Amendment 297A

Environment Bill - Committee (8th Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 14th July 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Baroness Neville-Rolfe:

Moved by Baroness Neville-Rolfe

297A: Clause 135, page 123, line 5, at end insert—“(10) Except for regulations under this section, regulations under this Act expire after the period of five years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.(11) The Secretary of State may by regulations substitute a later date for the purposes of subsection (10).(12) Regulations under this section may make different provision for different purposes or areas. (13) Before exercising the power under subsection (11), the Secretary of State must review the effectiveness of the regulations to which the power relates and conduct an assessment of the costs of the policy or provision relative to the benefits, having regard to a broad range of factors, including—(a) effect on economic growth;(b) costs to industry, in particular small and medium-sized businesses;(c) social impact.(14) Regulations under subsection (11) are subject to the affirmative procedure.”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment sets a sunset provision after five years for regulations made under the Bill, including those relating to targets. If the Government wishes to renew regulations, it must conduct a cost-benefit analysis first.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Chair, Built Environment Committee, Chair, Built Environment Committee

My Lords, it is a pleasure to be introducing this final group and to have the support of my noble friends Lord Ridley and Lady Noakes. It is fair to say that we have been troubled by the sheer scale of this Bill and the new duties and responsibilities within it. It is clear that we are not going to be able to get all the provisions right and that the regulations made under the Bill are in many cases still being developed.

There is generous use of the affirmative procedure in the making of these regulations, for which the Government have been praised by my noble friend Lord Blencathra. However, the fact is that Parliament almost never secures changes to an affirmative resolution SI, so it is mainly a debating trigger. It is no substitute for knowing what will be in subordinate legislation and knowing it at the time that powers are granted in an enabling Bill. The power grab by bureaucrats is exactly what critics used to blame the European Union for when it brought in directives, but ironically it was more transparent about its plans and there was a well-understood process of both public consultation and scrutiny of detail in the European Parliament.

I should add that when I used to be responsible for Bills, parliamentary counsel wanted details of what the powers would be used for. They do not seem to be as firm as they used to be, which is a loss of democracy.

I am also concerned that the cost benefit—especially the cost element—the funding of the many different parts and the level of enforcement are all uncertain in this Bill. Moreover, the Government’s plans have changed hugely since the impact assessments were prepared in 2019 so we cannot really rely on them for the usual elucidation, although I give due credit to the Minister for producing assessments so sadly lacking on the Agriculture Bill until after it was passed.

Our amendment is exploratory in nature, but against this awkward canvas it introduces a necessary fail-safe mechanism. It brings in an automatic system of review by requiring targets and regulations each to sunset five years after they are put on to the statute book. By that time, we will have a fair idea of what works or is beginning to work and what does not. The regulations can be renewed and most will indeed need to be, but that can happen only after a proper cost-benefit analysis has been carried out. That needs to look not only at environmental impacts, which will be the department’s natural concern, but broader factors such as the effect on economic growth, costs to industry—especially small and medium-sized businesses such as the small farmers HRH the Prince of Wales was talking about this morning—and other stakeholders affected by this legislation. I would also like to understand their social impact, for example on employment in the countryside and elsewhere and on income disparity.

Across the House we have come at this piece of legislation from different directions, but many of us worry about the vague provisions and plans we are approving in this gargantuan Bill. Have you ever seen quite so many regulation-making powers gathered together in one place? There are, I acknowledge, some review provisions in some sections as I am sure my noble friend the Minister will explain. I thank the Bill team for the helpful note it sent me before the debate today.

However, I make the case—and make it strongly—for something more systematic and I would like the opportunity to work with the Government on an appropriate amendment. I have supported the Government by helping them to argue against criticism of many aspects of this Bill from the other Benches. I am also expert on sunsetting and the impact assessment system from the work I do on a whole series of Bills from a common-sense perspective, including Covid legislation. I very much hope for a positive reply.

I also look forward to hearing from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on Clause 136 on Crown application, a subject I have had detailed experience of in a number of Bills over many years. I am delighted to be in the same group as the noble Lord as we sit on a committee together. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour 6:45 pm, 14th July 2021

My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness in this grouping. I am not sure why we have been grouped together but I think it will work well and I am sure that her advice on some of the things I am going to say will be welcome, if not during the debate, maybe later on.

