stayed at a constant real figure and is the same as was given by the last Administration in 1978.

My Lords, in view of what the noble Lord said about the cheapness of travelling in Paris, would the Government consider saving Government money by holding the meetings of this House in Paris?

My Lords, does the noble Lord not appreciate—and if he does, will he call the attention of British Rail to it—the disappointment that is caused by the information that most of the improvements have already been implemented? That is in a situation in which, on one particular line, corridor trains are regularly run with the access from one coach to another permanently blocked, with the lavatories all permanently locked and where the trains stop at a station which is being rebuilt and has no lavatory.

My Lords, the investment by British Rail in commuter services generally is a constant figure, and is certainly not being stopped at the end of this year, or any other year. The Government have maintained British Rail's investment ceiling at the same level in real terms; that is, £325 million. The board itself must choose its priorities within the investment ceiling, but the Monopolies Commission found no justification for any conclusion of bias against the London commuter services.

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that it is rather strange to hear his statement about the efficiency of services in the South-East being increased, when a considerable number of stations are being closed at certain hours and when services are being reduced? To catch a train at Charing Cross is very much like entering the treble chance: either the train runs, or it is cancelled, or it is very late.

My Lords, rather like the recent press reports, the noble Lord is slightly exaggerating. The board have now published their proposals for changes to the Southern Region commuter services next June. These are much less severe than the impression created by the early press reports. The board's announcement explained that the already existing excess capacity on some London commuter services and the recent fall in demand for rail travel resulting from the recession means that, like any other business, they must act to bring supply more into line with demand.

My Lords, does the noble Earl the Minister agree that if the noble Baroness's statement was correct, as I am sure it was, his reference to a constant figure did not include constant running water?

Felixstowe Dock And Railway (No 2) Bill

Bill read 2a , and committed to an Unopposed Bill Committee.

House Of Lords' Offices

My Lords, I beg to move that the First Report from the Select Committee be agreed to.

Moved, That the First Report from the Select Committee be agreed to.—( Lord Aberdare.)

The Report was as follows:


The following members of the Committee were appointed to the Sub-Committees:

(a)Administration Committee

L. AberdareL. Jacques
L. AmpthillB. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe
L. Darling of HillsboroughL. Reilly
L. DenhamB. White
V. EcclesL. Wigoder
B. Hylton-Foster

With the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod.

With power to co-opt further Lords.

(b)Library Sub-Committee

E. BessboroughL. Edmund-Davies
L. Darling of HillsboroughL. Parry
B. DavidL. Seebohm
V. Eccles

With the Clerk of the Parliaments.

With power to co-opt further Lords and to appoint their own Chairman.

(c)Refreshments Sub-Committee

L. AmpthillB. Hylton-Foster
L. AylestoneB. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe
B. DavidE. St. Aldwyn
L. DenhamL. Tryon
E. FortescueL. Wigoder
L. Hayter

With the Clerk of the Parliaments.

With power to co-opt further Lords and to appoint their own Chairman.

(d) Staff of the House Sub-Committee

L. AberdareB. White
L. Nugent of Guildford

With the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod.

With power to co-opt further Lords.

(e) Finance Sub-Committee

L. AberdareV. Eccles
L. AmpthillB. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe
L. DenhamL. Wigoder

With the Clerk of the Parliaments.

With power to co-opt further Lords.

(f) Works of Art Sub-Committee

M. CholmondeleyL. Reilly
V. EcclesL. Strabolgi
E. Gosford

With the Clerk of the Parliaments.

With power to co-opt further Lords and to appoint their own Chairman.

(g) Sub-Committee on Computers

L. Darling of HillsboroughV. Eccles

With the Clerk of the Parliaments.

With power to co-opt further Lords and to appoint their own Chairman.


The Committee received a report from the Refreshment Sub-Committee and were informed of the appointment of Mr. A. Bibbiani as Superintendent.


  • (a) The Committee were notified of the appointment of Mr. M. Widdup, CB, as a temporary Clerk.
  • (b) The Committee authorised a new post of Executive Officer in the Accountant's office.

    The Committee were informed of the resignation of Mr. A. P. W. Brewin from the office of Shorthand Writer to the House and of the appointment of Mrs. E. M. C. Holland in his place from 1st January 1981.

    The Committee approved a revision in the scale of fees for the Shorthand Writer.


    The Committee authorised:

  • (a) revised charges for the supply of typists for the reporting of debates;
  • (b) revised attendance fees for temporary Reporters;
  • (c) revised late night attendance fees for permanent Editors and Reporters.

    The Committee authorised a revision in the rates of pay and uniform allowances of Doorkeepers.


    The Committee confirmed the application of the following Civil Service Memoranda:

  • (a) CM/450—Subsistence and Meal Allowances
  • (b) CM/451—London Weighting
  • (c) CM/461—Responsibility Allowances
  • (d) GM/212—Specialist Advisers fees
  • (e) CSDIM(80)10—Revisions of pay for Industrial grades
  • (f) CSDIM(80)12—London Weighting for Industrial grades giving revised rates of pay and allowances to applicable staff of the House of Lords.

    The Committee were notified of the following awards:

  • (a) Revised pension and lump sum to Mrs. J. L. Preston, Senior Personal Secretary, who retired on the 1st September 1980;
  • (b) Revised pension and lump sum to Mrs. A. Langley, Cleaner, who retired on the 18th April 1980;
  • (c) Preserved pension and lump sum to Miss E. A. McInroy, Senior Personal Secretary, who resigned on the 30th May 1980;
  • (d) Revised preserved pension and lump sum to Miss C. Jennings, Higher Executive Officer, who resigned on the 30th June 1980;
  • (e) Preserved pension and lump sum to Miss S. C. Hodson, Personal Secretary, who resigned on the 27th June 1980;
  • (f) Revised short service payment to Miss A. E. M. Roberts, Personal Secretary, who resigned on the 31st May 1980;
  • (g) Revised short service payment to Miss E. A. Bowen-Jones, Personal Secretary, who resigned on the 25th April 1980;
  • (h) Revised short service payment to Mrs. S. Sadler, Clerical Officer, who resigned on the 30th July 1980;
  • (i) Transfer value payment to Cambridgeshire County Council in respect of Miss T. E. Slowik, Cataloguer, who resigned on the 15th February 1980;
  • (j) Short service payment to Miss C. E. Vernon, Personal Secretary, who resigns on the 16th January 1981;
  • (k) Short service payment to Miss K. M. Towneley, Personal Secretary, who resigned on the 21st November 1980;
  • (l) Pension and lump sum to Mr. F. W. Selby, Doorkeeper, who retires on the 24th January 1981;
  • (m) Transfer value payment to British Broadcasting Corporation in respect of Mr. C. H. Cumming-Bruce, Senior Clerk, who resigned on the 11th April 1980.
  • On Question, Motion agreed to.

    Wildlife And Countryside Bill

    rose to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee of the Whole House to whom the Wildlife and Countryside Bill has been committed that they consider the Bill in the following order, vizt.:—

    • Clauses 1 to 8;
    • Schedules 1 to 4;
    • Clauses 9 and 10;
    • Schedule 5;
    • Clause 11;
    • Schedule 6;
    • Clause 12;
    • Schedule 7;
    • Clause 13;
    • Schedule 8;
    • Clause 14;
    • Schedule 9;
    • Clauses 15 to 28;
    • Schedule 10;
    • Clauses 29 to 36;
    • Schedule 11;
    • Clauses 37 to 40;
    • Schedule 12;
    • Clauses 41 to 45;
    • Schedule 13;
    • Clauses 46 to 53;
    • Schedule 14;
    • Clause 54.

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    International Organisations Bill Hl

    Read 3a ; an amendment (privilege) made; Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

    Parliamentary Commissioner (Consular Complaints) Bill Hl

    My Lords, I under stand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the Order of Commitment be discharged.

    Moved, That the Order of Commitment be discharged.—( Lord Trefgarne.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    Merchant Shipping Bill Hl

    My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the Order of Commitment be discharged.

    Moved, That the Order of Commitment be discharged. —( Lord Trefgarne.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    Deep Sea Mining (Temporary Provisions) Bill Hl

    3.4 p.m.

    My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Trenchard I beg to move that this Bill, the Deep Sea Mining (Temporary Provisions) Bill, be read a second time.

    Some noble Lords may well wonder what deep sea mining is all about and why this Bill is described as a temporary provisions Bill. What we are presenting is in fact a Bill to regulate the mining of what are usually described as the "hard" mineral resources found on the seabed of the world's oceans. The provisions are only temporary because there is, and has been for many years, a United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea that is trying to agree to an international regime to cover such mining. We hope that when agreement is reached this international régime will supersede our national measures, but in the meantime we need this Bill to encourage our own industry to maintain their vital programmes of research and development.

    Before discussing the general principles and the detail of the Bill, I think it would assist your Lordships to consider the background against which it is set. The United Kingdom's industrialised economy is critically dependent on imports of many hard minerals. We have therefore a major interest in securing access to supplies not controlled by other countries. Beneath the two-thirds of the world's surface which is covered by the sea there lie vast and untapped quantities of hard minerals and other resources.

    As long ago as 1874 a scientific expedition by HMS "Challenger" discovered and recorded the presence on the seabed of deposits and nodules containing significant quantities of iron, manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper and other minerals. At the time these were regarded merely as a scientific curiosity but we now know that the world community has practical cause to be grateful for the discovery made by that United Kingdom expedition. By the 1960s it had become apparent that there was commercial potential in gathering these nodules and recovering their useful metals.

    It may be helpful to explain a little more about what these nodules are and where they are found. Nodules are potato-sized lumps containing significant quantities of manganese, nickel, cobalt and copper. They lie on the seabed in a single layer one nodule thick. We do not fully understand how they are formed but it is clear that they require the undisturbed conditions that are found only in areas of the deepest oceans. Although nodules have been found in various parts of the world's oceans, it is only in the North Pacific that the deposits are rich enough to justify pioneering commercial operations. The prime area lies in the Clarion-Clipperton zone, between Hawaii and California, which is an area of some 3 million square kilometres far away from any land, where the sea is about five kilometres deep. Being right in the middle of the ocean these are resources of the high seas and, according to the doctrine of the freedom of the high seas, all countries in the world enjoy freedom to recover them.

    In 1970 the General Assembly of the United Nations called for a Third Conference on the Law of the Sea to be convened and adopted a resolution stating that the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, and its resources, was the common heritage of mankind. Even before these principles were declared, work towards an international regime for the peaceful uses of the seabed was in hand and since 1973 the conference has been trying to negotiate an international system of regulations for seabed mining as part of a comprehensive new convention of the Law of the Seas. We hope the tenth session of the conference, in March and April of this year, will be the last, but, even if it is the last, several years are likely to elapse before an agreed convention comes into force. At present no one can tell exactly when an international régime will come into being.

    In the meantime, while international negotiations have continued, mining companies from many countries have formed consortia to assess the practical possibilities of making use of the seabed resources, and to develop the methods and equipment needed to recover nodules. There are now six consortia which include companies from the United States of America, Canada, Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy as well as from the United Kingdom. Since the 1960s these companies have between them invested well in excess of £150 million. They made this investment in the expectation that by the time they had resolved the huge technical problems of developing this new industry the Law of the Sea Conference would have worked out an internationally agreed set of regulations under which they could operate. But that work has proceeded very slowly and although some progress has now been made the pace of work has not kept up with the development of mining technology.

    That clearly leaves the companies in a difficult position. In this industry the normal commercial hazards of a completely new activity requiring as yet unproven techniques are compounded by international political and legal…uncertainties. The companies need to embark on a second stage of development, which will have to concentrate on specific sites, but of course they hestitate to invest additional funds of up to £100 million for each project while they have so little assurance of a guaranteed site or any return on their investment.

    So it is that, pending international agreement, the companies have turned to their own Governments to seek national measures which will go at least some way towards providing the framework for development which they require. Since 1971 the United States Congress has considered a number of deep sea mining Bills and in June 1980 passed a Deep Seabed Hard Mineral Resources Act which is broadly comparable in terms of United States legislation to the Bill we are considering here today. The Federal Republic of Germany also passed a similar measure last year in support of German companies' interests. Once again our companies seek equivalent support.

    Your Lordships may ask what national legislation of this kind can do for companies. We do not claim that the resources of the deep seabed belong to us; nor are we imposing any conditions or restrictions on the behaviour of citizens or companies of other nations. However what we can do is to provide a framework which would ensure that the activities of United Kingdom citizens take place in an orderly manner. Without legislation there would remain an unregulated free-for-all which would benefit no one here, and without legislation in this country our United Kingdom mining companies would be at a disadvantage compared with their counterparts in other countries. We think that the interim regulation set out in this Bill should give the companies sufficient assurance to justify continuing their development and expenditure so that they are in a position to take maximum advantage of the new international regime when it emerges.

    I must emphasise that the Government remain absolutely determined to achieve a satisfactory outcome to the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference. This is the long-term solution for deep sea mining and this Bill in no way diminishes our commitment to that long-term solution. Nor does it attempt to preempt what may be decided at the UN Conference. So a moratorium is imposed on the commercial recovery of these nodules until 1988 to allow reasonable time for the international convention to come into force before actual mining takes place. There is also in the Bill a provision for taxing any production under this legislation so that a proportion of the benefits may be shared with other countries of the world when an international authority is set up—a kind of levy. The proposed convention includes rigorous requirements for payments of this tax or levy to the authority.

    As part of the transitional arrangements towards an international regime we believe that the convention will need to include some safeguards for the early investment of the pioneering mining companies. With satisfactory transitional provisions, the Bill and the international convention will together form a firm statutory basis on which the development of the industry may continue in both the short and long term.

    I hope this has given the House at least some idea of how this Bill complements the industrial and the international framework. I turn now briefly to the main provisions of the Bill. Clause 1 prohibits United Kingdom nationals from exploring for or recovering the mineral resources on the deep seabed without a licence. At present these activities may be carried out as part of the freedom of the high seas but, as I have explained, companies are unwilling to invest vast sums of money without more specific legal arrangements. Clause 2 outlines the arrangements for licences that will authorise exploration or exploitation in specific areas of the seabed. Licences will contain a number of terms and conditions in order to control the standards of operations and safeguard the marine environment.

    The Bill provides in Clause 3 for taking account of the licences or other authorisations for deep sea mining granted by the other states which pass similar legislation. This arrangement will enhance the rights that attach to any licence issued by the United Kingdom, since it will, in our view, lead to recognition by other states. Recognising the licences of other countries with similar aims and standards will effectively contribute to the orderly development of the industry, and to properly controlled and co-ordinated exploitation of seabed resources. This clause lays the foundation for reaching beneficial agreements of that kind.

    I would draw your Lordships' attention to the provisions made in Clause 5 for protecting marine creatures and plants and their habitat. While we cannot yet know the full effects of the new mining techniques, this clause is supplemented by the powers to make regulations preventing mining methods that may be harmful to the marine environment and to include conditions in licences as they become appropriate.

    Clause 8 is an unusual but necessary provision. It gives the Government the power to take countervailing measures against another state that discriminates against United Kingdom registered ships in connection with deep sea mining. United States legislation includes a provision restricting US licensed explorers and miners in their use of foreign vessels. This is clearly against the interests of our shipping industry and we wish to be in a position to retaliate against such protectionist policies, though of course I hope that, by international agreement here which we could work out, such retaliation would not be necessary. I have already mentioned that there will be a levy on production to be paid to the international authority when it comes into being. This is dealt with in the Bill in Clauses 9 and 10.

    I hope that I have made it clear to your Lordships that the fundamental objective of the Bill is to provide a temporary statutory framework within which our mining companies can continue their valuable development work in this new and important industry. It looks forward to the entry into force of a satisfactory international convention, which we are determined to achieve within a reasonable period. In the interests of continued United Kingdom participation in deep sea mining and the orderly development of the industry I commend the Bill to the House. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

    Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a —( The Earl of Gowrie.)

    3.18 p.m.

    My Lords, the noble Earl was exemplary in his brevity in introducing this Bill and I think we all recognise that the search for brevity has compelled him to refrain from mentioning some of the background of United Nations politics which must affect the judgment of the Government and of Parliament in the decision on what to do about this Bill. As the noble Earl said, this is the third Bill of its type to appear in the world: first, the American; then the German, now us. The noble Earl gave a list of countries which were involved in consortia to carry out the deep sea mining before the UN arrangement comes into effect. He started with Canada, Japan and France. It would be of some interest if he could tell us, at the end of the debate, whether any of those countries—or indeed any others—are also considering interim national legislation of the type that we have before us today.

    Before coming on to my major misgivings about this Bill—I find that the longer one stays in politics the more misgivings one has about everything, but they are certainly quite strong—I should like to run through some minor obscurities which may or may not be blemishes, because it is a little difficult to see exactly what the Bill is saying in some places. The first question is mud. The Bill is drafted as though the only way you can get minerals off the seabed is in the hard nodules. This is not the case. There is another deposit which is on the bottom of the deep oceans which is highly metalliferous and this is certain muds, principally to be found in the Red Sea, but also now in the deeps of the Pacific Ocean. They are just about as rich in metal ores as are the nodules. It is a little bit harder to get them because they are hot and bubbling and they tend to be at greater depths. Let me first of all ask, why does this Bill deal only with hard minerals, that is to say nodules, and not with metalliferous mud?

    The answer may be that the best known deposit of hot metalliferous mud is in the Red Sea and it falls entirely within the exclusive economic zone of either Saudi Arabia or the Sudan; it is therefore, as it were, nationally justiciable in their courts and by their law, and therefore we need not bother about it. But the deposits which are being discovered at the moment in the Pacific Ocean, although they lie at greater depths, are not in anybody's exclusive economic zone. It seems to me that in a Bill designed to last at least eight years it would be good to cover them as well. It might be possible to think of an amendment to do this, though it is not something I would like to take the lead in doing without taking advice from the Government and friends in the industry.

    Secondly, a small matter, but one that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, at any rate, is that to do with the penalties. If I read the Bill and the schedules rightly—and I am not sure I have read them rightly because to read the ping-pong match of meaning between the clause and the schedule is always rather difficult—if a company or consortium were to fail to pay its interim levy to the Government into the fund it could be fined but no director could be imprisoned. If, on the other hand, anyone, any little person, including particularly a Government inspector, were to disclose any information which he had obtained through the operation of this Bill he could be not only fined but also imprisoned. So we would have the situation where a man could be imprisoned for divulging that a great company had failed to carry out its duty in a way for which it was not liable to imprisonment. That slightly sticks in my gorge, if I have for the reading right. I think the House would be grateful for guidance from the Minister on this point.

    I turn now to the surrounding dubieties. The United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea has at last virtually agreed upon a text. It is of immense complication and covers a very great many things besides deep sea mining. It will be months, if not a year, before that is signed. I do not know what the current signals are about this, but it is not going to be signed tomorrow, and it may very well not be signed before this Bill is passed. After that, to judge on the precedent of similar conventions, it will be about 10 years before it obtains enough ratifications to come into effect. That is the period this Bill is designed to plug.

    The question the Government have to answer, and no doubt it is a question they have asked themselves with great heartsearching, is: why is deep sea mining deserving of being picked out of all the other things and passed into interim national legislation? The noble Earl has spoken of the need of the companies for some guarantee for their investment. Of course, they are very big companies and the guarantee the Government are able to offer is rather small so far, so it is not an enormous weight in the scales in favour of this Bill.

    In my opinion and in that of many in this country it would be of very much more national benefit to pass into national law now the 12-mile limit on territorial waters which is in the UNCLOS text. It would be of greater national benefit if we were to pass a Bill taking port-state jurisdiction, which is in the UNCLOS text. It would be of considerable benefit, though I do not necessarily say greater, if any of the 57 environmental protection provisions in the UNCLOS text were now to be passed into national law. Are we quite sure that this one is so important that it has to be pulled out and rushed through, because it does risk upsetting the apple cart?—and this is my last and gravest doubt about the whole thing.

    The noble Earl the Minister mentioned the 1970 Declaration of the United Nations which made the deep seabed the property of mankind. Two other documents have appeared since then. One is the Declaration of the Group of 77—that is the Declaration of the non-developed countries—in 1979, that it would not recognise unilateral national legislation on this subject, on the matter of deep sea mining. The deep sea mining is still, of course, the hottest topic and the most likely to prevent agreement on the UNCLOS situation. We have the Declaration of the Group of 77 that it will not recognise any national laws about that before the UNCLOS Convention is passed. The Declaration says that members of the 77 would contest the application of such laws in their own courts. It looks like a guarantee of non-reciprocity in the terms of this Bill and possible litigation going on and on. This could amount to a virtual boycott by a majority of countries in the world of the operation of any of these national laws, American, German, British and so on.

    We had a second document in 1980, a perfectly specific declaration headed Legal position of the Group of 77 opposing the United States law. This declaration says that the UNCLOS text and all its terms are already customary international law and should become more and more customary and more and more binding until the convention comes formally into effect, and for that reason it specifically denies validity to the United States law, which one has already seen, which has been passed by Congress.

    The main bone of contention is this—because everything can be brought down to practicalities in the end. It is the matter which appears in Clause 9 of the Bill; that is the levy, and specifically the level of the levy. Clause 9 sets out two different ways under which a company can calculate the amount of levy it has to pay on its operations: one on the value, agreed or estimated or deemed value, of the nodules as such, and the other on the value of the actual minerals obtained by refinement of the nodules. I think it is easy to see why companies want both. There are all kinds of advantages of convenience and indeed of justice in having both systems available. But those percentages—3·75 and 0·75—are copied from the American Act; they are identical with those which appear in the American Act.

    The Group of 77 has alleged that the level calculated this way would work out a great deal lower than by the method of calculation given in the United Nations text, and that therefore interim national levies would be raking in only half of what the United Nations system would rake in, and would at the end of the day be turning over to the United Nations only half of what ought to be done in justice if the national levies are supposed to be a true stopgap. I understand that during the debates on the American Bill in Congress the administration spokesmen admitted that this was the case and that the shortfall of the American proposed level on the UNCLOS proposed level might be as much as 50 per cent.

    My major political question to the Government is as follows: Are they sure that it is worth endangering the speedy signature by sufficient Governments of the UNCLOS text by going along with America and Germany in this matter? Of course, the first burden of responsibility must fall on the United States which took the first national step. It may be argued that Germany added little to that; that we add even less and, if France and Japan come in, that they will add still less. Are the Government sure that it is worth it? If by chance they were to have any doubts about this, on second thoughts, I believe that there is a course which the House could help them to take, which would remove quite a lot of the risk without going back on the whole principle of the Bill. The subsection actually setting out the calculations of the two methods of payment—Clause 9(1)—and anything that stems from that later in the Bill, but particularly Clause 9(1), should be deleted in Parliament and there should be substituted for it a provision that the Secretary of State could settle the level, settle the incidence of the levy, by regulation, by positive procedure order, subject to the approval of both Houses.

    If one reads the Bill, it jumps to the eye that none of this will come into operation for eight years in any case, and since we have that much time leeway why not leave the amount a little vague in order to be able to say to the third world, "Well, you see, we are adopting the principle, but we are not among those who are determined that the interim national levy shall only be half as big as the United Nations' levy which you are looking forward to ". Let us leave it vague.

    I am fortified in that suggestion by knowing that American Government spokesmen have said that their choice of level was partly chosen deliberately in order to bring pressure on the Group of 77 to lower the level which they are insisting on in the UNCLOS draft. I am not at all sure that that is a worthy aim, and if we were quietly to dissociate ourselves from it I think that it could only add to the chances of success.

    I should like to make a few comments in conclusion. It is hard to know what to think about this proposal at this stage. The Government must also have found it extremely hard. It is the beginning of something which will, without doubt, become very big. As the cost of land-won minerals increases over the decades and centuries, so the cost of sea-won minerals will relatively decrease and we can expect them to fill an ever increasing part of the market in the lifetime of our children. It is not important to rush to detailed figures, to two decimal points, in the very first year of a new era. It is important to adopt sensible frameworks and to fill in some of the details later. Having said that, I do not need to say that I do not urge my friends to divide the House against the Bill, but I hope that it will be possible to improve it in Committee.

