Motion H1 (as an amendment to Motion H)

Environment Bill - Commons Reasons and Amendments – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 26 October 2021.

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Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville:

Moved by Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville

At end insert “, and do propose Amendment 43B in lieu—

43B: After Clause 72, insert the following new Clause—“Bee and Pollinator SafetyProtection of pollinators from pesticides(1) Prior to any authorisation for use of a pesticide product, an active ingredient, a safener or a synergist, a pollinator risk assessment report, containing scientific data and risk assessment conclusions relating to the effects of the relevant substance, must be published by an expert body consisting of individuals free from vested interests in pesticide use, who must have been independently appointed.(2) The pollinator risk assessment report must include—(a) data examining acute and chronic effects of the relevant substance on honeybees, bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies,(b) all available scientific evidence relating to effects on any pollinators,(c) an assessment of synergistic effects, and(d) the identification of any risks to pollinators where the available evidence is insufficient to reach a conclusion.(3) The expert body must consult the public on the draft content of the pollinator risk assessment.(4) A competent authority must not authorise for use any pesticide product, active ingredient, safener or synergist until and unless the public—(a) has been informed early, in an adequate, timely and effective manner, that a decision will be made,(b) has been consulted on the decision that the competent authority intends to make, including on any mitigation or restriction measures that are proposed, and(c) has had access, for the full consultation period, to all statutory risk assessments required for the authorisation decision.(5) In addition to considerations set out elsewhere, when making any authorisation decision the competent authority must—(a) aim to achieve a high level of protection for the environment,(b) be satisfied that there will be no significant short-term negative effect, and no long-term negative effect, on the health of honeybees or wild pollinator populations, (c) publish, with the consultation referred to in subsection (4)(b), a statement explaining why the competent authority is satisfied that requirements (a) and (b) of this subsection have been met.(6) This section comes into force on 1 March 2023.(7) In this section—“authorise for use” includes authorisation by derogation; “competent authority” means—(a) in relation to England, the Secretary of State;(b) in relation to Wales, the Welsh Ministers;(c) in relation to Scotland, the Scottish Ministers;(d) the Secretary of State when acting with the consent of either or both the Welsh Ministers in relation to Wales and the Scottish Ministers in relation to Scotland.””

Photo of Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his time and for that of his officials during the passage of this Bill on the subject of pesticides and pollinators, and for his comments this afternoon. I was disappointed, as were others, that the other place chose to ignore the vote of this Chamber and rejected our amendment on the basis that the law makes provision to protect pollinators from the effects of pesticides. I fear that this is not the case. It is clear from its response that the other place has not fully grasped the extent to which the existing provisions fail to protect any non-honey bee pollinators, and to which the proposed provisions fall outside the pre-existing provisions.

Insect pollinators are vital for the maintenance of ecosystem health and for global food security. Seventy-five per cent of crops species, 35% of global crop production and up to 88% of flowering plant species are dependent to some extent on insect pollinators. There is substantial concern as to their current and future conservation status. Key threats to pollinators include agriculture intensification, particularly habitat loss and pesticide use, climate change and the spread of alien species.

We have had detailed debates on this subject previously, and now is not the time to revisit that detail. I thank the Minister for his commitment and for his comments. I welcome the commitment to assess the use of pesticides in the round, and I look forward to hearing the detail. The Minister speaks very fast, so I will study Hansard to assess his detailed comments. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Carrington Lord Carrington Crossbench

My Lords, I declare my interests as a farmer as set out in the register. I also share with the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, a considerable love of bees. I am not sure whether she intends to press the House on this, but I must set the record straight regarding the use of plant protection products as this is absolutely fundamental to agriculture in this country.

First, PPPs are targeted, not used in isolation. They form a critical component of an integrated pest management approach which carefully considers all available protection methods to discourage development of populations of harmful organisms; their use, and the use of other forms of intervention, are kept to levels that are economically and ecologically justified; and they reduce and minimise the risk to human health and the environment.

Secondly, there is a big misconception that farmers use PPPs even though they do not need to. Farmers only use PPPs when they absolutely must to protect our food supply against pests, weeds and diseases that would otherwise cause us to lose between 30% and 40% of our food production. When farmers use PPPs, they ensure they are only using as much as is necessary and take measures to ensure that they impact only on intended crops.

