Skip to main content

Environment (Legislative Functions from Directives) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

Volume 799: debated on Monday 15 July 2019

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Environment (Legislative Functions from Directives) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

My Lords, this statutory instrument transfers a series of limited, technical legislative functions that are currently conferred by EU environmental directives upon the EU Commission so that after exit day they can be exercised by the Secretary of State or the devolved Administrations. The regulations relate to a number of environmental policy areas: air quality, environmental noise, infrastructure for spatial information, marine, and water quality.

The powers relate to minor elements of the relevant directives. They do not allow for a general change in their implementation. One example of the type of functions being transferred is the power that the Commission currently has under the directive on environmental noise. This is a power to adopt directly applicable tertiary legislation to amend assessment methods for noise indicators in the light of scientific and technical progress. Under this instrument, the Secretary of State and the devolved Administrations will be able to update the corresponding domestic legislation to reflect the latest scientific and technical noise assessment methods.

While this instrument covers a number of directives and policy areas, it does no more than replicate the provisions in the directives so that UK authorities can exercise the powers member states considered were appropriate to delegate to the Commission. These powers will ensure that our domestic legislation continues to function properly. They are limited in nature and are not the kind of functions for which we would generally in the domestic context require primary legislation. They concern technical detail that would normally be dealt with by secondary legislation. If we had to use primary legislation to make the types of changes that will be possible under this instrument, it would take a disproportionate amount of parliamentary time and make it increasingly difficult for the law to keep pace with scientific and technical change. The powers will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny by way of the negative resolution procedure, which, for the reasons I have just mentioned, I believe is suitable due to the limited technical nature of the powers.

Part 2—Regulations 3 to 15—confers functions relating to five EU directives relating to air quality. These are the directives on emissions of volatile organic compounds—known as VOCs—ambient air quality and cleaner air, industrial emissions, medium combustion plants, and national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants. These functions include, for example, a power to specify a common format of monitoring data for VOCs, and to specify rules for determining start-up and shut-down periods for the purpose of certain plants covered by the industrial emissions directive.

The powers in Part 2 that relate to VOCs and national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants are conferred on the Secretary of State. VOCs are a reserved matter. Powers relating to national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants, on the other hand, are devolved, but in this specific case the devolved Administrations have already agreed to their being transferred to the Secretary of State alone to exercise on behalf of the whole UK, because they concern national, UK-wide obligations. In each case, the Secretary of State can act only after the devolved Administrations give their consent, and the Secretary of State must also have regard to requests from devolved Administrations to make regulations.

For all other devolved matters in Part 2, powers are conferred on the “appropriate authority”. The “appropriate authority” is defined for this part by Regulation 4 and means for England, the Secretary of State; for Wales, the Welsh Ministers; for Scotland, the Scottish Ministers; and for Northern Ireland the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

Regulation 14 provides that it is possible for the Secretary of State to make regulations on behalf of one or more devolved Administrations, but only with their agreement. This allows for a common approach and legislation across the UK, providing more certainty for industry and other stakeholders. Regulation 15 provides that the appropriate authority may make regulations under Part 2 only after consulting anyone whose interests appear likely to be substantially affected and any other appropriate persons.

In Part 3 on environmental noise, Regulation 16 transfers limited functions relating only to supplementary noise indicators and assessment methods for noise indicators, which are contained in the EU environmental noise directive. This directive aims to avoid, prevent or reduce the harmful effects of exposure to noise pollution. These functions are conferred on the appropriate authority, defined in the same way as for Part 2.

Part 4 relates to infrastructure of spatial information. Regulations 17 to 22 confer functions under the EU directive, establishing an infrastructure for spatial information, known as the INSPIRE directive. Spatial information refers to specific locations and much environmental information falls into this category. Regulation 18 provides that the Secretary of State is the appropriate authority for England, Wales and Northern Ireland because INSPIRE is devolved only to Scotland, where Scottish Ministers are the appropriate authority. The Secretary of State may also legislate for Scotland if Scottish Ministers consent.

The functions in Regulations 19 to 22 include powers to make provision relating to metadata for spatial data sets and services, and interoperability and harmonisation of spatial data sets and services. These are the technical details of the INSPIRE framework, which the Commission was given power to set out in decisions, rather than in the directive itself.