    3.34 p.m.

    My Lords, may I begin my contribution to this important and interesting debate by thanking the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, for his extremely lucid explanation of the Bill, which at first sight might seem to be very complicated, and also congratulate him for being able to do so in such a relatively short space of time.

    I feel that at the outset I should declare an interest by reminding your Lordships that I am chairman of a company, Consolidated Gold Fields, which is a member of an international consortium exploring the possibilities of deep sea mining. I thought, therefore, that your Lordships might like to hear a small contribution from me on this very important topic.

    Her Majesty's Government are to be congratulated on the part that they have played in UNCLOS over the last seven years. It is perhaps worth remembering that UNCLOS has been considering many matters relating to the law of the sea of which deep sea mining is only one, so it has not been spending seven years on just this one topic. As the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, pointed out, there are, in his opinion, other matters which deserved a higher priority. But I would simply say that the great thing is to get on with the job when one can, and if the Bill is now ready to come before your Lordships, why delay it?

    Referring to the draft convention, Part XI of the draft convention leans heavily in favour of the Group of 77, as it is called—that is to say, the developing countries. Without modifications to the convention, there is really very little encouragement to invest in exploration or in the second stage, namely, exploitation. I need perhaps need hardly remind your Lord ships that this is not a bonanza situation like North Sea gas or oil: it is a very different story. As the noble Earl explained to your Lordships, it concerns at present an area in the deep Pacific between the mainland and Hawaii 10,000 feet deep or more—a shallow bed of nodules which have to be scooped or grabbed from the bottom of the sea. It was interesting to hear the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, refer to mud as an alternative, but as he pointed out the mud is bubbling away down at the bottom and it will be very difficult to bring it up in payable quantities.

    We are also dealing only with certain minerals—those listed in the Bill—and not with a very wide range of minerals. Although the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred to the rising costs of mineral exploitation on land, the costs will rise similarly with exploitation on the seabed. There is mention of nickel, copper and cobalt. Very few minerals are in fact within the purview of the Bill or, indeed, within the purview of those who are actively engaged in exploration.

    Perhaps I might refer for a moment to the consortium of which Consolidated Gold Fields is a member, in order to give noble Lords an idea of the sort of sums of money which are involved. It is a consortium consisting of six partners and so far already nearly 50 million dollars have been expended on exploration. My own company has already spent £2·4 million on what we have done so far.

    What have we achieved so far? We have located several mineral sites which we believe are as good as, and possibly better than, those found by others. We have developed the technology of mining and processing to a point that it needs only confirmation and optimisation. But that will require expensive and large-scale test work, and that will involve a very big figure indeed. We have also investigated potential processing plant sites on the Eastern seaboard of the Pacific. But a great deal of further work is required, and that further work could cost in the nature of 150 million dollars to go forward to planning the necessary extraction process, to bringing forward a commercial operation, which we reckon, in order to optimise the plant and the extraction rate, would require an investment of about 1,500 million dollars in order to achieve the extraction of ore from about 3 million tonnes of nodules per year. I give those figures to your Lordships merely to give an idea of the sort of figures and dimensions which are involved.

    In our opinion demand for nickel, upon which the economics are primarily dependent, is unlikely to justify a commercial nodule operation before about 1990. The possibility of low growth in demand for nickel, and of some lower-cost land-based sources for further nickel production, might indeed postpone nodule mining until around the year 2000. So, while this is an important and worthwhile venture, it is very much long-term and is beset with substantial and considerable risks. Nevertheless, I should like to say that I support the Bill, and particularly the form which it takes. It is essentially an enabling measure, which I would suggest to noble Lords is probably the best way of dealing with an ongoing situation of this sort.

    There are several important considerations to be borne in mind. First, there is the importance of the reciprocity of national legislations. Perhaps I may go part of the way towards answering the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. Surely, whatever the Group of 77 may say, it is only right to proceed with some national legislation so that some work can go ahead, rather than to sit back, Government by Government, doing nothing and leaving those who are prepared to get into the practical work of exploration with no sort of framework with which to go ahead; bearing in mind that this is essentially a transitional arrangement until the convention is signed arid until United Nations legislation is operating.

    I think that it is worthwhile 'to ask the noble Earl to which nation an international consortium would normally apply for a licence. If it is an American, Japanese and a British consortium, would it come under Japanese law, American law or British law? It would be helpful if that point could be included in the Bill at the Committee stage.

    If I may say so, there is a very serious shortcoming in the Bill, which I generally support; it is what is called "protection investment policy", or, colloquially, "grandfather rights". In introducing the Bill, the noble Earl referred to the importance of transitional arrangements when the national law is superseded by what one might call United Nations law. But there is nothing at all in the Bill about this. It would be a severe handicap to a company or consortium proposing to go ahead further if it did not have some fairly clear assurance that such work would be protected and would not be thrown away when United Nations law takes over from the national law. At the moment, there is very little information on this; indeed, the United Kingdom Bill is entirely silent on it.

    As regards the United Kingdom levy, which is dealt with in Clause 9, of course the size of the levy is open to argument. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has advocated the higher levy proposed by the United Nations.

    My Lords, on a point of correction, I advocated deleting any level of levy and leaving it to the Secretary of State to propose it, by order, later.

    My Lords, I beg the noble Lord's pardon; that is quite correct. But I had the impression that he was in favour of the United Nations levy of more than double the figure proposed in the Bill. By all means, have a levy; but if it is too big, it will act as a severe deterrent to exploration and exploitation. Therefore, at this early stage, if there is to be a figure—and, personally, I should prefer to see a figure so that we know what we are working on—then let us make it a low figure, at any rate to begin with.

    Even so, there is one matter, which is perhaps a Committee point, which is worth raising at this stage. It seems unreasonable to charge interest on a levy which arises only when formerly unused material is in fact processed and sold. Indeed, if that situation were to arise over a period of several years, the back interest might be such as to prevent the worthwhile extraction of the final mineral from unused residues.

    Again, I revert to what I call the "grandfather rights". I think that it is most important that we ensure that any licences granted under this Bill must continue under any United Nations convention which may ultimately supersede this Bill. The more this can be written into the Bill—and I appreciate that it is perhaps difficult to put in legal terms—the better it will be for the success of any operations in the meantime.

    My Lords, if my noble friend will forgive me, in his view what would happen if licences had been given by more than one country for the same staked-out area?

    My Lords, that is really a question for the noble Earl to answer, but from my own reading of the Bill I think that there would be reciprocal arrangements to ensure that there was no overlapping of licences. However, I would prefer the noble Earl to answer the noble Lord's question.

    If this Bill becomes an Act, in present circumstances the consortium—and I can speak only for the consortium to which I have referred—would be unlikely to go ahead with exploitation as distinct from exploration in advance of a United Nations convention and in advance of us knowing exactly what was in that convention.

    It is very important to understand the point of view of the Group of 77. I do not want noble Lords to think that I am hostile to their aims and aspirations. Nevertheless, it is only right to say that although the prospects ahead are extremely interesting, they are not dazzling. This is long-term and involves a great deal of hard work and the expenditure of a great deal of money which must be sunk in such risk ventures, with possible returns only many years later. It is the developed countries which will carry these risks and which will do the work. Therefore, 1 would urge all those who have the best interests of the Group of 77 at heart—and, indeed, the best interests of those who wish to exploit natural resources without damaging the environment—to bear in mind that they should not make the conditions too onerous or too hard, for otherwise, if those conditions become too onerous, the nodules will stay where they are, at the bottom of the ocean; and on their own the Group of 77 will never bring them to the surface.

    3.46 p.m.

    My Lords, I very much doubt whether we are entitled to be discussing this Bill at all. Noble Lords will see that we are talking about the deep seabed, which means:

    "that part of the bed of the high seas in respect of which sovereign rights in relation to the natural resources of the seabed are neither exercisable by the United Kingdom nor recognised by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom as being exercisable by another Sovereign Power …".
    As the noble Earl has pointed out, we are talking about what we define as the "common heritage of mankind "; that is to say, the resources of the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. We are now proposing to claim, in some way, a national jurisdiction over something for which we do not even possess a right to recognise. I say this with some feeling and some force because I have been involved in the question of the manganese nodules or the hard minerals, as we now call them, on the seabed since 1965, when they were recognised as something which had been revealed by the International Geophysical Year; and, indeed, by the Scripps Expedition during the I.G.Y. which took place very much in the Pacific area where we now recognise that these minerals are abundant: there was viable evidence which showed the seabed more or less cobbled with these manganese nodules which had been generally regarded as in scarce supply.

    It is now obvious that we can recover them and it is obvious that they are economic. At that time some of us realised that these commercial considerations would produce exactly the kind of arguments that are being advanced today; that is, that there would be a smash and grab, and some of us foresaw—and I still foresee this—the equivalent of the Congress of Berlin, at which the great powers divided up Africa and grabbed the resources of Africa. En the same way, we shall expropriate the common heritage of mankind beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

    We have been wrestling with this problem in the Law of the Sea Conference to the point where the question of the recovery of minerals from the seabed has now become not only most important, but probably has culminated in the question whether we shall ever reach an agreement on the law of the sea, with all its many other aspects, if we fail to restore it. I want to be very frank with your Lordships. This is part of a game which we have watched develop over the last few years led, if I may say so, by the United States, who have got very restless and fretful about the delays in the law of the sea discussions—and so did we all. Meanwhile there was wildcatting. There was a great deal of activity involved in going out into places, furtively in many cases, to find whether there were these resources which were capable of commercial exploitation.

    We have been waiting, as somebody said, or mentioned, the Committee of 77 which is now a Committee of 137 developing countries. They have been watching with misgiving, or at least suspiciously, the activities of first of all these free enterprises, and now those who are trying to find and get governmental support for these activities. Involved in this is not only the question of who are going to be licensed to go ahead if we ever get an international agreement under an international authority, but there is something which has not been mentioned, and certainly not involved in this Bill; that is what we call "the Enterprise".

    The Enterprise involves not only the people who have now got the money and resources and, if I may say so, the avarice; not only those who have the capacity to exploit; but the Enterprise would make it possible for the developing countries through the United Nations, through the international bodies, to go alongside and develop areas of the seabed for themselves. That would be one way of meeting Lord Errol of' Hale's point about "the 77 could not go it alone". Of course they could not. They are looking, and we are all looking, for the kind of material resources and expertise which it is perfectly true only the highly developed countries possess.

    What surprises me at this late hour in the Law of the Sea Conference and certainly coming into this House at this moment, is this Bill, in the sense that I do not see that there is any greater urgency, or indeed that it affects the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Erroll, at all. If we do not get agreement on the law of the sea in the next session in March, then we are in for a bleak period, and not only in terms of the development of the hard minerals but in every other aspect as well, because we arc looking for agreements which involve in every respect the co-operation of the less developed countries.

    The common heritage of mankind is just that. It does not mean that the capacity to exploit or develop the sea belongs only to coastal states or to the people who have the capacity to develop the resources of the seas. It belongs to the landlocked countries; it belongs to the less developed coastal countries; and eventually the benefit should belong to everyone in the world. There can be only one way of coping with that, and that is through a genuine trusteeship of these resources.

    What we have been doing over the years, if I may say so with some bitterness, is eroding the whole concept of the common heritage, not only by the kind of thing we are doing now through querying how it is going to be handled, but by the fact that the whole extension of the economic zones and the extension of the Continental Shelf has meant a shrinking of what is "beyond the limits of natural jurisdiction ".

    We are now faced with the question, who is going to decide? It is not a function of the United States Congress; it is not a function of the Parliament of this country; it is not at the discretion of the Federal Government of Germany; and it is not going to be at the discretion of anyone who likes to pass the kind of laws we arc passing here now—by which we are going to exercise what? We are presumably going to license something we are not entitled to license. It does not belong to us. It does not in any sense belong to us.

    We are not going to distinguish what the noble Lord, Lord Erroll, mentioned. Who is in fact being licensed? Who is involved in this? If you have a consortium of five different nationalities how do you provide, or legislate in whatever way you think, for the exercise of some sort of control over your nationals, as it were, within these consortia? To whom do you turn for this licence? How do you secure it? You can only do it by reciprocal arrangements, which simply means that they are going to have something which is already in evidence, which already exists, and it is called the "group of the like-minded". The like-minded, I may say, are the countries, mainly European and American and Japan, who have the capacity to go in with the technical processes to do just this, and who are now in a sense trying to create a treaty within a treaty. Here, within these terms today, we are aiding and abetting. We are helping to create a treaty within a treaty.

    I assure you, from a long experience of the Law of the Sea Conference and of what goes on there, that we are building up a reaction which we are going to regret. We are in fact going to create a situation in which we have less chance as from March onwards of securing agreement on the law of the sea because we have aroused and substantiated the suspicions of the less developed countries, and the countries that will go along with them, in the decisions about the law of the sea.

    I cannot see why at this moment we have to bring this matter forward when, as I say, we are within sight of agreement. We could have got agreement if we had not in fact poisoned chances of getting it by our own actions. If we had got an agreement we could be discussing then what we would do in the interim: the interim in that case being after the agreement. How long does it take to create the machinery once we have the agreements in principle?

    I have a lot of other things to say about this Bill, which I do not like. There is very little recognition in the Bill of the enormous implications to the environment of the indiscriminate development of deep sea mining. We do not know. It is not a question of pretending. It is true that we do not know what the environmental consequences might be, first of all, through the disturbances of the seabed and in other ways beyond that into ancillary activities in which you can have—and this Bill indicates you can have it—the refinement of the deep sea minerals at sea.

    What do we do with the waste? We have it here in the Bill. We are going to have to do something about the waste. We do not know what to do about the waste, because we have no idea what the nature of that waste is going to do in the food layers of the sea. At this moment we should be going very tentatively, very carefully, and seeing what to do. We have not written into this Bill—and I have read it carefully and I know a good deal about the background—the precautions which we should impose, if we are going to get away with it at all, on the people we are going to license.

    I do not want to say much more. I am rather worked up about this, because it is something which some of us have been watching with great misgivings over a number of years, and not just in terms of the exploitation. In the terms we are talking about now, this is going to be another carve-up—as with the Continent of Africa—of resources which should be available to everybody. We are neglecting the precautions we should be writing in to prevent the misapplication of technology in the sea, remembering above all the risks to the last of our great resources, the oceans.

    I conclude by reiterating what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Erroll, about the less developed countries and the concern that he felt about them. Indeed we should all be concerned about them, as they are concerned about themselves, because, as is clear from the Minister's statement, we are looking for the kind of resources which in other forms exist in deposits in the land masses of those countries. When, therefore, they talk about the resources of the sea bottom, it is not something from which they will just secure a dividend; it is an alternative which is positively threatening their capacity to earn a living. These considerations have not been adequately recognised. We are dealing with the last of the earth's great resources and we should be facing up to this challenge in the way it deserves, with the positive development of those resources for posterity.

    4.1 p.m.

    My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lord Gowrie for introducing the Bill so clearly and concisely. I welcome the Bill as a temporary enabling measure. We are considering new sources of certain raw materials which will be needed in the world. Some scientists think there are more of some of these important elements in nodules on the deep seabed than are available for mining on land— that is, in all the continents of the world put together—and that is good news for the human race in the long term.

    It has been agreed internationally that in areas of sea beyond the jurisdiction of states these minerals are the common heritage of the whole world. However, the formulation of an international regime with institutions, procedures and finance is taking time. Sessions of the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference every few months have produced agreed drafts on most of the other subjects—and there are many subjects being discussed at that conference by all the countries which are members of the United Nations, and there is general consensus on those—but agreement has not yet been reached on provisions for the proposed régime for winning mineral-bearing nodules.

    This negotiation is going on in Committee One of the conference and there is still much to be worked out and agreed. Before then, consortia from nations with most advanced technology are likely to be ready to start. Fortunately, that includes the United Kingdom. Exploration is therefore to be licensed by the nations concerned for their nationals in co-ordination with each other. As my noble friend pointed out, there is to be no exploitation—that is, no mining—before 1988 at the earliest. The Bill also has provisions for a fund which will be transferred to an international organisation in due course when there is United Nations' agreement and that enters into force for the United Kingdom. The Bill is consistent with the main points already agreed at the United Nations conference while avoiding delay.

    Time has been passing with disappointing rates of progress and this is illustrated by the fact that we had a debate on 19th May 1976, initiated by me on a Wednesday, which was over four and a half years ago. The position on deep sea mining, which was part of the discussion of the law of the sea in that debate, as described in columns 1403–04 of Hansard in particular, is much the same now as it was then. Progress is slow, but that is not altogether surprising because the elements of an international régime are important and complex and it may take another seven years to complete the agreement and set up the international institutions, and no doubt that is why the year 1988 has been agreed upon in this legislation and in the American legislation. I hope it will not take as long as that, but I would tell the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, that it could take even longer.

    The world should not be denied this new additional source of certain materials. The preparations for exploration and development will also take years, but the exploration and the preparations for that can be started within the next few years, as my noble friend Lord Erroll pointed out. The Bill provides the United Kingdom part of an interim arrangement which conforms with the principles of the scheme before the United Nations conference and does not prejudice decisions on a permanent régime. Moreover, there will be money in the international kitty earlier than there otherwise would be. With exploration going ahead and not being held up, the wealth from the oceans' floors will be available to the world probably several years sooner than it otherwise would have been.

    The countries which are not able to take part in the mining, because of the advanced technology and resources required, together with the developing nations, will benefit through the related funds arising from levies on the minerals mined. I note that the same formula has been adopted for the levy rate in this Bill as appeared in the United States legislation last summer, and while listening to what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said about that and his suggestion for allowing the rate to be governed by orders presented by Ministers, I would point out that at this stage it would seem natural for the rate which we should adopt to be the same as the one in the American legislation.

    During the debate in May 1966 in your Lordships' House some of us were pointing out that the most urgent subject at that time was fishing. Indeed it was, and action was taken before the end of that year, not only by this country but by the other leading fishing countries of the world. The action taken on sea fisheries was taken in anticipation of the Law of the Sea Conference reaching agreement and finally a treaty entering into force. But the maritime and fishing nations of the world extended their fishing limits to 200 miles at the end of 1976 and the beginning of 1977. Our own legislation was passed through quickly; it was introduced by the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Lord, Lord Peart, and I did everything possible from the then Opposition Front Bench to assist him in getting that legislation through.

    As a result, our legislation entered into force on 1st January 1977. That fishing legislation has not yet been enshrined in an international treaty—the Law of the Sea Conference still continues—but there was general consensus on the question of extending fishery limits. As a result, the 200-mile fishing limit is now effectively in force throughout the world. All the principal fishing nations, including the Soviet Union, accept the 1977 change, so that change has been made in international law de facto in anticipation of what is expected to be in the treaty in due course. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that that is an example of where a subject has been picked out over three years ago, even though people at the time were saying that it would cause trouble and antagonism in the conference. It has been accepted internationally, and there has not been antagonism in the conference. There have been difficulties, but not provoked by that. There was agreement among the nations and it was carried into effect.

    As regards deep sea mining, the first is likely to be exploration in the Pacific. There must be some control by Governments working together. What is required is a basic licensing system, as in this Bill, with the recognition of licences issued by other Governments. In this way duplication and confusion can be avoided; and firms lacking the necessary resources and technology cannot stake a notional claim and sterilise a site or block.

    Not only will the world need these minerals from the ocean floor; the United Kingdom will need them, too. British industry has the capacity, as my noble friend Lord Errol of Hale, has pointed out, and we can play a significant part in winning them. At a time of world recession we can view with some optimism this new opportunity for action in due course and for expansion. Development of this infant new industry should produce jobs in the United Kingdom and work for British companies at home and abroad.

    It cannot be in the United Kingdom's interests to allow delay by default or inaction. Furthermore the first exploration licensing by this and similar legislation will constitute a pilot scheme, which can be helpful to the working of the permanent scheme which is to follow. Consortia, and United Kingdom firms in international consortia, will require the assurance that they can work with a licence on an allocated site without interruption and without others contesting their allocation; and this assurance should be over an appropriate period.

    The financial institutions whose support will also be required if this work is to be carried out, will also need confidence from that assurance before money is invested. The question which I should like to put to my noble friend about this enabling Bill is on the co-ordination between the licensing governments; and it has already been touched on by my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn in his intervention. In Clause 3 there is a reference to reciprocating countries, which are presumably the other countries which will have domestic legislation and issue licences. But there is the question that my noble friend Lord Errol has asked as to which of the members of a consortium coming from different countries should be the applicant? Should the applicant be the operator? Should there be more than one applicant in regard to different countries? That is the type of question that needs to be clarified.

    Then if applications for the same site are made to different governments by their nationals, but for different operations and from different consortia, how will such possible conflicts be settled? It is clear that very close consultation and co-operation will be needed between the reciprocating countries, and I hope that my noble friend will be able to tell us more, either today or at a later stage.

    The noble Lords, Lord Kennet and Lord Ritchie-Calder, were worried that the Group of 77 at the United Nations' conference would not recognise domestic legislation which anticipated the treaty. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, was also worried that this Bill might antagonise some of the countries at the conference. I suggest, and I hope, that as a temporary measure those countries will accept the Bill, and its counterparts in other countries, in the same way that they have come to accept the fishing legislation which has also pre-empted the final draft agreement of the conference.

    The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, mentioned metalliferous mud, and referred to the main area where that has been found—the Red Sea. I understand that the states on each side of the Red Sea have made sensible agreements outside their territorial waters, but anticipating international agreement at the United Nations' conference on EEZs—exclusive economic zones. The Group of 77 should accept that as a sensible arrangement in anticipation of the final agreement and the entry into force of the treaty.

    The sea areas of the world beyond states' jurisidiction are somewhat like the moon; they do not belong to any individual nation; but that need not stop or delay exploration. There is a store of minerals on the deep sea bed waiting to be won by man and put to good use. That store is likely to be of more interest and benefit to the human race than any material brought from the moon. This is a new frontier which we must be ready to move across. The Bill is a sensible interim measure to enable the United Kingdom Government and British firms to play a useful role.

    4.16 p.m.

    My Lords, I, too, should like to congratulate the noble Earl on the way in which he introduced the Bill. He has given your Lordships a very vivid picture of the backcloth to what lies hidden beneath the waves that cover the largest part of this earth. There you have a hidden world of wealth; the only part of this earth from which wealth can be derived on a replenishable basis. The sudden importance of manganese nodules and suchlike marine nodules became of international significance and made necessary Bills of this kind only when the far-sighted people of the world realised that we are moving into a period in which there are certain substances of great strategic importance; and manganese, cobalt and nickel are three good examples.

    With your Lordships' permission, I should like to suggest to Her Majesty's Government that this Bill might be followed by another Bill with a title relating to submarine mining of those areas within our jurisdiction, because, if one looks at the areas that are accessible to us, and are mineable, one sees that there are very few of them which contain the attractive deposits that lie at great depths in the Red Sea and the Pacific. On the other hand, within the areas which are still under our jurisdiction there are areas of deep sea mining; depth is really a relative matter, and it might perhaps interest your Lordships to look at that picture. For example, in the Bristol Channel we have an almost unique situation in the realm of sedimentation, where minerals have not moved from the point into which they were discharged for the past 20 million years, and they have been sorted and resorted. From surveys that we have done we can show that per acre of the sea floor beyond places such as St. Ives there is as much tin per acre of those sands as there is in Malaya.

    All that is quite academic up to a point, until one realises that the tin could become an exceedingly important strategic metal to us. It is absolutely vital to the Americans. We have in being on a laboratory scale the technology of abstracting these tin minerals from sands of this kind; and not just abstracting them as cassiterite minerals, but taking them straight into the metal tin. The technology is now in embryo, but is ready for commercial exploitation.

    Turning perhaps to other strategic metals involved in submarine nodules, one thinks principally of manganese. We have the manganese shales exposed in the mountains overlooking the Barmouth estuary, which have been eroded for millions of years. We have an estuary full of mud which probably, if exploited, has a source of manganese—and, nay! of gold and other metals which are worth recovering. Is this deep-sea mining? It is certainly marine mining.