Thirdly, as stated on numerous occasions, the current regulatory system for PPPs is among the most stringent in the world. All products on the market have been subject to a thorough assessment to ensure a high level of protection of human and animal health and the environment. This includes bees and other pollinators. Insecticides are by their nature toxic to bees and other pollinators; however, the way they are used ensures that the risk of exposure is minimised to levels that do not harm bees or other pollinators. As part of the regulation, an appropriate risk assessment is carried out on all active substances and products before they reach the market. They can be approved for use only if it will result in negligible exposure to honey bees or it has no perceptible, acute or chronic effect on colony survival or development. That is the actual situation. I welcome the Minister’s response to this amendment and I look forward to the result of that.

Photo of The Duke of Wellington The Duke of Wellington Crossbench

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 45B to government Motion J, in my name. I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Altmann and Lady Quin, and the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for agreeing to sign the amendment, but that is apparently not permitted in this House during the so-called ping-pong process, when only one signature is allowed. I must emphasise that this is a cross-party amendment and surely that is right; party politics should not be inserted into a matter like this. I was very disturbed to hear this morning that many Conservative Members of Parliament have received very disagreeable messages on social media. This is completely unacceptable and very regrettable.

This House passed a similar amendment to Amendment 45B to clean up our rivers some weeks ago, with support from all sides of the House. When the amendment was debated last Wednesday in the other place, there was again support for it from all sides of the House. One Conservative MP described it as

“the most important amendment we are faced with this evening.”

Another Conservative MP said:

“Yes, there are all these duties to report, to produce plans and so on, which is great, but should there not also be a duty on the water companies to actually do something”? —[ Official Report, Commons, 20/10/21; col. 841-61.]

It is relevant to note that in the vote a substantial number of Conservative MPs voted against the Government, including the right honourable Philip Dunne, the chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, Sir Bernard Jenkin, the chairman of the Liaison Committee, Sir Peter Bottomley, Father of the House, and several other former Cabinet Ministers and chairmen of Select Committees. In addition, all Members of all other parties supported the amendment, except the Scottish National Party, which abstained, as did 20 further Conservative MPs. It therefore seems more than justified that we ask the House of Commons to look again at the merits of this amendment, which has so much support in Parliament and in the country.

I am sure that all Members of this House would agree that it is unacceptable to allow the repeated and continuous discharge of sewage into rivers, lakes and coastal waters. I know that that is the view of our two excellent Ministers, Rebecca Pow in the other place and the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, in this House. I thank them for the several meetings I have had with them, including a short meeting this morning with the Secretary of State George Eustice.

The Government have tabled several amendments during this process for more plans, more monitoring and more reporting. It is true that water companies have announced their intention to invest more in their systems, but I am very doubtful that that will be enough to achieve what we all want and to get something done. That requires a legal duty to be placed on the water companies.

I remind your Lordships that this amendment proposes only the duty to

“take all reasonable steps to ensure” that sewage is not discharged. It will be resisted by the water companies and probably by the Treasury, but it is surely reasonable that water companies be obliged by law to show the regulators that they are taking “all reasonable steps” to prevent this revolting practice, which is not acceptable in a civilised society in the 21st century, particularly in a country which is hosting next week’s climate summit and is trying to lead the world in high environmental standards. The necessary greening of the kingdom is placing heavy financial burdens on us all—industrially, commercially and domestically. While this massive national and international effort is taking place, how can we justify allowing these damaging and disgusting discharges into the aquatic environment to continue?

I was naturally very pleased to hear the Minister announce that, if this amendment passes, the Government intend to introduce in the other place an amendment in lieu. I am grateful to the Government for making that gesture. I have not yet been able to form an opinion on the exact wording of that amendment, but I am sure it is a very important move by the Government. Therefore, I will be moving my amendment at the appropriate moment.

Photo of Lord Randall of Uxbridge Lord Randall of Uxbridge Conservative 7:15, 26 October 2021

My Lords, I want to speak briefly on Motion H1 on pollinators. If the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, was disappointed with the other place, I was rather disappointed with our own House when we did not pass the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, on the effect of pesticides on human health, because the issue of pesticides is about not just pollinators but human health as well. It is also about insects generally; I think we have missed out a few, such as moths, on the list of pollinators. I was delighted to hear what the Minister said. I am very pleased; we will keep a close eye on how the Government look at the issue of pesticides.