Part 5 deals with marine strategy. Regulation 23 transfers functions contained in the EU marine strategy framework directive, which aims to protect the marine environment. Part 5 contains powers to lay down specifications and standardised methods to monitor and assess the marine environment, to reflect scientific and technical progress; to specify indicative lists of characteristics, pressures and impacts relevant to marine waters, of,

“characteristics to be taken into account for setting environmental targets”,

and of “requirements for monitoring programmes”; and to specify standardised methods for the application of,

“qualitative descriptors for determining good environmental status”,

of, characteristics, pressures and impacts relevant to marine waters, of

“characteristics to be taken into account for setting environmental targets”,

and of “monitoring programmes”.

Despite covering a mixture of reserved and devolved matters, the devolved Administrations have already agreed that these functions will be conferred on the Secretary of State alone to exercise for the whole of the marine strategy area, as defined in Regulation 3 of the Marine Strategy Regulations. This includes the UK territorial seas, including coastal waters, offshore waters out to the limits of the UK’s renewable energy zone and the sea bed in areas of the UK continental shelf beyond the renewable energy zone.

As with national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants in Part 2, before making regulations under this part relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, or relating to devolved functions, the Secretary of State must obtain the consent of relevant devolved Administrations. The Secretary of State must also consult interested parties including, where appropriate, the Ospar Commission and other international organisations to which we will retain obligations after we leave the EU. The Secretary of State must publish a report on his decision following a consultation. This mirrors the existing approach to consultation relating to the UK’s marine strategy, which is set out in the regulations.

Part 6 covers water quality. Regulations 24 to 46 confer functions contained in eight EU water directives. These directives relate to protection of waters in general—the water framework directive—and the groundwater environmental quality standards, bathing water, drinking water, urban wastewater treatment, nitrates and sewage sludge directives. The functions include powers to set out technical specifications for economic analysis and water-quality monitoring; to specify the procedures for establishing groundwater threshold values, assessing groundwater chemical status and identifying upward trends in groundwater pollutants; to specify the symbols to be used for information on bathing water prohibition and for making provision about the handling of bathing water samples; and to specify reference methods for measuring nitrate levels in water.

The functions are clearly defined and are exercisable in most cases only to adapt the legislation to scientific and technical progress. They are conferred in each case on the appropriate authority, defined by Regulation 25 in the same way as for Part 2. Regulation 25 also provides for the Secretary of State to legislate for devolved Administrations with their consent.

Before making any regulations under this part, Regulation 46 provides that the appropriate authority must consult the appropriate agency—the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales, SEPA or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency as appropriate—and any other persons that the appropriate authority considers appropriate.

The provisions in this instrument ensure that UK law can keep pace with developments after exit. They make no changes to substantive policy content or in regulatory impact. To the extent that they affect devolved matters, the devolved Administrations have, where appropriate, given their consent to both the policy and the wording of the regulations. With that introduction, which was rather lengthy but, I hope, helpful as to the range of the SI, I beg to move.

My Lords, I declare a very old interest as a former chief executive of the Environment Agency and as former chairman of English Nature.

I am very concerned about this set of regulations. The Minister described them as limited but I do not think that they are. The Secretary of State is being given rather broad powers to make amendments by regulation to a wide range of significant legislation, which has really important impacts for the environment. That is made worse by the fact that these regulations have the appearance of having been prepared by different civil servants and glued together at the last minute, because they are rather a mess of inconsistency.

For example, some powers are limited to the extent that the competent authority can make changes only,

“if appropriate to do so as a result of scientific and technical progress”.

However, that requirement does not apply to all the powers—for example, it does not apply to the air-quality regulation or the regulation applying to medium combustion plants. It would be interesting to know why the Minister is happy—if indeed he is—with this range of inconsistency. I will come on to talk more about inconsistencies in other areas. With regard to making changes only as a result of the advance of scientific and technical knowledge, does that mean that the Minister can simply change the regulations that do not have that provision on a whim rather than according to science? I am sure that is not what is intended but one might read that into the regulations.

Of course, the regulations do not define appropriate change as a result of scientific and technical knowledge. If the environment is to be safeguarded, I believe that that has to be not just clarified but interpreted as requiring that powers can be exercised only where the new provisions ensure an equivalent or higher level of environmental protection. That needs to be reflected in the wording of the statutory instrument. There is another flourish of inconsistency that is useful: Regulation 45(2) on the sewage sludge regulation—we get all the good jobs in this House—has a useful additional level of protection, which might be made to refer to all the regulations in this statutory instrument.

