HL Deb 21 June 1990 vol 520 cc1115-62

House again in Committee on Clause 34.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Grantchester)

Amendment No. 166, of which there appears to be an alternative version in Amendment No. 166A.

The Earl of Arran moved Amendment No. 166: Page 35, line 20, after ("waste") insert ("in or"). On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 166A not moved.]

Lord Renton

had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 166B: Page 35, line 20, after ("on") insert ("or under"). The noble Lord said: This Chamber is full of the happiest surprises. In view of what happened before dinner I did not expect that it would be possible for this amendment to be called by the Chairman. In view of the assurances that I have already been given, I do not propose to move it, but it is good to know that it would be in order to move it at Report stage if by any mischance I find on reading Hansard that the assurances were not quite as good as I had hoped. I do not move this amendment.

[Amendment No. 166B not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Harringey

moved Amendment No. 167: Page 35, line 25, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsection (3A) below"). The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 168. In Clause 34 we are very much concerned with an issue which occupied some time in Committee when we were considering Part I of the Bill; namely, what is the meaning of the polluter pays principle. It is a phrase that is easy to say but not very easy to define.

Our great fear about the polluter pays principle as it is so widely expressed is that it may simply result in perhaps some financial penalty, perhaps some tax or perhaps even some income to help the authorities that are concerned to prevent pollution; but in itself it will not prevent pollution. Therefore we feel that a licence under the terms of Clause 34 ought to include, as is stated in Amendment No. 168: a requirement for the licensee [to undertake] … before the operation of the licence … such works as the authority may consider appropriate … to secure the prevention of the occurrence of pollution". We recognise that the effect of this part of the Bill will be to increase considerably the costs of the operators of licensed waste disposal sites. That is not something necessarily to be regretted because it is part of the object of the Bill (which we applaud) to increase the efficacy of waste management processes, and that must mean, if it is to be interpreted properly and strictly, an increase in the costs of the operation of waste management. However, it does not necessarily mean that the licensing procedure in itself will cause a reduction in the efficacy of the prevention of pollution. It may simply mean that that becomes an additional cost to be paid by the operators.

The question then arises as to how we are to deal with pollution when it occurs because, under various circumstances, legal or illegal, undoubtedly it will still occur. A number of suggestions have been put forward. In some ways the most interesting comes from the United States rather than this country. That is the idea of a super-fund; in other words, a fund contributed to widely but made available for the relief of pollution —the cleaning up of pollution after it has occurred —on a national basis. The problem with such a fund is that, unless it is prohibitively expensive, it is almost certain that it will be insufficient for the purpose.

The second suggestion —and in some ways this may be a suggestion more attractive to this Government —is the idea of having insurance policies against the costs of cleaning up after pollution has occurred. The problem with that is that the insurance industry in this country is not geared up to dealing with pollution of that kind. I recognise that Lloyds, through its international obligations and the reinsurance which it undertakes, finds itself responsible and paying for many major international pollution incidents. However, we are not talking about major pollution incidents but about day to day infringements of environmental protection standards. I do not see any evidence that our insurance industry knows how to deal with that or would know how to set premiums, or whether the authorities concerned and those responsible for waste management and disposal would be able to pay any premiums available.

The third proposition, which is implied by this amendment, is the idea that there should be a performance bond. That matter was raised on an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Newport, on consideration of Part I of the Bill. I do not believe that that matter has been disposed of merely because that amendment has been discussed. A performance bond provision would mean that those responsible for processes which might cause pollution would have to put a deposit against contingencies which might occur if pollution was caused. They would be released from that deposit once it had been shown that adequate steps had been taken to ensure that infringements of environmental protection regulations or legislation had been and would be avoided on a consistent basis.

Therefore, this amendment addresses the issue that there should be a moving away from the strict interpretation of the polluter pays principle. In other words, we are moving away from the position that pollution may take place if sufficient payment is made to the principle of the polluter paying for prevention. The only way of ensuring that that is done is by payment being made in advance. That is the object of these two amendments. I beg to move.

8.15 p.m.

Lord Addington

The Government should consider carefully the aim of these two amendments, or at least the principle behind them. Ultimately, the stance of preparing for pollution or taking active steps to prevent it will be a thousand times more effective than saying, "If you cause damage to the environment, you will pay a price to put it right". That is especially so when we consider that very often it is impossible to put right the damage caused, especially not in the short or medium term.

Bearing that in mind, I shall be interested to hear what are the Government's views on this issue and I await their reply with great interest.

Lard Reay

I hope that I shall be able to assure the noble. Lord, Lord McIntosh, that these amendments are not necessary since their provisions are already covered in the Bill. The first requirement for an applicant to submit a programme of work to the authority before a licence is granted is already common practice following the publication in 1988 of Waste Management Paper 4. That clearly stated that all licences should contain a working plan and that this plan should be submitted as part of the licence application. The advice now contained in this waste management paper will become statutory advice under the provisions of subsection (8) of this clause. In future, therefore, all applications will contain the plan which the noble Lord wishes to see.

On the second matter that the amendment seeks to introduce, we already have provision in the requirements for the applicants to be fit and proper persons —under Clauses 35 and 71 —for licensees to demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to see their obligations through to the end. There are however a great many different ways in which a licensee may choose to demonstrate his solvency. Bonds are one, but the industry may choose also to set up some mutual arrangements or there might be provision through escrow accounts for the individual company to guarantee the funds. It would not be sensible to set down in statute only a single way of satisfying the authorities.

It could be the case in some circumstances that bonds could be an expensive and inefficient way for industry to give its guarantees. Bonds are suitable for sums of, for example, £50,000 for a few months. However, in waste disposal, particularly landfill, the sums needed to cover all the potential costs of something going wrong throughout the period of responsibility —which could be something like 30 years —would be prohibitively expensive. It would be necessary to tie up more capital in the bond than was used for the operations themselves. We do not believe that that is sensible when there are perfectly acceptable alternatives.

For those reasons, I hope that the noble Lord will agree that this amendment is not necessary.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am very willing to be persuaded by the arguments of the noble Lord. My cause for concern is that when he says what could be done in this way or that way —for example, by an escrow account —how are we to be assured that that will happen?

Lord Reay

The answer is that the authorities must be satisfied of the financial capabilities of the persons to whom the licences are given. They will have to be satisfied as regards whatever financial arrangements are put forward to demonstrate the solvency of the persons concerned.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Does that mean that the Secretary of State will take action to ensure that being satisfied about the financial status of the undertaker means that the authority has the right —I use the example which the noble Lord gave —to impose a requirement that money should be deposited in an escrow account? I do not see how the Secretary of State will ensure that.

Lord Reay

The Bill requires that persons will have to be able to show that they are fit and proper persons for a licence before one can be obtained. That will include a requirement that they are financially capable of carrying out their obligations. That is the central point.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

We shall have to think again about this matter. At present I am not convinced. Not only must those undertakers be capable but they must be forced to be capable of guaranteeing their obligations. I do not believe that what the noble Lord said goes as far as my amendment. However, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 168 and 168A not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

moved Amendment No. 169: Page 36, line 2, after first ("authority") insert ("after consulting the authority"). The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 169 on behalf of my noble friend Lady David, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 184. These amendments arise from the fact that Clauses 34 to 42 of the Bill replace Sections 5 to 10 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974. They require waste disposal sites to be controlled by new waste management licences.

What now happens is that provision for appeal to the Secretary of State allows the Secretary of State to override the powers of the regulatory authority. We are not satisfied that that is the correct way to proceed. As the Bill is drafted the authority or the licensee do not appear to be able to make representations to the Secretary of State regarding the decisions being made. What we add to line 2 of page 36 in Clause 34 is the provision that those decisions be taken after consultation with the authority.

That means that a local council, as the waste regulation authority, could grant a waste management licence and include conditions regarding additional works to be done; in other words, similar to the proposals put forward in the amendment previously discussed. The other works to be done which the waste regulation authority could specify could include references to the keeping, disposal or treatment of non-controlled waste as well as controlled waste.

As I understand it, the Secretary of State will be able to impose certain standard conditions which should be included in any agreement. But there will be differences between individual licences. As the Secretary of State will not necessarily be in a position to understand the differences between individual licences, we believe that he should have a duty to consult the waste regulation authority so that he has the full information he needs to make any decision.

Similarly, Amendment No. 184, which also requires consultation with the authority, will mean that, although the Secretary of State may direct an authority in how to exercise its powers, he will not have to do so in ignorance. There may be local circumstances which are particularly relevant to the needs of the waste regulation authority. Since the waste regulation authorities should be directly accountable for their actions, the Secretary of State should be required to consult them and obtain full details of individual cases before exercising his powers of direction. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, explained, the amendments require that the Secretary of State consult with the authority concerned before issuing any directions. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and through him the noble Baroness, that should such a direction become necessary, it would be the result of considerable negotiation between the Secretary of State and the authority concerned. It is not the Secretary of State's intention to involve himself in the day-to-day business of licensing. That is for the waste regulation authorities. However, there have been isolated cases where authorities, despite the best endeavours of the Secretary of State or HMIP, have not acted in accordance with advice. This power to direct fills the gap where that occurs. It is not necessary to impose a duty on the Secretary of State to consult with the authority because he will in all cases have done so before reaching a decision to direct, and indeed the normal principles of administrative law would require that that happened.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I cannot avoid being satisfied with the assurance that the normal principles of administrative law will ensure that there will be consultation. But I am slightly puzzled by some of the references made by the Minister. They appeared to indicate that disputes are likely to be between the authority and the Secretary of State rather than between licensees and the authority. I shall consider that between now and a later stage in the light of what has been said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Nathan

moved Amendment No. 170: Page 36, line 8, at end insert ("and the Secretary of State shall, at the beginning of each financial year publish a programme of the guidance papers he proposes to issue in that year."). The noble Lord said: Clause 34(8) provides that waste regulation authorities shall have regard to the guidance issued to them by the Secretary of State. Amendment No. 170 relates to the giving of that guidance.

Over many years waste management papers have been issued which have indicated best practice in this field. They have had the purpose of improving and ensuring consistency of standards throughout the country. For many years those waste management papers were produced by the Department of the Environment. They were produced in substantial numbers between 1976 and 1981; during that period 22 were issued. There was then a falling off between 1981 and 1987, when only four were produced.

On the 25th January 1989 the then Minister for the environment, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, informed the Environment Select Committee of another place that it was envisaged that there would be four waste management papers produced per year. In 1987 Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution was created and there was a controlled waste inspectorate within that organisation. Could the Minister say whether that has been abolished following the resignation of Dr. Rae or whether it still exists? I should also like to know whether HMIP will audit the performance of the regulatory authorities only in order to assist the Secretary of State in performing his obligation under Clause 65(1); that is, to ensure that proper standards are maintained.

At present it appears that HMIP will not be producing waste management papers. If that is correct, who will produce them if they are to be produced at all? In past years they have proved to be extremely useful, and indeed vital, to proper waste management control. There is much advantage in those who have hands-on experience in dealing with waste, those who are best equipped such as the inspectors and members of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution, carrying out the task rather than those involved with administrative matters in the ministry.

I therefore ask the Minister whether the controlled waste division within Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution still exists? If it does not, why has it been abolished? What is the future of the production of waste management papers, if indeed there is one? If there is not, what guidance will be given to which the regulatory authorities must have regard? I beg to move.

8.30 p.m.