This is a probing amendment. I first need to tell the House that I am not opposing the clause but this is the only way I could find, with the help of the excellent clerks, of coming up with something that enabled me to start a debate on something that I think is quite important in a Bill that is as wide as this and, of course, includes issues, as the noble Baroness said, about the Prince of Wales’s support for small farmers. I certainly welcome that. He is right.

When it comes to the Crown, however, it gets a bit more complicated. I think noble Lords will know that the Crown normally comprises four elements: the Crown itself and its public element; the Duchy of Lancaster; the Government, or various government departments; and the Duchy of Cornwall. It is clear to me that the Duchy of Cornwall is different, as it claims to be in the private sector, which means that one ought to look at the role of the Duchy of Cornwall and the benefits that it gets rather separately from the other three parts of the Crown. As the noble Baroness said, of course, one issue is the Crown exemption clauses, which sometimes avoid the Crown needing to comply with legislation. I shall come back to that. I therefore have a number of questions for the Minister, which I suspect he will not be able to answer today, but I would be very pleased if he could write to me on them.

As I said, there are three categories of Act in relation to the Crown. I am very grateful to a good friend of mine, Dr John Kirkhope, who is a real expert on this. He has helped me with what I am about to say, because it is quite complicated. First, there are Acts in which the Crown enjoys Crown immunity, which includes leasehold reform Acts, income tax Acts, et cetera. Secondly, there are Acts which bind the Crown, but if an Act does not say that it binds the Crown, it does not. Then there is a third category: those Acts that bind the Crown but where there is no criminal sanction if the Crown is in breach; these have what are called Crown exemption clauses. Of course, this brings me back to the Duchy.

Therefore, I have a number of questions on parts of the Bill and the effect it may have on the different parts of the Crown—be they the Duchy of Cornwall or the other parts—which I want to pose to the Minister. I start with Clause 30(3), which relates to the OEP and defines “public authority”. It appears that the definition does not include the Crown, as defined in Schedule 18. Does that mean that the power of the OEP does not extend to the Crown? In particular, does it extend to the Duchy of Cornwall? Next, does Clause 49, in Part 3, apply to the Crown? In other words, if any Crown body is found to have dumped waste, would it be subject to the various sanctions outlined? Again, which Crown bodies are we referring to?

I note many references to the Environmental Protection Act 1990, but if noble Lords refer to Section 76 of that Act, in relation to the Isles of Scilly, or, more particularly, Section 159, it includes Crown exemption clauses. This means that there is no criminal sanction if the Crown—which includes the Duchy of Cornwall, where I live—is in breach.

I can go on. Another example is Schedule 21 to the Environment Act 1995, which includes a similar provision, to which reference is made in Clause 63 of this Bill. I also refer to Section 77 of the Water Industries Act 1991, Section 221 of which provides Crown exemption. I will not go through any more of these references in the Bill, but I am sure noble Lords have got the picture. Therefore, my question is: to what extent do all these references to other pieces of past legislation bind the Crown? Do they bind all parts of the Crown, or do they bind only the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster and government departments, and not the Duchy of Cornwall?

Before putting down this question of whether the clause should stand part, I did think of trying to draft some amendments on this, but it is incredibly complicated. I would really welcome the opportunity to sit down with the Minister and his officials to see whether there could be some response which would clarify the Crown exemption clauses and where the Crown is and is not included. One suggestion would be to table an amendment which says that the Act binds the Duchy of Cornwall; that is another option. It is very complicated, but it is very important that the Crown and the Duchy of Cornwall are recognised for what they are and whether they should be included or not, and whether there need to be even some changes to previous legislation to clarify this, otherwise there is a danger that the Bill—which has some really good parts; we have discussed much of it over the last eight sessions—could get even more complicated. I trust that is helpful to the Minister and look forward to his response in due course.

Photo of Baroness Noakes Baroness Noakes Conservative

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who always raises such interesting points. I agree with him that it is rather odd that his clause stand part debate has been grouped with my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe’s amendment. I will concentrate my remarks on my noble friend’s amendment, to which I have added my name. I have not hitherto taken part on this Bill, though I have sat in a few times and read quite a bit of the record of proceedings in Hansard, but my noble friend’s Amendment 297A has tempted me in from the sidelines.