I will speak briefly on what the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, has just said. I, too, have been down the other end today and seen the vile abuse that many Conservative Members have received. It is absolutely appalling and has been encouraged, I am afraid—whether it is social media or whatever. People I know have worked really hard on this, including my noble friend the Minister. When we started this Bill, there was none of this in there at all, so we have moved very far on this issue. I want to put on record my extreme thanks to both the Minister here and the Minister in the other place for listening to that. Of course, it is not just sewage that we have to think about, although that is what we are talking about now. There are all sorts of other pollution going on, such as phosphates. The River Wye has been destroyed by poultry farms where excrement has leached into the water.

I was of the opinion that the Government could go further; from what I hear, they will. As far as I understand from my days down the other end, in order for the Government to table an amendment in lieu, today’s amendment must go through. I am rather hoping that it will go through without a vote, but if there is a Division, for the sake of the Government’s position, I will oppose the Government on it.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Labour

My Lords, I rise to support the amendment in the name of the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington. I am a sailor, and have sailed and swam in UK waters for six decades. I have constantly been appalled by the amount of raw sewage I have found in those waters, which has got worse.

I am not on social media but I was sent a digital view of what happened in Langstone Harbour, which runs out into the Solent—into Spithead, actually, which has a position in my heart, as your Lordships can imagine. For 48 hours last Thursday and Friday, raw sewage was pumped through a seven-foot pipe into Langstone Harbour. That is totally unacceptable. I am not blaming the Government for this. I do not do social media, and I certainly would not in a million years blame the Minister; after all, he has been in his position for only half a dog watch, and I know that he feels strongly about this as well. We really have to do something about this. I blame the water companies. How they behave has been appalling. We cannot let this go on. They must be held responsible and have their feet put to the fire.

Photo of Lord Chidgey Lord Chidgey Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I share the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord West, on these issues. I happen to have lived in the same area for more than 70 years and I know the Solent very well, so I share his sentiments on this exactly.

Can I remind your Lordships of where we are on this issue? We have debated this for many weeks now. The rivers, streams and inland waterways of our country all fail to pass the statutory chemical tests, and only 16% of them meet “good” ecological status. The United Kingdom is ranked near the bottom of 30 European countries for coastal water quality. Why? Water companies, particularly Southern Water, are flouting their legal obligations to restrict the discharge of foul raw sewage into our rivers and estuaries. They are instead increasing discharges, apparently happy to risk fines running into hundreds of millions of pounds, which hardly dent their profits and could be better invested in modernising their sewerage infrastructure. I ask again: why? The powers and resources of our regulating agencies have been progressively stripped of funding, leaving them toothless and ineffective. Again, we should ask why. Meanwhile, the biodiversity and ecosystems of our rivers and cherished chalk streams are dying. The reasons, of course, are clear.

I ask your Lordships to support the noble Duke’s amendment tonight so that we can begin to address these issues while allaying the concerns of the Government about unreasonable obligations being placed on water companies—because they are not.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend the Duke of Wellington and our honourable friend Philip Dunne in the other place on bringing us to this place today. I pay a warm tribute to the Minister, who has managed to administer this Bill and be open to a number of amendments already.

As he is aware, I am concerned when he refers to the regulations giving a mandatory scheme for new developments for the simple reason we debated at earlier stages of the Bill. I seek his reassurance yet again: will he please give us a timetable for the regulations that he says he will bring forward under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 to ensure that statutory responsibilities are placed on planning authorities to treat water companies as statutory consultees? It is very important that water companies are given the tools to do the job. Unless we end the automatic right to connect, you will have major developments of 30, 50 or sometimes 300 houses seeking to emit sewage into antiquated Victorian pipes that simply cannot take it. The sewage then goes into the combined sewers and often comes back into existing developments, meaning that those people have to be evacuated for between six and 12 months before they can be rehoused because it is a public health risk.