Perhaps I may also ask the Minister about the relationship between this set of regulations, with its scientific and technical knowledge requirement, and some of the requirements about advances in scientific and technical knowledge that are already included in the directives. For example, under the industrial emissions directive there is BAT, which means best available technique; and under the urban wastewater treatment directive, there is BATNEEC, which means best available technique not entailing excessive costs. Those are useful ratchet mechanisms, because they go in only one direction—the direction of improvement. However, the regulations do not mention how BAT and BATNEEC will be dealt with under those two directives.

Of course, all the forthcoming changes will be subject to negative scrutiny. It is not a question of more scrutiny taking disproportionate time, but it is inadequate to say that they will go through on the negative procedure because that does not give adequate credence to their importance. There is always a risk of weakening existing environmental protection by cock-up rather than conspiracy, if the Committee will pardon that technical term. I vividly remember the day when the Government announced that there were one-third fewer breaches of the air quality directive in London, before we quietly pointed out to them behind the scenes that that was because the budget had been cut and there were one-third fewer monitoring stations, especially in areas of high pollution, so inevitably there were one-third fewer exceedances. Even with the best of intentions, there needs to be a higher level of scrutiny to make sure that there is no inadvertent, even if not deliberate, weakening of existing environmental protection.

There is also inconsistency in the duty to consult. For example, some of the regulations talk about consulting, as the Minister mentioned, but there is a very good consultative body—the UK technical advisory group—for the water framework directive, the groundwater directive and the priority substances directive, yet no mention of those directives needing consultation despite the standard and regular consultation process that already goes on with it.

At the end of the day, there is the vexed question of compliance. You could say that it is Parliament’s job to scrutinise secondary legislation and make sure that it is okay, but the reality is that we will have a new environmental regulator. Prior due diligence on the sorts of changes that would go through in secondary legislation is not currently in that regulator’s role, and it ought to be.

My Lords, our Benches certainly accept that, if we are to leave the European Union, the Secretary of State or the devolved authorities need these powers to ensure that the legislation, such as it is, does not remain static but moves forward in the light of scientific knowledge and understanding. The number of areas that we are talking about in environmental legislation is reflected in this jumbo statutory instrument, so we also accept that the only way to provide them is probably through the secondary legislation route, given the chances of us being able to get primary legislation slots for all the changes that might be necessary.

However, following what the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, said, we are disappointed that the opportunity has not been taken in this jumbo SI to ensure maximum protection for the environment. That is particularly so when we are having these discussions in advance of an environment Bill that sets the framework for future UK legislation outside Europe; and in advance of creating the office for environmental protection, which, in addition to statutory authorities such as the environment agencies, will be able to hold people to account.

In a slightly different way, I want to pick up a point that the noble Baroness made about changes being made only in response to scientific and technical advances. In some areas—she alluded to one, and I have another on water quality—the regulations pin down how the Secretary of State or devolved authorities can use these powers. Regulation 32(3) alludes to the fact that the devolved authorities can use the powers on water quality by looking to scientific evidence only where there will be possible harm to the aquatic environment. So, this instrument contains provisions on how the devolved authorities or the Secretary of State can use those powers to protect the environment. If it is good enough in the case of water quality to limit the powers that the Secretary of State can use in response to scientific and technical changes—and to do so only to advance environmental protection—why is that not the case in all areas? The phrase about it being in response to scientific and technical changes does not have a rider; it says that it ensures the equivalent or a higher level of protection for the environment. I think we are both making the same point.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, also mentioned consultation but I want to pick up on a slightly different point. Given the nature of these changes, it is critical that all relevant stakeholders are consulted. However, there is an omission on the issue of environmental noise, which the statutory instrument covers. In his summing up, can the Minister say specifically why environmental noise does not merit consultation? He referred to it in general terms but not specifically. Of course, we can change negative statutory instruments to affirmative ones, but it would reassure us parliamentarians and bring us a degree of comfort if we knew that all the changes had been subjected to scrutiny by all the relevant bodies.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for introducing the SI and for the helpful briefing that he arranged beforehand.

As he explained, this is another of the many SIs that we have considered to transfer legislative functions from the EU and the European Commission to the UK. In this case, the functions are transferred overwhelmingly to the Secretary of State and devolved Ministers. We have debated the limitations of this process many times before; I do not intend to go into all the arguments again but there is an undoubted democratic deficit in transferring powers from a complex European process, with all its checks and balances, to one person, however well intentioned that person may be.

