Clause 13 - Who may apply for a licence

Part of Water Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 8:55 am on 18 September 2003.

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Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes 8:55, 18 September 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 187, in

clause 13, page 15, leave out lines 31 and 32.

Good morning, Mr. Amess. I wipe the sleep from my eyes and reflect on the early starts for Committee sittings these days. I hope that we can move to a later start at some point in my parliamentary life.

This modest amendment aims simply to clarify the position in the clause. Like Government Back Benchers, we are battle-hardened, and I confidently expect the Minister to tell me why my amendment is inappropriate, does not work or has an unforeseen consequence; I look forward to it.

I tabled the amendment because of the criteria that the Environment Agency will apply in judging who may apply for a licence. New subsection (3A) states:

''The Agency may, in particular, take evidence of a person's occupation of land to be evidence of his right of access to it.''

Why does the agency not satisfy itself of a right of access, which is a sensible legal test, rather than trying to second guess the situation by examining someone's occupation of land, which could occur through trespass or some other illegal means? If the agency satisfied itself simply on an occupation test, rather than on a right-of-access test, it might end up condoning the improper occupation of land. That may be a theoretical point about an unlikely situation, but the provision seems unnecessary. Will the Minister explain why it exists?