I urge my noble friend to bring forward these regulations before the end of the year, if possible, to end the automatic right to connect—not to make it conditional but to end it completely, as Sir Michael Pitt called for after the floods in 2007. That way, I believe that we will not offload all the sewage into the rivers and seas—that is the focus of the amendment before us this evening—but will actually front-end it and make sure that this problem never occurs again in any future development.

Photo of Baroness Quin Baroness Quin Labour

My Lords, I very much congratulate the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, on all the work he has done on this issue. As a co-signatory of a similar amendment he moved on Report, I welcome the fact that he has retabled it to ask the other place—the House of Commons—to think again. Like him, I welcome the fact that there was a sizeable rebellion of the Government’s own supporters in the House of Commons; I hope that they will be joined by others if we return this amendment today, or that the Government will move even more in the direction that they have already signalled to us they are considering.

Of course, I deplore abusive tweets and messages and know the misery that they can cause, but I am glad, and welcome the fact, that people across the country are waking up to the extent of the problem of sewage discharges—which they certainly are. I hope that this proper public pressure will be brought to bear effectively in order to remedy this situation.

I will not repeat further what has been said but will simply make two points. The water industry itself seems to be behind other UK business sectors in its use of technology, yet if British expertise could be harnessed more effectively to tackle the problems of sewage discharges here at home, there is the consequent potential of being able to export environmental technology and equipment elsewhere, and thereby gain some economic benefits for the country as a whole.

My final point is to flag up an issue that has been touched on by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and about which I will write further to the Minister, rather than detaining the House. I think that planning authorities need to take much greater account of the state of sewers, drains and discharges into rivers when looking at applications for more housing. My neighbours are already having problems with the present inadequate draining and sewage systems and the problems of overflows and numerous sewage discharges into a very sensitive river, the River Coquet. This is happening at the same time as new housing developments are being planned. This is not about objecting to housing as such, but objecting to schemes that will overload and overwhelm already fragile and inadequate drainage and sewage systems.

As I say, I will write to the Minister further about this, but I hope that, in the meantime, a very clear message in support of the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, will be given by your Lordships’ House today.

Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative

My Lords, first, I thank my noble friend for Motion M and what he has done on conservation covenants. I was a great supporter of the noble Earl, Lord Devon, because, having been a surveyor, I know just how difficult those conservation covenants would be for some farmers, so the new wording is very much appreciated.

My second point is to support very much what my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering said about automatic connection for new developments. This is absolutely crucial. I spoke about it in Committee and on Report. Given the amount of new development there will be, the new regulations need to be brought in as quickly as possible.

Finally, I turn very briefly to the amendment tabled by the noble Duke. The noble Lord, Lord West, told us about Langstone Harbour. That is visible to us all. If you go to the BBC News website, you will see drone footage of this terrible event, which the BBC says lasted 49 hours, not 48. It was not only sewage that was released but chemicals. The visible effect of that is probably as devastating to anybody who does not understand this problem. That short video also says that there were 400,000 releases of sewage into our rivers last year. That is more than 1,000 a day.

I congratulate the Government on bringing in all the measures on water that they have introduced to make the necessary improvements. I also hope that my noble friend the Minister will accept the amendment of the noble Duke so that this can be revised in the other place, as my noble friend wants.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green 7:30, 26 October 2021

My Lords, I will give way to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who has tried about 20 times to stand up.

Photo of Baroness Young of Old Scone Baroness Young of Old Scone Labour

My Lords, at this stage, I know that the only thing noble Lords want is to get on with the vote or non-vote, so I will be very brief. I just want to say a huge thank you to the Minister and his wonderful team for the finagling they did with DLUHC—I call it the department of luck—in getting the concessions on ancient woodland protection. I am also delighted with what the Minister said tonight in association with that about the rigour of the reviews, the need for action following reviews and support for the ancient woodland inventory. How can we expect local authorities and developers to avoid ancient woodlands if they do not know where they are? The ancient woodland inventory is far from complete at the moment.

I will make two points before I sit down—my Front Bench is giving me hate mail. First, I hope the Secretary of State for DLUHC will take his new call-in duty seriously, because that is one of the most important parts of these concessions. Secondly, we really need to find a way of enfolding national infrastructure into the provision so that the majority of damage, which is now caused primarily by national infrastructure, does not continue. I was bemused, as were many other noble Lords, by the reason for the Commons rejecting my amendment:

“Because the National Planning Policy Framework and the Forestry Commission and Natural England’s standing advice already make provision to protect ancient woodland”.