With that in mind, I want to raise some issues and ask some questions. First, the department’s written response to stakeholders on the issue of environmental law governance drew attention to the proposals for the office for environmental protection contained in the draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill, which is intended to provide continued scrutiny and oversight. That Bill, which is not before us yet, now plays a particularly significant role. Because of where we are politically, the withdrawal Bill, which we spent many happy hours arguing over and which had a large number of environmental protections built into it, will not be taken forward; we seem to be losing it. All we have now to underpin environment guarantees is the office for environmental protection, which does not exist yet. What role will that body play in scrutinising the sort of regulations that are before us today and the Secretary of State’s powers in them? For example, is it envisaged that the OEP will collect data and monitor the effectiveness of the regulations? That includes points of detail; as the Minister said, this is about annexes and so on. Will its role go into that sort of detail? Will it also be responsible for scrutinising the Secretary of State’s performance and delivery in carrying out the functions that we are about to give him or her?

Can the Minister clarify what role this new body will play and whether it will have that oversight? While we are on the subject, can he also bring us up to date about when we will see the OEP? It seems the timetable is slipping, yet an awful lot is riding on the future of that organisation. It would be helpful if he could update us on that because, once that body is in place and we have had the assurances about what we hope will be its all-embracing role, some of these other issues will fall into place and we will not be so anxious about them.

Secondly, the Minister will be aware that the Green Alliance has raised concerns that these functions could be exercised with no regulatory oversight and little legislative scrutiny owing to the use of the negative procedure. My noble friend Lady Young and the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, made this point. The department’s answer is that these powers would amend the “non-essential elements” of the directives but, as my noble friend pointed out, we are dealing with not just non-essential issues; they are not just minor or limited, as the Minister chose to try to present them. For example, a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice on an issue of air quality monitoring ruled that failure to implement the requirements of the annexes—we are largely dealing with annexes here—hampered the achievement of the fundamental objective to protect human health. The annexes are often just as important as the main body of the regulations. They are not just “non-essential” provisions. I would be pleased if the Minister could explain in a little more detail why there is blanket reliance on the negative procedure when it might not always be appropriate.

Thirdly, as my noble friend Lady Young said, there appear to be inconsistencies relating to the requirement to consult. She very articulately pointed out all the differences and different levels of consultation in the different regulations. For example, I understand that Regulation 15 stipulates that before making any regulations under Part 2, the Secretary of State must consult,

“bodies or persons … representative of the interests likely to be substantially affected by the regulations”.

That is one form of wording, but this requirement to consult does not apply equally to all the new powers set out in the SI. Can the Minister clarify why it is not a prerequisite to any exercise of power established by this SI that there should be prior consultation? There are two sorts of consultation: consultation of the people who have a particular interest, such as businesses and those required to carry out or uphold some of these regulations, but also public consultations. The public have a great deal of interest in some of these environmental issues. I would be pleased if the Minister could clarify why there is not a more widespread requirement to hold public consultations for some of these proposed changes.

Fourthly, stakeholders, and the noble Baronesses who spoke, have raised concerns about the “scientific and technical progress” stipulation. We all agree with it in principle, but the wording in the SI is ambiguous. For example, paragraph 7.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to updates to the SI being made,

“usually as a result of scientific and technical progress”.

Clearly other factors will be taken into account. Can the Minister advise how such a requirement should be interpreted? Should there not be a more explicit requirement to defer to the latest science throughout the regulations? Should there not also be a greater clarification of what the latest scientific and technical knowledge actually means, including, for example, a requirement that it is provided from an independent, respected source?

What safeguards are in place to ensure that changes made by the Minister using these powers do not weaken rather than strengthen existing environmental protection? For example, the majority of the regulations in Part 6 of the SI establish scope for the Secretary of State to make potentially wide-ranging alterations to the standards, monitoring and measures set out in various water directives. However, they do not make it clear that that will be done only on the basis of the latest scientific evidence, so, as drafted, not all the powers are limited as a result of a link to that forward-looking analysis of the available scientific data.

The Minister made reference to sharing expertise and scientific information across the EU and with wider international bodies with regard to the marine parts of this SI. However, there does not seem to be a more general catch-all that we should continue to share that expert scientific advice across the EU and wider with international bodies, nor does there seem to be a requirement to consult those setting international standards as a prerequisite across all the aspects of this SI. Similarly, as my noble friend Lady Young pointed out, there is no requirement to consult the UK technical advisory group, which sets environmental standards for the water framework directive.