    One then turns to the other part of this Bill, which talks about hard mineral resources as being only those things related to the superficial deposits upon the sea floor—namely, the nodules. With your Lordships' permission, I should like to remind you of the process of modulation. Nodulation is a process whereby chemical compounds are attracted to centres of crystallisation, and the conditions in certain parts of the Pacific are such that this happens fairly rapidly. But it can be induced. It can be induced by scrap iron in the sea. We have knowledge of certain types of minerals which will form kernels which will accrete manganese, cobalt and vanadium from the sea. In fact, at the end of World War I a German professor set out to extract gold from the North Sea, and he nearly succeeded in producing enough to have a look at the war debt. Today we know far more about the processing of dilute solutions, because we have been studying marine farming. We know, for example, that the squid can abstract vanadium in an immensely rapid manner. We now know the biochemistry of that process, and it can be extrapolated into an industrial process.

    My Lords, again, 1 make no apology for using this Bill as an excuse to present Her Majesty's Government with some of these views, because if you are talking about enterprise zones then the sea is your greatest enterprise zone. In the middle 'thirties we owned 30 per cent. of the known mineral resources of the earth. Why?—because we were the foremost mining engineers and geologists in the world. We knew what we were looking for, and we knew how to exploit it. Why not now set out and repeat that example, and be the finest under-sea technologists in the world? We have it within our capacity. We have the young men thirsting for adventure and looking for attractive things to do. Here is a big area.

    It may sound as though I am treating your Lordships to a lecture on geochemistry. I make no excuse for that, but let me also put this point of view to your Lordships. We have become tremendously expert, and have gained the admiration of the world, in building oil platforms. We can send them out horizontally into the North Sea, tip them up on end and put them on a borehole a yard in diameter with absolute accuracy. These are the pitheads of marine mining in the future. Let me give your Lordships one immediate example of how these could be used. During the latter part of the 'thirties there was a search for a missing bomber, and eventually parts of it were discovered in St. Bride's Bay, Pembrokeshire. I was involved in that, and the geophysical results we obtained indicated that beyond St. David's Head, a matter of about 15 to 20 miles out, there is unquestionably a deposit of magnetite as big as that which occurs in Sweden.

    My Lords, what a venture! Take one of these platforms, and there you form your new mine. The problems of British Steel so far as rich iron ore is concerned would be solved for the next 50 to 100 years. To take another example, we know that beyond Land's End there are very rich veins containing rather exotic minerals in addition to tin. These are now accessible by using platform construction for under-sea pitheads. This, I forecast, is the mining of the future, because it is on the sea floor that the new mineral deposits of the world are to be found. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Erroll, would agree, his company is constantly looking at the sea floor and any accessible deposits which can be made available to the mining engineer.

    A lot of these political thoughts about stretegic metals and so on are very good, but they only emphasise one thing: that is, that there are those who have and there are those who have not. This country must see to it that it has the strategic metals that will enable its industry to prosper, will enable its industry to thrive, and will enable its industry to diversify. For example, we do not produce any cobalt in this country at the moment, and if we were denied cobalt tomorrow there would be a tremendous closure of areas of industry in this country. The minerals of today and, particularly, the minerals of tomorrow are not the source of crude metals: they are now the source of exotic substances, and, in particular, catalysts. So that an ounce of metal today is very often more valuable than a ton of that metal even 15 years ago. Take cobalt. Five years ago you could have had a ton of cobalt for about £2,000 or £3,000 a ton. Today, if you go into the market you will have to pay between £20,000 and £30.000 a ton for it. Why?—because of its strategic importance in the chemical industry.

    So I make no apologies to the noble Earl. I congratulate him and his Government on introducing this Bill, and I hope this will he the first Bill which will take us once again not on the seas but under the sea, into the world of mining of tomorrow.

    4.27 p.m.

    My Lords, it is, I think, inevitable, given the way our interesting Constitution works, that from time to time this House should entertain feelings of inferiority to another place. But I must say that I do not think we need do so this afternoon because we have introduced this Bill into this House and I think that, however interesting the Second Reading debate in another place may be when it gets there, it will be very unlikely to include contributions from somebody so expert in mining engineering as the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, who has just spoken; or somebody who is so involved in the practical logistics of the exploitation of mineral wealth of this kind as my noble friend Lord Erroll; or, indeed, somebody who has spent such time and studied so closely issues connected with the law of the sea as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet—and may I take this opportunity to welcome him back to the Labour Front Bench, which he used to adorn both as a Labour Minister and as an Opposition spokesman? In the latter capacity, certainly, I hope he remains in his present position.

    I welcome the general reaction that has been given to this Bill. I enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, but I think it was a bit negative and certainly in strong contrast to the spirit of adventure which was summoned up by the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, and by my noble friends Lord Campbell of Croy and Lord Erroll of Hale. Certainly that is the kind of taste in the mouth (to adapt a phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet) that I hoped the introduction of the Bill into this House, and its Second Reading would in fact leave us with.

    I think it has been a real debate, in that many of the points which individual noble Lords made to me as the Minister sponsoring the Bill were actually taken up and answered by other noble Lords who spoke; so I do not think I shall go over the general considerations again. However, I would urge noble Lords on all sides of the House to read particularly the contributions of my two noble friends on the Privy Counsellors' Bench, because I think they made very expertly and eloquently some of the general points that I should like to make. I shall therefore try to deal merely with the individual questions which were put to me.

    The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked me whether countries other than America and Germany were considering a national legislation. We understand that the French are likely to bring in a Bill of their own shortly and that the Belgians and Italians are in process of preparing legislation and may bring in their legislation shortly as well. The noble Lord asked why the Bill dealt only with hard minerals. He really answered his own question. My advice is that, as he said, the most important reserve of metalliferous mud is in the Red Sea, which comes within exclusive economic zones and areas of national jurisdiction. My advice is that there are no muds of economic interest elsewhere although within our own area of national jurisdiction the noble Lord. Lord Energlyn, has drawn our attention to deposits which no doubt we should investigate, but not, in fairness to this Bill, under the limits of this Bill. I would remind the House that the Bill is a temporary provision and is not intended to deal with all possible long-term developments in undersea mining, interesting and important though these are.

    The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked why there was liability to imprisonment for disclosing information as distinct from fines only for other offences. This is apparently standard Home Office policy and Clause 13 follows statutory precedent. It underlines the particular need to protect the commercially-confidential information.

    The noble Lord Lord Kennet asked why deep sea mining was being picked out for national legislation of this kind, and, in a sense, what the hurry was. That question, I think, was echoed by his noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder. That is another point which I think was most effectively answered by my noble friend Lord Erroll of Hale when he pointed out the very high development costs and very long lead times to any profit being seen as a result of that research and development. Deep sea mining is at a crucial stage and substantial investments are at stake. Without some action now, this valuable development will slow down or cease altogether. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy gave us some painful illustrations of the delays which have already taken place. May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and to Lord Ritchie-Calder especially in talking about the interests of the Group of 77—which we must bear in mind for we consider this the common heritage of all mankind, the underdeveloped as well as the developed countries—that surely the developing world has an enormous interest in the continued growth and wealth creation taking place in the developed world? Without that development and if you look at the effects which the present recession in the West and the developed countries is having on the Third World, I think it would be shortsighted of them if they objected to our trying to get on with development as quickly as we can, albeit within the context of seeking the kinds of international agreement that I have mentioned. There is, too, the earnest of good faith implicit in the existence of the levy in the Bill.

    The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked why the levy was set so low. Again, as my noble friend Lord Erroll of Hale has said, the companies regard a higher rate as a significant disincentive. We will look at the proposal for the rate to be set in regulations; but it is not, in our view, in the companies' interest to be faced with further uncertainty of this kind, given the context that the whole of the legislation may in any case change after 1988.

    My Lords, my noble friend Lord Erroll of Hale asked why interest was charged on deferred payment of the levy. As he himself said, this is a matter for discussion in the Committee; but 1 can assure him that the provisions in Clause 9 would not put miners operating under United Kingdom licences at a disadvantage compared with those operating under licences of other countries. In an interjection, my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn wondered what would happen if more than one country licences the same site. I think that this is a difficulty, but I would remind my noble friend that we arc talking about an area of some three million square miles and five kilometres deep and we are also talking about a very preliminary stage of exploration rather than exploitation. I do not imagine, certainly in the testing and exploration stage, that there would be a great deal of clash of interests. It is intended that by recognising other countries as reciprocating states, as the Bill does, we can avoid such damaging conflicts; nevertheless, my noble friend's interjection directs our minds to the importance of continuing to work with the United Nations to attain international regulation and agreement of the kind which will ultimately make altogether redundant licensing legislation of this kind on a national level.

    My noble friend Lord Erroll of Hale asked about "grandfather rights"—which I take to mean the absence from the Bill of provisions which protect rights acquired under it, in the sense of the perpetuation of licences and so on. The point here is that when the convention takes over, then the United Kingdom as well as other national reciprocating licences will no longer be the relevant means of control. That is why the Bill, in Clause 18(3) provides, as I have already suggested, for its repeal after that time. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder asked about progress at the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. The Bill should not jeopardise our chances of making progress at the UNLOSC. We should remember that substantial progress was made at the last session of the conference despite the introduction of United States and Federal Republic of Germany legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, asked about the effect on the environment. I do not think he quite took up the point I made in my original statement to the effect that we are conscious that the full effects on the marine environment are as yet unknown, and that is why there are a number of provisions in the Bill permitting regulations and licence conditions to be introduced by order to safeguard the environment. We think that it would be counter-productive to lay down unchangeable rules at this stage. We need to keep a close watch on development and to monitor the effects of any exploration activities to expand our knowledge in this field. The noble Lord was perhaps talking on the assumption that, within a few moments of this legislation passing, so to speak, an immense spate of activity would descend upon this area of the ocean. On reflection. I think he will see that that will not be the case.

    Nevertheless, that brings me to the final point which was underlined by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy. There are great possibilities here; they are quite a long way off but unless we get moving now it is likely that the possibilities will recede. We do not consider that this legislation in some way permits us to drag our feet at the United Nations Conference. We shall pursue our efforts there as vigorously as ever. We think that in a modest way the Bill comes into line with competitor countries and gives a series of national frameworks within which these big decisions and large sums of money may be invested—obviously in the interests of this country and of this economy hut, surely, also in the interests of both the developing and the developed world.

    On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

    Energy Conservation Bill Hl

    4.40 p.m.

    My Lords, 1 beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

    Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—( The Earl of Gowrie.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    House in Committee accordingly.

    [The LORD DERWENT in the Chair.]

    Clause 1 [ Power to prohibit supply of certain appliances without type approval mark or approved operating and maintenance instructions]:

    The noble Lord said: It may be convenient if I speak to Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5 and 8 because they all cover the point that I wish to make. I hope that these will be considered as constructive amendments, which are intended to retain the Government's wide powers, while still allowing compliance with the EEC gas afppliances directive. This has been achieved by leaving in subsection (3) while at the same time broadening the description—

    I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, for giving way. I am entirely in the hands of the Committee, but the noble Lord said that he wanted to take Amendments Nos. 1, 3, 5 and 8 together, and since these amendments are effectively about the scope of the Bill in relation to particular appliances, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, would also like us to debate his amendments, Nos. 4 and 6, in this block and then we can take the Government's amendment, which is largely formal, separately. If we had a general debate on Clause I, would that be convenient?

    I am very grateful for what has been said by the noble Earl, that we can have a general discussion, as the amendments are relevant one to another. I think it will be seen that in suggesting the removal from the Bill of the term "gas-powered", I am attempting to retain the wide powers which I believe Her Majesty's Government are intending to seek under this clause. It is easier if I explain that by removing the words "gas-powered" paragraph (b) will merely refer to appliances. The reference to a heat generator in paragraph (a) covers all heat generators of all kinds discussed on Second Reading of the Bill. Paragraph (b) covers all appliances whether gas-powered, electrically-powered or whatever. On paragraph (c), the object is to show that any of these appliances which have any control devices may also come under this clause of the Bill. I do not see any value in specifying different types of heat generators under this clause, especially when there are other parts of the Bill which still give the Government full powers to bring in the EEC gas appliances directive and any other powers that they may seek on individual types of appliances not covered under the term "heat generator".

    Therefore I feel that one could ask the question: "When is a heat generator not a heat generator?" As the Bill stands at the moment, one is almost inclined to say: "When it is a gas appliance". This is not the intention of the Bill. It is meant to cover all heat generators, and the Government have power under the term "any heat generator". Therefore, why over-emphasise the matter merely to bring in the EEC gas appliances directive, which can be covered under other clauses of this Bill?

    There is another area in which it is dangerous, while the Government are seeking these wide powers, to bring in the term "gas appliance". I feel that it is rather like a Pandora's box. Gas appliances cover a far wider term in my belief—and perhaps the noble Earl will be able to confirm this—than is intended in the Bill. I do not see how or why a gas-powered heat generator which is used for defying gravity, as some people use them in terms of a hot air balloon, should come under Clause 1 of the Bill. I am not sure whether gas appliances do not perhaps even apply to batteries of certain sorts. I think that there are too many dangers of being too specific in Clause 1 of the Bill.

    My second amendment, by removing the words "gas-powered" and inserting the word "heating", also assists the noble Earl in his amendment which therefore embraces solar panels. I should like, in introducing this amendment, to open up a discussion on the whole area of what are the wide powers of the Bill. Hopefully, the amendments which I have submitted will assist the Government in retaining these wide powers, whereas at the moment I believe that with the wording as now written in the Bill, these powers are being reduced. I beg to move.

    I should like to support these amendments and also, as the Committee have given permission, to speak to Amendments Nos. 4 and 6 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, and myself. Amendment No. 4 would give the Secretary of State powers to specify energy efficiency standards for domestic electrical appliances. As the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, has said, at present the Bill provides only for efficiency standards for space and water heaters and gas appliances. The amendment would extend the Bill's scope to cover such appliances as refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, ovens, irons, washing machines, tumble driers and television sets.

    The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill makes clear that the Government will also be enabled, if they wish, to deal with space and water heaters which are not covered by the directives. So there is, I would submit, a precedent for this and a case for extending the scope of the Bill to cover other important domestic appliances of this kind. Therefore I support the amendments.

    I am grateful to both noble Lords for consenting that these amendments on Clause 1, except the Government amendment, should be taken together. All these amendments have in common that they are about extending the scope of the Bill to cover new categories of appliance. The Government have given very careful consideration to which appliances should be covered by the Bill. We are mindful of the fact that the costs of operating a system of type approval of appliances will fall on industry because of course type approval bodies will charge fees.

    In most cases, these costs will inevitably then be passed on to the customer. We have therefore tried to obviate the ill-effects of this, while preserving the principle of the Bill, by seeking powers only in those areas where it seems likely that the system of standards and type approval could effect a significant improvement in energy efficiency. We have decided to include all types of appliance intended for space and water heating, and to include within that category appliances not sold direct to the public but those which come into our homes and factories by means of professional installers, thus inhibiting the effect of market forces in raising efficiency.

    They account for a major element of national fuel consumption. There are practical ways in our view in which efficiency standards can be set. Type approval should therefore in this way prove cost-effective. Appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, et cetera, are sold direct to the public and there market forces can work more normally. Energy efficiency is already—as we know from our own lives as consumers—becoming a selling point in many appliances. They use a much smaller proportion of national energy consumption and are subject to continual technical change and improvement.

    The effect of using the powers proposed in Lord Strabolgi's Amendment No. 4 or those in Lord Tanlaw's Amendments Nos. 1 to 3 would, in our view, be to impose unnecessary cost burdens on manufacturers, and ultimately therefore consumers, without the prospect that it would prove practical to define standards that even kept up with technical progress or that type approval would be a cost-effective way of saving energy. I am not saying that the Government are indifferent to the energy efficiency of those appliances—and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, mentioned a number of them—which are not covered by the Bill. We have taken careful note of the views of those who argue that the energy efficiency of household appliances and lighting can be raised. We continue to discuss this subject with representatives of manufacturers and consumers, and in doing so we press for improvements in energy efficiency where this is practical and cost-effective.

    But it is our view that, by concentrating on all types of appliance intended for space and water heating which involve installation, we are achieving a significant energy conservation objective without, as I say, interfering in the natural pressure towards greater conservation which is operating effectively in the market at present. That is why I advise the Committee to resist these amendments.

    4.51 p.m.

    This is, in effect, a very small Bill. It has plenty to be modest about, but it is not very modest, in the sense that it has the very grand title of "Energy Conservation Bill". The noble Earl the Minister will note that there is an amendment down later to change the Title of the Bill to something which is more suitable, having regard to what the Government have included in it.

    I do not think that we should underestimate the problems that energy conservation and energy use will cause in the course of the next 20 years or so. The use of the kind of appliances which we are trying to put into this Bill to expand its scope is forecast by various bodies— I think without much query as to its accuracy—to be likely to increase quite a lot over that period of time. The noble Earl the Minister quite rightly said that the various appliances which we are seeking to put into this Bill are a smaller part of the energy requirements than what the Bill mainly deals with, but, none the less, they are still a very important part.

    In 1975, the various appliances which we are attempting to put into this Bill accounted for 38 per cent. of the United Kingdom's domestic electrical consumption and an even higher percentage during peak periods, which are the times for which the Central Electricity Generating Board produces the power. Therefore, the more appliances you have at peak periods, the greater is the capacity which is needed to be produced. If we want to reduce energy consumption and the amount of capacity that is available, we have to cut down on what happens at peak periods. What is more, we must cut down on the increase that is looked for over the next 20 years. For instance, it is forecast—again, I do not know whether this is accurate—that the number of homes which have dishwashers will increase from the 1975 figure of 2 per cent, to 30 per cent. in the year 2000, and we all know that there is a wide variation in the amount of energy that is used by the different types.

    The noble Earl the Minister has said that because types of appliances change so quickly, it would not be appropriate to put these appliances into the Bill along with those which are the primary concern of the Bill. I accept that there is a difference, and that it is easier to include the appliances which are covered. But what I do not accept is that we can rely entirely upon market pressures to solve this problem. There has to be more than that. There has to be a Government commitment to see that we get power usage down during this period.

    I am very disappointed with the reply of the noble Earl the Minister, not necessarily because he has not accepted our amendment, but because he has not attempted to produce any kind of Government initiative which would help in this matter, about which we on these Benches feel very strongly. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us a slightly fuller reply than he has given so far.

    4.56 p.m.

    Like my noble friends, I feel very strongly about this matter, particularly because I happen to be president of the Conservation Society which has for years struggled to persuade successive Governments to listen to the arguments for doing something about energy conservation, and not to leave it entirely to market forces, as the noble Earl on the Government Front Bench seems to wish. I must say that when we have the opportunity, as we have today, of discussing an Energy Conservation Bill, it is our duty to try to see that it does what the Title suggests, as my noble friend had just said, and does not simply introduce some very minor improvements in the Government's policy for these matters.

    I accept, also, that at the moment the appliances which my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, have in mind may not represent a very high proportion of consumption, whether it be 25 or 30 per cent. of total domestic energy consumption. But as my noble friend has just remarked, they represent a much higher proportion of electrical energy consumption and this is of particular importance, hearing in mind the investment which the increase in these appliances is likely to stimulate.

    I do not know how much investigation the Minister has done into the effect of an extra kilowatt being consumed at peak hours, when it comes, as it will do in the future, largely from the very expensive nuclear generating capacity which we are now about to construct, and which may cost £2,000 per additional kilowatt. So that the person who switches on one of these appliances which the noble Earl says account for such a low proportion of domestic energy consumption is not simply consuming an extra kilowatt of energy. He is intervening in the market by helping to cause the Central Electricity Generating Board to construct a new station of, perhaps, 2,000 megawatts. When you add together the person with the dishwasher, another person with a hi-fi set and a third person with a video recorder, those people, switching on their appliances at peak hours, are causing this additional investment in the CEGB which my noble friend says is of such importance—and I entirely agree with him.

    Therefore, although we are not asking the Minister to do anything immediately, we are saying that he should at least have the power, the permissive right which we are putting in in these additional clauses, to make regulations for those appliances, as he can for the ones in the Bill. I myself think, and I expect that many noble Lords will agree with me, that although we may he talking about what is a comparatively small proportion of the total energy consumption at the moment, if we are successful in the programmes of improved insulation of dwellings that we have talked about so much over the past few years, then the amount of energy which is consumed in heating will decline as a proportion of the total. So that, by the end of the century, these appliances, which the noble Earl on the Front Bench says are of minor importance now, may account for the majority of the consumption in the home.

    In view of the fact that we are not likely to have another opportunity to legislate for some considerable time, why does not the noble Earl at least take these powers—not use them, if he does not want to, in the immediate future, but at least have them in reserve so that if the predictions that we on these Benches are making come true he or his successors will not have to say in a few years' time, "I only wish the opportunity had been taken in 1981 to put these into the Bill"?

    May I answer the two general points which have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, and his noble friend. I do get the impression that my original answer was not entirely satisfactory, and I think it was not entirely satisfactory. The reason why it was not entirely satisfactory was because I did not put it very well. Another reason why it was not entirely satisfactory was because the phrase "market forces" is apt to get us into the arena of macro-economic debate. Whatever our general views about macro-economic issues, this is not what I had in mind when I was talking about the Bill.

    The market forces I mentioned are well illustrated by two recent advertisements of very different goods which are sold direct to the public. Your Lordships will he aware that one of the big selling points of the Mini Metro—I realise that in this Bill we are not dealing with cars but I use the Mini Metro by analogy—is that it is capable of travelling up to 83 miles per gallon. That is put forward as a selling point by the manufacturers. Obviously the Government have methods of seeing that such claims are justifiable and are not made irresponsibly.

    Closer to home, both literally and in terms of this Bill, I commend another recent advertisement of a product manufactured by a company whose name I cannot remember. However, the advertisement made the sensible point that the company was offering on the market an oven which could cook a small amount of food in one part of it and a larger amount if you wished to extend it for a special occasion. It argued that many people were turning on ovens designed to roast a turkey for about 17 in order to make a small flan for one or two people. It is that kind of instance where in our view the market has a strong market interest in energy efficiency. These are goods which are sold direct to the public, who will look around and judge products not merely on their technical capacity but also on their energy efficiency. This will be a good selling point.

    My second point on market forces is that technology changes rapidly and that companies are competing over research and development in connection with these appliances because they know perfectly well that energy efficiency is a selling point to the public. We are worried that if we write into the Bill certain requirements, our requirements here for directly sold appliances may lag behind. We may be requiring more inefficiency, if I may put it this way, than the market interchange between consumers, purchasers and manufacturers is providing.

    That is on what could be called the directly sold appliance side of the equation. This clause is concerned with those articles which one tends to buy, whether one is in a manufacturing combine or whether one is simply equipping one's home without so much knowledge, or less frequently, as directly installed appliances—space heaters, water heaters and the like. By having type approval there, we think we can achieve substantial energy saving of the kind we all want without tampering with what the market is doing quite efficiently, as I think the examples which I have given—I could give many others—show, and also without passing on gratuitous costs to those manufacturers and therefore to those consumers.

    I accept that the Bill may be more modest than its rather grand title indicates, although there are good reasons for that title, as I hope to show later; hut it is for those reasons that I hope the Committee will accept my assurances and resist the amendments.

    In view of what the noble Earl has said, obviously I shall have to reconsider the position. However, what lie has been trying to say is that the appliance of science to the statute book is a difficult process. Especially when the second law of thermodynamics is used, it produces odd results. We were hoping to strengthen his hand in the Bill, but the noble Earl desires not to have it strengthened in this way by these amendments. In that case, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendments Nos. 2 to 6 not moved.]

    5.6 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 7:

    page3, line 35, leave out (" (whether or not it") and insert ("being an appliance which uses energy in any form (including solar radiation) to generate or transmit the heat required for the purpose (including any such appliance which").