The Earl of Arran

While I am sure it would be helpful to waste regulators and the industry to have advance notice of the programme of advice that the department intends to issue over a period, this advice will include the statutory advice provided for in the licensing provisions of the Bill. It may be of assistance at this stage if I say that it is our intention to provide the guidance necessary for the implementation of these licensing provisions so that they can come into force in early 1992.

While we undertake to make a full programme available in due course, we do not consider that it would be appropriate to make this a statutory requirement. Under those circumstances I hope the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, will be satisfied by my undertaking and will not continue to press his amendment.

Lord Nathan

I must confess that I am dissatisfied with that reply. There is no indication as to the source from which this advice is to be derived. It seems to me, as I said, very unsatisfactory that the advice should be written by the administrative arm of the Department of the Environment. The Minister gave no indication as to whether the sector of HMIP will be charged with this task. It is a very unsatisfactory situation which is causing a great deal of concern not only among the regulatory authorities but among those who are charged with the duty of carrying out waste disposal functions. Therefore, I must consider what the Minister has said.

The Earl of Arran

Perhaps I may intervene at this point in order to assist the noble Lord, Lord Nathan. I can tell him that HMIP's responsibilities for controlled waste have been reorganised. The audit role has been transferred to the regional offices of HMIP. It is likely that HMIP will no longer produce waste management papers. That requirement is likely to be transferred to the Waste Management Technical Policy Group. I hope that that goes some way towards enlightening the noble Lord.

Lord Nathan

I thank the Minister for confirming my worst fears. However, he made a clear statement and for that I am grateful. It is a step backward to revert to the pre-1987 position under which those in charge of administration at the DoE should be responsible for the production of these papers.

However, I am grateful for what the noble Earl said, so far as it went, and in the circumstances I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 171: Page 36, line 18, after ("waste") insert ("in or"). On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 34, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 35 [Grant of Licences]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

moved Amendment No. 172: Page 36, line 19, at end insert: ("(1A) For the purposes of this section, a resolution operative before the date of Royal Assent under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 shall be treated as a licence."). The noble Lord said: I hope that the Committee will feel that this is a simple amendment. Its purpose is to avoid the need for re-applications under the Control of Pollution Act 1974. The present position, as I understand it, is that if a local authority proposes that land which it occupies or intends to occupy should be used for the deposit of controlled waste it must pass a resolution specifying the conditions under which the land is to be used. That is what the 1974 Act stipulates. In practice, that usually follows the requirements of a site licence which would be needed if the application had been made by an outside body; so it is analagous, I suppose, to deemed planning consent.

The Bill proposes that existing licences will be transferred to become waste management licences under the provisions of the Bill. The assumption is that the provision will come into force before the creation of the waste disposal companies.

We heard from the Minister earlier this evening that there will be, in effect, transitional provisions which will make it unnecessary for the waste disposal contractors to be arm's length bodies until they have actually got themselves going. If that is the case, we need to ensure that the resolutions already made by the local authorities under Section 11 of the 1974 Act should be treated as licenses. I believe, and hope, that this is an unintentional omission from the Bill which the amendment corrects. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

I am afraid that I may have to disappoint the noble Lord. Amendment No. 172 seeks to treat resolutions by local authorities in respect of sites operated by them as site licences for the purpose of Clause 35. Clause 74 of the Bill deals with the transition from the Control of Pollution Act to this Bill. It provides for existing waste disposal licences to become new waste management licences without the licensee having to re-apply from scratch.

This provision does not apply to sites operated under resolution of council for two very good reasons. First, local authority resolutions are often quite simply not effective tools for controlling operations at individual sites. It is not unheard of to have a blanket resolution covering several sites. These cannot simply be translated into new waste management licences. Each facility should have a separate licence dealing with all the matters that should be covered in a licence.

Local authority resolutions often simply authorise operations without the detailed conditions on operations that would normally be expected in any proper licence. Reports from HMIP have drawn attention to this fact and it is for that reason that we consider that they are not suitable candidates for straight transition into waste management licences.

Secondly, the operational activities of the authority will be transferred to arm's length local authority controlled companies. It is essential that these companies have full licences, just as any private sector company will operate under a full licence. However, the noble Lord may be worried about what will happen to the resolutions before the facilities are transferred to the companies. I can assure him that the resolutions will continue in force until such time as the companies are set up under Clause 31 of and Schedule 2 to the Bill.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The last phrase from the noble Lord is the assurance I was looking for. Of course when the arm's length companies have been fully established the question of continuing the previous local authority resolutions in the form of licences would no longer be relevant. Since I have the assurance that the local authority resolutions will continue as if they were licences until the arm's length companies are fully established —unless I have misunderstood the Minister —I am content to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 173 not moved.]

Lord Reay

moved Amendment No. 174: Page 36, line 32, leave out ("1971") and insert ("1990"). The noble Lord said: This amendment, together with Amendments Nos. 175 and 176, update the cross-reference to planning legislation. Amendment No. 179, which is also in this group of amendments, meets the representations of local authorities that a period of two months is not long enough to consider the complexities of a licence application. This amendment increases the time limit to four months. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 175: Page 36, line 36, leave out ("under section 94 of the said Act of 1971 or under") and insert ("is in force under section 192 of the said Act of 1990 or"). On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 176: Page 36, line 37, leave out ("is in force"). On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

moved Amendment No. 177: Page 36,line 48, at end insert: ("(3A) The Secretary of State shall in each year to which this section applies satisfy himself that the resources available to local authorities are adequate to secure the proper carrying out by them of the duties under this section"). The noble Lord said: Clause 35(3) provides for conditions under which the waste regulation authority may reject an application for a licence unless, it is satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person". I am turning on its head the wording in the Bill which states that the waste regulation authority, shall not reject the application if it is satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person". I do not believe that is the natural way the English language is used. I prefer to think of that provision the other way round. The subsection continues, unless it is satisfied that its rejection is necessary for the purpose of preventing (a) pollution of the environment; (b) harm to human health; or (c) serious detriment to the amenities of the locality". What we are proposing in this amendment is that the Secretary of State shall be obliged to recognise the fact that the local authorities which are the waste regulation authorities are going to be involved in substantial expense in assuring themselves that the applicants are fit and proper persons and, as the amendment states, that the resources available to local authorities are adequate to secure the proper carrying out by them of the duties under this section". This has been foreshadowed by the provisions of the Control of Pollution Act 1974. That Act states in Section 5(3) that where appropriate planning permission is in force for the use of a site for waste disposal it is the duty of the authority not to reject —that is the way round which the legislation appears to prefer— the application unless the authority is satisfied that the rejection is necessary for the purpose of preventing pollution of water or danger to public health". That means that the local authority has to assure itself that physical arrangements to contain pollution are in place. The current Bill proposes a major extension of the factors which may be taken into account. We thoroughly support those extensions. It is right that judgment will have to be made whether an applicant is a fit and proper person in accordance with Clause 71(3) of the Bill. We agree that the criteria as to whether a person is fit and proper should include whether he has been convicted of a relevant offence; namely, an offence against pollution legislation, and that, the management … will not be in the hands of a technically competent person". Surely, that should be "the management will be in the hands of a technically competent person". That would be much better.

We also agree that, the person who holds or is to hold the licence has not made and either has no intention of making or is in no position to make financial provision adequate to discharge the obligations arising from the licence". That seems the wrong way round.

There are a number of double negatives which appear in the Bill and I appeal to the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, to assist me. It is really getting out of hand. The point I wish to make is a very simple one. In order to make these investigations the waste regulation authority will be involved in very considerable expense which goes beyond the obligations under the Control of Pollution Act 1974.

The amendment makes the point that the Secretary of State shall be obliged to satisfy himself that the resources available are adequate for the purpose. I beg to move.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Addington

This amendment is stating something which must be obvious to all noble Lords. If we are going to ensure that all those involved in this activity are fit to do so, then the people who are examining them in the first place must have sufficient resources available. Unless we can guarantee this type of provision there is absolutely no point in saying that we shall grant licences in the first place if one cannot check that they are going to be effective.

Lord Hesketh

Before moving on to the main burden of Amendment No. 177, I think the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, makes a very good point. Though my noble friend Lord Balfour did not rise in his support at that moment, I feel that all legislation would benefit from a simplified and rational approach to the English language. I am sure that all Members of the Committee will agree wholeheartedly with that suggestion and confine themselves entirely to one Division Lobby on the subject.

The amendment seeks to address the issue of resources for local authorities. This is the first occurrence of the question of resources for local authorities in this part of the Bill. The amendment seeks to ensure that waste regulation authorities will have adequate resources to carry out their duties of granting licences. Under the clause if a person wishes to apply for a licence then they must pay a fee to the waste regulation authority which will be prescribed under Clause 40.

This is only one of the several responsibilities the waste regulation authorities have for licensing: dealing with applications, transfer of licences, inspection and monitoring of sites, revocations and suspensions of licences and the surrender of licences. Some of these duties are new for the waste regulation authority. But new duties will be matched by the resources made available by new charges. We envisage that authorities will be able to recover 100 per cent. of the costs incurred when carrying out these regulatory functions.

What the scheme will not do will be to let the authority cover the costs of enforcement. By enforcement costs I mean the costs of tracing and prosecuting flytippers or other malfeasant. It would be wrong in principle for legitimate business to meet in their fees and charges the costs caused by cowboys.

The intention is to set a national charges scheme at a level which reflects the recommended efforts to be put into each of these activities. HMIP will be issuing detailed guidance on how authorities should discharge their regulatory role; matters such as the frequency of site inspections and the number and qualifications of inspectors to be employed. Based on that advice we shall assess how much a proper level of regulation should cost authorities. That assessed cost we shall then translate into a level of charges. I can asssure the noble Lord that there is no government interest in underestimating the costs of waste regulation nor in setting charges below those costs.

If authorities follow HMIP advice, as we all hope they will, the charges scheme will enable authorities to fully recover their costs of regulation. Those costs not met by the charging regime will continue to be met through the normal channels from the community charge and central government support.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, specifically referred to the question of checking that a licence applicant is a fit and proper person. I can assure him that that is part of the authority's work that will be covered by the charge for a licence application. We shall be setting a licence charge that fully reflects that fee.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Minister's answer goes some way to reassuring me. He introduced quite considerable qualifications into the general assurance that I was looking for that the cost of the additional activities imposed on local authorities would be covered. I am not satisfied that they are going to be covered by the charging mechanism. If I correctly understand the Minister's reply, he is not claiming that they will be covered by the charging mechanism. He is saying that in the end the charges will have to be covered by the community charge and grant mechanism.

The problem with that mechanism is that unless the grant formulae are so precisely and accurately calculated that they cover all the costs, because of the gearing between local authority and central government sources of income the community chargepayers pay £4 for every £1 extra expenditure that has not been anticipated by government. That cannot be satisfactory.

I shall give the Minister an example of the seriousness of the problem. The example is from West Yorkshire where, at the moment, there are 400 waste disposal licences. Around 50 new licences are granted each year. Fifty licences are surrendered. Under the new regime it will not be possible to surrender licences unless the regulation authority is satisfied that the necessary aftercare work has been done. There will still be 50 new licences but the 50 old licences will be surrendered only after a period of time.

Aftercare work for landfill sites can take 30 years. If gas emissions are being dealt with it is possible that there will be no surrenders for a substantial number of years. There will still be the new licences but it will not be possible for the old licences to be surrendered because no one can be satisfied for many years that the correction work has been done. In 30 years' time there will be the existing 400 licences plus potentially 1,500 new ones —a five-fold increase in the number of licences. That situation will take far more resources to monitor than the existing provision. And it will be impossible if not unjust —unjust, that is, for the new licensees —for that to be paid for entirely by the charges.