Bills such as this one, which are full of good intent and focused on issues that some are passionate about, often get very little scrutiny of their costs and the consequences of actions taken under them. At Second Reading there was very little focus on that. There were just two shining exceptions. The noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, emphasised the need for government policies to be prioritised and to ensure that actions taken under the Bill did not, for example, harm economic growth policies. The noble Lord, Lord Vaux of Harrowden, drew attention to the fact that actions taken in the interests of the environment involve trade-offs and that there was a lacuna in the Bill in respect of considering economic impacts when setting targets under it. I know that my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe has several times raised the issue of the costs and benefits of the Bill in Committee, and I am glad that she has tabled Amendment 297A to ensure that regulations made under the Bill’s powers are rigorously assessed.

My noble friend’s amendment gives the Government the benefit of the doubt for the first regulations laid under what will be an Act, and I know that my noble friend the Minister has said several times during Committee that full impact statements will be prepared for each of those regulations. The trouble is that impact statements are narrowly defined by the Cabinet Office and suffer from many defects. They commonly understate costs or do not cast the net wide enough to capture all of them. The analysis is typically based on identified persons or bodies, or groups of them, and hence fails to capture whole-system impacts, such as macroeconomic impacts. Impact statements often overstate the benefits or take a macro-level calculation of benefit and use that to frank all the micro-level actions, as the impact statement for this Bill does in respect of a global assessment of potential biodiversity gain. They are also generally optimistic about things such as new opportunities for businesses to innovate. The huge impact statement issued for this Bill suffers from most of these defects and is not decision-useful for assessing its impact.

I very much doubt that the final impact statements for individual regulations will be much better because of these structural deficiencies. The virtue of my noble friend’s amendment is that she allows a five-year period—capable of extension—to gain evidence of the impact of measures. In addition, the amendment calls for a broad evaluation, not a narrow Cabinet Office-style impact assessment, before any regulations are allowed to continue, and it includes the economic impact—on economic growth—and social impact. Concentrating on these would go a long way to remedy the usual deficiencies of impact statements.

My noble friend’s amendment is a modest and proportionate attempt to get some rigour into the parliamentary scrutiny of environmental policy-making, and I hope it will find favour with my noble friend the Minister.

Photo of Viscount Ridley Viscount Ridley Conservative 7:00 pm, 14th July 2021

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lady Noakes, whose expertise on these matters is extraordinary, and to support the very important amendment of my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe. This is only the second time I have spoken in Committee, and I will try and keep it brief because I know we are at the end of eight long days.

At Second Reading, I paid particular attention to the issue that some environmental policies do not end up being effective—do not work. Others are worse; they actually produce counterproductive results in environmental and economic terms. This amendment is a way of making sure that this does not happen—at least, not for a long time—that we learn from mistakes, that we put things right and, as my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe put it, that we have a fail-safe.

I would like to give four short examples of policies that were brought in to help the environment and ended up hurting it in significant and expensive ways. The first was the policy of encouraging us all to buy diesel cars as opposed to petrol cars 20 or so years ago. There is no doubt, if you go back and look at the debates at the time, that this was pushed as an environmental measure, because diesel cars had lower carbon dioxide emissions per mile. It was pushed strongly by big German car manufacturers as a way of encouraging Governments to think they could get a quick win on the environment. Of course, the effect it had was to increase emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulates, which are much more harmful to human health, as well as to the environment.

The second example is the diversion into compact fluorescent light bulbs. Around 10 years ago, incandescent bulbs were banned, and we were all forced to buy compact fluorescent bulbs. This was pushed strongly as an environmental measure by the large manufacturers of compact fluorescent bulbs because they used less electricity to produce a given amount of light. But they were very unsatisfactory in all sorts of ways, including that they did not switch on very fast, gave a pallid light, were very expensive and were toxic for the environment if they broke. Along came a better technology, the LED bulb, which we have all willingly gone out and bought to replace them. It is even more efficient in terms of the environment, even more energy efficient; it is expensive, but not as expensive as compact fluorescent bulbs; and it has easily replaced both the preceding technologies. My point here is that we did not need the diversion into compact fluorescent bulbs. It probably delayed the arrival of LED bulbs. The evidence on that is quite good.

