Fragments of a dialogue about air: 14th July 1999
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. We are on Third Reading, and we would not want to dwell on amendments that have already been disposed of.
Mr. Green: At no stage have we opposed the principle of the Bill. It was a Conservative Government who signed up to the European directive on which its good parts are based. We recognise that much pollution, particularly air-borne and water-borne pollution, can be tackled only on a supranational level. We were happy to sign up to the directive and supported the Government’s intention to put it into effect at national level.
It is appropriate on Third Reading for me to go through our main reservations about the Bill. Perhaps the most fundamental is a constitutional objection. The Bill gives far too much discretionary power to the Secretary of State. Under clause 1, he can regulate
“emissions capable of causing any . . . pollution.”
That is an absurdly wide power to give to a Secretary of State. Of course, we know that most Secretaries of State would not interpret that as widely as the Bill would allow, but it is not a principle of good legislation to write into the Bill such a wide power for a Minister. For example, naturally occurring chemicals such as radon or some dioxins are pollutants. They occur naturally in the atmosphere, but they would fall under the powers given to the Secretary of State. Is he to play God and regulate the natural world? I know that the Deputy Prime Minister has some delusions of grandeur, but I do not believe that even he would go that far. As the Bill is drafted, breathing out could be regulated by the Secretary of State as a polluting activity. I invite the Minister to consider whether this is good legislation.
(House of Commons Recording Archives, column 435 to 438)