HL Deb 17 December 1981 vol 426 cc392-4WA
Lord Gregson asked Her Majesty's Government

Whether they have concluded their review of the controls over imported waste.

The Earl of Avon

Yes. Although it is legitimate to trade internationally in waste, and this country can without risk provide treatment and disposal services to industries in other countries, it is essential that such a trade should be properly supervised and controlled. The Department of the Environment has considered the nature and scope of the present system of control and the options for amending it. As a result several steps are to be taken.

First, amending regulations will he laid before the House at the earliest opportunity to place detailed restrictions on the nature and quantity of waste that may be stored without a licence being required under the Control of Pollution Act 1974. The exact limits, which will be the subject of consultation with local authorities and industry, will be designed to ensure that only litter bins, dustbins, builders' skips and the like, are excluded from control. This measure alone will close the loophole now seen to exist in the licensing regulations.

Second, the review has recommended new powers for waste disposal authorities to bring material not admitted to be waste under the controls which are applicable to waste, where the circumstances of its storage, handling or treatment suggest such action is appropriate. Third, the review has recommended that waste disposal authorities should have advance warning of the arrival of wastes from abroad, whether they are "special" waste or not. We intend to act on these matters.

The department has written today to industry, local authorities and other interests in England and Wales setting out the details and seeking their comments. My right honourable friend is carrying out a separate consultation in Scotland. The amendments to the licensing regulations will then go forward at an early date; a new power for waste disposal authorities must await parliamentary time, but in the first instance action in advance can be achieved by waste disposal authorities introducing an appropriate condition into waste disposal licences and we intend to encourage this.

The last measure, pre-notification, must also be taken forward in the international context and the United Kingdom will be pressing for the establishment of a comprehensive and uniform system of controls in the European Community which would, of course, apply to exports as well as imports.

The Government also recognise that there is a much larger legitimate trade in by-products which are intended for recovery, recycling or for use as a raw material. These proposals are not intended to affect that trade, but the Government will give particular attention to the need to distinguish these materials and waste in framing any legislation.

House adjourned at half-past six o'clock.