The Minister is not suggesting that it will be paid for by the charges. If he agrees that costs will fall on general local authority expenditure and therefore on the community chargepayer, what assurance will he give that the grant part of local authority expenditure will not be interpreted in such a way that the community chargepayer will pay very much over the odds for these new responsibilities?

Lord Hesketh

There are two points here. The first, as I stated earlier, is that the introduction of the charges should in the long-term be beneficial. Secondly, there is a slight assumption in the noble Lord's scenario that at present there are no responsibilities for local authorities and that they are not engaged in activities related to this subject. Of course, they are. The assumption is then made that anything from the past is not covered. I disagree. There is in existence waste which is already covered. We are improving the system for the future. The noble Lord is turning to the Government, not for the first time, and not for the first time during the proceedings on this Bill, and saying that this should be treated entirely as a separate issue even if it has an historical background.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Unusually for him, the Minister was not listening to what I said. I acknowledge the existing situation as part of the responsibilities of local authorities. But the example I gave of 400 licences, which were added to by 50 and subtracted from by 50 in each year, is the current situation. That adds up to 400 licences.

The example I gave from West Yorkshire took into account the new provisions of the Bill which means that a licence cannot be surrendered until the aftercare work has been done. That means in practice that the number of existing licences which have to be supervised and monitored will increase substantially over a period probably of 30 years. That is new responsibility and new expenditure. If the Minister is telling me that that will be covered by increased charges, how will he defend that? How can he defend the argument that, simply because aftercare on existing licences has to be a continuing responsibility, the new licensees, through the charges made on them, should be paying for it?

Lord Hesketh

I am in no position this evening to be able to judge the position in West Yorkshire. But I am more than happy to write to the noble Lord in the light of the remarks he has made and the example he has given and see whether I can satisfy his worries on that front.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am grateful for that undertaking because it forms the basis on which perhaps he and I can meet between now and Report stage. We can then consider the extremely important issue of whether the resources available to the waste regulation authorities will be adequate for the purpose. On the basis that we have an opportunity for further negotiation, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Arran

moved Amendment No. 177A: Page 37, line 3, after ("Authority") insert ("and the Health and safety Executive"). The noble Earl said: On behalf of my noble friend, I wish to speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 177B to 177E, 180A, 180B, 181A, 225A, 226A, 232A and 236A to 236C.

This group of amendments brings the Health and Safety Executive into the waste management regime by making it statutory consultees on waste management licences. In future all new applications for licences and applications to vary them will be commented on by the Health and Safety Executive which obviously has a great deal to offer in the way of advice on the safe operation of any disposal facility for those who operate it and for the general public.

The later group of amendments to Clause 51 apply this provision to resolutions of council in Scotland which serve the same function as a waste management licence. I trust that this will be welcomed by the Committee. I beg to move.

The Earl of Cranbrook

I hope that it will not be considered improper if I draw the attention of my noble friend to the fact that there are also occasions when the Nature Conservancy Council should be consulted. I do not at this juncture have an amendment to that end but I hope that I may be able to raise the matter at a later date.

The Earl of Arran

If my noble friend wishes to raise the matter at a later date, that is entirely his prerogative.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Arran moved Amendments Nos. 177B to 177E: Page 37, line 5, after ("Authority") insert ("or the Executive"). Page 37, line 6, leave out from beginning to ("Authority") and insert: ("(4A) If, following the referral of a proposal to the National Rivers Authority under subsection (4)(a) above,"). Page 37, line 15, at end insert: ("(ii) the Health and Safety Executive"). Page 37, line 22, after first ("authority") insert (", the Executive"). On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 178: Page 37, line 29, leave out subsection (6).

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I should like to speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 182, 185 and 197. These amendments are drafting amendments. Amendment No. 197 introduces a new clause to replace and consolidate subsections in three previous clauses relating to making false statements in order to obtain a licence, a modification or a certificate of completion. There is no change to the provisions of the subsections. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 179: Page 37, line 36, leave out ("two") and insert ("four"). On Question, amendment agreed to.

9 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

moved Amendment No. 180: Page 37, line 42, leave out ("be deemed to have") and insert ("either grant the application or give written notice to the applicant that the authority has"). The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall also speak to Amendment No. 181. They are related but not in fact connected. Amendment No. 180 is very largely a matter of courtesy. I suggest that when an individual or company has applied for an authorisation it is important that the person or the company is able to rely on a formal procedure either of acceptance or rejection. The Bill provides that if after a certain period, which is laid down in the Bill or otherwise agreed by the parties involved, there has been no response, it shall be deemed that the application has been rejected.

In my view, that is not a very courteous way of dealing with such matters and it is not really very helpful. If there is no written confirmation available, the application may well be rejected by default and the applicant is then quite uncertain as to what steps he should take. In other words, the formal procedure of acceptance or rejection should be entered into so that the company or the individual can adjust the business plans involved and decide upon the next steps which should be taken to take account of the results of that formality. In a way, that amendment stands on its own.

However, perhaps it would save the Committee's time if I were to deal now with Amendment No. 181. It is largely designed to make a small attempt at increasing the efficiency of the country's waste management systems. It seems to me that it is both logical and sensible that a waste disposal licence application should be considered concurrently with any related planning permission. A company may frequently want to apply for a waste management licence and enter a planning application simultaneously.

As matters stand at present under the Bill, a licence cannot be issued if the planning application has not been processed and approved. It seems to me —and I hope that Members of the Committee will accept this —that this is a waste of useful planning time and merely sets back the whole procedure.

Conditions as regards planning permission for waste disposal facilities can be, and most often are, environmentally related. They often dovetail with conditions on site licences, and although they may very well deal with operational factors they also cover the matter to which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred; namely the after care of the site. Some years ago we had some experience of this situation, largely on landfill sites where the after care was somewhat less than desirable.

In Wales, for example, where waste regulations operate at district level and where there are particular problems associated with parochial interests, separate consideration of planning and disposal site licence applications gives two opportunities for objections to be lodged, even though there is an overwhelming need for new facilities. I referred earlier this afternoon to the difficulties that obtain in Wales with regard to transportation. Therefore, Amendment No. 181, which deals with the concurrent application for site licences and planning consents, seems to me also to be fairly sensible and reasonable. I beg to move.

The Earl of Balfour

I support my noble friend in his amendment. I do so because, I regret to say, very often in my part of the world the obtaining of planning approval for, let us say, the erection of a comparatively simple building can sometimes take as long as two years. If for once the two processes could work together, I think that we might well get something off the ground. There is much sense in what my noble friend said.

Lord Hesketh

I shall speak first to Amendment No. 180. This amendment would remove from applicants the protection currently contained in Clause 35 of the Bill, carried forward from the Control of Pollution Act. Under that clause, if the authority fails to take any action whatever in relation to the application the applicant is able to expedite matters by exercising his right of appeal in Clause 42. My noble friend's amendment would revert the situation to the status quo and would provide no redress against an authority which wilfully or negligently failed to do its duty. I should point out that in many cases the period is extended by agreement between the parties involved. This clause provides that if the authority delays long enough it is deemed to have rejected and the applicant may then appeal.

As regards Amendment No. 181, also tabled in the name of my noble friend, I must say that I can understand the reasoning behind it as it is a lot quicker if planning permission and an application for a licence are considered together as one. However, we believe that the amendment is unnecessary as there is nothing to prevent that from happening under the Bill. Planning permission must be in force before a licence is granted. However, planning permission does not have to be in force when a person makes an application for a licence. Therefore for all practical purposes an authority may consider, and any public inquiries may be held into, both a planning application and a licence application at the same time. For that reason, we resist these amendments.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I shall have to consider most carefully what my noble friend the Minister said. As regards Amendment No. 181, I understood him to say that there is in fact an appeal procedure in Clause 42. However, I have just looked quickly at that clause and it appears to me that the appeal procedure comes into effect after the rejection. With respect to my noble friend, that is not the point I am addressing. I am addressing the possibility of a default which may occur as a result of there being no formal rejection of the appeal.

I ask my noble friend whether he will be good enough to give this matter further consideration. We are talking not only about a technical matter but about sheer courtesy. For example, the applicant could be told after two months, "Yes, your application has been accepted"; or alternatively he could be told, "No, I am afraid it has not been accepted". There may be changes in the staff involved and the diary may go adrift, thereby causing the default to occur. Therefore, I do not think that it has anything to do with the appeal procedure. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Balfour for his support for Amendment No. 181. I should like to give further consideration to what my noble friend the Minister said about that amendment before deciding whether there is anything else I might want to do later.

Lord Hesketh

It is important to remember that appeals come in also on a deemed rejection. As a result there is a disincentive for the authority, because it then effectively loses control. There is a deterrent in fact.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I am grateful to my noble friend for those added words. I do not believe that they help my case. I shall give further consideration to the matter. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Arran moved Amendments Nos. 180A and 180B. Page 37, line 43, leave out ("or to") and insert (", the Health and Safety Executive,"). Page 37, line 48, after ("Authority") insert (", the Executive"). On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 181 not moved.]

Clause 35, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 36 [Variations of licences]:

Lord Hesketh moved Amendments Nos. 181A and 182: Page 38, line 30, after ("35(4)") insert ("(4A)"). Page 38, line 41, leave out subsection (6). On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

moved Amendment No. 183: Page 38, line 44, leave out ("two") and insert ("four"). The noble Lord said: I move the amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lady David. We have already discussed a deemed refusal after the time allowed for an appeal has expired. I do not disagree with the general thrust of the debate, which has been that, as far as possible, appeals should be speeded up. I have no objection to that wish. I have experienced delayed appeals in planning cases. They lead me to feel that every possible pressure should be put on local authorities to speed up their response to appeals and, in this case, to proposals for the variations of licences.

However, in this case there seems to be an argument which is worth airing: the burden on the waste regulation authorities of applications for variations of a licence, or the need to vary a licence, is much greater under the Bill than it was under the Control of Pollution Act 1974. What is now required is that the authority responsible for issuing licences should ensure that the activities authorised by the licence do not cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health. That is much more difficult than the factors that had to be taken into account under the licence provisions of the 1974 Act.

Under those circumstances, it may be more reasonable to allow a period of four months before the automatic deemed refusal which would otherwise take place. I beg to move.

The Earl of Arran

As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, has said, we have already considered government Amendment No. 179, which allows authorities four months to consider a licence application rather than the previous two months. We are not persuaded, because most applications for modifications should be simpler than the initial application for a licence. There may also be an urgent need to modify a licence to meet changed circumstances, a reason that cannot apply to the initial application. If more time is needed, then there is provision for the parties to agree an extension. Failing that, I think it is reasonable after two months to allow the licensee to take his request for a modification to the Secretary of State on appeal. For those reasons we cannot accept the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I fear that the result may be further delay. The requirement that there should be an agreement to extend the period may mean that agreement will not be achieved, and the appeal procedure which then becomes necessary because the application is deemed to have been refused will take longer than would have been the case if the four-month period had been granted.