My third example is the fact that we are burning trees in Yorkshire in Drax power station to keep the lights on in Britain. The trees mostly come from North America; we are stealing the lunch of woodpeckers, beetles and other organisms to have electricity in this country. We are subsidising this. We are calling it renewable, because the trees regrow. But they regrow over decades and, even then, if we are continuing with this, we will presumably cut them down again. Doing this does not make any sense, because burning trees produces more carbon dioxide than coal in the production of electricity. About 7% of our electricity came from biomass burning this morning.

My fourth example is one I referred to in my Second Reading speech and is that some environmental policies have encouraged farmers to make peewit-friendly habitat, where lapwings will come and breed. That sounds good from an environmental point of view, but it has recently become clear that if you do that, but do not control crows, foxes and stoats in the area, you will draw in lapwings to what looks like an attractive place to breed, but they will never see any grandchildren, because the success rate of lapwings in these areas is about 0.1 chicks per pair, which is not sustainable. So you are draining the population of lapwings if you do only one part of the policy and not the other.

A similar point was made in an excellent speech by the noble Earl, Lord Devon, who talked about the problem of making conservation covenants in perpetuity, then struggling with what to do when we find that we have made a mistake in a conservation covenant and have put in place a policy for a piece of land that is inappropriate and doing more harm than good. That is why it is vital that we apply sunset clauses and cost-benefit analysis to environmental policies. We need a chance to pause and say, “Sorry, chaps. I know you are making a ton of money out of this policy, but it is not helping the environment, so we are going to shunt your gravy train into a siding, because it has failed a cost-benefit analysis”. That is what we should be in the business of doing.

Those who support greater action on the environment ought to be especially welcoming of this amendment, because it is all about finding out what works, what delivers good value for money and what should be ditched because it does not work. If the Minister does not like this amendment, I would be grateful if he could set out how he plans to deal with it the next time we find that an environmental policy foisted on us by lobbyists turns out to be counterproductive for the environment.

Photo of Viscount Trenchard Viscount Trenchard Conservative

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Ridley, who gave a fascinating speech. I was much impressed by his four examples of policies that we thought were going to be very good but turned out to be mistakes and had to be changed. I am sure the same will happen with some of the current policies being proposed for the environment and other things that we think, today, are bound to give the right answer when, in 10 or 20 years, some are certain to be counterproductive.

I will not detain the Committee long, but I extend my support to the sensible Amendment 297A in the names of my noble friends Lady Neville-Rolfe, Lord Ridley and Lady Noakes. The Bill takes no account of any negative impacts that the environmental targets set may inadvertently cause. As your Lordships are aware, we do not always get everything right. We should pay attention to the proportionality principle, as sensibly proposed by the Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform, chaired by my right honourable friend Iain Duncan Smith.

My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe is the strongest advocate of impact assessments in your Lordships’ House. As was also pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Vaux of Harrowden, planting trees in areas that were not historically forests may assist climate change mitigation, but may also harm biodiversity. Similarly, some actions taken to advance environmental targets may have a negative impact on carbon emissions, such as the plastics tax, which is likely to cause a shift from plastic to glass and aluminium bottles—about which I spoke in an earlier debate. For these and other reasons so well explained by my noble friends, I hope the Minister agrees that it is right to include a sunset clause and that the Government should conduct a cost-benefit analysis if they wish to renew these regulations beyond five years after the passage of the Bill.

On the interesting subject raised by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, whose support on other aspects of the Bill I much appreciate, I am conscious of my oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen and of everything His Royal Highness the Duke of Cornwall does for the environment. I would prefer to remain silent on this matter, but I look forward to hearing how the Crown replies to the noble Lord through my noble friend the Minister.

Photo of Baroness Hayman of Ullock Baroness Hayman of Ullock Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I thank noble Lords for this short but quite interesting and illuminating debate. As the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, said, the two matters we are talking about do not really sit happily together, so I will take them in turn.

As we have heard, Amendment 297A in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, would set a sunset provision after five years for regulations made under the Bill, including those relating to targets, unless the Government conduct a cost-benefit analysis. She is certainly correct in her assessment of how extensive the Bill is, and of how much work it has been and will continue to be. We understand her concerns about costs and how difficult it can be to assess them accurately, and the fact that the impact assessments are now two years old, which I guess allows me to make the point that it is a shame this important Bill has dragged on for such a long time.