    The noble Earl said: During the Second Reading debate of the Bill in your Lordships' House interest was shown in the question of which appliances were covered by the term "heat generator". Partly as a consequence of the representations made to me then, we have concluded that the definition of "heat generator" in Clause 1(11) needs to be refined. As at present defined, the term "heat generator" covers a variety of appliances which it is not our intention to cover in the Bill. The radiators of a central heating system, for instance, obviously are appliances designed for space heating and therefore are heat generators within the meaning of Clause 1(11) as it stands at present. But it is not sensible to subject central heating radiators to a system of type approval. It is the boiler of the central heating system which can best be made more efficient by means of the kind of standards we are seeking to achieve in the Bill by means of type approval.

    The essence of the heat generator is that it has an input in the form of fuel, or electricity, or solar energy, and an output in the form of heat—as hot water, steam, hot air or radiant heat. In non-scientific language, a heat generator is an energy-consuming appliance designed for space or water heating. This amendment therefore adds a second limb to the definition of "heat generator"; namely, that a heat generator is an appliance which uses energy in any form, including solar radiation, to generate or transmit the heat required for the purpose of space or water heating.

    By this amendment, the term "heat generator" will cover the following space and water heating appliances: all forms of boiler; fires and heaters which use fuel or electricity, since these use energy to generate heat; heat pumps if they are designed for space or water heating, because the amendment speaks of appliances which use energy to transmit heat; solar panels, since these use solar radiation for the purposes of hot water production. All these appliances are implicitly covered by the definition in Clause 1(11) as it stands.

    The amendment does not add any new categories of appliance to the definition of a heat generator, but the point is that Part I of the Bill is about the setting up of a system of type approvals. The efficiency of boilers can be dealt with by means of type approvals, but the question of controls for the central heating system cannot, because many controls, valves and the like are sold separately and are only married up, or effective, with the rest of the system during installation. I beg to move.

    If the Minister put down this amendment primarily with the intention of excluding hot water radiators, then I do not think he has been successful because a hot water radiator is an appliance which takes in energy in the form of hot water from the remainder of the central heating system and transmits it into the room by radiation and convection. Therefore it would still be included within the extended definition, as amended. The noble Earl should have another look at the definition between now and the Report stage to sec whether the remarks I have just made do not imply that the radiators which he seeks to exclude are still covered.

    I certainly have no reluctance to look at the noble Lord's remarks between now and the next stage of the Bill but I would remind him that we have thought of this point. The hot water has to get hot before it gets into the radiator in order to disseminate its heat more efficiently, and what we are concerned with is the type approval and the energy conserving standards of the appliance which makes that water hot. Therefore, it does not seem to me to achieve the results we want to insist upon standards for the radiator which are rather meaningless when divorced from its boiler.

    The noble Earl has missed the point I was trying to make. I was not disagreeing with him in his attempt to exclude radiators from the Bill. What I am saying is that he has been unsuccessful in modifying the definition so as to exclude radiators. I am with him in his intention not to include radiators, which he said do not need type approval; but I do not think that the amendment tabled by the noble Earl achieves that purpose.

    I was going to say that in my humble view it seemed admirably to fit the Bill, and before the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, intervened I was about to congratulate the Government and the draftsmen on their ingenuity. Of course we are dealing with the Bill in its first stage. It is a Bill which started in your Lordships' House and I think we must be grateful to the noble Earl. It seems to me to be an excellent reason why from time to time Bills should start in this House.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    [ Amendment No. 8 not moved.]

    Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

    Clause 2 [ UK requirements for type approval and approval of operating and maintenance instructions]:

    5.13 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 9

    page4, line 11, after ("construction") insert (" thermostatic control").

    The noble Lord said: It may be convenient if 1 speak also to amendment No. 10. This is a very short and simple amendment really to ask the noble Earl whether he will confirm that, whereas the Bill has powers to give type approval to various thermostatic controls over gas appliances, this should also be extended to all other appliances, also including radiant heat sources, such as radiators, which have been touched on. I really cannot quite see why we are taking so much trouble to ensure that we get type approval and maximum energy efficiency on the source of heat, the form of energy conversion power or at the heat generator source, because if such a type-approved heat generator is linked to a set of inefficient radiators all the energy saved and the efficiency made in the type-approved heat generator is lost by having a series of poor radiant heat sources, or inefficient radiators.

    Therefore, I should like to ask the Government whether they are sure that all the good work that this Bill is intended to do may not be undone unless they are able to confirm that type approval will be given to a heat generator that has an efficient system of radiant heat sources; for example, radiators and proper thermostatic controls. Similar to the example given by the noble Earl, of cooking a small steak in a large oven, there are often occasions when part of a building is not being used or different temperatures are required in different parts of the building, where proper thermostatic control must be maintained, with proper valves. If the noble Earl can give some assurance that the good work of the Bill is not being undermined by the lack of control over the radiant heat sources and the thermostatic controls, obviously I would be prepared not to press this amendment. In the meantime I beg to move.

    Although I am not directly employed, so to speak, in the Department of Energy, I do have rather proprietorial feelings about this Bill as it was introduced in your Lordships' House and therefore I am entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, in not wishing to see it undermined in any way. I think I can set his mind at rest in that the substantive points he has made are covered by the existing wording of the Bill. Of course there is always the fascination when semantics and linguistics tangle with engineering devices, which one gets in this kind of legislation.

    Clause 2(2) already provides that standards may impose requirements with respect to the design or construction of appliances, and this clearly includes the possibility of requiring that appliances should have appropriate thermostatic controls upon them. Clause 2(2) is also concerned with the sorts of standards which may be set for any of the appliances covered by Part I of the Bill. These, of course, include radiant heat sources such as radiant gas fires.

    Amendment No. 10 does not make different provision for radiant heat sources from that for other types of appliances, and therefore I do not quite understand why the provisions already contained in subsection (2)(a) should not be regarded as sufficient. I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, that radiant space heaters are heat generators and so are covered.

    In view of those remarks, I do not wish to press either of the amendments standing in my name, and I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 9.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

    Clause 2 agreed to.

    Clauses 3 to 8 agreed to.

    Clause 9 [ On-site testing orders]:

    moved Amendment No. 11:

    Page 11, line 40, leave out ("owner") and insert ("person responsible for the use").

    The noble Earl said: With the leave of the Committee, while moving this amendment I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 12, 15 and 18. At present, Clause 9(5) of the Bill provides that after a testing authority has carried out an on-site test on a heat generator, it may be required by an order made under Clause 9 to send a copy of the test report to the owner of the heat generator, and—if the heat generator has passed the test—to send the owner also a data plate and a document containing information about the result of the test. Later on, in Clause 13, the Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to require the owner of the heat generator to fix to the heat generator the data plate that he has received from the testing authority.

    The Government have received representations from organisations representing finance companies to the effect that these provisions are not entirely appropriate. Some heat generators, for instance, are sold under what are commonly called "leasing agreements ". Under these agreements, ownership of the heat generator, generally throughout its entire useful life, rests with a finance company, and not with the person entitled under the agreement to its possession. But the finance company's interest in the heat generator is purely financial. In the majority of cases, it is not involved in operating or maintaining the appliance, and has never had it physically in its possession. In these circumstances, it is not appropriate to make the owner of the heat generator the recipient of the test report, and so on, or the person responsible for fixing the data plate to the heat generator. Clause 14 of the Bill already recognises this point in relation to heat generators which are subject to hire purchase or conditional sale agreements.

    The Government now believe it is desirable to extend this principle to cover other sorts of agreement under which the person in possession of the heat generator is someone other than the formal owner. We propose to do this by placing rights and duties on the person responsible for the use of the heat generator instead of on the owner. This amendment and the amendment to Clause 13 are concerned with making this small change, and the amendment to Clause 14 provides a definition of "person responsible for the use of a heat generator." I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 12:

    Page 12, line 12, leave out ("owner") and insert ("person responsible for the use").

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Page 12, line 13, at end insert ("; and

    (c) to send to the owner of any generator tested by the order a copy of the test report to be displayed outside the premises of installation for inspection by the testing authority.").

    The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I would like it to be read in conjunction with the amendments I have down to Clause 13—Amendments Nos. 16 and 17—because there is a matter of general principle involved in it. Secondly, I also believe that it adds strength to the Bill; it provides greater acceptance by the public and encourages the owner of any heat generator to purchase a type-approved heat generator. If in fact, as has been said by the noble Earl, the owner of any generator tested has to receive various copies of the test certificates, then he should be given one more copy, which is for display outside the premises of installation for inspection by the testing authority.

    I see no reason why the testing authority's inspectors need to have access simply to read the certificate. I feel that this can only create the same kind of problems as it creates for members of gas boards or electricity boards who have to go in to read a meter and cannot get access for one reason or another. Also I feel that it is a waste of money if testing authority inspectors have to make special visits, or have to make appointments to get entry to an office or dwelling-house, to find the owner, who then has to find the certificate. Let us not pretend that the owners of heat generators are any less human than other members of the public; there will be occasions on which they will mislay the vital certificate, and this will create still further correspondence problems. Therefore, why do we not send the owner a copy of the test certificate for display outside the building so that it can be read by inspectors? They need not trouble anybody; they can go along and check it. Of course, if there is anything wrong or defective or suspicious about such certificates the inspectors can use the full powers under the Bill to get entry, to ask for other relevant papers, to look at the type-approval plate on the heat generator and so on.

    This is a simple amendment intended to strengthen the Bill and also to put forward a matter of principle, that we should try to discourage as much as possible entry to dwelling-houses. It can be overcome by this simple addition to the Bill providing an extra copy of the test certificate for display outside the premises of installation. I beg to move.

    May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, if he was also speaking to his amendment No. 17?

    No. I really wanted to get the noble Earl's view on this amendment, and obviously the Government's reaction to it would influence my views on Amendment No. 17, which in fact is slightly different in the sense that it involves electricity and gas meters.

    I am grateful to the noble Lord for making that clear. The noble Lord and I are absolutely in agreement that Part II of the Bill must deal with issues of enforcement, but where I think we differ is that he seems to envisage, by the language of his amendment, that there will be a body of inspectors whose job it will be to make on-site checks to see that boilers have been tested. That is not quite how we envisage it. As I explained at Second Reading, it is our intention to use the powers in Clauses 9(6) and 12(2) to compile records of heat generators supplied and then match them against records of heat generators tested. The powers under Part II of the Bill will be used to require on-site testing only for the very largest boilers, that is to say only about some 700 installations to be tested in a given year. In that context our method of enforcement seems both practical and economic.

    In those few cases where the records show apparent discrepancies and where an on-site check is desirable, it will 11 be as simple for an inspector to look at the boiler to see if it bears a data plate provided by the testing authority as it would be to check the outside of what is likely to be a very large building for a copy of the test certificate. Amendment No. 16 refers to type-approved heat generators and is therefore inappropriate in Part II of the Bill, which concerns only heat generators not subject to type-approval procedures.

    I am not entirely clear about what the noble Earl has just said. If, as I understand it, there will be no need for inspection of these certificates unless for very major installations, and therefore it is not necessary to display them, or indeed to produce them except under very special circumstances, then obviously there has been a misunderstanding on my part in interpretation of the Bill.

    As to the noble Earl's other point about how to find the certificates if they are displayed outside the building, this is covered in Amendment No. 17. They will be put in the area or in the cupboard or box which contains the meters for the gas and electricity and other services to a building, be it a private dwelling-house or an industrial building. Perhaps the noble Earl can confirm that he is saying that this amendment is not necessary because the certificates will not need to be inspected except on very special occasions, so that members of the general public will not need to be bothered by inspectors. In that case I shall be happy not to press these two amendments.

    The noble Lord has now got it right, if I may say so. We are talking about the inspection of very few appliances, all as big as a house, as it were. There is no reason why the data plate should not be on the installation itself rather than on the building which houses it. It will be a fairly massively visible and checkable affair. The kind of checking of on-site testing that we are doing is fundamental to the mode of design which has been put into production. The work of the inspector would be to check any discrepancies between our understanding of the design and what might have been installed under that design. It would be really in the sphere of large-scale commercial operations that this Part of the Bill would apply.

    May I ask the noble Earl whether he would agree that the energy being consumed in your Lordships' Chamber is grossly excessive?

    I think this is rather outside the immediate sphere of the Bill, but I am quite happy to take it up with the usual channels. We must be cost-effective in that way. It may he that we have not made sufficient allowance for the delicate state of our heraldic bosses, that the presence of the scaffolding and the new false ceiling has raised the temperature, and that therefore we could put the thermostat down a little. I will certainly pass it on.

    In view of the noble Earl's very helpful explanations, I shall not press this amendment. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 13.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

    Clauses 10 and 11 agreed to.

    Clause 12 [ Obligations of suppliers of generators subject to on-site testing]:

    moved Amendment No. 14:

    Page 14, line 16, leave out subsection (3).

    The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendment No. 14 and I beg leave to speak to Amendments Nos. 23 to 27 together with this amendment. We are proposing the deletion of Clause 12(3) of the Bill simply because Amendment No. 23 to Clause 26 will now make it unnecessary, if that amendment is accepted.

    Amendment No. 23 supplements the definition of "supply". This is an important definition, since Clause 1 of the Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to prohibit the supply of a heat generator without a type approval mark, or the supply of a gas appliance unless a type approval is in force for the model in question. The reasons for the proposed change are very similar to the reasons behind the amendments to Clauses 9, 13 and 14. The present definition includes in the concept of supplying an appliance, supply under a hire or hire-purchase agreement. It is commonly a finance company once again which supplies an appliance under an agreement of this sort. As I argued in the last set of Government amendments, the finance company will probably never have had physical possession of the heat generator, so it is unreasonable to hold it responsible if, for instance, a heat generator is supplied which ought to bear a type approval mark but which does not do so, or ought to be but is not accompanied by operating instructions. It is much more reasonable, surely, to confine this responsibility on the person who physically provides the appliances—the shopkeeper, the builders' merchant or the like.

    Amendment No. 23, therefore, provides that where an appliance is supplied under a hire-purchase agreement, it is the person who provides the appliance, rather than any finance company which hires or otherwise transfers the appliance to the consumer, who will be treated as supplying the appliance. There are very similar provisions in Section 6(9) of the Health and safety at Work Act 1974 and in Section 9(3) of the Consumer Safety Act 1978. I beg leave to move Amendment No. 14.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.

    Clause 13 [ Data plates for approved generators]:

    moved Amendment No. 15:

    Page 14, line 22, leave out ("owner") and insert ("person responsible for the use").

    The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendment No. 15. I have already spoken to this amendment with Amendments Nos. 11 and 12.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    [ Amendment No. 16 not moved.]

    5.34 p.m.

    Page 14, line 26, at end insert—

    (" ( ) The Secretary of State may also by order enable the owner of any type-approved heat generator to make an application for facilities to the relevant Electricity Generating Board or Gas Board for all energy metering devices and test reports to be sited for inspection outside the premises of installation.").

    The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 17. I separated this amendment from the other two, and, of course, as a result of the information that 1 have had from the noble Earl the wording is not now correct, but that does not in any way take away the point of this amendment. Perhaps hopefully, the noble Earl will look at it and see some means of incorporating at least the principle behind the amendment in the Bill when it goes to another place.

    It was asked on Second Reading: what are the benefits to the owners of type-approved heat generators? Where are the benefits to the general public within this Bill?—as opposed to the general principle which we all approve, and we strongly support the Government in their presentation of it. There are very few benefits. Therefore, I am suggesting that here is one way in which the Bill could receive general enthusiasm in that it would reach out and affect a large number of members of the public who have been irritated for many years by this inefficient method of reading meters.

    There are a number of humorous stories about meter readers which I shall not introduce into the Committee stage of an energy conservation Bill, but what I shall say is that I think there could be some conservation of energy in the administration of the electricity and gas boards by greater efficiency in their reading of meters. There are technical ways in which that may be done in a few years' time, but the most efficient way of all is simply to install meters so that they can be read from the outside of the household or office. That would not require entry; it requires them getting the information without bothering the owner. That is a very simple thing.

    A great deal of aggravation has been created by visits by inspectors to read meters who are unable to get access. In those circumstances, they have to guess the amount of electricity or gas which has been consumed. That is often wildly inaccurate in their favour and creates a certain amount of hostile correspondence. The whole thing is unnecessary.

    However, here in this Bill we can incorporate now a newly worded section which would allow any owner of a type-approved heat generator automatically to apply, free of cost, to have his meters reinstalled or resited if required, in order that they may be read from outside the building. That surely would be to the cost-benefit of the generating boards because they would not waste money on calls that are unproductive. Therefore, I think that everyone should be reasonably happy.

    The noble Earl well may say that this is not the right Bill to bring this in. I ask him to reconsider that. As I said earlier, there do not appear to be any direct benefits coming from this rather well-meaning Bill, in which case I am asking to put in a sweetener which will be generally popular and, indeed, I think cost effective in every sense. I beg to move.

    The purpose of the noble Lord's amendment would be to add a new power to the Bill whereby the Secretary of State could enable the owner of any type-approved heat generator to make an application for facilities to the relevant electricity generating board or gas board for all energy metering devices and test reports to be sited for inspection or reading outside the premises of installation.

    May I say that I am very sorry to miss the noble Lord's anecdotes about people who read meters. Perhaps he could have a private word with me between now and the next stage of the Bill. I am all for sweetening consumers, but I find the question of the siting of gas and electricity meters rather remote from the purposes of the Bill. I do not quite see the relevance of their siting to energy conservation. Consumers are, of course, already able to apply to have meters sited outside the premises, although it is, of course up to the electricity or gas board to decide whether or not to comply with their request.

    What I am not quite clear about is why the noble Lord should regard it as important for consumers that they should be enabled, by statute, to have meters outside the premises. Siting meters outside is normally done, not for the benefit of the consumer, but for the benefit of the gas or electricity board, since they do not then need access to the premises in order to read the meters. The Government would, therefore, much prefer to continue to leave this matter to the gas and electricity industries to handle as they think fit. I hope that the noble Lord will be content to leave it at that.

    I must say that the noble Earl can never have lived on his own if he thinks that it is not in the interests of consumers to have meter reading done outside the building. As the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, has said, it is a source of constant irritation to people who have to go out to work—and if the occupants are couples often they both go out to work—that it is not possible to get their meter effectively read. One receives endless little notices from the electricity Authority—who take not the slightest notice, I may say, when one writes to tell them when one is going to be in—saying that they have called and cannot get in. They then estimate your account; you get a totally wrong figure and you spend a great deal of time month after month having to adjust your accounts. It would be a very great convenience to be able to have the reading of the meter carried out automatically outside, without having to provide access.

    I take that point, but, of course, we are not dealing with general meters of one's electricity use, where I completely understand the relevance of what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, is saying; under the Bill we are dealing with type-approved heat generators, probably under Part I of the Bill, rather than Part II where this occurs. Nevertheless, I shall look at the point. Perhaps if the noble Lord wishes to return to it, I can see whether I can give him some satisfaction. However, at first glance it does not seem that the consumers' interests, which the noble Lord and his noble friend Lady Seear are representing, are, in fact, relevant in this part of the Bill. However, I shall have another look at it.

    I am extremely grateful to the noble Earl for his response to this. I appreciate that this may not be the right part of the Bill, or even the right Bill. I can simply assure him that this is a matter which bothers a large number of people. As to how to bring it to pass, I am not clear. I found that this Bill was the nearest one could get to doing so. I must warn the noble Earl that it would be difficult for him and for the general goodwill of the Government if he categorically said "No, I shall not look at this", whether or not this is the right Bill, or whether there should be a separate arrangement for it. If he can take on board that this does worry a large number of the public and will have another look at it, I shall be very pleased to withdraw the amendment and be encouraged by his remarks.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.

    Clause 14 [ Interpretation of Part II]:

    5.43 p.m.

    Page 14, line 39, leave out paragraph ( a) and insert—

    (" (a) references to the person responsible for the use of any heat generator are references to the owner or, if a person other than the owner is in possession of the generator under any agreement the person in possession under that agreement;").

    The noble Earl said: I have already spoken to this amendment when I spoke to Amendments Nos. 11 and 12. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 14, as amended, agreed to.

    Clause 15 agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 19:

    After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:

    (" Use of water power for electricity generation, etc.

    .(1) In the exercise of their functions under the Water Resources Act 1963 and the other enactments relating to water and water-supply and the control and disposition of water resources, water authorities shall have regard to the national importance of facilitating, so far as is reasonably consistent with the need to satisfy primary demands on those resources, the use of water as an alternative or supplementary source of power.

    (2) A charging scheme under section 32 of the Water Act 1973 may provide for charges to be paid by persons obtaining power from machinery installed in water in the authority's area; but such charges—

  • (a) shall only be made in the cases (if any) where the authority is obliged to incur expenditure directed to maintaining the flow of water to the machinery or otherwise in connection with the machinery or any use to which it is put; and
  • (b) when made, shall be reasonably related to the amount and character of the expenditure, taking into account any extent to which it serves purposes other than those of providing water power.").
  • The noble Lord said: In speaking to this amendment, I should also like to speak to the consequential amendment, Amendment No. 29. However, before I do so, I should like to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that in the first line of subsection (2) "section 32" should read "section 31". I apologise to the Committee for this error; I do not know how it crept in.

    This is a fairly long amendment addressing a relatively simple but, I think, quite important point. It comes into conservation—and, incidentally, it is well within the Long Title of the Bill when it refers to the "nation's use of energy"—because the widespread and diffuse production of energy from small-scale renewable resources is the other side of the energy-saving equation. The purpose of the amendment is to safeguard past and present practice, but, perhaps more importantly, it is to smooth the path of future development of power from water resources. In this connection, I am glad to see my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy present, because I hope that he will be able to tell us how it is that in recent times Scotland seems to have managed these affairs better than England and Wales.

    I also know that the Department of Energy is aware of new techniques which are currently being developed and these will help to extract power from low head hydro installations. Of course, it is difficult to estimate the contribution that installations of this kind could make to the overall power production in the United Kingdom, hut even 1 per cent. would be very well worth having. However, the December issue of the Department of Energy's own broadsheet, called Energy Management, has a large article on small-scale hydroelectricity power. In it, it says that it believes the potential to be something like the equivalent of a quarter of a million tonnes of coal equivalent each year, which I suppose is probably worth £10 million. Therefore, I suggest that this is worth going for. Incidentally, there is the additional point that making machines of this kind at this juncture in our affairs would be a useful additional industry with export potential, and would give—and I am sure this is particularly dear to the heart of the Minister—some possibility of additional employment in small firms.

    The amendment does not seek to address the fundamental problem of what is abstraction. That has been a source of argument in England and Wales ever since the Water Act 1963. At risk of over-simplification of a vexed and complicated question, perhaps I could explain that the National Association of Water-Power Users, which has drafted this amendment, believes that taking water out of a river, dropping it through a few feet and returning it again to that same river does not by any reasonable definition constitute a taking out or abstraction. But this amendment deliberately confines itself to the more limited objective of seeking to restrain water authorities from levying unreasonable charges, perhaps related to the work that they have to do in making the water available.

    Here, I should like to pray in aid a letter written by the Department of the Environment. On 18th December, the Minister wrote saying:

    "A defensible case could be made for charging for these abstractions only a minimal cost to cover the administrative expenses of granting a licence and not calculated on a volume-related basis".

    I find that most encouraging. Incidentally, that same letter put the subject into perspective by mentioning that the total revenues collected under this heading in 1977 were about £20,000. Therefore, any potential loss of revenue would not have much impact on water authority finances. That same letter shows additional enlightenment when the Minister says:

    " I am concerned that charging for these abstractions is seen as an obstacle to new initiatives in producing energy from non-fossil fuel sources".

    This is, of course, particularly true where capital costs are likely to be relatively high for hydro-electric schemes, because the installer hopes to recoup his outlay through greatly reduced annual costs.

    It may be argued that protective legislation of this sort is not needed; but there I must point out that there have been cases, which I raised in this House very many years ago, where water authorities felt it necessary to ask for dramatic rate increases from those who are using water for power production. In four specific cases of which I have a record the suggested rates were increased from less than £100 to over £10,000. That is an increase of over one hundred-fold. Even the cost of oil—and, God knows, that has been pretty dramatic—has gone up by only a factor of 20 since 1973. Therefore, I believe that there are sufficiently alarming cases to cause us to say that we should do something to protect people against these kinds of imposition. It seems to me that this Bill is an ideal opportunity to do it, and it is a better opportunity than a Private Member's Bill which I believe was in preparation.