I did not refer to government Amendment No. 179, which I believe supports the case for this amendment. My noble friend Lady David may wish to return to this matter at a later stage. I do not believe that she will object if I beg leave to withdraw the amendment on her behalf.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 36, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 37 [Revocation and suspension of licences]:

Lord Layton

moved Amendment No. 183A: Page 39, line 9, leave out from ("affected") to end of line 11. The noble Lord said: This amendment is about the removal of provisions that 16 years of experience seem to have shown to be on the unworkable side. The wording of Clause 37(1)(b) and (c) continues the provisions of Section 7(4) of the Control of Pollution Act. Experience with that Act suggested that the revocation procedures under Section 7(4) were infrequently used, mainly due to the difficulty of establishing sufficient grounds for revocation.

For a successful revocation under both Section 7(4) and this clause, the WRA must show, first, that the continuation of the activities under the licence would cause pollution to the environment or harm to human health or be seriously detrimental to local amenity, and, secondly, that these problems cannot be overcome by way of a licence modification. I suggest that this clause is written in such a way as to be unnecessarily onerous on the WRA. This is the main reason that its identical predecessor of COPA Section 7(4) was infrequently used.

A licence revocation will undoubtedly be passed to the Secretary of State by the operator in the form of an appeal. In such an appeal, it should be sufficient for the WRA to establish that the continuation of the activities will cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health or would be seriously detrimental to local amenity. There is no need for the WRA to show that it could not modify the licence to overcome these problems.

However, if the Government would like some modification procedure inserted into Amendment No. 183B, it would give guidance to the WRA to consider modifying the licence prior to attempting to revoke it. I beg to move

9.15 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

These two amendments are most interesting in their parentage. While Amendment No. 183A can claim two progenitors, it was always quite clear that these parents had very different views on the future career of their offspring. I cannot accept either view of the existing subsection (1)(c) of Clause 37 and it will not come as a surprise to anyone that I am firmly of the opinion that the drafting is just right as it stands.

We cannot accept that it would be right for an authority to be able to revoke licences without making any attempt to solve the problems through modification of working practices through the licence. We therefore cannot accept Amendment No. 183A alone.

It is true that under the present drafting of subsection (1)(c) if the pollution cannot be dealt with in this manner, the authority may revoke the licence. This is what Amendment No. 183B seeks to achieve, but I must say that it does not seem to do so any more effectively than our present draft. That is why we resist the amendment.

Lard Layton

I feel that with that reply the Minister in some way agrees with me. Perhaps at a later stage if I bring forward an improved amendment he will agree with me even more. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 183B not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

moved Amendment No. 183C: Page 39, line 22, at end insert ("and may exercise its powers under section 58(3) below in relation to the land concerned"). The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 183C, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 246N. The issue here is again one of the resources available to local authorities, the waste regulation authorities, in performing the additional tasks placed on them by the Bill. When the revocation and suspension of licences are being considered, Clause 37 allows a waste regulation authority to revoke or suspend a licence if it believes that pollution of the environment or harm to human health may arise. We totally support that objective. If the licence is revoked, that does not remove the conditions which the authority specifies as continuing to bind the licence holder. That is what subsection (5) says, and we totally agree with it. It requires the licence holder to cease such activities as are damaging to the environment or to human health.

Amendment No. 183C is a paving amendment to Clause 58 which sets out particular duties of waste regulation authorities in regard to closed landfills. It applies to any land where a site licence is not in force. There are all kinds of duties involved: to inspect the land; to assess whether there are any concentrations of noxious gases, noxious liquids and so on. These would have to apply to any land where a licence has been revoked because there are continuing obligations.

It raises the question of whether the local authority, having these continuing obligations which do not necessarily bear any numerical relationship to the number of licences enforced, has the resources to perform those tasks. We need to be sure that it will have those resources. Further we need to be sure that it is not just a matter of what charges are imposed. It is clear from previous answers of the Government that the charges that are imposed are not adequate for some of the extra responsibilities of local authorities. We need to be clear that there will not be an additional charge imposed on community charge payers.

The Government are, after all, spending a considerable amount of time at the present moment trying to avoid losing an election because of the burden of the community charge —they are amending the Local Government Finance Act —which has been shown to be a burden through experience in Scotland and now in England and Wales. If the Government continue to put statutory burdens on local authorities which will involve them in additional expenditure but do not provide additional resources for them, they will compound the difficulty which they already find themselves in. It is in the interests of the Government and in the interests of all who, unlike me, wish to see the return of a Conservative Government, to agree to these amendments and to see to it that adequate resources are made available. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

Amendment No. 183C seeks to ensure that where a licence is partially or totally revoked, the authority has the power to take action to prevent pollution or harm to human health. These matters are already taken care of in the Bill. Where a licence is partially revoked under subsection (3), the rest of the licence remains in force. The part that remains in force will include the part that requires the licensee to monitor the site and to take remedial action. Where a licence is revoked completely, it is no longer in force and so the provisions of Clause 58 which deals with the monitoring of closed landfill sites including those closed as a result of licence revocation, will automatically apply.

Amendment No. 246N seeks reassurance that the waste regulation authorities will be adequately resourced for their responsibilities, which are in this case the monitoring of closed landfills. I can give the noble Lord this assurance. The Government have nothing to gain from starving the authorities of the resources to do this important job. Indeed an additional £33 million in credit approvals has been made available in this financial year to help authorities who find a need to take action at old landfills but who do not have sufficent credit approval to finance the necessary work. The allocation of resources will be determined by the normal process of setting authorities' resource and expenditure needs each year by negotiation between the authorities and the department. I hope the noble Lord will be reassured by those remarks and will not press his amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

There is certainly one point on which the noble Lord, Lord Reay, and I can agree, which is that it is not in the Government's political interest to impose additional burdens on local authorities that will force them to put up the community charge next year or the year after. However, that is as far as I can go with the noble Lord. He reminds the Committee that a specific grant of £33 million was made in the current year. I can add that there was another grant of £5 million made available last year. However, the problems with that are twofold.

First of all it is not a direct grant. It is simply an authority to spend. The waste disposal authority will be faced with the usual requirements to meet loan repayments on any expenditure it incurs. Therefore the grant is not as simple and as generous as the noble Lord sought to imply.

Secondly, grants given in any single year or even over two years are simply not adequate to the purpose. I shall return to the example of West Yorkshire. The cost of providing bore holes there to monitor gas at landfill sites was more than £500,000. That covered the immediate expenditure on engineering equipment. It did not cover the cost of the monitoring equipment or the subsequent control equipment which will be necessary over a period of years. It is simply not good enough to say that to provide authority to incur the cost of the engineering work is the same thing as providing adequate resources over the period of years that the whole project will take.

If we take West Yorkshire as being in any way a typical local authority, the resources required over the whole of the country will be many millions of pounds, far in excess of the £33 million which has been authorised in the current year. The best estimate that I have is that we are talking of between £200 and £300 million, simply to make safe all the landfill sites which are emitting gas. To draw the analogy with the privatisation of water last year, the Government had to go to great lengths, because of the privatisation, to secure the financial interests of the new water companies by guaranteeing all of the expenditure that would be necessary on exactly analogous work. The clearing of gas from closed landfill sites is comparable to the work that is necessary to bring our water and sewerage undertakings up to the necessary quality.

That expenditure will fall on the local authorities. The commitment that the noble Lord has given and the £33 million which has been authorised this year will go no way towards meeting the necessary demand. The Government are politically digging their own grave if they continue to place further statutory demands on local authorities without providing them with the resources. Inevitably, particularly because of the gearing, the community charge will go up next year and the year after, until we have abolished the community charge.

I leave the Government with that thought. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Addington

moved Amendment No. 183CA: Page 39, line 24, at end insert: ("(4A) In any case in which a licence is revoked or partially revoked under subsections (3) or (4) above, the provisions of section 58(b) below shall apply."). The noble Lord said: I wish to speak to Amendment No. 183CA, standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Ross, and also to Amendments Nos. 246GA and 246GB. Clause 36 allows a waste regulation authority to revoke or suspend a waste management licence for various reasons which lead it to believe that environmental damage may occur, with specific regard to powers of revocation. That may lead to a total revocation or partial revocation of the licence. In either event it is possible for the authority to specify requirements which continue to bind the licence holder.

Clause 58 places a duty on waste regulation authorities in respect of closed landfill sites. That duty applies to any land for which a site licence is not currently in force, and thus could be considered to apply to sites where a licence has been revoked. Clause 58(6) deals with the mechanism for a waste regulation authority to take action at a site where a licence is not in force. Where pollution of the environment or harm to human health is likely to be caused, it places the duty of regulation on the authority to carry out work to avoid such pollution or harm. In the case of a site where a licence has been revoked it will be clear that the operator and/or the land holder should have the first duty to make restitution for any pollution or harm which has been caused by them rather than the regulation authority.

The amendments seek to place the owner of the land under a duty to comply with the requirements of the regulating authority and to carry out any cleaning up work within a specific timetable. Only if that is not complied with will the regulation authority then do the work. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

What Amendment No. 183CA sets out to do is already taken care of in the Bill. What I said in respect of Amendment No. 183C applies also in this case. Where a licence is partially revoked under subsection (3) the rest of the licence remains in force. The part that remains in force will include the part that requires the licensee to monitor the site and to take remedial action. Where a licence is revoked completely, it is no longer in force, so the provisions of Clause 58 will automatically apply. I hope that that will reassure the noble Lord and that he will therefore not press the amendment.

Amendments Nos. 246GA, 246GB and 246HA are on the subject of sites where there is no licence in force, either because the licence has been surrendered or because there never was a licence. Clause 58, which we shall debate later, provides for monitoring such sites and making them safe.

The procedure that the Government have adopted is to make the waste regulation authority responsible for such monitoring and remedial works. Amendment No. 246GA seeks to offer the alternative of requiring the owner to carry out works, except where the authority had issued a certificate of completion for the site. Under Amendment No. 246GB, the authority would be able to carry out the works itself only where the landowner had failed to do so and it could then, under Amendment No. 246HA, recover its costs.

Leaving aside the question of cost recovery, on which we have other later amendments, we do not believe that the landowner should be given the job of tackling gas and leachate problems on his land. This is not a simple case of clearing-up fly-tipped waste; under Clause 58, we are dealing with highly technical, specialised work to deal with underground gas migration and leachate. That is no work for amateur landowners. More than likely, the landowner of a closed site will no longer be the waste disposer who deposited waste and he is very unlikely to be technically equipped to arrange it. There must be no slip-ups on containing gas and leachate. We have therefore decided that all work under Clause 58 will be arranged by the waste regulation authority, which will have the necessary expertise. I hope that the Committee will agree that that is the only safe course and therefore that the amendments ought not to be accepted.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Addington

Having heard what the Minister had to say, I am to a certain extent satisfied that the points are covered. However, I reserve the right to come back to the matter when I have read what he said and studied it at greater length. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Layton

moved Amendment No. 183D: Page 39, line 37, leave out first ("serious"). The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 183E, 183F and 183G, which deal with Clause 37(6).

Clause 37(6) refers to licence suspension as opposed to licence revocation. Licence suspension can occur for three reasons: first, on the grounds that the licence holder is no longer a fit and proper person; secondly, where serious pollution of the environment and serious harm to human health has been caused by a continuation of the licence; and, thirdly, where serious pollution of the environment and serious harm to human health will be caused by a continuation of the licence.

The words, serious pollution of the environment are not used elsewhere in Part II. That is particularly notable as a disposal site licence should not be granted where "pollution of the environment" might occur, as stated in Clause 35(3)(a). Earlier in Clause 37, a licence can be revoked where "pollution of the environment" might manifest itself and a licence modification is not appropriate, as Clause 37(1)(b) makes clear. Similarly, it is a duty of the WRA to take the steps needed to ensure that licensed activities do not cause "pollution of the environment" and that the conditions are complied with under Clause 41(1). In none of those cases is the word "serious" used. It is used only in the circumstances of a licence suspension. Among other things, that sugggests that a more stringent test is needed to suspend a licence than is needed to revoke it.