I was interested to hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, had to say about why impact assessments are not always entirely accurate. She knows far more about financial assessments and economic impacts than many noble Lords.

It was quite interesting to hear the different examples from the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, of where policy made in good faith can turn out to be not what we expected and can often need rethinking. I agree that we always need to learn from mistakes.

I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, for his contribution. I shall spend the next few weeks trying to encourage him to be more positive about efforts to try to improve our environment, while accepting that we do not always get everything right.

However, having said all that, much of the Bill will need to be enacted by secondary legislation, there are plenty of areas where there will have to be regular reports back to Parliament on progress, and we obviously also still have Report to look at how we can improve much of the Bill. We believe that there are many opportunities to revisit the Bill’s implementation and its ongoing outcomes, so presently we would not support a sunset clause, but it has been very interesting to look at and discuss it because it has raised interesting issues about how we assess environmental policy as it moves forward.

My noble friend Lord Berkeley has given notice of his intention to oppose Clause 136 standing part of the Bill. I listened carefully to his concerns about Crown exemption clauses. The possibility is not something I was aware of at all, as I am sure many noble Lords were not. I was interested to hear his question about whether the OEP’s powers would extend to the Crown, and would be interested to hear the Minister’s response to that. If it does not, does that mean that if a Crown body dumps waste, for example—we have been hearing about Southern Water; I am sure that the Crown would never do something like that—it would not be subject to the sanctions outlined?

As my noble friend also asked, to what extent does the Bill bind the Crown? To what extent can sanctions be applied if the Crown acts in breach of any of its provisions? It is another interesting question. I agree with him that it also seems incredibly complicated, so I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response—or will we be looking at his reply in writing?

Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 7:15 pm, 14th July 2021

I thank my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe for tabling Amendment 297A and for her kind offer of help, which I will convey to colleagues in the department; I hope we will be able to take her up on it. The Government agree that it is imperative that legislation is subject to appropriate review to ensure it remains fit for purpose, and it is important to note that the entire Bill will be subject to the post-legislative scrutiny process.

However—I say this as a fan of sunsetting—I need to highlight that such a broad sunsetting provision in the Bill would be unworkable, as it would cover every regulation-making power in the Bill indiscriminately, and there are parts of it where sunsetting would be seriously problematic. For example, the Government would not wish the regulations providing for the PM2.5 target, the biodiversity net gains site register or the deposit return schemes to be automatically sunsetted. The Bill consists of numerous measures that are designed to drive long-term change, and the measures are too critical to stop after a five-year period. In addition, having regulations that expire after five years would undoubtedly create uncertainty for businesses and local authorities. The long-term targets, for example, have been welcomed by many business groups—for example, the Broadway Initiative and others—because they provide the predictability that businesses need to plan and invest.

I add that the Bill is, I think, exemplary, in that it contains within it, and all the way through it, an ongoing system of monitoring, reporting and evaluation. It requires constant evaluation against, for example, the long-term targets we set, so it should represent a turning point in how environmental policy is both designed and implemented.

I reassure my noble friend that we are working with local authorities to ensure that they are not overwhelmed by implementation—we discussed that in one of our previous debates. We are working to ensure that measures are implemented to sensible timescales to enable local authorities to be prepared. We will provide a range of additional impact assessments, to answer her question, on policies brought about through secondary legislation under the Bill—for example, the new targets delivered through Part 1—and this will cover a wide range of impacts, both economic and environmental.

I acknowledge the intervention by my noble friend Lord Ridley, who made a really important point about the need for good policy. That sounds like an obvious thing to say, but we have got it wrong many times. Four examples are: diesel, light bulbs, trees being grown to feed the monstrous—I probably should not say that; I am not allowed to say that—Drax, and the partial approach towards restoring the lapwing, which has backfired in the way that my noble friend described. He makes a very important point, and we need to get this policy right. But there are mechanisms within the Bill that will keep policymakers—whether me or the next bunch to come along—on our toes, and keep the policies that we are driving through in the Bill under permanent review.

I highlight to noble Lords that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee’s report was hugely complimentary of the Bill and its approach to delegation and regulation. The Government have accepted all its recommendations and will bring government amendments forward at Report to deliver them. We are confident that we have the right procedures in place.