    I should have thought that the case I am advancing would have commended itself without any equivocation to the Department of Energy, and it appears to be supported by the Department of the Environment. I very much hope that the Minister will feel able to accept the concept at least in principle, even if he has reservations about the detailed drafting of our amendment. I beg to move Amendment No. 19, with the amendment of "32" to "31".

    5.52 p.m.

    I should like to support this amendment. In doing so I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, for the way in which he has moved it. I think that the Government's loss has been the gain of the Back-Benches. I endorse everything that he has said. As the noble Lord has said, one of the difficulties stems from the Water Resources Act 1963 which, combined with the traditional attitude of many of the electricity people, amounts to a powerful disincentive for those who run, or seek to run, turbines or waterwheels.

    The National Association of Water-Power Users tell me that in their experience no other country so discourages access to this well-proven renewable energy source. One of the difficulties has been that energy has been the responsibility of the Department of Energy, as we all know, and that water, and things like thermal insulation, rating and re-rating, and so on, have all come under the Department of the Environment who, until recently, have had very little interest in energy conservation at all.

    During 1977 there was a change and the previous Government set up a study group which was composed of these two departments. I believe that they have worked together on this problem and they have produced a research paper which shows that there has indeed been a rundown in the use of water power over many years, and it is demonstrated that it is practicable, and in the national interest, to reverse this trend. I should therefore like to ask the Government how their policy is going along in connection with this study. Those who create waterpower do not use water. They only make use of its energy and then they return the water to the river a little lower down, and both the water and the energy are still there for the next user downstream.

    The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, has mentioned the substantial and indeterminate charges levied on waterpower users, and that these discourage the production of this very form of power which is most desirable. He mentioned one case of how the rating had been increased so much. There is no appeal against the level of charges. I understand that the Welsh National Water Development Authority recently increased the water charges overnight from one small installation from approximately £50—and this is not a typing error—to £30,000 per annum, and only reduced them a fraction of the latter sum after a hitter battle through the press. This is the kind of thing that water users are having to put up with from people who have no, or very little, interest in energy conservation and very little knowledge of it. Therefore, I hope that the Government will look sympathetically at this amendment and at the principle behind it.

    5.56 p.m.

    In response to the invitation from my noble friend I rise to speak briefly to his amendment on the point which he mentioned. I would ask my noble friend Lord Gowrie to have a look at the legislation and practice in Scotland. Amendment No. 29, the consequential amendment to this, specifically excludes Scotland from this amendment. The reason, as I see it, is because the situation is already more satisfactory in Scotland. There exist there arrangements where surplus energy from private hydropower can be paid into the grid instead of being wasted. I may be out-of-date, but that is, I understand, still the position.

    In Scotland it is also provided that private hydropower does not meet the strong discouragement which my noble friend mentioned which appears to exist from the authorities south of the Border. I suggest that this is important at a time when increases in costs of energy and the need for conservation of other sources are particularly important for us. There is a paradox that the two Scottish boards feed their electricity into the United Kingdom grid, so it all ends up sensibly in the same system at the end of the day. Both the Scottish boards are generating and distributing electricity authorities in contrast to the electricity bodies south of the Border.

    The two electricity boards in Scotland do not come under the Department of Energy. I recognise that there is a difficulty about different Ministries, but when the Department of Energy was formed in January 1974 the electricity function of the Secretary of State for Scotland remained with him and was completely unaltered. I ask my noble friend to pursue this. I am sorry to have to say this, but it seems that the system in England and Wales appears less flexible and progressive than that in Scotland.

    There may be difficulties in England and Wales; I recognise that, and I certainly shall not go into them now. I know that there are difficulties about extracting water higher up a river and returning it a bit lower down, and indeed that some water authority may suddenly extract water above a hydro-electric station and then feel they have to pay compensation, or provide some kind of financial equivalent. I recognise that there may be difficulties and I accept that this Bill may not be the right Bill for making this change, but my noble friend has drawn attention to something which needs to be considered. There are difficulties which have to be overcome, but so far they seem to have been overcome rather better in Scotland. Therefore, the possibility of improvement appears to exist.

    I should like to support the amendment. It seems to me to he strange that we can talk about dirty water, about wasting water, but I never knew it exhausted the molecule of water. I do not see what happens to a molecule of water when it passes through a generating plant which would deprive it from further use. Since all of us in this room are still breathing molecules of oxygen which Julius Ceasar breathed when he crossed to England, I do not know whose water we would be using in the generators to come.

    6 p.m.

    I certainly support the spirit of the amendment, although I am not sure that the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, has brought it in at quite the right point in the legislation, in that what he is really seeking to do is to mitigate the effect of powers conferred on the water authorities by the Water Act 1973. The examples he gave showed that, apparently at any rate, very unreasonable increases were being made in the charges where somebody, as it would be expressed, abstracted water for use in power generation, thus making it totally uneconomic. I do not know whether the individuals concerned knew that would happen before embarking on what was presumably substantial capital expenditure.

    I see the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, shaking his head in dissent, which indicates another defect in the Water Act 1973; it should surely be possible, if some body is thinking of spending money on putting in generators, to discuss the matter in a preliminary way with the water authority to find out by how much the charge would be increased. It seems to me that that would be a matter best dealt with by means of an amendment to the 1973 Act, where these powers could be reduced, with some means of appeal being provided for the installer of water turbines who is aggrieved at the charges made on him in consequence of that use. If the noble Lord had sought to introduce an amendment to the Water Act 1973—which is presumably how it is being done in the Private Member's Bill he mentioned—one would then have agreed with both the letter and the spirit of it. I hope there is some way by which the noble Lord's proposals can be accomplished, but I am not sure this measure is the right way to do it.

    I support the amendment, which I think is extremely sensible, and I hope that if necessary my noble friend will press it to a Division.

    I wish to say at the outset how much I miss the support of my noble friend Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal on these Benches and how right he is in my view to plunge straight into the role of scrutiny and scourge of the Government's legislation, and I look forward to being flailed by him often, particularly if he continues on such a widely supported wicket as this one. The Government sympathise with much of the general thinking behind the amendment. The Government believe that small-scale hydro-electric power schemes can make a very worthwhile contribution to our energy supply and that the economics of small-scale hydro look promising enough to justify more evaluation. I am glad to say that the Department of Energy recently announced that it was examining specific schemes to establish the economics of small-scale hydro schemes and their suitability for demonstration of the latest technology in that field.

    The Government have had discussions with bodies such as the National Association of Water Power Users on the question of the charges made by water authorities in connection with small-scale hydro-electric schemes. The position is that three of the water authorities in England and Wales do not in fact charge for abstraction—"abstraction" is the term of art word in the water industry for what we would call "extraction"—for hydro-power generation, and the rest charge at their lowest rate. None the less, the National Association of Water Power Users and others believe that even these levels of charge can seriously undermine the economic viability of some small hydroelectric schemes. They point out that hydro-electric power generation restores water to the water-course undiminished in quantity and quality, as several noble Lords have mentioned.

    Section 30 of the Water Act 1973 sets out certain principles on which water authority charges should be based, among them the principle of non-discrimination between different categories of water user. This puts the Government in a slight fix; if we acceded to the eminently sensible suggestions which have been made by my noble friend and others, we might find ourselves altering in one Act a principle which had been established in another, and we would not want to do that in the context of this Bill—the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, made the point—without very great consideration and justification in our attempts to look at the legislation in the previous Act. However, I can tell my noble friend that we are looking at the possibility of using powers of discretion to see if they are compatible with the original 1973 Act and to see if we can get round the difficulty in that way.

    In view of the national importance of minimising dependence on fuel from fossil sources, the Government have already taken action to help members of the national Association of Water Power Users. The Department of the Environment made representations at Ministerial level to water authorities in England last month asking them to review their charges for abstractions for power generation, and the Welsh Office intend to approach the Welsh Water Authority in the near future. The Government believe that a defensible case can be made for making only a minimal charge for these abstractions, instead of charging on a volume-related basis. But the right way is surely to proceed by way of discussion with the water authorities, at any rate in the first instance, and these discussions have not yet been completed. In addition, the Department of the Environment is now looking carefully at the Secretary of State's powers to make directions to water authorities under Section 63 of the Water Resources Act 1963, and that might be another way of taking further the alleviation of these charges.

    I hope that in the light of those explanations of the Government's attitude, the steps that we are taking to make our views known to water authorities and the other steps that we are considering, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment. My noble friend said the charges were, some years ago, proposed to be increased from less than £100 to over £10,000. My advice is that no such dramatic increase has occurred. In the most extreme case in Wales, the Welsh Water Authority agreed to change its charging basis, and a much lower charge was finally settled.

    The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, mentioned the possibility of appeal. Clause 60 allows for an abstractor aggrieved by the refusal of a water authority to make an agreement with him to reduce his charges, or by the terms of such an agreement, to refer the matter to the Secretary of State, who must decide it. As for the case mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, in respect of Wales, that again may be a case which could currently come before the Secretary of State for Wales under this provision. I hope in the light of our very clearly stated sympathy for the aims which my noble friend has put forward and the practical steps we are taking to try to achieve those aims, he will meantime not press the amendment.

    My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that encouraging response and I certainly do not intend to press the amendment at this stage. However, I have certain remarks to make to him and I must say at the outset that I do not trust Governments. I do not trust them even when I am in them, and I am not in this one any longer. It is not satisfactory to resort to saying that we must have further discussions; this point to my certain knowledge has been raised for about five years, and even in Government that should have been enough time to resolve the matter had Government really wanted to. I have the feeling that a little awkward legislation has a wonderful capacity to concentrate the Government's mind.

    I am quite clear that the proper course for us today is to withdraw the amendment at this stage, but at the same time to remind my noble friend that I have been very grateful for the universal support that I have received in this Chamber for the amendment, or something like it. We should also consider whether or not we might return to the charge at a later stage in the Bill. I hope that that does not sound unreasonable; and I want to answer the point that my noble friend made about the question of water charges. I was, I hope, careful not to say that the charges had been levied; but they were certainly suggested, and the point is that it scared the hell out of the people who had been using water very cheaply for a very long time.

    I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, who pointed out that if one is considering embarking upon a water scheme, one of the first things that one needs to do is to discover what kind of charges are to be levied. It would save one a tremendous amount of trouble if one really knew with a degree of confidence that the charges were to be nominal only and were not to be, frankly, fairly serious imposts which were seriously proposed. Besides the question of whether or not the authorities that suggested those charges were doing so in genuine good faith, saying, "We are terribly sorry. These are imposed on us by the Water Act"—of 1963, incidentally; we keep on talking about 1973—it must be borne in mind that no local authority, particularly at the moment, minds receiving a little extra revenue which it was not expecting; and it can seldom resist the temptation.

    We need to protect a potential user—and I refuse to call him a consumer; nor do I want to call him either an abstractor or an extractor. One has to call him a user. We want to protect him against any possibility of being scared, or being prevaricated against. I think that all of us agree that this is something we would want to do. I am grateful to the noble Earl for his indication that he would wish to assist us, and I can only say to him that if we do not succeed in mutually satisfying ourselves before the next stage of the Bill, I might try to jog his arm a little harder to see whether or not he can assist us a little more. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    6.12 p.m.

    moved Amendment No.20:

    After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:

    (" Study and report on thermal insulation

    —(1) The Secretary of State shall—

  • (a) carry out a study of the potential energy savings to be gained from thermal insulation of existing domestic dwellings in England and Wales;
  • (b) determine financial, legal, institutional and other obstacles to increased thermal insulation of such dwellings;
  • (c) establish an annual target for the thermal insulation of such dwellings;
  • (d) formulate proposals and policies for meeting the target established under (c) above.
  • (2) The Secretary of State shall prepare a report on the matters mentioned in subsection (1) above within twelve months of the date of passing of this Act, and shall lay a copy of the report before each House of Parliament.").

    The noble Lord said: This amendment, like the last one, introduces a new subject to the Bill, but I am convinced that this amendment, too, falls within the scope of the Bill and its Long Title. The object of the amendment, as is fairly obvious, is to introduce into this country a plan for thermal insulation. As I said at an earlier stage, there is an urgent need for a concerted effort to try to save energy in this country. One of the major ways in which it can be saved, with great advantage both to the economy of the country as a whole and to individual citizens, is through thermal insulation of existing houses.

    I think that the scope here is recognised by the Department of Energy itself. The Secretary of State's Advisory Council on Energy Conservation has made calculations which show that an uninsulated house can lose up to 25 per cent. of its heat through the roof, 35 per cent. through the walls, 15 per cent. through draughts, and 10 per cent. through windows. I suspect that if one went on one could quite easily calculate a loss of about 110 per cent. The point is not that all these things happen at the same time, but rather that through any of the escape routes we can lose a lot of energy and that it is very much worth our while to try to prevent that.

    Obviously, much can be done by applying energy savings standards to new houses, but it is roughly estimated that at least three-quarters of the housing that we shall have in the year 2000 is already built. Yet the thermal efficiency of these buildings is not satisfactory and is certainly open to considerable improvement. For instance, of the 14 million houses with accessible lofts in both the private and public sectors, more than 5 million have no loft insulation whatsoever, and many more have insulation levels well below the official minimum standard, which in itself is not tremendously satisfactory.

    In a low energy strategy for the United Kingdom by the LIED it has been suggested that cost-effective domestic insulation of the nation's housing stock could realise annual energy savings of between 25 and 40 per cent., depending on the kind of building that we are thinking of: a flat, a semi-detached house, or a detached house. I do not believe that those figures have been seriously disputed.

    A 35 per cent. reduction in heat loss in dwellings in the United Kingdom would mean about an 8 per cent. saving in United Kingdom primary energy use—equivalent to a financial saving of £1,000 million a year at 1976 prices, and therefore considerably more at 1981 prices. It is, I suppose, worth noting in comparison that the cost of the entire building of one of the most enormously expensive, and I believe otherwise objectionable, nuclear power stations is of the same order as the annual savings that we arc suggesting could be made by a real campaign of thermal insulation.

    I think that the Government recognise many of those points, and recognise also that things need to be done. However, they are relying—and I believe far too greatly—on the basic market forces, the suggestion that if energy prices are raised, advice is provided, there is advertising, and grants are made available, matters will move, and move fairly quickly. I consider that that is underestimating the urgency of the situation, and we have put down the amendment because we believe that there is a very real need for the Government to take this particular part of the energy programme and organise a proper survey to be carried out, after which action can be taken. We have suggested that this should be done by the Secretary of State, though there are many other ways in which it could be done.

    Sometimes we have much sympathy with the Government and Ministers regarding some of the ways in which they want to lessen dabbling by Government in too many affairs, but I suggest that the whole question of energy is far too central, far too important, and far too urgent to be left without action being taken. It is time that the Government acted, and we suggest that this is the way that they should act. I beg to move.

    I should like to support the amendment, to which I have added my name. As the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has said, the immense short- and long-term savings in energy consumption which could result from insulation of the nation's housing stock are recognised by both the Government and independent analysts, yet progress towards high national levels of insulation has been slow and patchy. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, mentioned loft insulation, and I, too, have referred to that in previous debates. Today I should like to say a few words about double glazing. A study of the usage of multiple glazing in the EEC, at the request of the EEC Commission, shows that the potential energy conservation achieved by further double glazing in Europe amounts to between 1½and 2 per cent, of the European annual energy consumption—that is just for double glazing. It also shows-and I am sorry to keep on saying this—that the United Kingdom lags substantially behind every other member state in usage of double glazing and in the encouragement of double glazing by incentive, tax concessions and grants. The survey also showed that there are no climatic reasons for this differential.

    The time of construction is surely the cheapest time of all at which to insulate windows, and yet the draft of the new building regulations misses the opportunity to make double glazing mandatory and includes, indeed, an unjustifiable limit, in my view, on the permitted size of windows even when double glazed. This latter restriction arises from the failure adequately to take into account the solar gain factor, which is another form of heating. As I said, we lag behind most of our partners in the Community and our neighbouring states in Scandinavia in the incentive which the Government provide for insulation, and such little as we do in fact offer in the United Kingdom excludes double glazing, whereas all the continental schemes include double glazing as one of the insulation measures which qualify for grant aid, tax allowance or both.

    Then there is the question of zero-rating for double glazing. This, I think, is most important; but here again there was a decision by the VAT tribunal, which is now being appealed against by Customs and Excise. I think it is very important that this form of insulation, double glazing, should be zero-rated so that it is an incentive. I believe we think of double glazing really as a kind of luxury for rich people, as keeping out the noise; rather like some local authorities think of the refrigerator as a lot of ice clinking about in glasses—something rather luxurious instead, of course, of its being something essential to health. Double glazing is not only important for keeping out noise; it is also important for keeping in the heat. The Government must really try to concentrate their minds on this, and do something to help householders who will install it by seeing that it is zero-rated, and also in ensuring that some of the grants that are given are more in line with what our partners are doing in Europe.

    Perhaps I might add one or two words to those which have already been spoken by my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. I remember a couple of years ago raising the question of the IIED Report in your Lordships' House, and my noble friend has reminded me of its excellent proposals for a low-energy strategy for the United Kingdom. I wonder whatever happened to those proposals? During the term of office of the previous Administration, for several years running I asked for the Department of Energy to examine a zero-growth energy scenario to see what kind of energy consumption patterns we could afford within such a long-term scenario —whether, by the use of much better insulation, we could accommodate improved energy uses in other directions, such as we were discussing a few minutes ago. If my noble friend's estimates are correct, of something like an 8 per cent. reduction in primary energy consumption through adopting proper insulation standards in existing dwellings, then obviously, over the timescale that he was talking about, between now and the year 2000, we could afford to have a very substantial increase in the other uses of energy within the home without any overall rise in domestic energy consumption.

    But I wanted to add another point to that which my noble friend has already made, which I think is of some importance and which again follows an earlier debate that we had. Depending on how much of the energy used to heat homes is electrical, we have an additional saving through capital expenditure which is not necessary. If, by adopting these standards in existing dwellings, we reduce the amount of electricity that the inhabitants use to keep themselves comfortable in the winter, then we can reduce the generating board's capital investment programmes. Then we would have a saving, not just of the £1,000 million, or whatever it was that my noble friend mentioned, the cost of the primary energy that would be saved by this improved insulation, but probably a very much larger sum which we would not then have to invest in new generating plant and transmission equipment.

    I know that the Central Electricity Generating Board does not need to expand its output at all at the moment, and that the stations that we are about to embark upon are solely to keep the plant industry busy; but I think that if one is looking at the matter over a much longer period of time we might find that several thousand millions of pounds worth of expenditure by the generating board, and by the two Scottish boards as well, would be avoided if the type of work that my noble friend is suggesting were undertaken. Of course he is not suggesting that we should immediately insulate every existing dwelling to the standards that we are prescribing for the new ones. What he is saying here is that we should look at the whole situation and find out what are the constraints and the barriers against the kind of insulation that we already have in the case of new houses applying to existing dwellings. So that at this time of economic stringency my noble friend is not suggesting a huge programme of Government intervention to persuade everybody to put in loft insulation, double glazing and the rest. What he is saying is: Let us take the work that has been done by the IIED, apply the skills and expertise of the Department of Energy to it, see what we come up with and, once we have all the facts and everybody is agreed on them, we can decide how to tackle this enormous problem.

    While acknowledging the admirable intentions of those who have moved this amendment, may I suggest that paragraph (b), at any rate, is superfluous, particularly in view of the urgent need to reduce Government expenditure. The financial obstacle to increased thermal insulation of existing domestic dwellings in England and Wales is pretty obvious, and is already fairly well known. Of the various forms of insulation available, only loft insulation, draught proofing and just possibly cavity wall insulation in the case of those houses which have cavity walls—and, of course, a great many houses do not have it—are really cost-effective in the sense that the owner occupier or landlord, as the case may be, can see a reasonable return on his or her capital invested in this new form of insulation. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, mentioned double glazing, but double glazing is not really cost-effective, and I doubt that zero-rating would make very much difference. Surely we do not need a new Quango to establish these facts.

    6.28 p.m.

    The difficulty I am in is that I am in very substantial agreement with what many noble Lords have said, and, of course, the Government are interested, both literally and metaphorically, in energy conservation. But I am not sure that this particular Bill is the appropriate arena for what is being suggested, because I believe that this Bill will be most effective if it targets in on installations and appliances of the kind which we discussed in the earlier part of the debate. I would also argue that the Government already have a vigorous policy on domestic insulation, and that we do not, as it were, need to pursue it within the confines of this particular Bill other than in the way that we are seeking to add to it through the Bill. Of course we share the concern which underlies the amendment, the desire to see a reduction in the current levels of energy consumption in dwellings, but in practice the objectives of the amendment are already being tackled through other policies towards energy conservation.

    We already have a wide range of data—and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, called for a survey—on the extent to which dwellings do or do not incorporate various kinds of thermal insulation. That knowledge has been refined in further work which is already in hand. Where more insulation is needed, our general view is that its installation will be encouraged if we get the price of energy right and if householders are offered constant and adequate advice. A great deal of such advice is available in the form of pamphlets produced by the Department of Energy and through newspaper and television advertising as well as in other ways.

    In the case of domestic installation, there is, in addition, a direct financial incentive already available to householders under the Homes Insulation Scheme in the form of grants for loft insulation and the tank and pipe lagging associated with it. If we leave aside the very cheap measures such as draught-stripping, where the cost of administering a grant would be disproportionate to the benefit, loft insulation is easily the most cost-effective basic measure that we could promote. It therefore makes sense to concentrate inevitably limited resources on that measure.

    I am glad that, as well as raising the general issues of people's desire not to be over-governed, my noble friend Lord Monson drew attention to the necessity to contain expenditure not least in the interests of conservation of energy and other resources. I think a lot of progress has been made and we have given further encouragement by two recent announcements: in August we introduced a special higher rate of grant for the elderly on low incomes so that they can now get up to 90 per cent. of the cost of materials and labour; and last month it was announced that the total money available for grants would be increased next year by 30 per cent. in real terms.

    The Committee will see that our commitment to energy conservation remains high. In addition, local authorities are insulating their own housing stock. Although there is no longer a separate allocation for this work, because the Government prefer to leave each authority free to decide its own housing priorities, this work is continuing on a significant scale: rather more, I would suggest, than one would imagine from reading the not disinterested press handouts—and why should they be?—of insulation manufacturers. The inclusion of thermal insulation in new housing, private and public, is guaranteed by the requirements of the building regulations; and the Government propose to make these more stringent in the near future because, again, while wishing to interfere as little as we can, we recognise the central national importance, as well as the importance to individual consumers, of saving fuel in the home. So we are moving steadily towards a situation in which new and existing housing will include thermal insulation up to the levels which are currently cost effective.

    On the issue of double glazing which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, raised, a study from the Department of Energy has indicated that double glazing is only cost effective when it is in the main living room of a house and that very often it is installed on a do-it-yourself basis rather than being professionally installed; because that can add very considerable cost to the householder, although he or she should be free to make use of those services if they wish. What I am trying to say is that as energy prices rise and further research and development brings down the costs of technologically more advanced conservation measures, we shall encourage further insulation as it in turn becomes cost-effective.

    Before leaving the subject of double glazing, I wonder whether the noble Earl would agree that the cost effectiveness of double glazing, whether in the principal room of the dwelling or anywhere else, must depend on what are called the "degree days"— the number of days multiplied by the number of degrees that the temperature falls below a certain level. This varies considerably from one part of England and Wales to another. While double glazing may not be effective in the heart of London, where the temperature during the winter is reasonably high, if one were on the North East coast of England, then there might be a sound economic case for double glazing the whole dwelling.

    I take that point. Speaking for myself, I would view preliminary studies on the cost effectiveness of double glazing with some scepticism. I think the certain point is the point that I have mentioned earlier: that the first thing you should do in any part of the country is to insulate your loft. In this country heat escape through the roof is probably the biggest factor. If you should happen to live on the North-East coast, or in any part of the South of England but in an exposed position, you might consider that certain of your rooms would benefit very much from double glazing. What I think we are trying to signal to the consumer is that the double glazing industry is a perfectly respectable one but it is very competitive and very pushing (if you like) and it may occasionally give expectations as to savings which, while they may be justified in certain cases, would not be justified in others. Have a look at the loft first and go hit by bit.