Besides the interesting issue of whether suspending a licence is more drastic than revocation, a WRA can already revoke or modify a licence immediately under Clause 42(6) if: in the opinion of the authority it is necessary for the purpose of preventing or, where that is not practicable, minimising pollution of the environment or harm to human health". Hence, there is already within the clauses on modification and revocation an option for revoking or modifying a licence which can have immediate effect, regardless of appeal.

It appears that the use of the word "serious" is superfluous now that "pollution of the environment" is defined in the Bill by Clause 29(3). The definition used in Clause 29 requires that a WRA must establish, first, that pollution has occurred; secondly, that it has occurred from controlled wastes; thirdly, that there has been a release or escape; and, fourthly, that the concentrations or quantity involved will be sufficient to cause harm to man or living organisms. This in itself appears to be a stringent enough test without further qualification. All four of these criteria must be satisfied before a licence can be revoked or modified under Clauses 36(2)(a) or 37(1)(b).

Finally, the use of the word "serious" suggests that, once a licence is granted and a certain level of pollution damage occurs, that level might not be sufficiently "serious" enough for the licence to be suspended. This is despite the fact, first, that if there was any likelihood of an identical level of damage occurring when the licence was being applied for a licence would not have been granted in the first place; and, secondly, that a WRA could readily use its modification and revocation procedures prior to "serious" pollution manifesting itself. This amendment deletes this word and brings the test for licence suspension to a similar level as licence modification and revocation. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

I can understand the concern of the noble Lords in moving these amendments but let me once again try to reassure them that they are not necessary. The provisions of subsection (6) are for serious occasions. They take immediate effect without waiting for the outcome of any appeal. This is in complete contrast with the provisions for revocation. In the case of revocation (dealt with in Clause 37) the decision does not take effect immediately but is held in abeyance until an appeal is decided. If revocation is called for with immediate effect, the authority must issue a statement saying that the threat of pollution was serious enough to warrant immediate action.

In other words, the test of seriousness applies in both cases if the decision is to have immediate effect. It is not the case that the test for suspension is more stringent that the test for revocation, as my noble friend Lord Layton implied, or I think possibly feared. I am sure that it is right that this test of seriousness should apply where rights under a licence are to be withdrawn at a moment's notice. Therefore, I ask the noble Lords not to press their amendments.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Lord, Lord Layton, must make his own decision, but I was convinced by what the noble Lord said.

Lord Layton

I think that my noble friend's argument was quite convincing. The immediacy of the effect is what is important in this case. For that reason, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 183E to 184 not moved.]

Clause 37 agreed to.

Clause 38 [Surrender of licences]:

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 185: Page 41, line 36, leave out subsection (9). On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 38, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 39 agreed to.

Clause 40 [Fees and charges for licences]:

The Earl of Balfour

moved Amendment No. 185A: Page 42, line 40, leave out ("from time to time by a scheme"). The noble Earl said: I rise to move these amendments on behalf of my noble friend Lord Gisborough because he is unable to be here this evening. I have studied what he seeks to achieve in this clause, and there is some merit in the proposed insertion of his subsection (2) in Amendment No. 185B. Clause 40 gives me the impression that the Secretary of State seeks to lay down standard fees and charges for every waste regulation authority. As the Committee will see, it is subject to the approval of the Treasury. However, the conditions in one county in England and Wales, let alone Scotland, can vary considerably from those in another county. One authority may have to travel many miles to make inspections, whereas the journeys in another county might be short. I do not believe that national standards can be set, because one authority could make a profit and another a loss. What makes the position worse is that the standards in one county might become much lower than in another.

The clause states that the Secretary of State may revise the scheme or alter the fees and charges for licences. But there is no provision for the different circumstances that are bound to exist between individual authorities. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)

If the noble Earl was speaking also to Amendment No. 185B, I have to remind the Committee that if that amendment is agreed to I shall be unable to call Amendments Nos. 186 to 191.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

Perhaps I may speak briefly. In the light of the amendments that I shall move, Amendments Nos. 191 and 192, my noble friend Lord Balfour will readily understand that I cannot possibly agree with either of these amendments. They are rather ridiculous. When I move my amendments later, I shall explain why I consider them ridiculous.

Lord Hesketh

The amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, are seeking to create complete discretion for local authorities to set their own charges. I fear that the Government cannot accept that. National identical charges are an essential pillar of our charging proposals, for reasons that I shall explain.

Schemes set by individual authorities would mean that the level of fees and charges would be different in each authority. Charges will be a part of the costs of waste disposal. If we were to let authorities set their own level of fees and charges the costs of identical waste disposal would be lower in some areas than others. Some authorities would become a cheaper haven for waste disposal than others. This we must not allow. It is a point reiterated by everyone who has investigated the subject of waste disposal. In other circumstances I would accept that the costs of waste regulation should be recovered by each authority to reflect their variations of efficiency. However, waste regulation is one area where we cannot afford any suggestions of cutting corners.

There is provision on the face of the Bill for revision of the scheme. We do not need to have on the face of the Bill that the scheme should be revised annually. I can assure my noble friend Lord Balfour that we shall revise the level of charges whenever it is warranted. I hope that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment on behalf of his noble friend Lord Gisborough.

The Earl of Balfour

I am most grateful for the explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 185B not moved.]

The Earl of Arran

moved Amendment No. 186: Page 42, line 44, leave out ("the making or). The noble Earl said: On behalf of my noble friend I beg to move Amendment No. 186 and speak to Amendments Nos. 187 and 188. These are minor drafting amendments. They express more clearly the scope of the charging scheme under this clause.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Arran moved Amendments Nos. 187 and 188: Page 42, line 45, leave out ("the making of"). Page 42, line 46, leave out ("consideration") and insert ("respect"). On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 188A and 188B had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Reay

moved Amendment No. 189: Page 43, line 3, leave out first ("the") and insert ("a"). The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 189 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 190. Amendment No. 189 is a drafting amendment substituting the word "a" for "the" to bring the provision in line with the drafting of Clause 36 on modifications of licences.

Amendment No. 190 is more substantial and seeks to ensure that the costs of the National Rivers Authority are recovered in the charges for licences. The Government believe that it is right that the National Rivers Authority's costs should be reflected in licence charges.

The National Rivers Authority plays a very important role in the consideration of licence applications, modifications and surrender. Their costs can be substantial since there may be considerable monitoring work to be done to test whether the land is suitable for the proposed operations.

In this country we are fortunate that no public water supply has been lost through pollution from waste, as in many other countries. But I wonder whether "fortunate" is the right word. I do not believe that it is due to luck but to the existence of a legal framework stretching back over decades that has grown with the development of the waste disposal industry. The role of the water authorities in this process has been a central one and the National Rivers Authority will be carrying that forward.

The amendments achieve the same effect as Amendments Nos. 188A and 188B which appeared on the Marshalled List under the names of my noble friends Lord Renton and Lord Onslow and the noble Lord, Lord Moran. I am grateful to those noble Lords for withdrawing those amendments and allowing the amendments of the Government to proceed. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 190: Page 43, line 8, at end insert: ("( ) A waste regulation authority in England and Wales shall pay to the National Rivers Authority, out of any fee or charge which—

  1. (a) is payable to the authority under a scheme under subsection (2) above; and
  2. (b) is of a description prescribed in such a scheme for the purposes of this subsection,
such amount as may be prescribed in the scheme in relation to fees or charges of that description."). On Question, amendment agreed to.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

moved Amendment No. 181: Page 43, line 18, leave out ("and different schemes may be made and revised for different areas."). The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is fairly obvious. The Bill permits different levels of charging for the issue and supervision of licences in different areas of the country. There can be no good waste-management reason for that. There may be other reasons of which I know nothing but there is certainly not any waste-management reason for the different charges on licences.

Waste is mobile and producers tend to seek the lowest price for disposal services. I suggest that if charges in licensing vary, it will distort the market and affect prices. We have already discussed how an operator may move waste from one site to another. In fact it could be counterproductive in terms of the use of the energy consumed by transporting waste into a cheaper area.

In effect I believe that my noble friend the Minister answered me when he spoke to Amendments Nos. 185A and 185B, which were moved by my noble friend Lord Balfour. He said that we have to maintain standards in this area and cannot possibly afford to cut corners. It seems to me that uniformity, certainly in the three major areas, is needed. In another place the Minister said that the term "different areas" in fact meant different countries. There is no reason —certainly not one that is apparent to me —why charges should differ in England, Scotland and Wales.

My last point with regard to this amendment was discussed under Amendment No. 164. If that is exactly what we mean, let us put it into the Bill and not use the rather loose and unhappy phrase "different areas" and so on. I beg to move.

The Earl of Arran

My noble friend is quite right when he says that we have already discussed this issue at some length. The matter was discussed both at Committee stage in another place and previously in this Chamber under Clause 33. I can give my noble friend the assurance that it is intended to distinguish the constituent parts of Great Britain —England, Scotland and Wales —rather than any smaller regions. We envisage that one universal set of fees and charges should be set for England and Wales, with a different scheme for Scotland, to take into account differences in administrative arrangements.

My noble friend may well ask, "Why not in that case put on the face of the Bill 'England, Wales and Scotland'?" There are two simple reasons: first, because it is well established drafting practice and, secondly, because it would have significant effects for the drafting of all other government Bills, which parliamentary counsel's office seeks to resist. For those reasons I urge my noble friend not to press his amendment.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

There is no answer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Nathan

moved Amendment No. 192: Page 43, line 25, at end insert: ("(8) Fees and charges received by waste regulation authorities under a scheme made under the section shall be applied by those authorities towards the exercise of their functions under this Part."). The noble Lord said: This clause deals with the power of waste regulation authorities to charge fees and other charges in order to cover their expenses. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the money received goes to the purpose specified.

First, there is no doubt on all sides of the Committee that the purpose of the charges fulfils the requirement relating to the polluter pays principle in that fees and charges will be reflected in the price of waste disposal and will be passed on to waste producers and their customers; and, secondly, that the intention is to provide financial resources for waste regulation authorities to carry out their functions. As I understand it, those will be set at a level to enable waste regulation authorities to cover their costs. These provisions are welcomed by the waste regulation authorities and the waste disposal industry generally.

The purpose is well set out on page xvii of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum at the beginning of the Bill, which states: Any additional costs arising from these enhanced control provisions will be more than offset by income from new charges for their administrative and enforcement costs". Therefore, the purpose is clear: those charges and fees will go to finance the waste regulation authorities in their tasks.

The question is whether those fees and charges will be spent for that purpose, bearing in mind that the waste regulation authorities, except for one in England —the London Waste Regulation Authority —are local authorities with other more substantial responsibilities. The local authorities are under continual pressure in relation to expenditure and it is all too well known that they have difficulty in meeting the requirements imposed upon them. That has been shown in recent weeks and months in relation to the poll tax, charge capping, and so on. In those circumstances it will not be surprising if a waste regulation authority, in its capacity as a local authority, needs to consider the priority it gives to its waste regulation functions in the context of its many other activities.