Clearly, they have not seen the 290 cases that have arisen in the last 12 months alone.

I very much thank the Minister, his team and all noble Lords around this House, including the noble Lord, Lord Randall, who reminded me very firmly of the little kid who ran between Alan Bates and Julie Christie in “The Go-Between”, as he did shuttle diplomacy with his party at the other end.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

My Lords, I will speak on my own behalf now. First, I am absolutely horrified at the abuse that the Minister has received. I do not know about the practices in this House, but the other Member should be disgusted at his behaviour. I have not seen it all. I would check up, but he has blocked me. I think I offered a tiny amount of criticism once and he blocked me. The first person to block me was President Trump—so, you know.

The amendment from the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, is absolutely necessary. We have seen a vast public outcry over this. The whole point was that the Government swept aside our amendment without really understanding just how much the public cared. That was a huge mistake on their part and I hope that they now go all the way to meeting the noble Duke. He has in fact amended the amendment slightly, making it much more reasonable.

Quite honestly, if any Conservative Members at the other end vote against this again, they will have to explain themselves. I thank Feargal Sharkey, the punk star, and Professor Jamie Woodward, who have given me huge amounts of information. I do not believe in abuse on social media, but if I see Tories being virtuous on this subject, I will highlight what is happening in their constituencies.

If we are going to fix the sewage discharges, we can also fix the discharges of plastic and microplastics. Apparently, we could do this all together. That is something we clearly have to do.

I was absolutely horrified by Conservative Central Office, which put out all that nonsense about how much this was going to cost. If the Minister wants to correct the record on that, I would be absolutely delighted, but I understand if he does not have the figures to hand. The issue of cost was not raised at the other end, because I am sure the Ministers did not want to mislead Parliament. Perhaps the Conservative Party’s office might just draw in its fangs occasionally and start to tell the truth.

Photo of Baroness Altmann Baroness Altmann Conservative

My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, on his determination and persistence on this issue. Equally, I thank my noble friend the Minister, my honourable friend Rebecca Pow and the officials who have engaged so sincerely and robustly with us in exploring ways forward.

I am grateful for the progress we have made so far. However, before the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, laid amendments to this Bill, the Government seemed reluctant to place an actual duty on companies. I am hopeful that we can be extremely proud of the changes that we in this House have made in bringing this issue to the forefront of public opinion and prompting action from the Government.

I too express my abhorrence for any vitriol levelled against honourable Members in the other place. Have we not learned in recent weeks the dangers of that type of discourse and personal abuse? I implore noble Lords and those who may still have significant concerns about this Bill to accept that the progress we have made has been made in good faith by Ministers and officials who sincerely wish to make this a landmark piece of legislation—I believe it will be—and are committed to the environmental causes that are so important to so many of us.

Without the duty that the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, proposes, it is entirely possible that little or nothing would happen. That is not safe for public health. I declare my interests as in the register. I recognise the importance of private water utilities to many pension funds and institutional portfolios, which rely on their generous dividends. I have no interest in seeing these companies pushed into bankruptcy or public ownership, but I believe they have neglected their sewage overflow problems for years. They have failed to invest sufficiently to limit the problem and have even played fast and loose with the requirements to report overflows and allowed many illegal discharges. It is time to legislate to force them to spend significant sums to make up for past underspending and egregious behaviour, rather than relying on further promises which leave us with horribly polluted waters.

As the Rivers Trust said—I commend it on its work—more than half of Britain’s rivers are in poor ecological condition due to sewage discharges. This amendment does not call for the immediate elimination of sewage discharges but for ongoing reductions. Clearly, this will take time, but a new duty is so important as we have not really even started.

I noticed this afternoon that the Government have just announced and released on the Defra website plans to further strengthen the Bill with their own amendment to be enshrined in law, which I am led to believe will ensure that water companies have a duty to progressively reduce the adverse impact of sewage discharges from storm overflows. I sincerely hope that that is the case. For that to happen we will need to pass this amendment in this House tonight. I also congratulate my right honourable friend Philip Dunne and my honourable friend Richard Graham and others in the other place who have been working so hard behind the scenes to ensure that we move to a much better place on this amendment.