    I myself have great hope of the development in the next decade or so of microchip meters which can tell you accurately what you are spending; and then, by experimenting with different forms of insulation in the house, you get a positive read-back on what the real costs are. I think that these technical changes are likely to take place over the next decade.

    We are in an area of continuous development and change. A major review geared to a given moment in time, as envisaged in this amendment, is therefore not appropriate as it cannot gear itself to such continuing change in the way that price signalling can do so. A clause of this kind does not seem to me to be needed to secure a Government commitment because, as I have tried to indicate, we are committed very heavily in cost terms already. We recognise the importance of the intention underlying the amendment, but we do not regard it as an appropriate addition in the context of this particular Bill.

    Before my noble friend replies, may I ask the noble Earl in view of what he said about double glazing why it is that in every European country on the Continent the incentives apply to all forms of domestic insulation; whereas the grants available in this country exclude double glazing? Our partners on the Continent attach importance to this. This seems to be a case where the United Kingdom is the only one in step.

    Not all, I agree; but some do. I do not have information as to the relative use of double glazing in this country and on the Continent. I do not in any way wish to discourage people from installing double glazing. Many people do so. Apart from questioning the general point made by this amendment which is not specifically geared to double glazing, I question whether that is not another instance where the right price signals, and people's response to them freely, are not the most appropriate way by which the same result might be achieved.

    The noble Earl has put the case very persuasively but I do not think he has really covered it. Let me assure the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that no Quango is the slightest bit involved. By definition, I think, the Secretary of State cannot himself be a Quango. It is he whom we are suggesting should do the things which are necessary here. Nor, I think, are we talking about any great sum of money. We know that a certain amount of study of potential energy savings has been done already. To turn that into a national one by extrapolation and other techniques would not cost very much. Nor would determining the obstacles, nor would establishing a target, nor would formulating proposals and policies. What we come up against here is a straight division between the Government and, certainly, those of us who occupy both sets of Benches on this side of the Committee. We think this is an absolutely genuine matter where the Government should be making a survey and not just leaving it to developments which no doubt will happen and will have some effect through the course of the market economy and through the new inventions which the noble Earl spoke about. I was most interested in what he was saying. This is a question where we differ on what should be in this Bill. There is no point in disguising it and I suggest that we test the opinion of the House.

    6.41 p.m.

    On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 20) shall be agreed to?

    Their Lordships divided: Contents, 34; Not-Contents, 50.


    Amherst, E.Hale, L.
    Ampthill, L.Hampton, L.
    Amulree, L.Hooson, L.
    Avebury, L.Houghton of Sowerby, L.
    Balogh, L.Kilmarnock, L.
    Beaumont of Whitley, L. (Teller.)Melchett, L.
    Ogmore, L.
    Birk, B.Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
    Bruce of Donington, L.Ritchie-Calder, L.
    Clifford of Chudleigh, L.Seear, B.
    Collison, L.Segal, L.
    Craigavon, V.Stone, L.
    Denington, B.Strabolgi, L.(Teller.)
    Fisher of Rednal, B.Tanlaw, L.
    Gaitskell, B.Taylor of Mansfield, L.
    George-Brown, L.Underhill, L.
    Gladwyn, L.White, B.
    Greenwood of Rossendale, L.


    Abercorn, D.Hornsby-Smith, B.
    Ailesbury, M.Inglewood, L.
    Airey of Abingdon, B.Lauderdale, E.
    Avon, E.Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
    Bethell, L.Long, V.
    Brougham and Vaux, L.Lucas of Chilworth, L.
    Cathcart, E.Lyell, L.
    Cockfield, L.Malmesbury, E.
    Colville of Culross, V.Marley, L.
    Colwyn, L.Monson, L.
    Cullen of Ashbourne, L.Morris, L.
    Denham, L.(Teller.)Mottistone, L.
    Digby, L.Mowbray and Stourton, L.
    Drumalbyn, L.Norfolk, D.
    Ellenborough, L.Orkney, E.
    Ferrers, E.Orr-Ewing, L.
    Glasgow, E.St. Aldwyn, E.
    Glenarthur, L.Sandys, L.
    Gowrie, E.Shannon, E.
    Greenway, L.Skelmersdale, L.
    Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)Strathclyde, L.
    Sudeley, L.
    Swinfen, L.
    Halsbury, E.Trefgarne, L.
    Han worth, V.Tweeddale, M.
    Henley, L.Westbury, L.

    Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

    6.49 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 21:

    After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:

    (" Amendment of Electricity Act 1957

    . After subsection (5) of section 2 of the Electricity Act 1957, there shall be added the following subsection—

    "(5A) In executing its duties under subsection (5) of this section, the Generating Board shall promote economy and efficiency in the use of energy and shall, in particular, further the development of methods by which heat obtained from or in connection with the generation of electricity may be used more efficiently for the heating of buildings, or for any other useful purpose.".").

    The noble Lord said: The use of various power sources to provide combined heat and power for the heating of buildings and, indeed, of towns and villages, is something which has not gone very far in this country. District heating of this particular kind is much more widespread in various European countries. Roughly 20 per cent. of Sweden's space and water heating is by district heating of which the largest amount comes from combined heat and power. The same is true, roughly speaking—there are some similar figures—in Scandinavia; and to a certain extent this also happens in the Soviet Union. They are all, of course, colder countries than Great Britain is on the whole.

    Now that we need to look at energy conservation it is quite clear that one of the obvious areas that we need to look at is the most enormous wastage of energy which comes from electricity generation—and there is a very great deal of it. This amendment is based on a clause which was put forward for inclusion in the abortive Electricity Bill of 1978; that was put forward by the Labour Government. The reason why we have chosen this particular method for putting forward combined heat and power is that seemingly the Central Electricity Generating Board has no remit to go beyond producing electricity. It does not have a remit to use its waste products. For that reason, it can well be forgiven if it does not spend a very great deal of time and trouble on trying to do something about it. But in the national interest, it is very important that we have combined heat and power and that we are able to use that where it is appropriate.

    I know that there has been a report on this—the Marshall Report, Energy Paper 35—and that it came to the conclusion that CHP could save energy and could be a viable option for heating buildings in areas of high density heat load, particularly in the longer term. I think that in some of its other findings it was over pessimistic. It did not really stop to consider some of the alternative costs that there might be in providing energy in other ways and it assumed some technologies which have now been superseded.

    Be that as it may, I should have thought that there was a very strong case, if we are to go forward with combined heat and power—and I hope that we are; I think this is common ground on all sides of the Committee—for giving a body which already deals with these matters, and which produces a great deal of the energy which would go towards this heating, a clear, statutory obligation to promote and use it. If we did that, we would find that matters went ahead remarkably fast and the results could be nothing less than phenomenal.

    I am not pretending that it is easy to convert to combined heat and power. It is not. I am not pretending that we shall be able to do a very great deal very quickly. I do not think that we shall, particularly in our economic state. But the fact remains that the average conversion efficiency of the CEGB's power stations is just under 30 per cent., and that, if you use combined heat and power, primary fuels can be utilised with an overall efficiency of up to 85 per cent. It is this kind of difference that we must overcome, if we are not to waste our basic fuels. They are finite and, if we do not take the utmost steps that we can to conserve them now, we shall regret it in the future. I think that this is a sensible but very minor step to take. I beg to move.

    I should like to support this amendment. As my noble friend Lord Beaumont has said, under the 1957 Act it is the central duty of the Central Electricity Generating Board to provide an efficient, co-ordinated and economical system of supply of electricity. But here the accent is on the word "electricity". That is quite understandable, since the 1957 Act was passed nearly 25 years ago and, of course, things have changed. Our whole concept of energy conservation has changed in that quarter of a century.

    As the noble Lord has said, the amendment is based on a clause in the Electricity Bill of 1978, which came to nothing because of the election, and I think that there is every case for having another look at it. We shall be interested to hear the Government's view.

    This is another case where the Government are in complete accord with both noble Lords who have spoken. But, of course, it will be no surprise, also, that we do not feel that the beauty of this accord needs expression in this Bill, because there is already a duty to investigate and conduct research among the duties which are already laid on the Central Electricity Generating Board, under Section 50 of the Electricity Act 1947, and the amendment quotes much of this section verbatim.

    Like both noble Lords who have spoken, I am very keen on the development of combined heat and power in this country, and the Government hope to announce shortly a number of local authority areas where feasibility work on CHP schemes will be carried out. I might remind the Committee that on 2nd April last year my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced the action that the Government would be taking in the light of Dr. Walter Marshall's recommendations in the Marshall group's report. It was decided on energy policy grounds that CHP was an option that should be kept open, and that the next stage was to establish a programme of work to test the feasibility in particular locations, where the local authority concerned expressed an interest in becoming a lead city. I seem to remember having the privilege of telling the House about that move last year.

    Messrs. Atkins and Partners started work in August as the department's lead consultant for the first stage of this programme. They have now completed the first part of this stage, producing a report which gives their recommendations on the areas which should be the subject of more detailed appraisal. We shall be considering this report, along with the comments made on it by the interested local authorities, and announcing our decision shortly. The electricity supply industry is participating fully in the programme of work. Legislation is not required to enable them to participate, although all the legislative aspects of CHP development will, as I have said, be kept under review as the programme goes forward.

    On a different scale, it is rather like our attitudes to double glazing which I expressed earlier in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. We are thoroughly in favour of it, but we find that there is sufficient activity in this area to warrant, in the case of double glazing the Government keeping back. In the case of CHP, the Government and local authorities are, of course, much more intimately involved. I acknowledge that it is possible that at some stage further legislation will be desirable to govern the development of CHP in this country. But I do not think anyone argues that this stage has yet been reached, and we do not see any real purpose in re-enacting existing legislative provisions which are already substantially enforced in this Bill.

    I am not totally convinced by the noble Earl's arguments. It seems to me that he has not at all put up a case against making this amendment, except that it is unnecessary, and I do not think he has proven that entirely. I still think that to give the CEGB a statutory duty in this field would be a useful step. But I do not think that it is worth arguing about. I appreciate that the Government are going forward in this field and I am delighted that they are. If the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, agrees, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clauses 16, 17 and 18 agreed to.

    Clause 19 [ Enforcement of orders under Part I]:

    7 p.m.

    moved amendment No. 22:

    Page 17, line 6, leave out ("examine any appliance, inspect") and insert ("inspect any appliance, and").

    The noble Earl said: The amendment removes the power of an enforcement officer to examine an appliance for the purpose of ascertaining whether any offence under an order made under Part I of the Bill has been committed, and substitutes for this power to examine the power to inspect an appliance. The difference is, simply, that the power to examine includes the power to test; the power to inspect does not.

    This is a very minor change. We have had representations from a trade association to the effect that the powers in Clause 19(2)( a) as at present drafted are not entirely appropriate. At present this clause would give enforcement officers, who will generally be local authority trading standards officers, the power to examine appliances for the purpose of ascertaining whether an offence under an order made under Part I of the Bill has been committed. Clause 26 provides that the power to examine includes the power to test but, as I explained during the Second Reading debate, we envisage that enforcement officers will simply make visual checks, primarily to see that the appliances which ought to bear type approval marks do in fact bear them. Therefore the amendment is intended to reflect this position. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 19, as amended, agreed to.

    Clauses 20 to 25 agreed to.

    Clause 26 [ Interpretation]:

    Page 21, line 22, at beginning insert—

    (" ( ) In this Act "supply" means, in relation to any appliance, supply in the course of a business, whether by way of sale, hire, loan, hire-purchase (that is to say, under a hire-purchase agreement) exchange or gift; but where the person supplying an appliance to another person under a hire-purchase agreement, conditional sale agreement, credit sale agreement or hiring agreement (other than a hire-purchase agreement)—
  • (a) carries on the business of financing the provision of goods for others by means of such agreements (whether or not that business is confined to financing the provision of appliances of the description in question); and
  • (b) in the course of that business acquired his interest in the appliance supplied to that other person as a means of financing the provision of that appliance for the other person by a third person;
  • the person providing the appliance and not the actual supplier shall be treated for the purposes of this Act as supplying the goods to the other person.")

    Page 21, line 25, leave out ("has the meaning given in") and insert ("credit-sale agreement' and 'hire-purchase agreement' have the meanings given by section 189(1) of")

    Page 21, line 25, leave out lines 33 and 34.

    Page 21, line 38, at end insert ("and")

    Page 22, line 9, leave out from ("purpose)") to end of line 13.

    The noble Earl said: I spoke to Amendments Nos. 23 to 27 with Amendment No. 14. Therefore I beg to move Amendments Nos. 23 to 27 en bloc.

    On Question, amendments agreed to.

    Clause 26, as amended, agreed to.

    Clause 27 agreed to.

    Clause 28 [ Citation]:

    7.5 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 28:

    Page 22, line 31, leave out ("Energy Conservation") and insert ("Heat Generator (Efficiency) and Miscellaneous Energy Provisions").

    The noble Lord said: I touched earlier on this amendment. Despite the very strong and very welcome commitment that the noble Earl the Minister has given to energy conservation in all that he has said this evening, I do not think that this Bill is really worthy of its rather grandiose Title. I do not think the Government have done very much by way of legislation. They would, I think fairly, answer that their way of coping with the problem is not so much through legislation as through other channels. That is something which we can certainly appreciate, even those of us who think that more legislation is in fact needed.

    To claim that as a result of this an energy conservation Bill is being put on the statute book is a little grandiose. Therefore both the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and I have put down this amendment to call it by what we think is a more accurate name: the Heat Generator (Efficiency) and Miscellaneous Energy Provisions Bill. The noble Earl the Minister has already told us that he has a satisfactory answer and we look forward to hearing it. I beg to move.

    I should like to support what my noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley has said. I agree with him that the Title is misleading and grandiose. I feel very strongly that the Titles of Bills should describe what they set out to do. Too often in modern history they have been used for quite other purposes. A Bill entitled "Energy Conservation" looks very good from the point of view of the Conservative Party, just as the Bill entitled "Consumer Protection" looked very good from the point of view of the Labour Party when they were in Government from 1964 to 1970. I was not a member of that Administration so 1 can speak freely. It was a Bill which protected the consumer but it also protected the supplier, the manufacturer, the advertising agents, the retailer and a lot of other people. Due to help from the noble Lord, Lord Airedale—I am sorry he is not here today —and other noble Lords, we had its Title changed from Consumer Protection Bill to Trade Descriptions Bill—which indeed it was. The Labour Government of the day accepted the point we made and changed the name of the Bill.

    Another point is that when, years hence, you come to the index of Acts of Parliament, it is very important that those Acts should be in their right place. Lawyers, and so on, 20 to 30 years hence will try to find the Act which deals with the efficiency of heat generators. They are not going to find it under "E"—under "Energy conservation". Therefore, I think there is a strong case for the present Government following the precedent of the former Labour Government and changing the Title of the Bill to describe what it attempts to do.

    I take the point of both noble Lords. Nevertheless, in both parties we have perhaps advanced in recent years beyond the stage where we rest our appeal to the public simply upon the quantity of legislation passed, or upon its title. Perhaps one achieves more popularity now by telling the public that one has passed less rather than more legislation. I do not think therefore that this is a sinister attempt by a particular political administration to try to indicate that it is delivering more than it is able to. What we are trying to achieve in this title is brevity, concision and accuracy of description.

    The Bill certainly is about conserving energy and it tries to achieve it in an expeditious and cost-effective way. The proposed rewording mentions heat generators but not gas appliances; so historians looking for gas appliances, supposing they were so inclined, would it seems to me be equally misled. I should have thought they would be looking for both heat generators and gas appliances in the context of what this economy as a whole was doing about energy conservation.

    I acknowledge that many other aspects of the Government's overall energy policies are not covered by this Bill, but it is fair for me to ask the Committee to acknowledge that supposing we had a massive "Energy Conservation Bill" which contained all aspects of our energy conservation policy, it would be quite incompatible with other bits of legislation that exist, whether put on the statute book by Conservative or Labour Administrations, and which have the same worthy aims. Surely a policy is a grand design, of which a constituent piece of legislation is a component part. One Administration of a particular political character may try to give a special impact or special drive to that design. But when we look at energy conservation in the general sense we see that Governments of both political persuasions have in recent years found the most urgent national interests, as have other western nations, in trying to conserve energy in this country. Therefore, I think it would be quite impossible to correlate all the housing regulations or all the social security provisions relating to energy conservation in a Bill of this kind.

    I think I must rest on that general, if rather subjective, view. I cannot think of a better title, in that the Bill is about energy conservation and it says so. I am sorry if it appears to suggest a rather wider area than the area it covers, but I think common sense would suggest that energy conservation is such a general issue that it could never be covered entirely in one Bill. 1 am honestly bothered by the proposed re-wording, which mentions heat generators but not gas appliances, which are also covered by Part I of the Bill. I prefer to leave it at that.

    When the noble Earl said earlier that he hoped to have an argument to convince us, I thought it would be a little more persuasive than that. I thought he would be pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Incidentally, the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, very kindly refers to me as his "noble friend" does not mean that the noble Earl the Minister should presume that there are only two parties in the House. The tendency in politics at the moment is rather the other way. But, in the circumstances, I do not think it is worth arguing about the title and if the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, agrees, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendment No. 29 not moved.]

    House resumed: Bill reported with the amendments.

    Control Of Pollution (Special Waste) Regulations 1980

    7.13 p.m.

    rose to move, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Control of Pollution (Special Waste) Regulations 1980 [S.I. 1980 No. 1709] laid before the House on 17th November 1980 be annulled.

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Motion seeks to annul these regulations which are due to come into operation on 16th March. That date is significant since the regulations arc intended to discharge the obligations of the United Kingdom under the EEC directive on toxic and dangerous waste of 20th March 1978 and I believe that the Government are determined to bring in the new regulations before the third anniversary of that directive.

    My reasons for taking this rather unusual step arise from the grave disquiet expressed by those whose duty it is to administer these new regulations and also, I believe, by industry itself. Since the subject is excessively technical, I hope the House will bear with me if I take some little time to explain the history of the matter. One of the hazards of living in an increasingly technological age is the disposal of waste products from industry. Many of these are extremely dangerous and furthermore, as science expands, its capacity to produce and its range of waste products grows and becomes startlingly more complex.

    In the early '70s, following intense public concern over the haphazard dumping of toxic waste, legislation was enacted—the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act 1972. It is true to say that this legislation was rushed on to the statute book. However, although legislation made in haste is frequently bad, in fact the system of controlling poisonous waste introduced by that Act has proved both workable and effective. The present system of control in accordance with that Act applies to any quantity or concentration of waste that may constitute a serious hazard to life, health or the environment. Waste disposal authorities can decide for themselves whether any waste constitutes such a hazard. In practice a general understanding has been built up with industry as to which wastes are likely to be involved. The Act is implemented by a system of notification, first, to the waste disposal authority in whose area the waste arises; secondly, to the waste disposal and water authorities in the area in which it is proposed to dispose of it and, thirdly, to the person who actually is to dispose of the waste. Notification is made in advance of the proposals to move the waste.

    These new regulations make important changes. The most important of these relate to a new definition of the waste products that are to be controlled and the replacement of notifications with a "cradle to the grave" consignment note. The wastes identified by the present Act, that is to say those considered to be a hazard to life, to health or to the environment, will be replaced by three limited categories of special waste. These are, first, a list of 31 substances which have to be shown to be a danger to life or highly inflammable; secondly, any medicines available only on prescription; and, thirdly, certain radioactive wastes. It is estimated that the effect of these definitions will be to reduce the number of notifiable substances by as much as two-thirds.

    The other significant change I have referred to is the replacement of the notification system by the consignment note which follows the waste all through its stages, from production to final disposal. The way it will operate means that regional water authorities, for instance, will no longer receive notification. Also the home waste disposal authority in whose area the waste is produced will not have the advance notice of the intended movement of the waste covered by the note, although they are responsible for the completion of the consignment note process.

    Why then have the Government made these regulations? They will no doubt say that a system of licensing waste disposal sites which has been in existence for three years is adequate to deal with all but the most dangerous classes of waste product. They will point to the consequential reduction in administrative and bureaucratic procedures, because fewer wastes will require notification. They will no doubt pray in aid the EEC directive as authority for what they are doing. No doubt these are all laudable aims but we arc dealing with very dangerous matters over which the public has a right to expect the most stringent controls.

    I am a member of the Association of County Councils, which represents the 39 shire counties which are waste disposal authorities, and they are appalled by what is proposed. That is why they have taken the most unusual step of asking me to table this Motion. The ACC is not alone in this matter. The submission which some of your Lordships may have seen was jointly prepared by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the GLC, as well as the ACC. In Wales, district councils are waste disposal authorities, and I understand that they share our concern. The fact that all the local authority associations are able to achieve a unanimity of view on this matter may suggest the seriousness with which they view this change in the regulations.

    I have reason to believe that it is not only local government that is concerned. I have seen a report of the conference held on this subject last October when Dr. Hicklish of the Ford Motor Company was quoted as having said:

    "There will be appalling practical difficulties in establishing whether a waste falls within the regulations under the new procedure".

    At least one commercial company active in this field has written to the ACC indicating its support for the action we are taking.

    What are the matters which give rise to these doubts? First, there will be considerable numbers of waste products which will not be subject to the notification procedure under the new system which were under the old, and I will be giving some examples later. Broadly, these are the substances which are not hazardous to life, but which could be environmentally very damaging, for example, to water supplies. Secondly, the 31 substances listed in the regulations have also to be shown to be dangerous to life. That phrase is defined by reference to the threat to the life of a 20 kilogramme child of five cubic centimetres of the substance. If someone has conducted toxicity experiments on 20 kilogramme children I hope they will get in touch with the local authorities, because I certainly have not heard of any experiments, and we do not know how else we are to obtain the information. Even disregarding young children, toxicological evidence of the effect of a wide variety of new and changing waste products on any mammals is not readily available.

    Thirdly, as if that were not enough, it is the local authorities themselves who are expected to prove that any given substance falls within these definitions. The possibility is, therefore, that a particular substance might slip through the net through lack of information. The alternative is that the local authority is put to considerable difficulty and expense in conducting toxicity testing for which, as I am sure your Lordships realise, neither the funds nor the expertise are readily available. Unfortunately, someone disposed of some South American 'flu germs on me about a week ago, which is why I find it rather difficult to pronounce with a dry mouth some of the more difficult words.

    Fourthly, the change in emphasis from the administrative control of waste to field control at licensed sites may be laudable in theory, but it is misconceived in practice. Waste disposal authorities themselves will have to deploy more highly qualified staffs at sites to conduct monitoring than they have to at the moment. The impact on certain areas could well be considerable. Technical staff qualified to recognise harmful waste will have to be maintained at each tip, which will be more expensive than centralised staff. Taking London as an example, the majority of the wastes now notifiable are routed outside London to sites such as those at Pitsea in Essex. Even supposing there were sufficient qualified staff to do the necessary inspections and analysis, the implications for public expenditure arc obvious.

    Fifthly, the "cradle to the grave" consignment note has faults. This lies in the omission of the regional water authorities as a recipient, presumably because the water supplies arc no longer considered sufficiently important. I would have thought they are one of the most important people to be informed. And the lack of obligation for prior notification to the "home" local authority in advance of the despatch of toxic waste into the area of another authority is very serious. The "home" authority will have invaluable local knowledge of the nature of the waste, which needs to be passed on to the receiving authority in certain cases to avoid environmental hazard.

    Sixthly, the haste with which the Government have put forward this proposal in order to comply with the EEC directive is. I am told by those who know about these things, in fact unnecessary. The directive would have been complied with simply by introducing the new consignment note procedure into the existing system, without the accompanying wholesale changes, and that system is working well.

    Finally, a sub-committee of your Lordships' Committee on Science and Technology is currently conducting an inquiry into the disposal of hazardous and toxic wastes. It is a comprehensive and far-reaching exercise. We are hoping to give evidence to it. I believe it is premature for the Government to make such substantial changes to the control of such wastes in advance of the sub-committee reaching their conclusions.