Despite that function being apparently self-funding it would be possible to skimp on standards of inspection and use the funds raised for some other perfectly honest purpose under the pressure of events. Therefore, I wish to ask the Minister how he proposes to ensure that the funds raised by the waste regulation authorities are expended on the waste regulation function unless some such provision as is contained in this amendment is put into the Bill.

The position would be entirely different if the waste regulation authorities were single-purpose authorities because there, clearly, the charges and fees obtained must be applied for that single purpose. The difficulty arises from the fact that they have extensive functions. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

I sympathise with the intention underlying this amendment, although I have to say at once that I cannot accept it.

These charges, like others for pollution control, are essentially intended as charges to recompense local authorities for the services they offer to licensees. We envisage that charges will make extra resources available to local authorities. None of this is yet settled in any detail. We have yet to draw up a detailed charging scheme, on which we shall of course have to consult the local authorities and the Treasury.

The idea is that local authorities may apply the income from charges to their waste regulatory work. But that is different from saying that they shall spend it on waste regulation, as the amendment would require. We do not generally prescribe in such detail to local government how much must be spent on a function. Moreoever, it would be dangerous to set in tablets of stone any suggestion that authorities should regulate according to their income from charges. Well-intentioned floors on spending have a way of becoming targets or even ceilings. Although there will be a rough equivalence between charges and costs, adjusted to the costs involved in different types of site, the very fact that we shall have a national scheme will guarantee that there is no exact match between charges and needful expenditure in any one authority. Nor will absolutely all types of waste regulation expenditure be recovered by charges; notably, we shall exclude the costs of enforcement work, prosecutions and the like.

Having said all that, I endorse the view that more regulatory effort is required by many authorities. This is not just a question of financial resources, but also of the priority and status of waste regulation within authorities. We shall be pressing, via HMIP, to ensure that that is forthcoming.

Perhaps I may refer the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, back to the earlier part of my argument regarding his proposal to separately ring fence. In fact it is part of the income stream for a local authority.

Lord Nathan

I thank the Minister for his response and am cheered by the fact that he is taking seriously the question of adequate financing of the waste regulation functions of the local authority. It would be a misfortune if in one waste regulation authority area, or perhaps in all, the economic pressures were such that the charges imposed on the licensees were applied for other purposes and the standards intended to be achieved were not achieved because sufficient money was not applied. Unfortunately there are other instances where that has happened. I hope that that situation will not arise, and, in that belief and hope, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 40, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 41 [Supervision of licensed activities]:

The Earl of Arran

moved Amendment No. 192A: Page, 44, line 20, leave out ("and (10)") and insert (",(10) and (11)"). The noble Earl said: In a splendid show of unanimity, I am pleased to move Amendment No. 192A along with my noble friend Lord Layton and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. This simply corrects an accidental omission from the list of provisions of Clause 37 which are relevant when a licence is suspended under Clause 41.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Since we have had so little success in making any changes to the Bill so far, we must express our appreciation to the Government for at the very least coming to the same sensible conclusion as ourselves.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 41, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 42 [Appeals to Secretary of State from decisions with respect to licences]:

Lord Reay

moved Amendment No. 193: Page 44, line 33, after ("modification") insert ("of the conditions"). The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 193 and 194 are drafting amendments. Amendment No. 193 makes clear that it is the conditions attached to a licence that are modified rather than the licence itself. Amendment No. 194 makes clear that a licensee may appeal against revocation under Clause 41 as well as under Clause 37.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 194: Page 44, line 38, after ("37") insert ("or 41"). On Question, amendment agreed to.

10 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

moved Amendment No. 195: Page 45, line 8, at end insert: ("(2A) The Secretary of State shall determine any matter falling within subsection (1) above which is referred to him on appeal within a period of 6 months"). The noble Lord said: I move Amendment No. 195 standing in the name of my noble friend Lord McIntosh. As those who follow these matters will see, the purpose of the amendment is to test the speed of appeals. The amendment seeks to limit the time spent by the Secretary of State in determining appeals.

All Members of the Committee here tonight will have had experience in planning and regulatory matters. They will understand that the appeals procedure is important, in fact crucial, to the good order and discipline of any regulatory system. The system we are putting in train here is no exception. I quote to the Committee an extract from the second report of the House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment, which dealt with toxic waste. I know that this is emblazoned on the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh. Paragraph 189 reads: The DoE has also been much criticised for its failure to process appeals efficiently. WDAs told us of waiting two years for decisions on appeals on alteration to or revocation of site licences. This is quite unacceptable. During this time the operator can continue to practise as before and the site may even be filled up before determination of the appeal by the Secretary of State". To give a further example, there is currently a site in West Yorkshire where the appeal is still effectively unresolved after four and a half years. The AMA drew these matters to my attention and, as the Minister knows, could give us many more illustrations without too much embarrassment to him, because this is no criticism of him but of the system.

In a Bill which is designed to strengthen environmental protection, any damage which is done to the environment can be exacerbated if there is a lengthy period for appeals. If such delay is permissible it flies directly against the intentions of the Bill. Given that there will be the need to scrutinise all existing licences and ascertain whether they meet the newer and more stringent requirements of the Bill, as well as to apply these criteria to any new applications for licences, it will inevitably mean that there will be more rather than fewer appeals in the future. In the best interests of environmental protection there is an urgent need to ensure that the appeals mechanism is handled more efficiently and effectively than has been the case to date.

The National Association of Waste Disposal Contractors has drawn my attention to its frustrating experience in this matter. It says that there is no doubt that the new, more complex arrangements for licences will significantly increase the number of appeals. It is obvious that there should be statutory pressure to maintain a properly resourced appeals department. We are told that the funding of the appeals department that will come into being, or be expanded, as a result of this Bill is parsimonious in the extreme. Therefore, I very much hope that the Minister will have something helpful to say on this matter. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

I have to say at once that I have every sympathy with the purpose of this amendment and if it were a realistic possibility I should be delighted to accept it. Of course, we all want appeals to be determined quickly. I accept that my department's record has not been of the swiftest but legislating in this way is not going to help unless it is a practical proposition to deliver appeal decisions, without exception, within six months.

It is worth remembering that the department is the place of last recourse on delayed decisions. We have provided in the Bill that, if a case is sufficiently delayed at the stage of application to a local authority, then it is deemed to have been refused and the case then may come to the DoE on appeal, as I pointed out on an earlier amendment. The buck then stops. However difficult or time-consuming, the matter has to be settled by the department.

There are good reasons and bad reasons why appeals can often take a long time to determine. The good reasons are the often complex technical issues which are at stake, the need for expert site inspections and the paramount requirement that each party must be given every chance to make its case and to respond to points made by the opposing party. The bad reasons are that all too often one or even both parties procrastinate, delay submitting crucial material and fail to respond to chivvying. I am afraid that such delays are the bane of any judicial or quasi-judicial process.

We are doing our best to speed the process and to inject more urgency into the parties to an appeal, but it is not within the realms of possibility that such cases can always be determined within six months or any other arbitrarily set deadline. I hope that, having made his point, the noble Lord will not feel obliged to press this amendment further.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

In a spirit of mutual understanding, I am grateful for the Minister saying that he would love to do what is asked but he cannot. I am inclined to agree. He knows the realities of the situation far better than I. They are such that I fear what he has said is substantially correct. He knows that very often the reason why matters reach the department is because of delays at a local level which, in my experience, could be obviated.

The Minister knows of the manner and speed by which local councils are willing and able to determine matters and that that rests substantially on the number of qualified staff they have. The Minister knows that those in his department and others who watch over manpower have persistently over the past 10 years driven down the number of qualified people available to planning departments and able to do a great deal of work. I have lost count of the number of examples in my own council at Enfield which I do not believe is exceptional. The local newspaper is studded with illustrations of matters that could have been resolved earlier but, because of the weight of work, have not come before the council.

The Minister tells us that the situation is difficult. Will he confirm that he understands the consequences of that difficult situation? In terms of improving the environment some of the consequences will be very serious. It is not just a question of waste disposal. There is the question of delay in obtaining permission for an extension to a house or putting a swimming pool in the garden. The consequences will also affect a business which may want to build a new warehouse.

The Minister said that he understands the general situation concerning the appeals procedure. I fully support the raison d'être of the appeals procedure. For example, in my local area of Enfield arguments occur when appeals go to the Minister. That is not to the liking of some appellants. They strongly object that the decision is made in Marsham Street whereas it should be made in the civic centre. I am a firm upholder of the rights of an appellant to appeal against a decision of the local council. By and large, local councils change and a different attitude may appear according to the political complexion.

Though Ministers change, by and large I do not think anyone impugns the integrity or the honesty of the ministry as such in trying to resolve such matters wholly objectively. The Minister has told us that he understands the problem. He would love to solve it but this is not the way to do it. Would he care to tell the Committee how the problem can and will be solved?

Lord Hesketh

I think the noble Lord has made a remarkable omission. Many local authority officials around the country would tell him that increasingly planning committees take a very different view to that recommended to them by their officials. It is a growing problem at Marsham Street. It has nothing to do with the resources of central government. It is the reality of a presumption against development in all its facets. That is human nature. I do not believe that the noble Lord expects me to put amendments in the Bill to legislate for human nature.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I am intrigued by the Minister's assertion that more frequently now than before elected councils disregard the advice of their officers. That is one of the reasons why matters go to appeal. In effect the Minister is saying that if councils took the advice of their officers matters would not go to appeal: that is to say, that which is requested would be granted. That is not my experience. In general, council officers look at these matters objectively. In my view, invariably local

councillors take the advice of their officers. Why is it realistic for the WRA to determine a licence within two months—we heard that in an earlier reply—when it is not realistic for the Department of the Environment to determine appeals within six months? If the WRA has to determine within two months the basis for giving a licence, which means that it has to take into account various matters, why is it not reasonable for the department to determine an appeal within six months?

Lord Hesketh

I feel that I can make little extra useful contribution to the matter apart from pointing out to the noble Lord that we are talking about two entirely different matters.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I am surprised not only by what the Minister has said but by the tone of what he has said. I am talking about the time it takes to determine a matter that needs to be arbitrated upon. I get the drift of the Minister's temper. I do not want to exacerbate it. He has been as helpful as he can during the evening. I shall try to help him over the next period of the Committee stage by withdrawing the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

moved Amendment No. 196: Page 45, line 50, at end insert: ("(9) Within three months of the end of each financial year, the Secretary of State shall publish a report giving details of appeals under this section determined during that year, including the dates the appeals were made and the dates of determinations, and the number of appeals outstanding at the beginning and end of that year."). The noble Lord said: This amendment stands in the name of my noble friend Lady Nicol. With it we want to see a regular public scrutiny of the extent to which the appeals system has been working. The public is entitled to be privy to progress on the appeals system. The amendment would provide a useful opportunity for public scrutiny of the way the appeals procedure is working.

The Minister will recall that in another place the Government amended the Bill to allow appeals to be decided by a person appointed by the Secretary of State. It would be helpful to know why that change was made and how the Government see the appeal process working. I can assure the Minister that these matters are important to little people and big people alike. But I am inclined to believe that they are more important to those who are interested in good government. They are interested not only in the appeal system itself but also in how it works. I can assure the noble Lord from my experience in many spheres that there is a keen interest in knowing exactly what goes on. The noble Lord knows that from time to time league tables are produced to enable Ministers to crack the whip and make local councils speed up the manner in which they resolve the generality of their planning applications. From my experience the local public is genuinely interested in the progress of these matters. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

I understand the desire of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and the noble Lord, Lord Graham, to have information available on which the performance of the department may be judged. But there is no problem here. It is not necessary to import the notion of a statutory annual report as a means of eliciting the really quite few figures which are required. A Question in this Chamber or in another place would be equally effective and economical. As my honourable friend the Minister of State said in another place, we are always willing to give such information to Parliament on request. We can do no more.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I wonder whether the Minister is really saying that unless the information is requested it will not be published or provided. I have joined in—as I am sure the noble Lord did before he became a Minister —in the very useful parliamentary exercise of tabling Questions in order to elicit information.