In these circumstances, does the Minister accept that there is scope for regressive changes, whether intentionally or accidentally? That is at the heart of our concerns here. Does he therefore accept that there should be an explicit overarching commitment in these regulations that they will be applied only to achieve an equivalent or higher level of environmental protection? If that phrase was included in the SI, we would all take a great deal of comfort from it. I am sure that is not the Minister’s intention, but we may not all be here in the future, so it would be good to have these sorts of guarantees in writing or in whichever way he can make a commitment on that.

We need to make sure that, whatever happens with these SIs, and however the Secretary of State exercises his powers in the future, it will be only to deliver a higher level of environmental protection. I hope the Minister will be able to give that guarantee today and I look forward to his response.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baronesses for their comments on these regulations. I repeat that they create powers that will enable us to adapt our environmental legislation to reflect scientific and technical developments. We believe that they do this in a practical and proportionate way that provides for greater public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny than now occurs in the manner in which the Commission exercises the powers. I therefore say, in great friendship, to the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, that whatever our views on the matter, we should all be pleased that in this area and in this particular place we will enable, with consultation and scrutiny—I will elaborate on that—something that is not currently available to us. Candidly, that is because, as regards the decisions that the Commission is taking, member states took the view, practically and proportionally, that these matters did not require the sort of approach that the noble Baronesses are perhaps suggesting would have been more desirable.

None of this work this afternoon is about a regression. I put it on record that it is not. I do not want the noble Baroness to be worried because this work is designed so that she is not. The whole purpose of this instrument is that it does not of itself change substantive policy, which is about having rigour on the environment. It does not change operational delivery, which we all want. It does not impose additional costs on individuals, public organisations or businesses. It is not intended to result in additional environmental impacts compared with the way in which the legislation previously operated. As I say, it is all about keeping within the rigour of what there was before while providing us with a further opportunity.

I should say straightaway that I have a note here on the office for environmental protection, to which the noble Baronesses, Lady Young of Old Scone and Lady Jones of Whitchurch, referred. We are planning for the office for environmental protection to be operational by 1 January 2021. It will be an independent statutory organisation, established by the environment Bill, to provide environmental scrutiny and advice, respond to complaints and take enforcement action. If necessary, we are ready with interim arrangements—all those are in place—which will provide an initial assessment of complaints, scrutiny of the 25-year environment plan and ad hoc advice until the OEP is established.

The environment Bill plots a course to establish a pioneering new system of green governance, improve air quality, restore and enhance nature, improve waste management and resource efficiency, and improve surface water, groundwater and wastewater management. A full list of the remits is still to be finalised but that was a taster of what is a work of great ambition. The Bill will be introduced in the second Session; I am afraid that noble Lords will not find me saying when that might be. There might be quite a lot of noble Lords in the same position, so I cannot say any more about when. However, it is important work and, whoever is looking after these matters, it will be a very interesting time for scrutiny in your Lordships’ House.

I was quite rightly pressed on scientific and technical progress. The Explanatory Memorandum for this instrument explains that the powers will usually be used as a result of scientific and technical progress. This is because, in some cases—for example, in relation to monitoring and reporting standards—changes might be necessary for other reasons, such as having better regulatory measures. We also seek to replicate the provisions in directives, which take different approaches as the EU has considered it appropriate. Where the Commission’s power can be used only to reflect scientific and technical progress, we have carried over that restriction. Pressure for changes as a result of scientific and technical progress most frequently occurs, I understand, on a bottom-up basis: that is, it comes from the scientific and technical community, or the business community. In other words, it tends to come from the very experts who government would need to consult before making legislation. More generally, and where appropriate, we would normally consult experts before making regulations on such technical matters.

All of your Lordships referred to the exercise of powers by negative statutory instruments. As I have tried to explain, these powers essentially relate to technical matters that EU member states have considered it appropriate to delegate to the Commission. These are the kinds of matters of detail for which, in domestic contexts, we would normally use secondary legislation—I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, alluded to this at the beginning of her remarks—and, generally, the negative resolution procedure. We consider this approach proportionate with the powers that this instrument transfers.