I therefore hope that noble Lords will support the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, in this important amendment, and I hope and believe that the Minister and the Government will take us to the right place very soon.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Labour

My Lords, in view of the Minister’s remarks, I should intervene briefly. The noble Baroness just made the crucial point that there appears to have been a major change of government policy. Let us not delude ourselves: that is because of the strength of parliamentary and public opinion. We have been doing our job in making it clear that the disgraceful situation which my noble friend Lord West, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and others have referred to, should not continue.

The Minister was so busy criticising me that he did not say explicitly that he is accepting the amendment in the name of the noble Duke. Are the Government accepting it? I see that the noble Baroness is shaking her head. Is it the case that they are not accepting the amendment? So we will have to vote. That is quite a significant point. The Government are still not in a situation where they are clearly accepting what the noble Duke said. The Government could, procedurally, accept the amendment in the name of the noble Duke, it would go back, and they could then move a further amendment.

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)

I will give the noble Lord an answer. The Government encourage the noble Duke, the Duke of Westminster—I have done it again. I will go to jail voluntarily after this. The Government encourage the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, to press his amendment to a Division. The reason for doing so is because we will then be able to send it back to the House of Commons so that the Commons can then table our amendment in lieu. I would have thought the noble Lord would be aware of that and I suspect—in the same way that he continues to send absurd messages on Twitter in the last few minutes—that he probably already knew the answer.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Labour

My Lords, I am well aware of the procedure of the House; I have been here rather longer than the noble Lord. The question is whether the Government are accepting it. Are they going to vote? No? So they are not voting. If they are not voting, that means that the amendment in the name of the noble Duke will go back to the House of Commons, and the right thing to do then is for it to be accepted or for them to move whatever technical changes they want.

On the substance of this issue, obviously the House congratulates the noble Duke on the stand he has taken. It is because of that stand that we are in this position this evening. On the business of criticisms of the Minister, let us make this very clear. Speaker after speaker in this debate has pointed out that unless there is this duty—an actual duty on water companies to reduce these illegal or unacceptable discharges—the current unsatisfactory position would not only continue but would probably get worse. The noble Earl referred to this.

With the scale of further development, the cutback of two-thirds in the Environment Agency—I am not giving way to the noble Lord; he can make his own remarks in a moment if he wishes to. I was criticised by the Minister so it is perfectly reasonable that I should reply. There has been a cutback of two-thirds in the staff of the Environment Agency over the last 10 years. In addition, the new guidance from the Environment Agency says that because of Brexit—yes, Brexit—where water companies cannot get the chemicals they need because of the HGV crisis, they are allowed exemptions from current rules. For all those reasons there is very good reason to believe that without the amendment in the name of the noble Duke, the situation would get worse and not better. My statement was clear, that without the change which the noble Duke is proposing, the situation over which the Government are presiding—the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, is the Minister responsible—would get worse.

We are doing the right thing in supporting the noble Duke. The House has shown itself in its best lights in supporting him so strongly, I am glad that the Government have come to this position and now, I hope, they will start moving in the right direction rather than the wrong direction.

Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative 7:45, 26 October 2021

My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, had any part at all in encouraging the deluging of some of our colleagues in verbal sewage, he should apologise.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Labour

My Lords, the noble Lord, who I imagine has not read any of this, is making totally unfounded allegations and he should withdraw them.

Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative

I said that if the noble Lord has any part in it, he should apologise.

Photo of Lord Oates Lord Oates Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

My Lords, if we may return to the topic of the debate, I do not think the House is benefiting from this exchange.

I will briefly speak to the amendment in the name of the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington. Before I do so, I thank the Minister for moving on the issue of conservation covenant agreements and agreeing to require that they must be executed by deed. I was pleased to support the amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Devon, and I congratulate him on bringing it to a successful conclusion.

I was likewise pleased to put my name to the original amendment tabled by the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, to address the scandal that we have heard so much about this evening and in our previous discussions of the hundreds of thousands of sewage discharges into our waterways every year. We should recall that the House of Commons in fact agreed to the majority of the amendment in the name of the noble Duke, but they removed the critical lines 7 to 14, which he is restoring by his amendment. As we have heard, a significant number of Conservative MPs rebelled on this issue either by voting against or by abstaining, and those who did not were given pause for thought by the outpouring of public anger on this issue. I, of course, deplore any vilification that there was on this.

