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My Lords, I support Amendment 27. I feel some sympathy for the Minister but it is slightly bizarre that the Government have announced that they want the principles and the environmental watchdog, yet their consultation has not yet emerged. They said that it would take place in the spring. We must all admit that, in view of the weather, spring has been a little late this year but we are rapidly getting into summer and perhaps the Government need to act.
The consultation appears to be mired in politics. We are running out of time. If the consultation does not start soon, we will not have a clear legislative proposal coming forward. We need legislation for the environmental watchdog. There will then be all sorts of practical considerations, such as finding some poor sod of a chairman who is willing to put his neck on the line to speak out against power and report openly on behalf of the public in favour of the environment, as indeed the Environment Agency did in the eight years prior to the noble Lord, Lord Smith, taking up his chairmanship. We still managed to get away with it in those glorious days of the 1990s.
I want to press the Minister on what happens next. The Government cannot go around saying that they want to leave the environment in a better state than they inherited it if, in fact, they are not going to come forward with very positive proposals to safeguard the basic environmental legislation and governance from which the environment has benefited in a major way over the past 30 years. We have to have government consultation well in advance of Third Reading or—what I would prefer, quite frankly—a government amendment which does the same job as this one: to take those government commitments and put them into primary legislation in a simple way.