    What, then, do I ask the Government to do? I would hope that it is still possible for them to concede that the regulations have been misconceived. If they are concerned about their European obligations, there is still time for them to bring forward new regulations, dealing only with the new consignment note procedure. I would hope the noble Lord would give serious consideration to that possibility. The local authority associations, however, are reasonable bodies, and they remain willing to attempt to implement the new system if only the Government would bring forward some amending regulations, to take effect on the same day in March, which could make the regulations workable. I do not propose to subject your Lordships to the tedium of listing all the matters that would be covered by these regulations, but they have been submitted to the department, and those of your Lordships who have received the copy of the local authority associations' brief will know what they are. Suffice it to say that they would mitigate the worst features of these regulations.

    Before I sit down I would like to tell your Lordships one or two particular horror stories of things that are likely to happen if these regulations go through. First, some stuff called "bog ore", a waste from old gas works, will totally sterilise the ground on which it is deposited, preventing anything from growing. Further, rain on this will produce an acid leachate which, if it runs into streams, will kill all stream life; and under the regulations this would not require notification. Secondly, the interreaction of substances. A relatively dilute acid combined with a sulphide, neither of which would be considered toxic, can rapidly produce hydrogen sulphide gas which is extremely toxic. Your Lordships may remember that such a combination caused the death of a tanker driver at a tip in Essex, even in the open air.

    Thirdly, there is no provision in the regulations for dealing with the same mercury wastes which caused minamata disease in Japan. Sludges from the chloralkali industry contain mercury which can on being deposited be changed by bacteria into the more toxic and exceedingly dangerous methyl mercury. These wastes are not defined as toxic by the regulations. I can speak with some feeling on the subject of mercury wastes, as an ancestor of mine, who was a founder member of the Royal Society and so should have known better, was determined to maintain the beauty of his wife. He invented a face cream for her. Unfortunately, it contained mercury and killed her. Even the fact that Van Dyck was at hand to paint her on her death bed did not console the distraught husband. Toxic waste is dangerous, and I implore the Government to think again before headlines of disaster appear in the press. I beg to move.

    Moved, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Control of Pollution (Special Waste) Regulations 1980 [S.I. 1980 No. 1709] laid before the House on 17th November 1980 be annulled.—( Lord Digby.)

    7.30 p.m.

    My Lords, I think that this is possibly the first time, or one of the very few times, when I find myself not only ad idem, but almost word for word ad idem, with the noble Lord, Lord Digby, who has so clearly explained the history and consequences of these resolutions if they go through. Normally, it would be a great occasion to welcome the implementation of some of the provisions of the Control of Pollution Act because I, as a Minister, was very impatient that we were not able to do that; and as succeeding Governments have come along it has always been held up for such reasons as lack of resources and lack of time. However, for the provisions to come through in this way now is certainly something which it is not only impossible to welcome but something which one views with the greatest alarm.

    Cutting down bureaucracy and diminishing the number of pieces of paper floating around is also something upon which we can all agree, but certainly not at the price we are being asked to pay in the regulations that we are considering this evening. The noble Lord, Lord Digby, was absolutely right when he referred not only to the unaniminity of the local authority organisations, but also of the other people who are showing, and will increasingly show, very great concern about this matter. I would go as far as to say that although today there has been a considerable amount of important business in your Lordships' House, I consider that this is the most important matter that we have discussed today, and the fact that the House is rather slim in attendance is irrelevant to the material. When other noble Lords learn what this is all about, I think that they will feel as shocked as many noble Lords who are here this evening.

    The word is also spreading among Members of Parliament. The environmental groups are getting very exercised about the matter. Academics and responsible waste disposal contractors feel very strongly about it, as do many manufacturing industries of which the noble Lord, Lord Digby, gave an example. I am sure that that feeling goes right through the waste disposal industry. I find it rather a mystery that none of us "cottoned on" to this a little sooner and before the 40 days almost elapse, but I assure the noble Earl and the Government that there will be one hell of a row about this, because once it is publicised and people realise what it is all about there will be a backlash which I think will surprise the Government unless they take the advice of those of us who are prepared to give them good advice tonight as to how they should proceed.

    We have seen concern throughout the country about nuclear radiation, and toxicity—and even without 'flu germs I find that a difficult word to pronounce—is of equal or even greater concern. It is absolutely correct that increased technology means more processes producing more waste that is dangerous to people, animals, or the environment—or all three. I feel very sad that this emanated from my old department I cannot think what happened to many of the officials with whom I worked very happily; some sort of aberration must have occurred. It seems curious and quite irresponsible that at this time, when technology is on the increase, when new processes are coming along and industry is being encouraged to promote them, they should then take a step back as regards protection for the individual and for the environment. That is exactly what is happening as regards this matter.

    As the noble Lord said, the EEC directive is covered as far as consignment notes are concerned. But the definition of "toxicity", which we now have in these regulations, is not only different from that in the 1972 Act, but quite different from the EEC directive, which makes this an even more retrograde change. The EEC directive says that the essential objective of all provisions relating to the disposal of toxic or dangerous waste must be the protection of human health and safeguarding the environment against harmful effects. But what do these regulations do? They denotify approximately two-thirds of hazardous waste.

    Under the 1972 Act everything was hazardous unless on the excluded list. Obviously, I accept that a balance is needed between the protection of health and the environment and the needs of industry. There is a case probably for a sharper definition of "toxic waste". The removal of the requirement to inform the water authorities would also save 50 per cent. of the paperwork, because the knowledge of that would come through other means anyway, so it would no longer be necessary.

    But there certainly is no case for the "Pica" child concept. In fact, if the concept that five cubic centimetres would cause death or serious damage to a 20 kilogram child were not so serious, it would be absolutely hilarious. It belongs to "Beyond the Fringe" or something like that. Like the noble Lord, Lord Digby, I should like to know whether experiments have been carried out in order to give this scientific validity to which we are entitled. What research has been carried out? Further, what would be the courts' interpretation if any case were brought? How would the local authorities prosecute with any hope of success? What about the costs of prosecution when we have this very vague and open-ended definition?

    Then, of course, there are the administrative difficulties. Even if all other things were equal—which they certainly are not—the administrative difficulties could defeat, I was going to say the "well meaning" intention. However, it is really extremely misguided. I shall give the benefit of the doubt, and say that if it is well-meaning, it is cock-eyed to such an extent that it is so highly dangerous that the effects cannot be described as well-meaning at all.

    The information that local authorities have of waste disposal in their area is certainly not as good as has obviously been assumed. They have never had a chance to get it going, and that is known perfectly well in the department as well as by the local authorities.

    Now, with the tremendously heavy cut in resources on all local authorities, the prospects are even more gloomy. The compulsion as regards the date of completion of the survey and the production of the waste disposal plan disappeared in the Local Government Act 1980. So, at a time of constraint and restriction, these regulations are brought in. They depend on expertise, on monitoring and on very high-calibre people. The whole system hinges on documentary control. Without unique reference numbers on consignment notices it will be extremely difficult, probably impossible, to monitor the whole process.

    There is no requirement on a firm disposing of its waste to notify its own waste disposal authority if the waste is going outside the area. At the moment, they have to do so, but that requirement will disappear under these regulations. Notification is absolutely essential, since it is the home local authority which has the knowledge of the industrial processes in its own area. An example springs to mind in the London area, when a London firm notified that it was going to dispose of glue residues in a land-filled site in Cheshire. Since they have to notify the home authority, London immediately recognised the environmental hazard as the glue was a liquid solvent. It tipped Cheshire off. Otherwise the glue would have been put into a land-filled site in a very sensitive area. There is nothing to take the place of this important communication in what is altogether a very toxic subject. I query whether there is sufficient highly-calibred expertise available. I do not believe that it is there. Even if it is there, how on earth can anyone afford such people today? What a day to bring about this sort of regulation! It is almost beyond belief.

    Finally—as the noble Lord, Lord Digby, put it—this action is absolutely devastatingly and, I would say, disgracefully premature, because the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology is looking into the whole subject of the organisation and method of hazardous waste disposal. The committee is still receiving evidence; it has not even had a chance to consider the evidence. What is the point, at public expense, with the work and time of Members of that committee being taken up, of it sitting and working, when a decision like this is taken before it has even had a chance to make its recommendations or to come to its conclusions?

    I join with the noble Lord, Lord Digby, in his hope that the Minister will not just say in a very polite and charming way that he will note what noble Lords have said and report back to his right honourable friend, but that—because he must have had some inkling of what he would be faced with this evening—following the recommendations of the House of Lords Select Committee, with further proper consultation on this paper as it is now, the Government will then bring in amending legislation on Part I and Schedule 1 of these regulations. As regards the rest, the document can stand. But it would be an absolute catastrophe if this part, which is so important to our health and to our environment, remained in its present form. I hope that when the noble Earl replies, he will be able to assure us along those lines.

    7.42 p.m.

    My Lords, I entirely agree with what my noble friend has said, and I am particularly grateful to her for the very constructive way in which she has expressed her point of view. But I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Digby, for the signal favour that he has done the House by drawing our attention to these regulations tonight. Perhaps many of his colleagues in this noble House might have got off the mark more quickly than they did, and I must plead guilty to that. But the fact that he was there and anxious to take up the cudgels is, I think, greatly to his credit and something which puts the House in his debt.

    I am increasingly worried about the reckless disregard of safety measures in this country. I think that it is absolutely crazy to import nuclear waste into the United Kingdom. It is even crazier to take it around the country on the railways. An accident could do untold harm—the sort of harm that it is almost impossible for us to envisage. Now, when people are getting really alarmed about the impact of nuclear waste and other waste upon the community, the Government are encouraging the local authorities to take the problem less seriously than they have been taught to do since the 1972 Act. That must be wrong. I think that my noble friend Lady Birk is so right in what she has said. If I could put the point of view of the noble Lord, Lord Digby, in a rather different way, it cannot be right that two-thirds of the waste which is now regarded, under the 1972 Act, as environmentally significant will be non-notifiable if the regulations become the law. It really is a most unsatisfactory regulation.

    This morning I had the pleasure of spending some time with Mr. Geoffrey Waterer, the chairman of the ACC's Consumer Services Committee. He expanded at some length on the kind of horrors to which the noble Lord, Lord Digby, drew our attention. Mr. Waterer has been the chairman of Essex County Council which covers one of the areas most seriously affected by toxic wastes; the Lancashire county council, which is seriously affected, too, has also been in touch with me, as have many of the metropolitan authorities. When one thinks of the problem that waste constitutes, in counties such as Essex and Lancashire, and probably large parts of South Wales, one is horrified that the Government are taking this rather casual approach to the problem.

    I do not want to speak at length, because many noble Lords want to take part in this brief debate. However, I believe that the definition is utterly unsatisfactory. I think that it is grossly at variance with the views of my noble friend Lady White, who I hope will take part in the debate, and who, with the noble Lord, Lord Ashby, has made the most tremendous contribution to the study of the impact of waste on the environment in Great Britain. However, I hope that my noble friend will express herself on that tonight.

    I simply say that I believe that the definition of "toxicity" is completely unsatisfactory, and I hope that the Government will accede to the suggestion from my noble friend Lady Birk that there should be amending legislation. If they do say that, there would be no harm in these regulations going through, but it is a most inept and badly calculated piece of legislation.

    My Lords, I should like, briefly, to intervene in this evening's debate purely as a member of your Lordships' Committee on Science and Technology, which—as the noble Lord, Lord Digby, and the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said—set up a sub-committee only last November to consider the whole area of hazardous toxic waste disposals. I have no doubt that the chairman of the committee, the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, would have wished to take part in this evening's debate, but he is unavoidably detained at meetings in Manchester. When he discussed this matter with me last week we agreed the line that might be taken this evening, so that anything I say is said with his agreement.

    My noble friend Lord Digby has drawn attention—as, indeed, have the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale—to the fears expressed not only by the waste disposal authorities but also by the county councils and others to these regulations. As I said, the sub-committee was convened only last November. It is currently taking evidence on these and many other matters.

    I fear to tell your Lordships that the committee's deliberations are likely to take somewhat longer than was first anticipated. It may very well be some months —perhaps many months—rather than weeks before that committee is able to report. As my noble friend said, this is because this is a dangerous matter. It is not a matter that can be most easily considered. I should not like to mislead your Lordships this evening by attempting to answer one side or the other. I think that that might very well be misleading. Indeed, any impression that I personally may have gained in the few weeks that this committee has sat has not been endorsed by my noble colleagues, and it would be far better if I stay purely and simply on that one side.

    The committee has given consideration to the regulations since they have been tabled. It took note of my noble friend's prayer. We would assure your Lordships that anything that is said tonight will be given very careful consideration, as will all the evidence that will undoubtedly come forward as a result of the publicity and the prominence given to this matter this evening. If I do not give any indication as to which way the committee may or may not move in this particular matter, I would ask my noble friend Lord Avon on the Front Bench for an assurance that, whatever may happen later this evening, this committee's deliberations and subsequent report will be equally well considered by the Government at whatever time it may come out.

    The matter under discussion this evening is perhaps not quite as narrow as my noble friend illustrated. It is right to consider the whole question of a national policy for hazardous waste disposal. I think it is equally right that I should draw your Lordships' attention to the wideness of the investigation that the committee is currently carrying out. It will hopefully report before the end of this year, although it will certainly be many months hence; and it is hoped that the report will be helpful in determining any action that the Government may wish to take in so far as a national policy is concerned.

    7.52 p.m.

    My Lords, I am indeed grateful, as indeed are all other Members of the House, to the noble Lord, Lord Digby, for having raised this matter. I sympathise with him over the influenza germ, I also having suffered a little while past from that affliction. But I must with all due gratitude to him, say that I feel that the local authority associations between them could have taken steps to see that those of us in this House who are interested in this matter but who are not in the privileged position of the members of the Select Committee on Science and Technology received their papers before this morning.

    I was in Wales over the weekend. There was a notice on the Order Paper only last Thursday, as I understand it, that the noble Lord proposed to raise this matter, and frankly I have been too much preoccupied today with other matters to which I had to attend to be able to give adequate attention to this subject. Therefore, with the greatest possible personal gratitude to the noble Lord, I feel that the local authority associations have rather let down some of us who are closely interested in this matter.

    I have received the notes from the Association of County Councils who, as they remind us on their letter heading, represent a population of some 30 million, in which they say:
    "In their present form the Association of County Councils believes that the regulations would be unworkable, inadequate, and virtually unenforceable, but up to now the Environment Department has refused to introduce amendments considered essential by the Association".
    That is a strong expression of opinion from one of the major local authority associations in this country, and entirely justifies the noble Lord, Lord Digby, in raising this matter tonight.

    I should perhaps say that in the few hours that I have had, interspersed with other business, to master this subject and refresh my memory of my previous interest in it, I found that this particular statutory instrument was singularly unloved anywhere but in the Department of the Environment, so it seems. None of the local authority associations I have been able to contact today has anything good to say of it. It seems to me that the Government should be very careful as to the response they give tonight in the face of this virtually unanimous condemnation of the statutory instrument as presented to us by Her Majesty's Government.

    I should perhaps explain that I am a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, and have been for some years. I am also chairman of the European Economic Community Select Committee of your Lordships' House, and also chairman of the Sub-Committee on the Environment, which reported on the draft directive as long ago as 1976. There has been plenty of time for this matter to be thoroughly considered, and for the consultations—which have been rather hurried, as I understand it, in the last few months —to have taken place much sooner than they appear to have done.

    My other interest in this matter is particularly because I am much concerned with the administrative pattern in Wales. In the Principality the disposal authorities for waste, including toxic waste, are the district councils, not the counties. We have 37 districts in Wales. I shall come to the Welsh aspect of this matter in a moment or two. Whether the English counties are able to cope or not seems extremely doubtful. A fortiori, the Welsh districts are very unlikely to be able to cope, and have said so publicly and also through the Welsh Office to the Department of the Environment.

    Perhaps it is indicative of the way in which the Department of the Environment does not even now appreciate the difference between the English pattern of administration and the Welsh that they did not even make certain that copies of the proposed statutory instrument were sent at all to the district councils in Wales. They sent a copy by grace to what is called the Council of the Principality, which is the Association of District Councils in Wales, and the environmental health officers concerned also, I think through their own headquarters, received a copy. Both bodies have expressed their deep concern at the difficulties which they foresee should this statutory instrument, these regulations, be accepted tonight and should there be no undertaking that there would be further amending legislation before they come into effect next March.

    May I take my European Economic Community interest first? I should be grateful if the noble Earl would clarify the situation as to the true relationship of these regulations with the directive of the Community of 1978, to which my noble friend Lady Birk referred. It is also referred to in the Association of County Councils' notes, particularly on the matter of definition. I hope that the noble Earl will be in a position to elaborate a little on this, and to make it clear whether there is any discrepancy or not between these regulations and that draft directive and, if so, in what direction it lies. My recollection is that the draft directive went much wider, as my noble friend Lady Birk suggested, than the three categories of special waste which are designated in the statutory instrument which is before us.

    In particular, of course, as my noble friend Lord Greenwood of Rossendale also indicated, in the draft directive, according to my recollection—and I simply have not had time to check with the text of the final directive—one of the major concerns was protection of the environment and also human health, which is different of course from human life. You can have damage to health which is not necessarily fatal. But the regulations in front of us seem to be very much narrower, and I just wondered what changes have taken place since we took evidence in 1977 from the Department on the directive, which was at that time still in draft. The spokesman for the department said:
    "The primary purpose should be to protect the environment".
    That seems somehow to have got lost in the wash. Perhaps the noble Earl can explain exactly what has happened.

    Another matter which concerned us in the report on the draft directive which we made to your Lordships' House was that of adding substances to or subtracting substances from the list in the EEC context, which must presumably affect the list included in these regulations. It was proposed at that time that it should be done by the Commission through a technical progress committee working on a simple majority. For various reasons that was considered to be unsatisfactory and perhaps the Minister could enlighten us as to what has happened on that.

    I feel I can best serve the interests of this debate by considering the Welsh situation because it illustrates sharply some of the difficulties which appear likely to arise in implementing these draft regulations. I do so, as I say, partly because the administrative pattern in Wales is different. A district council does not employ a toxicologist and is unlikely so to do. The suggested change in the balance of administration, which means work on site, will be extremely difficult to carry out with the kind of resources that are available to the disposal authorities in the Principality. I am well aware of course that there are some district councils in the more rural parts of Wales which are not troubled by the problem of special wastes, but we have about a score of district councils in Wales which have this problem and I am informed that eight of them receive wastes from other authorities, and that adds to the complications of the matter.

    The Welsh districts came together to consider the Section 17 regulations and, as I trust the noble Earl has been informed, came to a formal condemnation of them in terms too long for me to quote tonight, but they began by saying that the regulations as proposed,
    "will not enable waste disposal authorities in Wales to control hazardous wastes in a safe, effective or economic manner".
    They were very much concerned about the toxicological factors and considered that the proposals in the regulations,
    "are impractical and extremely difficult to operate".
    They pointed out that in any case there was a serious lack of reliable data relating to human toxicological factors and that evidence from animal pathology was not always relevant. They foresaw great difficulty in getting the kind of evidence which would stand up in court, if actions were brought, and pointed out that they simply did not have the staff to cope with the situations that could arise. Incidentally, they complained about the complexity of the language employed in this particular statutory instrument, and perhaps that will have to be interpreted for them. They were very much concerned also with the fact that water authorities in Wales would no longer have automatic notification, and that brings me to the other point of particular concern in the Principality.

    A good many of your Lordships who are not Welsh are no doubt aware that you nevertheless drink Welsh water; we have, after all, a geographical and geological situation in which we are particularly liable to water contamination if anything goes wrong. As one of the environmental officers who I telephoned this afternoon said, "The people in Whitehall think the earth is flat. We in Wales have the kind of topography which encourages leach ate in all directions", and this, too, greatly concerns the Welsh district councils: they believe that the particular problems of water supply and the potential leachate of some of these dangerous substances have not been adequately taken into account in the proposals made in these regulations.

    We have very few sites, particularly in South Wales, suitable for the tipping of ordinary domestic refuse, let alone of the two-thirds of the toxic substances which are being removed from the list, and, as I say, the environmental health officers—certainly those with whom I have been able to talk this afternoon—are considerably apprehensive about not knowing which of what we might call the discarded list substances are to be tipped in particular places, if sites can be found at all for them, and what the synergistic effects of more than one substance on the same tip may prove to be, and what records will be kept of these other substances. Site licensing by itself is not enough. They seem to be absolutely firm on that. They refer of course to the laudable practice of using subsequently land which has had waste tipped on it for building, sports fields and other purposes, but they are considerably appre- hensive about what may happen if they lack knowledge of what precisely has been tipped.

    At present a number of special wastes are not disposed of directly in Welsh authority areas at all; we transport a large proportion of the most toxic to sites in England and even Scotland. We have one international firm which deals with highly toxic substances, the Rechaem Company near Pontypool, and the apprehension among some local authorities is that even that facility might be taken from us if it is no longer necessary for industrial firms to use its services for what one might call—perhaps this is not a very happy phrase—the bread and butter work, for substances on the discarded list, if they no longer have to be treated by that firm. Indeed, it may find it is no longer economic for it to deal with the substances remaining on the list. It is under-employed at the moment, and of course I cannot vouch for its position and perhaps it would be improper to base one's argument on one firm. Nevertheless, there is real apprehension in the minds of the Welsh authorities.

    I repeat, they are particularly concerned about the relationship with the Welsh Water Authority and, to a lesser degree, with Severn-Trent, which has a wide catchment area in the Principality though not much of it is industrial. They rely very strongly indeed on the services of the scientific staff of the water authority and they are concerned lest there should be a hiatus between deposits of wastes and the possible precautions which might be taken, particularly against leachate, if the water authority were brought in at an earlier stage and not only when something has gone wrong.

    I am sure that the councils of the Principality, the district councils in Wales, are fully in accord with the comments of the Association of County Councils. They do not feel that Annexes A and B and the circular issued by the Department of the Environment do anything significant to relieve the anxiety which is widespread.

    I hope that I have said enough in this short debate to indicate that had some of us received part of this material a little earlier, there might have been a much stronger attendance in the House this evening, and the noble Earl should not reckon that because we are relatively few in number here the matter is not the subject of very considerable concern which has to be taken really seriously.

    8.10 p.m.

    My Lords, I shall perhaps surprise the noble Baroness, Lady White, by saying that I support the regulations. I am advised in what I have to say by the Confederation of British Industry, which represents a large interest of industrialists throughout the country. As I understand it, the proposals for the regulations, based as they are on the directive which is referred to in the explanatory note of the regulations, have been under consideration in long and involved discussions with all the interested parties for three years—embodying the time when the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, was at the Department of the Environment. Therefore matters were obviously being discussed quite well in the early stages, if, from her point of view, they were not in the latter stages.

    The point is that there has been much discussion, and to suggest that the regulations have been insuffici- ently studied and have been abruptly thrust upon an unwilling nation, which I feel is the sense of what has been said by many of the speakers on the Benches opposite, is really a bit of a nonsense—

    My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? I shall be very brief, but I should like to intervene since he mentioned me and what had happened at the department. Is the noble Lord aware that in 1979 a consultation paper was put out by the department? That was after the present Government came into office. Nevertheless conclusions reached differed considerably from what are contained in the regulations this evening. It is true that there was an inclusive list, but it certainly did not give the definition that is contained in these regulations; nor was there any reference to danger to the health of a 4½-year-old child. So there has been a very considerable change.

    Perhaps, my Lords, the noble Baroness would go along with the thought that that means that there has been a lot of discussion. People have actually developed their thinking. They have not relied on what was current thinking in 1979. I would not really know, but that is a possible explanation.

    However, unlike some noble Lords, I should like to speak very briefly about this subject, since I feel that most of what needs to be said will probably be said by my noble friend on the Front Bench. To sum up, the CBI supports the principal features of the regulations, and it would oppose any further delay in their implementation. It supports the emphasis which the Department of the Environment places on the interpretation of the regulations, using a circular of advice and technical memoranda. The CBI does not regard the regulations as perfect, and it suggests that in such a complex field it is highly unlikely that any such regulations ever will be perfect. But certainly industry wants, and is prepared to come to terms with, and operate, the new system. The CBI sees no merit whatsoever in delaying yet further the introduction of the regulations.