The real point is that we have been desperately keen not to be in a position where we would cause environmental legislation to ossify; I think that everyone would agree with that. When we are furnished with ways in which we can, through technical changes, enhance the environment and do things better, we clearly need to attend to those changes—and do so pretty smartish. Negative statutory instruments go through the JCSI and the SLSC for scrutiny; of course, if alarm bells ring or there is an issue, parliamentarians have ways of drawing matters to Parliament’s attention. I do not see demons in this but one did appear under some future arrangements. There are all sorts of ways in which tenacious Members of both Houses would deal with this.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, referred to the sewage sludge directive. The powers are transferred in the way they are expressed in the EU directives in which they originate, which vary. The sewage sludge directive is an old one. This explains the variation in the SI. Despite this variation, all powers are intended for scientific and technical purposes. Again, I emphasise that we have sought to bring in how the Commission deals with these matters and how they are described. I agree, perhaps, that if one had taken it somewhat differently then it might have been different. So that no one thought that this a ruse for—how do I describe it?—an expansionist way forward by anyone, we thought it was more sensible to take these matters precisely as they were and in the way that the Commission dealt with them. The noble Baroness also referred to the UKTAG consultation—the UK technical advisory group. It is not a statutory body. It consists of the EA, SEPA, NRW and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. They are established technical experts and the consultation requirement in Regulation 46 covers this.

All the noble Baronesses referred to the lack of consistency in consultation. We seek to be proportionate. Where there is no explicit consultation requirement, this does not mean that no consultation will take place, rather that it will ape normal government principles about public consultation. An authority wishing to make consultations will need to consult where appropriate. This might involve a public consultation or a more targeted consultation of expert or other stakeholder groups.

The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, mentioned the environmental noise issue. The powers in this area relate to detailed technical matters. It would be disproportionate to require consultation every time—I underline that—the powers are exercised, but in other cases it would clearly be appropriate to include explicit consultation requirements.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, mentioned non-essential elements. The heading of Regulation 7 relates to this. At first sight, the meaning of this may appear less than completely clear. This term is taken is taken from the directive on ambient air quality. It is sometimes used in directives to describe the aspects that the Commission is given power to specify or amend. It is only in this regulation that this term is used and only in relation to that directive. The powers extend no further than those already exercised by the Commission. The terminology has been followed simply to be consistent with the directive. That takes us back to why the wording is as it is.

The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, referred to Regulation 32, which relates to the watch-list of substances in water policy. Substances are placed on this list for a period, during which they are subject to monitoring by member states to establish their level of environmental risk to the aquatic environment and to see whether further regulations should be put in place by the EU. If it establishes from the data gathered by member states that a substance is dangerous for the aquatic environment, the Commission is likely to propose that it should be added to the list of priority substances under the water framework directive which member states must ensure do not exceed certain thresholds in water bodies.

The UK will continue to operate its own watch-list after exit to enable future policy decisions about priority substances for water. Regulation 32 contains a power to enable the watch-list to be changed from time to time. The wording seeks to reflect the watch-list’s purpose and the text in the directive by allowing that a substance should be added—I underline that—to the list only if there is good evidence to suggest that it may present a risk to the aquatic environment. This is because of the potential economic impact of listing, which will require the environmental agencies to monitor and collect data on each substance, and to ensure that it is done on the basis of scientific evidence. Technical experts, including the UK technical advisory group, will analyse the data and advise Ministers when sufficient evidence has been gathered; that will allow Ministers to decide whether it is sensible to remove a substance from the list or, if appropriate, to decide how to protect the water environment from that substance in future.

I will have a further look at some of the points made but I say to the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, Lady Parminter and Lady Young of Old Scone, that we all wish to enhance the environment through these arrangements. The purpose of bringing these matters forward is not to be regressive but to play an important part in enabling us to take proportionate decisions that we believe will help us to enhance the environment. That is the very basis on which we work. I do not know whether I can reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, but she should not be worried about this piece of work because the direction of travel is positive. I can see nothing regressive in the instrument. Obviously, no one can bind their successors but we are bringing environmental law on to the statute book, and we will take advantage of technical and scientific advances so that the statute book does not ossify but develops for the betterment of all. One may be worried about certain things but the noble Baronesses should feel that this piece of work can command their consent; it is a practical and sensible way forward for us on our journey towards enhancing the environment, having an office for environmental protection and holding public authority to account for everyone.

Indeed, it is vital that we work collaboratively. None of these matters—the environment, invasive species, and animal and plant health—respects borders. We must all work collaboratively, whether on air quality, water quality or marine litter. One may not believe it but quite a lot of the rest of the world believes that we lead on such matters; that is very good because it shows that we have outstanding scientific experts, both in government and in opposition, working on them and pushing for environmental enhancement.

Motion agreed.