Turning to the completely different subject of Clause 136, this is a standard provision in many Bills, as the noble Lord will know. As a rule, an Act does not bind the Crown unless it does so expressly or by necessary implication. Therefore, the clause puts the matter beyond doubt, clarifying that the Act binds the Crown, subject to subsection (2), which sets out the position where the Act amends or repeals other legislation. If the clause were to be removed, there would be uncertainty as to which of the Bill’s provisions bind the Crown, weakening them and potentially creating legal risk in various circumstances.

The noble Lord asked a number of technical questions, on which I shall have to get back to him in writing, but Clause 30 defines a public authority as

“a person carrying out any function of a public nature”,

subject to a list of exemptions. This captures bodies with statutory powers and duties, so, to the extent that the Duchy of Cornwall or the Crown have any such duties, they will be captured. The Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster are not exempt from any of the provisions under the Bill; this has been confirmed by the Queen’s and the Prince’s consent—I thank my noble friend very much for her last minute, very useful intervention. I therefore suggest that Clause 136 should stand part of the Bill.

This debate concludes the Committee. It has been a real pleasure to have debated this hugely important, landmark Bill for something like 80 or 90 hours. It has been a marathon and a test of endurance for many of us. I thank each and every noble Lord who contributed. It has been an extraordinarily important discussion.

I pay particular tribute to my counterparts on the opposition parties’ Front Benches—the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, Lady Hayman of Ullock, Lady Parminter and Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, and the noble Lord, Lord Khan of Burnley —for their tireless work on each of our debates over the past few weeks. I also thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Bennett, the representatives of the unofficial opposition, the Green Party. Both made some really important contributions throughout the passage of the Bill so far.

Of course, I thank all those who have made valuable contributions to the debate from the Back Benches. I also thank my noble friend Lady Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist for her support during these debates. She has endured no less than anyone else in this Chamber.

I pay tribute to the clerks and parliamentary staff for their work to make these proceedings possible, especially during late-night debates. I also pay tribute to the many stakeholders, ENGOs, land managers, businesses and local authorities, and everyone else whose expertise has helped to shape so much of what the Bill contains.

I have listened carefully to each and every concern aired throughout Committee. I hope that I have managed to reassure noble Lords on just how important the environment is to both myself and the Government. This is of course not the last debate that we will have on this flagship Bill, as I really think it is, and I look forward to returning for Report after the Summer Recess. In the meantime, my door remains open and I look forward to continuing our discussions.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Chair, Built Environment Committee, Chair, Built Environment Committee

I thank noble Lords for an interesting debate and the Minister for his words. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for his clause stand part on application to the Crown and the way in which he cleverly used it to seek the clarification he needed on the Duchy of Cornwall. I just want to tell him that there is another complication that he did not mention: the Palace of Westminster and its well-known wildlife.

My noble friend Lady Noakes gave us a laser-like analysis of the impact assessment issue. I agree with her that assessments tend to be too narrow and that there is also a problem of optimism bias. As she said, I am trying to get some modest scrutiny into the process somehow to make us all do a better job. Of course, my noble friend Lord Ridley supported my idea of a fail-safe, with his excellent illustrations of things that we try to do to save the environment which are actually mistaken—the most obvious example of which is the diesel car.

My noble friend Lord Trenchard spoke about the precautionary principle, but he also brought out well the tension between different environmental measures, which will always be an issue. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, for her support on costs and learning from mistakes, which is something I have been devoted to all my life. I thought that there was a little door open there.

My noble friend the Minister rightly pointed to the constant process of evaluation that is provided for in this Bill, but I am not sure that we in Parliament get much of a look-in. That was one of the considerations behind the amendment I moved for debate today.

I believe that we need to have a clause that provides for more review and, in some cases, a pause. I also believe that sunsetting might be able to play a role. However, I look forward to helping my noble friend the Minister to find a way forward, if that is possible, between now and Report.

My noble friend the Minister has elegantly and delightfully thanked everybody but, as this is the last group, I thank him, my noble friend Lady Bloomfield and the Bill team for their sterling work and unfailing courtesy. I look forward to Report after a refreshing summer break. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 297A withdrawn.

Clause 135 agreed.

Clauses 136 and 137 agreed.

Clause 138: Extent