The Minister said that in future if people want this information they will be able to obtain it by asking for it rather than taking the proposed route. He said that they will be able to ask how many appeals were heard, how many are outstanding and so on. However, it is not just the bare statistics that we are interested in; we are interested in the defence of the Minister and the ministry as to why there have been inordinate delays, if in fact there have been any such delays. Can he tell us why they believe that good government rests upon the procedure of requests for information rather than their being willing to publish the information on a regular basis?

Lord Reay

Parliament provides not just an occasion for giving figures; there are also opportunities to put further questions. The information with regard to appeals does not amount to a great number in this case. For example, in the year ending 30th April 1990, 10 appeals were determined. That is the order of information which we feel is suitable to be dealt with through Questions in Parliament.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Regarding the period during which 10 appeals were determined, can the Minister tell us how many remain outstanding? But if he does not have that information I can understand why, and I am not making any imputations. It is as important to be told how many appeals were submitted and remain outstanding, as it is to be told how many have been determined.

There is no ulterior motive in requesting this report. It is not a stick with which we are trying to beat anyone. This is a genuine altruistic desire on the part of those who are affected by the appeals procedure to know how it is working. Although the Minister said that there may not be much interest in the matter, in some quarters it is vital for people to have this information.

I rest the argument for this amendment on the fact that Parliament is entitled to know how a machinery of government to which it is party is working. Does the Minister have any further information on the matter?

Lord Reay

I can answer the noble Lord's question. The number of appeals outstanding as at 30th April 1990 was 52.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Fifty-two outstanding appeals, compared with the 10 which were determined, puts the whole matter into context. I do not know how long those appeals have been outstanding and I do not know how quickly they will be dealt with. But it is not good enough when we have to drag information out of a Minister, as has been demonstrated by the proceedings of the past 10 minutes. It would be much simpler for the Government to be under an obligation —there is the rub —to produce a report. However, it is quite clear that this Government are not willing to do so. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 42, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 197: After Clause 42, insert the following new clause:

("Offences of making false statements

A person who, in an application for a licence, for a modification of the conditions of a licence or for the surrender or transfer of a licence, makes any statement which he knows to be false in a material particular or recklessly makes any statement which is false in a material particular shall be liable—

  1. (a) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum; and
  2. (b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine or both.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 43 [Collection of controlled waste]:

Lord Addington

moved Amendment No. 198: Page 46, line 21, after first ("in") insert: ("(a) the case of waste deposited unlawfully by a commercial operator at a civic amenity site; or (b) in"). The noble Lord said: I am moving this amendment which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Ross of Newport. The purpose of it is to overcome a fairly widespread problem; namely, the fact that civic amenities are often used for the deposit of what is effectively commercial waste. The problem usually arises from such activities as house clearances or garden waste clearances which are undertaken by small businessmen. These often create a certain amount of waste which is effectively commercial waste. The waste is then deposited in a civic amenity and it should be charged for. I suggest that the amendment would go some way towards dealing with the problem. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

Amendment No. 198 would impose a duty on contractors operating civic amenity sites to make a charge for waste deposited unlawfully at their sites by commercial operators. Operators already have the power to charge for commercial waste deposited at their sites. Indeed, apart from a requirement that they should not charge for household waste operators are free to decide on their own charging policies. I am also concerned that the amendment may give rise to the belief that it is acceptable unlawfully to deposit waste at a civic amenity site provided that you pay the operator of that site. Let me make it clear that sites must accept only the waste that they are licensed to accept. There can be no question of site operators being paid to accept waste unlawfully deposited. It is the operator's responsibility to prevent such deposits, not to charge for them.

Lord Addington

I should have thought that the amendment was straightforward and innocuous. I should like to read carefully what the Minister said before deciding the eventual fate of the issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 43 agreed to.

Clause 44 [Receptacles for household waste]:

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 199: Page 48, line 11, leave out first ("receptacles or"). The noble Earl said: The peculiar reading of line 11 is the result of a misplaced amendment in Committee in another place. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

We are again indebted to my noble friend Lord Balfour for his sharp-sighted detection of some unnecessary repetition, and I am happy to accept the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 44, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 45 [Receptacles for commercial or industrial waste]:

Lord Hampton

moved Amendment No. 200: Page 49, line 8, after ("receptacles"), insert ("of a kind and number specified"). The noble Lord said: I speak to Amendments Nos. 200 and 201 which are in the name of my noble friend Lord Ezra. There is a printing error in Amendment No. 201, which should read: The kind and number of receptacles", instead of "land".

In Clause 44, which deals with receptacles for household waste, the words of the amendment are used: The kind and number of the receptacles required … shall be such only as are reasonable but, subject to that, separate receptacles or compartments of receptacles may be required to be used for waste which is to be recycled and waste which is not". That includes in the Bill the option of requiring a householder to separate different waste materials for recycling. However, there is no such requirement in the Bill in respect of the provision of receptacles for commercial and industrial waste. That can be viewed only as a missed opportunity in the promotion and encouragement of recycling from commercial and industrial premises. There is considerable potential for the recycling of waste from commercial and industrial premises. An example is high-grade office paper for which, unlike low-grade newspaper, demand currently exceeds supply.

The amendment extends the enabling power of local authorities under which they can require householders to separate waste for recycling to commercial and industrial premises. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

This is a constructive amendment. We have much sympathy with its aims. Clause 44 already provides for mandatory separate collection systems for recyclable materials in the case of domestic waste. The amendment would extend that provision to cover commercial and industrial waste. There is, however, a crucial difference between the regimes for collecting domestic waste, on the one hand, and commercial and industrial waste, on the other. In the case of domestic waste, the collection authority has a duty to collect free of charge. In the case of commercial and industrial waste, the collection authority collects at a reasonable charge and only if requested to do so. Waste producers often choose to make alternative arrangements, usually with private sector contractors.

On some industrial estates, for example, a large proportion of the waste produced is collected by private contractors. Then again, some waste producers may use the collection authority for part of the time or for some types of waste collection and not others. It would therefore be difficult and possibly unfair to waste producers to impose a mandatory system. On the type of industrial estate that I have mentioned, waste producers could, for example, have customised receptacles foisted on them by the council which would then remain empty.

However, there is nothing to stop a collection authority from organising a recycling scheme for industrial and commercial premises and offering a collection charge rebate to those firms that co-operate with it by using differentiated waste receptacles. We think that that is the right approach. It gives a financial incentive to companies to benefit the environment. This is something that we wish to encourage. On that basis I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

As so often happens, the concluding words of the Minister indicated that the proposal had some merit but that it was not the way to do it. The noble Lord then went through, quite reasonably and realistically, what the position was. He came up in the end with the way in which the burden of complaint in the amendment could be tackled.

I wonder whether he would care to tell us, in addition to giving encouragement, how he means to encourage the form of solution which he put to the Committee to make it effective. He knows that if there is nothing statutory or laid down, if it is just left to the initiative, energy or imperative of different people, disparate situations will arise. The Minister might say, "So be it. If one local authority or waste authority is more efficient and innovative than another, the people served by it are entitled to be advantaged. Those who are badly served by an authority that is a bit of a stick-in-the-mud will have a poorer service".

I have a high regard for the ingenuity not just of the Minister but of the civil servants who serve him well. Of course they can come up with good ideas. However, I should be grateful if, when the Minister responds at another stage to a similar amendment, he will tell us not merely how he believes that the problem could be tackled but to what extent he and the ministry will put their money where their mouth is.

Lord Reay

There is a great deal that I could say on the subject of recycling. It is the Government's wish that it should be encouraged and various steps have been taken in that direction. I can announce that the Secretary of State has agreed that the Department of the Environment will pay a premium for recycled paper for office use. I am sure that the noble Lord will be interested to hear that.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I am interested, but it is difficult to steer the course I wish. The problem is not that the Minister or the ministry are doing something that is not laudable. The question is how energetic, positive and dynamic the ministry is in carrying out its remit.

From my experience in other quarters and in another place I understand that often the recycling system grinds to a halt because it is subject to the market. There are times when the need or the demand for paper to be recycled is phenomenal. I have had experience of authorities which have been persuaded by all kinds of pressures, not least from their own residents, to spend money. Then with a full heart they can allocate resources and separate their paper, bottles and metals and have them properly dealt with. However, enormous capital sums must be spent by the local authority to do that.

Then there is a change in the supply of paper or a shortage of wood and before the authority knows where it is it has a white elephant. Other local authorities party to the system find an escape clause and get out of the contract. People with a genuine desire to improve the environment and diminish pollution find that they have a problem.

The Minister could use this opportunity to do something other than tell the Committee what should be done, what could be done and even what the ministry is doing in a small way. Unless the ministry gets excited —one has to try to envisage the DoE getting excited over something —about this matter and becomes willing to spend as much time and money on it as it does on many other things, sadly, it will be far too easy for people to decide that their effort is not worth it or appreciated. The Government have provisions for litter collection but there must be a regular, persistent and programmed expenditure of time and money to give people encouragement in this matter.

Sadly, people are careless and dirty in their habits. It is not just a matter of individuals being dirty but of the way in which our communities look after our cities and towns. We are talking here primarily about industrial and commercial waste collection. There is a great job to be done which I do not envisage the Government doing in encouraging the packaging industry, the paper industry and many other industries to work together. I have attended conferences and have heard of initiatives that have been taken. I can appreciate that tempers are getting short in this respect. I shall sit down now and listen to what the Minister has to say.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Reay

There is general agreement about the importance of improving the United Kingdom's performance in the recycling of waste. The aim is to recycle half of our recyclable domestic waste by the end of the century. This would mean something like a tenfold increase in recycling overall. That kind of increase can only be achieved by a combination of measures. We think that, first of all, it is necessary for manufacturers to design recyclability into their products to cut down on the amount of unnecessary packaging and to price recycled products competitively. I think that deals with the point that the noble Lord raised.

Secondly, consumers must know about and choose recycled products and must make use of recycling facilities provided by local authorities, retailers and voluntary groups. Thirdly, local authorities and retailers must substantially increase their commitment to providing recycling facilities so that the majority come up to the standard of the best. Fourthly, the Government must create the right waste management framework for an increase in recycling through measures in this Bill and through our support for innovative experiments, such as Recycling City in Sheffield, which will help identify and apply best practice in waste collection and recycling techniques.

We are completely committed to recycling as a long-term goal to which a great deal of energy must be devoted. I am sure there is no difference between us on that.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I appreciate that the mover of the amendment will have something to say but I should say that I am grateful to the Minister and to his aides for providing me with clear evidence of the will of the Government to do something. However, I should tell the Minister that it is a thankless task because there are millions of people outside the Chamber who do not care tuppence about implementing the practices that the Minister and many other responsible people want to see implemented. I wish the Minister well and wish him success in the Government's initiatives, including the provisions of this Bill.

Lord Hampton

I thank the Minister for his explanations. However, we need to consider the matter further, particularly after the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, to see whether we shall return to it at a later stage. For the time being I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 201 not moved.]