    8.14 p.m.

    My Lords, I rise to speak with at least a little experience of this matter. For four years I was a representative of your Lordships' House in the European Parliament and I was a member of the environmental committee. This directive was constantly before us for the first two years that I was a member of the committee. I want to reiterate what the noble Baroness, Lady White, said—that our main concern when discussing the EEC directive was that we should take great note of water pollution and health risks generally. It was constantly said around the committee table, by representatives from all member countries, that the polluter must pay. That is a well-known saying, but looking at the legislation in the form of the regulations one sees what is perhaps a turning back of the clock, with a relaxation of the dictum that the polluter must pay.

    I want to support what my noble friend Lady Birk said in her intervention. It was in August 1979 that the Department of the Environment brought forth its draft regulations, which received widespread criticism from many quarters. The criticism was mainly from environmentalists and the local authority associations, and latterly from the organisation to which the noble Lord was referring when my noble friend Lady Birk interrupted him. However, it was not until September 1980 that the department issued definitive regulations; but there had been no intermediate consultative document sent to the objectors in the meantime. I find that fact particularly worrying, bearing in mind that the original idea behind deciding on sites where waste could be disposed of was to overcome the great dangers in the country arising from what we called "cowboy" dumping, by which people get rid of anything, anywhere, without regard to the consequences. Those people got rid of the waste. They were paid a price by whoever had produced it, without regard to environment and health. The Government took that situation in hand and brought forward legislation to cover it.

    It is particularly worrying to find that one day 70 per cent. of disposable toxic waste is undesirable, whereas the next day the figure is much smaller, down perhaps to 6 per cent. The general public regard it as particularly worrying that the Government feel that this relaxation regarding hazardous waste is necessary.

    Perhaps I may quickly give your Lordships an example of what we came across in the Warrington new town development corporation, of which I am a member. The prime site for development in Warrington new town was the Risley Ordnance factory. It was a very large factory, built during the war years, in concrete bunkers underground, for the production of heavy forms of artillery used in connection with submarines and suchlike. The bunkers have been got rid of during the last two years, and test bores at the site have shown that there had been leaks, arising from the factory disposing of material just on top of the soil outside the bunkers. Over the years due to corrosion and liberation of the material, the leakage had penetrated as far as a water table. No doubt during the war years many things were done that would not be done now. But that example shows that it can take many years for the dangers of hazardous wastes to build up. It has cost Warrington new town development corporation a considerable amount of money to get rid of that hazard.

    There seems to be a difficulty in the regulations when it comes to defining the waste as being special. I wonder whether it is right to have an exemption, regardless of whether the material is disposed of by a waste disposal authority, discharged into a pipeline, or dumped on a factory site, because if you are giving exemptions to perhaps one category of people, you will ultimately find that they become loopholes in the Act. As an example, I think that if one reads the press today it will be found that even though we on this side of the House spent long hours on the Housing Bill there is a serious loophole in the Act to do with housing associations.

    I do not want to keep noble Lords here very much longer, but in conclusion I should like to say that after listening to the noble Lord, Lord Digby, I find it very difficult to come to terms with the Government on what they call "special", and how one can test it. I think Lord Digby gave a good example of the difficulties in putting that to the test, and this was also borne out by my noble friend Lady Birk. Unless we can get rows and rows of little children of so many kilogrammes in weight, or whatever, we are not going to be able to put the tests into operation. Therefore, I see in the regulations a deliberate relaxation by the Government of what I would call good safety standards, and my final words are that I find the regulations retrogressive.

    8.22 p.m.

    My Lords, at this late hour I do not seek to detain the House for long, but I, too, should like to express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Digby, for bringing this matter to our attention. It is a very important matter and I agree so strongly with my noble friend Lady White that it is regrettable that the Association of County Councils did not draw these regulations to our attention in November last year, when surely they could have done so. I think our method of disposing of hazardous waste is terribly primitive and exceedingly wasteful. All we do is look for holes in the ground and then let the waste be dumped there, without any effort at all at the reclamation of quite valuable products in the waste which were not of use to the firm which produced it and which would be costly to recover. Because of the economic controls under which we live this waste is therefore just dumped; but I suppose that in the times in which we live this is not the moment to try to do something about it, so we go on with our primitive practices.

    The present regulations, as everybody has been saying, are primarily, as I read them, to control the movement of these hazardous wastes; but, as we have heard from previous speakers, the local authorities who in fact control and license the disposal are, for a whole variety of reasons, finding them still completely unsatisfactory. As we have heard, meetings have been going on for several years, but I am informed that still there are these outstanding matters and that the authorities and the Government have not yet managed to resolve their differences. It seems to me quite wrong that this order should come before us now, when perhaps a few more months could have resolved the difficulties and we would not have had to have the regulations now and then further amending regulations in a few months' time—although I hope the Government will see fit to bring them forward for I am sure they will be necessary. It is a very untidy and unsatisfactory way to deal with matters: either these differences should have been dealt with earlier and the regulations should have come to us at this date complete to meet the deadline of the EEC, or else we should have postponed them and come to them a little later. It is not a very satisfactory way to go on, in my view.

    The county councils have expressed, and are still expressing, their concern about the regulations. They say they are inadequate, and say that more consideration must be given to certain grey areas (as they term them) if public health and safety and the environment are to be properly protected. Surely every Member of this House, those present and those not present, would wish to do everything possible to protect public health and to protect the environment. One cannot go too far in being careful. I have in my hand a letter dated 10th November—these regulations were I think laid in another place on 17th November. It is quite a long letter from the Association of County Councils, setting out to an official in the DOE their concerns about the regulations, and raising a whole number of points that they say have been talked about before but they are still not satisfied about; and there is still misunderstanding between the two sets of officials who are carrying out the discussions.

    I could quote this letter at length, but it is late and, as I say, I do not want to detain the House too long. However, there is a paragraph which causes me considerable concern, and if your Lordships will allow me I will read it:
    "Although it is appreciated that an attempt has been made in the technical annexes to clarify the position, it must be emphasised that the theoretical foundation of the calculations remains highly unsatisfactory. We are sorry to have to say that all the earlier reservations expressed still remain. Firstly, the reliability of human toxicity data is extremely poor. The information given in NIOSH's registry of toxic effects of chemical substances' is very sparse and details for other mammals are not as full as would be required for the definition of special waste. The extrapolation from figures for a rat or rabbit to a 20 kilogramme child is impossible and, therefore, the resulting value used in calculation is meaningless. Another variable is waste density…which depends on the compaction figure for the waste. This again will affect the calculation of the limiting concentration of a component in a waste. There may be a temptation for perplexed industrialists to dilute their wastes in order to render them non-special and therefore outside the notification procedure, thus increasing the liquid loading on disposal systems and increasing the production of leachate. Little thought has been given to the inevitable effects of the deposit of incompatible wastes which will not be classified as special wastes";
    and so they go on. I find it most disconcerting that these regulations should come through at the very time when the Association of County Councils are writing in these terms. It is a long letter, and is very detailed; but they come forward with these points and apparently no notice is taken of them.

    I am not a technical person and, as did other Members of this House, I received this information from the county councils with the knowledge that this matter was to be debated here this evening. I received it only on Saturday, and I was therefore not able to make any proper inquiries for my own enlightenment until this morning. But this morning I rang up the GLC officers whose job it is to deal with these particular problems, and I am glad to say that they were able to come over and talk to me about them. They are exceedingly concerned. I said to them, "What are the grey areas that you refer to? What sort of things are they that will be dumped on any dump and you will not have any knowledge of, or will not be able to control; or in respect of which, if the regulations stand as they are proposed, you say you will have to have very special and highly-trained officers present all the time—a most expensive business and not a saving at all?"

    What are we talking about? They give me these kind of instances. They say, first, lithium batteries, those little batteries used in radio communication. At present, they have to be notified; but they will not be "special" under Section 17; and when water is applied to them, there is a fire risk. If they go on an ordinary dump and there is water there, or some effluent with a lot of water in it is deposited there, there is a fire risk. A fire risk on any dump is a health hazard to the people who live near it and is quite serious. They talk of sodium street lamps. These are normally smashed and then mixed with water to make them harmless; but if there is no control over them they can be dumped and not rendered harmless and, again, you get a fire risk.

    Then, of oil and water mixtures, they say that in small quantities they are not dangerous; but there are producers of 1,500 gallons a month with a 15 per cent. oil content. At present, they would have to be notified. Under these regulations, they would not have to be notified. They would cause pollution of the ground through seepage. Then, organo-metals, which, I am told, are chemically-mixed metals. In London, they say, there is a firm producing 18 tons a quarter of containers which themselves are contaminated. There is apparently little knowledge at the moment about the toxicity of these things, but they are believed to be highly dangerous. At present, they can be dealt with under the regulations; but they would just go with ordinary waste under the proposed regulations. They say the proposed regulations, in a lot of ways, are not as good as the existing regulations. They are only better so far as transport arrangements are concerned. It is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs.

    They give me a further list of other substances, ending up with metallic mercury which could discharge into water and form methol mercury and be very dangerous. The fire risk is a real one because if methane gas were produced on dumps, and some substances were to set fire to the dump, there could be explosions and there would be a hazard to life. It is a very serious matter; I am sure we are all certain of that. I understand that the local authority officers consider that, unless amendments are made, the existing regulations are really preferable to the regulations being put in front of us this evening. I hope that the noble Earl will be able to give us some comfort when he replies on this perplexing and worrying subject.

    8.34 p.m.

    My Lords, I welcome this opportunity to speak on the Control of Pollution (Special Waste) Regulations. They bring about important changes in the controls over disposal of hazardous wastes. We are taking a step forward and not a step backwards. There have been extensive and protracted consultations with public and private sectors which have preceded the laying of these regulations and any criticism over consultation being made in haste is unfounded. Although these bodies have not always agreed with each other or with the department, there has been considerable uniformity of view in terms of general principles and objectives. I have before me (as have most noble Lords) the papers from the A.C.C. and I have the essential matters to be resolved. They have listed nine such matters. If I could break them down quickly and say that four of those the Government are either doing or will be shortly done, three of them the Government do not agree with and—I think the Government are entitled to disagree with one or two of their points. Of the other two points outstanding, one at the moment is a matter of interpretation and the other a matter of law. So, out of the nine, we are dealing with four.

    My Lords, I could tell you at the end; but if I read them all now it would take a long time.

    My Lords, No. 2 is being done. No. 4 is being done, as already promised. No. 9 will be done quickly and No. 5 is being done already. I should like to sympathise with the noble Baroness, Lady White, over the short period of notification she had in this matter. I could say I was in the same boat and have spent the weekend up to my eyes in waste. She also made the comment that there were very few people present tonight. I think that the speeches have all been so formidable that what we lose in numbers we gain in knowledge. Having said this about the Association of County Councils, I think I ought to say that they have been hardly fair in their comments as there has been considerable give and take between divers bodies.

    The noble Lord, Lord Digby, mentioned unanimity. We have already heard that the CBI is on the other side of this particular fence. I have had a letter from one of the leading waste disposal industrial firms which is frankly very "anti" the Association of County Councils. We must give the Government some credit for steering a course here between both sides which we think is a wise one. I have seen a letter also from Suffolk County Council, which approves of this regulation and has written to the press saying so.

    However, to get on to the major topic, I shall endeavour, first, to explain the background of the regulations as we see them and describe their effect. It is a complex subject and I think it is proper to put the proposals in their proper perspective from the Government's point of view. As the House will be aware, before 1972 the protection of the environment and the population from the dangers of hazardous waste disposal was left to the various controls exercised under planning, public health and alkali Acts.

    Noble Lords will recall the discovery some years ago of dangerous wastes found dumped in such a way as to pose a serious threat. That led to the introduction of the Bill which became the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act 1972. This was specifically intended to curb abuse without disrupting responsible waste disposal practice. It made the deposit of poisonous, noxious or polluting waste on land in a way which would be liable to cause danger to people or animals or pollute a water supply an offence, and required that local and river authorities be notified about the type of quantity of certain wastes arising in their area. This relatively straightforward control had much to commend it when regulatory authorities and the waste producers themselves had little knowledge either of the composition of some of their wastes or the effects of their disposal. But, welcome though it was, this legislation was never intended as more than a stop-gap measure and has now been with us much longer than was originally anticipated.

    With the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act, the Government and Parliament were responding to cases which demonstrated the deficiencies in the then-existing controls. In pollution control, the real need is to anticipate problems and to practise prevention; and not to be forced into taking measures in the face of an emergency. In the same year, therefore the Local Government Act 1972 laid the foundations of preventive control with the creation of waste disposal authorities. Then, in 1974, Part I of the Control of Pollution Act set out to deal comprehensively with the problems of waste disposal on land. In 1976, the waste disposal licensing provisions of the Act were implemented. Since that time, it has been an offence to process, treat or dispose of controlled waste—that is, domestic commercial or industrial waste—other than at a site specifically licensed for the purpose and in accordance with the conditions of that licence.

    I should like to take up one point that the noble Baroness, Lady Denington, made. I think that this is a situation where we are still learning. I have just told you the history showing moves in 1972, 1974 and 1976. It should not surprise us that there is something happening now and I think that there will be some more things happening in the not too distant future. This is a continuing process.

    Waste disposal authorities are responsible for issuing licences for private sites with a specific view to minimising risks of water pollution or danger to public health, and for ensuring that their own sites are operated to the same high standards. The licensing system is now established as the primary control at the point of disposal of all controlled wastes, including toxic and hazardous wastes from chemical and industrial processes. Many volumes of detailed technical advice in the form of waste management papers have been published by the department and provide guidance on site licensing and management and equally underline the department's keen interest in this subject.

    This is the background against which the new controls are being introduced. The licensing system provides for the supervised, secure disposal of all controlled wastes, and the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act defines particular wastes which must not be disposed of without prior notification to the relevant authorities. This is what is to be narrowed. The two measures at the moment overlap; also, there is a significant gap which the new controls will remedy: I shall come to that point in a minute.

    The amount of paper generated by the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act notification system has disadvantages. A number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Digby, talked about water. The National Water Council would like to see water authorities relieved of the burden of dealing with this paper because it believes that co-operation between water and waste disposal authorities in the licensing, planning and monitoring process provides them with a proper means of protecting water supplies. There are also reports from time to time in the technical press which indicate that the waste disposal authorities themselves do not have the resources to deal with what, in some cases, are scores of thousands of notifications each year.

    Part I of the Control of Pollution Act has been implemented in stages since 1974. The next stage after the implementation of the site licensing system was the preparation of the regulations under Section 17, which noble Lords have been debating this evening. The Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act 1972 is to be repealed by a separate order. The site licensing provisions will remain as the control over the actual disposal of controlled waste. The new regulations under Section 17 will form the legislative control of the movement of special waste to its point of disposal and thus fill the gap which at present exists in terms of a positive procedure over movement of the more hazardous wastes—and I use the expression "from cradle to grave". This I suggest is of prime importance and really urgent, and I recommend your Lordships to agree to it.

    Section 17 of the 1974 Act places a duty on the Secretaries of State to make provision by regulations for the disposal of those controlled wastes which are particularly difficult or dangerous to dispose of. Such wastes are referred to in Section 17 and in the regulations as "special wastes". So, in place of the old definition of "notifiable" waste which comprised a large number of controlled wastes, the regulations will provide a definition of special waste which will cover a narrow range of the most difficult and dangerous controlled wastes. By altering that definition, controls merely over the notification of up to two-thirds of the former notifiable wastes will be relaxed, but tighter controls will be provided over the carriage and notification of special wastes than currently exist. I must make it clear, however, that controls over their disposal at licensed sites are not being relaxed and the duty on waste disposal authorities to monitor the operation of those sites remains unchanged. We have estimated that local authorities and the waste disposal industry will be relieved of up to two-thirds of the paperwork required under the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act system. They will therefore be able to shift the emphasis of their controls from operating the notification procedure to closer supervision and control in the field.

    To those who argue that the relaxation of notification procedures will bring about an increase in environmental hazards, I say this is just not so. Part I of the 1974 Act secures the proper and safe disposal of all controlled wastes at a suitable site licensed for that purpose. Neither the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act nor Section 17 regulations can do that; the latter are concerned with the transport of waste to its point of disposal—thereafter, the manner of its disposal is the subject of licensing controls. They complement the provisions of Part I of the Act, and are not a replacement or an alternative.

    I should like to come now to the provisions of the new regulations, because I think that we have rather tended not to accept that there are quite a lot of new things here. The new regulations make the following provisions, and I think that your Lordships will find that they are more stringent. Regarding transmission, the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale mentioned international trade in waste, and the noble Baroness, Lady White, talked about waste in the Principality, both in the context of movement. Section 17 does tighten this up. The following provisions arc in the new regulations. They require waste producers to inform waste disposal authorities of their intention to dispose of consignments of special waste. They provide for a consignment note system which allows confirmation that any particular consignment of special waste has been disposed of at a site licensed to receive it or run by a local authority. They require a register to be kept. They require a permanent record of the location of disposal. That is something new. They provide a power for the Secretaries of State to direct that special waste shall be received at a particular site or plant. That is essentially an emergency provision. Finally, they provide that radioactive waste—which also has the characteristics of special waste—shall be subject to the forms of control appropriate to each.

    My department will again be providing detailed guidance on the application of these regulations in the form of a circular with two technical annexes and a substantial waste management paper. This will explain in great detail how the status of waste can be clearly determined using the criteria of the regulations.

    I should like now to turn to some of the points raised during the course of the debate. First, I must apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady White. Apparently, I have used the wrong numbers on the paragraphs. I referred to (4) and I think it probably should be (iii) (b). If I may write and clarify that, I shall be grateful.

    The noble Lord, Lord Digby, produced for us some technical examples and I am informed that all the examples that he quoted are covered by the respective disposal by site licence conditions which will be in such terms so as to prevent the events that he is predicting.

    A number of noble Lords made comments on the five cubic centimetres of waste to a hypothetical 20 kilogramme child. That yardstick is based on the belief that existing controls over the movement of certain waste materials are inadequate, so it is a step forward, a step in the right direction. Why do we use this? A standard body weight of 20 kilogrammes, equivalent to a four to five year old child, is prescribed simply to enable the conversion of published toxicity data normally expressed in terms of a weight of toxic substance per unit body weight to an actual weight of substance. So this is something which when we produce our explanatory papers is meant to simplify things and not to complicate matters.

    The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, mentioned glue waste in Cheshire, and the problem which we identified there may well have been partly due to the nature of the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act itself. Producers often use descriptions and sometimes these hide the problems. On the other hand, the consignment note procedure in the new regulations will require more detailed descriptions, and will enable the receiving local authority to identify the waste correctly—

    My Lords, I wonder whether I may intervene. I was using that only as an example of the main point. The home authority, the local authority whence it comes, is not under an obligation here to be informed. That is the problem. It is not a question of whether these happen to be certain solvents. The point is that the local authority whence the waste comes understands the industrial processes in its area. That is the worry that many of us have.

    My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for making that point. But we seem to be getting away from the fact that the step forward is to put better controls over the 25 per cent., without relaxing the other ones.

    May I now come on to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady White? She asked about the amendments to the list of substances in the operation of the regulations. This does apply to the regulations. There will be means of amending the list of substances. The noble Baroness, Lady White, and also the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, talked about the directive. The European directive leaves the detailed application of the requirements largely to individual nations and the primary route for protection of the environment in the United Kingdom lies in the site licensing provisions. This is to be supplemented by the new regulations which, again, are in accordance with the directive. These regulations are such that they will cover most, if not all, of the wastes which are likely to cause an environmental impact, in addition to the wastes which have been most hazardous to persons.

    The noble Baroness, Lady White, spoke about Wales. District councils in Wales have responsibility for the current arrangements, their sites are controlled by the licensing provisions and they will continue to be so protected. There are, as she said, relatively few disposal sites and the management and supervisory problems are consequently less. All the information and advice from the Department of the Environment in the circular and the waste management paper will, of course, be made available to them.

    By bringing these regulations into force, we shall comply with an outstanding requirement of the European directive. When we talk about timing, we are meant to have this in being by March, so there is, obviously, a cause for that. But, as I said earlier, there was no haste involved in the discussions. We shall enhance the system of control over waste disposal in Part I of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 by increasing control over the most serious risks, and we shall release resources which are presently deployed on less necessary work.

    During the lengthy discussions and consultations which took place on these proposals, no alternative system was proposed which would not have had serious disadvantages when compared with the one contained in these regulations. All would have suffered from the difficulties either of imprecise, all-enveloping controls, or of detailed and complex rules requiring masses of documentation.

    These regulations are a logical and practical step forward, and I suggest that those who favour blanket controls, and think it better to be safe than sorry, have misunderstood them. The many responsible members of regulatory authorities, industry and departments have striven over a long period to produce these. I do not believe that this is the time for us to forgo the benefits and the vast amount of information gained over eight years' experience under the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act and four years of licensing. Quite clearly, wastes will not suddenly change their characteristics or points of origin when the new regulations are implemented.

    I do not believe that a better system will appear if we wait a little longer and consult further. We need to take a positive step forward, and the Government recognise that it will not be the last we will take along this road. My noble friend Lord Lucas has told us of the work of the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Gregson. In fact, my noble friend Lord Digby also referred to it, as did other noble Lords. This committee is inquiring into the whole subject. Recommendations from its report will be considered in the context of these regulations, and my department looks forward to the recommendations of Lord Gregson's committee in this important area. I have said that this is not the last measure that we will be taking and, without anticipating what the committee will say, I am sure that it will make a very important contribution to future progress. I assure all noble Lords that proceeding with these regulations will in no way alter the consideration of that report.

    The circumstances surrounding the introduction of the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act demonstrated that it is intolerable to wait for disturbing incidents or abuses before developing answers to such questions. What we have here is an improvement on the present arrangements, and the Government do not think we can afford to put it off any longer. Waste disposal authorities have asked for a greater measure of prenotification, specifically for the waste disposal authority where the special waste arises.

    There is another view that there would need to be no pre-notification at all as site licensing covers the position. These regulations strike a balance and provide for pre-notification for the authority where the waste is going, and notification on dispatch with details of the carrier and his vehicle for the area from which the waste has come. Whatever the system, proper co-operation and liaison between the producers, disposal authorities and disposal operators is vital. The only way to decide this question is to monitor the operation of the regulations to see whether experience suggests that change in either direction is necessary. I do not think that anybody opposes the proposal to invoke tighter controls over special waste.

    The disposal of special waste, we all agree, is an important matter. But we must be clear about where we are going, and why. I am pleased to hear that already arrangements are being made to hold a number of informal seminars to discuss practical arrangements for implementing the regulations. I by no means dismiss all the arguments against the approach that we have chosen. The Government undertake that the regulations will be kept under review, in order to see whether any alterations appear appropriate in the light of experience in their working. I hope that, to a degree, that will satisfy the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and others who asked for an undertaking from the Government. I also hope that, in the context of all I have said, my noble friend Lord Digby will agree to withdraw his prayer. The regulations make a number of new provisions, not least the cradle to grave rules. It is the Government's carefully considered advice that now is the time to go forward on these lines. I commend these regulations to the House.

    8.58 p.m.

    My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl for that very long reply, which was given in some detail. I would sum up what he has said by saying that the Government are relying on site licensing and assure us that better controls on 25 per cent. are being produced, without relaxing the rest. This is certainly not the way we read the relaxation of the rest. I must admit to being rather disappointed with that part of the reply.

    I should like particularly to thank those noble Lords opposite who have supported me, and to apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady White, for the fact that she did not have more warning. I am afraid that none of us did. These negotiations have been going on behind the scenes with the department for a long time, and it was rather as a last resort that we decided that we must try to move a prayer in this House. I know that further moves are being made in another place. I think that this debate will have produced a lot of interesting reading, a lot of opinion forming reading, for the country and I hope that it will be given good publicity. However, in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

    Motion, by leave, withdrawn.