This is a critical issue for the public and for the health of our inland and coastal waters and our environment as a whole, so we on these Benches will be pleased to support the amendment in the name of the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington.

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

In the interests of time, and due to the fact that noble Lords have made important contributions to this debate, I hope that your Lordships will not be too disappointed that I have decided to completely tear up my speech. Instead, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, for giving us the opportunity to return to the important issue of protecting pollinators from pesticides. I also thank the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, for his tenaciousness in continuing to press the Government on this very important matter and for making serious progress. If he wishes to test the opinion of the House, he will have our full support, but I hope that the Government will not vote against.

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)

I thank noble Lords again for their contributions to this debate. I will briefly address Amendment 43B. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, for, as I understand it, agreeing not to press her amendment—I hope I have not pre-empted a decision—but more importantly, for her work on this vital issue. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, that she has been very effective at raising this issue on the agenda. I am grateful to her for that, and I hope we will be able to continue to work together on this issue as we develop a robust pesticide action plan. I thank her very much indeed.

Much has already been said regarding storm overflows, so I will keep it brief. I thank Members across the House and in the other place for their informed, valuable and passionate contributions. I am pleased that we were able to announce progress today. In response to the noble Baroness on the Front Bench I say that, while the Government must vote against this amendment today, for procedural reasons and to ensure that the House of Commons has an opportunity to deliver the proposed amendment in lieu, that is not a reflection of an ideological difference; it is simply a procedural issue.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked a number of questions, in particular about a timeline for the implementation of Schedule 3. It has already commenced and will be completed in 2022; I cannot give a month, I am afraid.

I very much appreciate the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. On the costs that she talked about, there is a difference between the cost of eliminating harm from overflows and the cost of eliminating overflows. It is the cost of eliminating overflows to which those figures apply. I will not pretend that I have been through the figures myself but, based on everything that I know, the range is anywhere between £150 billion and £500 billion. In real terms, it is not a relevant figure, in that no one is proposing that this amount of money should be spent on infrastructure. The key is the elimination of harm, which would allow the overflow to happen in some cases and for investment in sustainable systems such as reed beds and the like. That would not be the elimination of overflows but it would be effective management of them. It is, however, the correct figure for eliminating overflows.

The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, asked a question on the chemical issue. Again, it is not the case that there is a shortage of chemicals preventing the water companies doing their job. There is currently no disruption to the supply of water, water treatment or the treatment of wastewater. The shortage of HGV drivers had meant that there was a risk that deliveries of ferric sulphate, a water treatment chemical, would be delayed, but the Environment Agency successfully and very quickly mitigated that risk.

On Amendment 65, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, I assure noble Lords that the Government will publish a nature recovery Green Paper in the coming months, setting out our approach to supporting nature recovery in England. It will show our commitment to and focus on this matter, which I know is enormously important to almost everyone in this House.

On Amendments 94 and 95, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, I reiterate that we will not have in one year meaningful data with which to assess the effectiveness of this legislation. However, the disagreement that we have is entirely practical; it is not based on our hopes for the effectiveness of this legislation. As I said before, if it is clear before two years that something bad has happened and the Government have chosen to exploit or create a loophole, we will act long before the review deadline of two years. It will be very obvious to us should that be necessary.

Moving on to Motion K, although I ask the House to disagree to Amendment 66, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, I very much appreciate her remarks and her commitment to the issue; she has pushed it right up the political agenda in a very effective way. I hope that your Lordships’ House will welcome the Government’s progress and the commitment to enhancing the protection of ancient woodlands, on which the noble Baroness and I have agreed, I am delighted to say.

On Motion M, I hope that noble Lords can support the Commons in its Amendments 67A to 67E, which will provide further reassurance to landowners on the issue of conservation governance.

I hope noble Lords agree that, in addition to the progress made in Committee and on Report, we have moved further today to protect our waters, our trees and our landscapes for future generations.

Photo of Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I thank the noble Lord for his comments, and I beg leave to withdraw Motion H1.

Motion H1 withdrawn.

Motion H agreed.