Clause 45 agreed to.

Clause 46 [Duties of waste collection authorities as respects disposal of waste collected]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

moved Amendment No. 201A: Page 50, line 28, at end insert ("in accordance with any plan drawn up under section 48 below"). The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 201A I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 211A, 216A, 216B, 216C, 217A, 218A, 218B, 218C, 219A and 219B. The amendments are all concerned with the tangled relationship which the Bill establishes between the waste collection authorities, the waste disposal authorities and the waste regulation authorities. Clause 46 is concerned with the duties of the waste collection authorities as respects disposal of waste collected. Clause 48, to which the bulk of the amendments refer, is headed: Waste disposal plans of waste regulation authorities". Under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 the system was by no means as complicated as that which is proposed in the Bill. Under Section 2 of the 1974 Act the waste disposal authorities, which are really the only authorities concerned, were required to produce plans. They were given powers to collect the information necessary to make decisions to ensure that adequate facilities were provided and were required to produce and revise a waste disposal plan. Most of them have done so. I believe that the idea has got around that that has not happened. But, certainly in the metropolitan areas, the waste disposal authorities have produced plans and have attempted to enforce them.

Under the present Bill, there is a much more complicated system. The waste collection authorities have to produce plans for recycling. The waste regulation authorities are supposed to produce waste disposal plans. It seems to us that that provision is a misunderstanding of the role of the waste regulation authorities. I remind the Committee that the waste regulation authorities are intended to be policing and licensing agents. Therefore, there is no good reason why the waste regulation authorities should know how waste arises. They know about the disposal of waste and about adherence to the conditions that they lay down, but much of the detailed information required for the production of waste disposal plans is, not surprisingly, available in the first instance to the waste disposal authorities. Is there any good reason why those who are not responsible for waste disposal but, on the other hand, are responsible for policing and licensing, should be responsible for producing the plans? Surely it should be the operators, those who are actively responsible in an executive capacity, who should have the responsiblity for producing the plans.

To anticipate the Government's response, the only argument that we can see against such a logical procedure would be that it might be thought that the size of the waste disposal authorities was too small because they are linked to local authority areas. However, under those circumstances there could very well be a grouping of authorities for the purpose of producing plans. There is no need for statutory provision for that; it would arise out of common sense. I beg to move.

Lord Burton

I am a little apprehensive about the proposal. The noble Lord referred mainly to urban areas. However, in the case of scattered, rural areas, it would be very difficult for the authorities to co-ordinate plans. The transport costs would be enormous. The noble Lord must consider rural areas as well as his urban areas.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I wonder whether the noble Lord has fully understood the purport of the amendment. It does not relate to a shift in responsibility for executive action. What is proposed is a shift in responsibility for making the plans from the regulatory body to the body which is responsible for carrying out those plans.

Lord Burton

I appreciate that. I was referring to the plan. Many of the authorities in rural areas are miles apart: it is impossible for them to put together a co-ordinated plan. It would involve a great deal of extra expense. And the noble Lord has just complained that the Bill will result in extra expense. This proposal would add even further expense.

The Earl of Arran

Perhaps I may be able to help the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh.

Amendment No. 201A essentially concerns the relationship between the plans or policies adopted by the the three tiers of authorities —the waste collection, waste disposal and waste regulation authorities. It gets at a fundamental issue. There is no point in each authority going its own sweet way and making elaborate plans without regard to the plans of the two other tiers of authority.

That is why we specifically provide in Clause 48 for consultation of waste collection authorities by waste regulation authorities. Nonetheless, we must ensure that the various plans are properly co-ordinated and we are happy to undertake to look once again at this and to return to the matter at a later stage if necessary.

The group of amendments aims to transfer responsibility for the preparation of waste disposal plans from regulation to disposal authorities. With respect, I feel that this aim is based on a misunderstanding of the purpose of the new disposal plans. In the past, disposal plans have tended to concentrate on the disposal of household waste at local authority sites. They have been operational documents for the benefit of the authority compiling them. That was never the purpose of disposal plans and we are taking this opportunity to move away from such plans.

In future, disposal plans will record patterns of waste arisings and disposal. They will detail the existing disposal options available and identify the type and capacity of new facilities which will be needed to deal with future waste arisings. In that way they will guide the investment decisions made by waste disposal companies, both local authority and private sector alike. The new disposal plans will cover all types of waste, not just household waste.

The regulation authority will be able to set out in the plan its policies of waste management and recycling, among other things. The role of disposal authorities will be to use the disposal plan to guide their decisions about signing contracts. In that way they will be like any other large waste producer.

We are convinced that the duty to prepare disposal plans should rest with the regulation authority and not with the disposal authority. We therefore cannot accept this group of amendments.

Amendments Nos. 216A, 216B and 218B, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, are minor drafting amendments which, again, we are unable to accept. Although the amendments contain nothing that is wrong, they add nothing to the Bill and are therefore unnecessary.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I have listened with close attention to what the noble Earl has said. He has not convinced me that the programme of planning which the Government propose for those different tiers of authority has been fully thought out. The point that particularly concerns me is the technical word "arisings" of waste which the noble Earl used. It seems to us that the information which is least likely to be available to the Waste Regulation Authority is the way in which the waste arises —in other words, the origin of waste, whether it be household, commercial or industrial waste. To that extent, I am afraid that we are in danger of having a planning process which is too far removed from the process of executive action and from the information that is available to those who do the work. However, I see that the Government are determined about this procedure. We shall have to look at what the noble Earl has said and see whether there is any scope for further amendment at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Arran moved Amendment No. 202: Page 50, line 32, at end insert ("; and the authority shall have regard, in deciding what recycling arrangements to make, to its waste recycling plan under section 47 below."). The noble Earl said: This amendment, standing in the name of my noble friend, ensures that waste collection authorities take account of the policies that they have set out in their waste recycling plans when they exercise the power to recycle waste conferred by this subsection. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 203 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Clause 46, as amended, agreed to.

10.45 p.m.

Lord McNair moved Amendment No. 203A: After Clause 46, insert the following new clause:

("Duty to minimise controlled waste

. It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State, and of each waste collection authority and waste regulation authority to promote polices and prepare programmes and targets for waste reduction, recycling, re-use and recovery, with the intention of minimising the amount of controlled waste which is destined for disposal").

The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 203A. I apologise that I shall be slightly longer than one might wish at this time of night but this is a most important amendment because waste reduction through recycling is pivotal to the success of any rational, sensible waste dispoal policy. I shall dwell on the two ways that this can take place.

First, we have what is called source separation. Different kinds of waste can be separated at source; for example, waste paper and glass. But these two materials each illustrate one of the major problems with source separation. In the case of paper, the market price of waste paper for recycling fluctuates wildly. Sometimes the collected paper can be sold at a profit, sometimes you cannot even give it away and the source separated paper languishes in expensive storage until a decision is taken finally to dump it in a hole in the ground.

In the case of glass the problem is somewhat different. People can be encouraged to take their bottles to a bottle bank, but what about the broken bottles and the glass from greenhouses damaged by high winds and so on? This remains with the bulk of the waste. In addition, the areas where source separation has been piloted are nice, tidy suburbs, with environmentally motivated house owners and plenty of space for several dustbins per household.

What about the inner city tower blocks, two or more flats per floor, with a communal chute system? Even if the residents could be persuaded to separate their rubbish and take it down in the lift to be placed in one of four or five bins, just imagine having four bins for each of 150 flats. You would have 600 bins, and the waste collection authority would have to quadruple its collection service. Source separation can only be a partial answer, although the campaigns in favour of it have the side benefit of raising public awareness about environmental issues.

The second way in which waste may be diverted from the waste stream is comprehensively to process the whole bulk of domestic waste, mechanically separating out products which are recycled intact, and going on to create new and useful products.

With the permission of the Committee, I should like to quote from a speech by the Secretary of State given to the Packaging and Environment Conference on 25th March of this year. He said: Recycling means turning waste into something which the market can value and use".

He further said: And the environmental costs of landfill—the loss of open space, the dangers from methane build-up—are enormous and growing … We need to turn our attention now to the highly visible and undeveloped area of post-consumer recycling".

Again, to illustrate the scale of the task we confront, of the total of 120 million tonnes we produce each year 100 million tonnes comes from industry and commerce and about 20 million tonnes, or one tonne per household per year, of domestic waste. Further, in all about half of household waste should, technically, be recyclable, and that proportion will grow. We are achieving barely 5 per cent.

In fact the British recycling industry is now capable of recycling up to 92 per cent. of all household waste, including glass and metals, and doing exactly what the Secretary of State said we should be doing, producing new and useful products for which there is a strong and continuously growing demand as substitutes for raw materials whose extraction or use has strong environmental disadvantages.

I was even more pleased to read in the same speech the assertion that there is, an artificial depression of the real costs of landfill because of the way local authorities organise their accounts.

I sincerely hope that the Government will follow through on what to me is the obvious implication of this assertion and ensure that accounting procedures are based on a degree of reality that reflects the facts of the situation and are not allowed to remain the way they are because, "We've always done it this way". Breaking up the inertia inherent in such a system may require determination, persistence and strong leadership, all of which I am sure the Secretary of State possesses in good measure.

Perhaps I may mention this point to the Minister. When the recycling industry is competing with local authority organisations to tender for recycling contracts, it finds it immensely difficult to deal with local authorities because they often seem to be governed by rules and business practices that are a reflection of the attitudes of the individuals concerned rather than by what one might call normal business practice. Perhaps when considering the accounting procedures for waste disposal the Minister will look at that point.

If I may return to practicalities, not only shall we shortly run out of holes in the ground, but those that remain may be less appropriate for landfill. They will be further away from the area from which the rubbish will be collected, causing a hidden burden to bear on community charge payers because of longer hours worked by collection staff, more fuel consumed and more wear and tear on vehicles.

The amendment seeks to establish on the face of the Bill a presumption in favour of recycling. It is a presumption shared by the Secretary of State and, therefore, perhaps we may assume by the Government also. Recycling is so obviously a good thing that perhaps the Government have taken it for granted when drafting the Bill. Will the Minister accept the importance of having such a presumption on the face of the Bill? I beg to move.

Lord Reay

The noble Lord has made a number of most interesting observations and proposals not all of which I feel capable of absorbing at this stage of the Bill's proceedings. However, I shall happily give further consideration to them.

I have no quarrel with the sentiments expressed in the amendment. As I made plain in my reply to an earlier amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, the Government are committed to improving the United Kingdom's performance in the recycling of waste. The amendment sums up what we are seeking to achieve with our recycling policy. Our aim is indeed to minimise landfill and encourage recycling wherever practicable and economic. We specifically encourage in the Fill the promotion of recycling by each waste collection and waste regulation authority as the amendment proposes.

We shall come to the relevant clauses in due course but, if I might anticipate a little, Clause 48(4), which deals with waste regulation authorities, refers to the: desirability, where reasonably practicable, of giving priority to recycling Waste". Clause 47 covers at length the steps a waste collection authority should take to promote recycling. We shall be bringing forward amendments which empower the Secretary of State for the Environment to lay regulations to underpin a system of recycling credits to give further impetus to recycling by waste collection authorities. Other provisions will enable waste collection and waste disposal authorities to promote recycling.

While I welcome the noble Lord's amendment as a foretaste of what is to come, I feel sure that on that account he will not wish to press it.

Lord McNair

I am grateful to the Minister for his comments. We shall certainly consider the government amendments and reserve the right to bring the issue back at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Reay

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.