HL Deb 21 December 1982 vol 437 cc1059-62WA
Lord Gregson

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What conclusions have been reached on the, location of the Hazardous Waste Inspectorate and whether they will make a further statement on any other outstanding recommendations of the Select Committee on Science and Technology's Report on Hazardous Waste disposal.

The Earl of Avon

The Government have now completed their consideration of the location of the hazardous waste inspectorate and I am able to announce that because of the very significant role it will play with regard to the environmental waste management responsibilities of local authorities it is to be established in the Department of the Environment and the Scottish Development Department. There will be close liaison with the Health and Safety Executive. The inspectorate's prime function will be to advise local authorities on their duties to control hazardous waste management. However, the nature of the activity means that in practice advice will also be given on aspects of non-hazardous waste management. (Radioactive waste will continue to be covered by the Radiochemical Inspectorate.) The inspectorate will start its work as soon as the necessary arrangements have been made.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has completed his consideration of the two recommendations which have particular application to Scotland—Recommendation 24 that all waste disposal authorities in Scotland should be formally grouped into a waste disposal region and Recommendation 25 that waste disposal responsibilities should be transferred from district councils to regional councils. The Government's conclusion is that the aims of these recommendations can be met without the need for a formal reallocation of responsibilities. Extensive consultation has shown that there is little desire for and indeed considerable opposition on the part of local authorities to any transfer of waste disposal to regional councils in Scotland. In consequence, the Government's view is that the aims of the proposal for a single waste disposal region for Scotland—co-ordination of waste disposal plans and the provision of facilities and to provide technical services—can be achieved by non-statutory groupings of authorities building on existing arrangements, and such groupings are now being encouraged by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

Recommendation 25 also relates to Wales. The Welsh Office have recently issued a consultation paper setting out four options for changing the administration of waste disposal in Wales. Interested organisations and individuals have been asked to submit comments by 31st December 1982.

Progress has been made on a number of other recommendations. Following discussions with major interests in England, the Government are embarking on arrangements for a stronger and more comprehensive consideration of the issues associated with planning for hazardous waste at a regional level: (Recommendations 23 and 24). All the interests consulted have supported proposals to build on the wide network of existing liaison groups involving the waste disposal authorities, industry and waste disposal contractors. The aim will be to ensure any gaps in geographical coverage are filled and that all parties are able to participate in the consideration of inter- and intra-regional issues. These include the preparation and review of waste disposal plans, the provision of scientific services and a local authorities' waste advisory role (Recommendations 3, 11, 24 and 31). The arrangements will broadly follow the standard economic regions and will make full use of existing liaison groups. The department's regional offices will seek to give as much assistance as they can on particular issues and the general question of ensuring proper coverage and the opportunity for full participation.

The Government have previously announced their intention to produce a new Waste Management Paper on landfill practice. A Landfill Practices Review Group has now been established to prepare this. The subject is extensive, and published advice is likely to appear in instalments.

The Notification of New Substances Regulations 1982, referred to in Recommendation 12, came into force on 26th November. They provide for both the Health and Safety Executive and the Department of the Environment to receive notifications on new chemical substances before these are placed on the market. The information required will include details of the means by which a new substance might be rendered harmless and will form the basis for a full assessment by the two Departments of any potential health or environmental risks.

Recommendation 18 asked that the secure fencing of waste disposal sites be a condition of every site licence. The Government take this opportunity to reiterate the advice, given on model site licence conditions in Waste Management Paper No. 4, that a requirement for fencing should be included in site licences.

Finally, the Government have concluded that decisions on Recommendation 10, the registration of producers of hazardous waste, and Recommendation 13, the licensing of professional handlers of hazardous waste, should be taken for the whole spectrum of hazardous waste once the review of the special waste regulations has reported on those questions as they affect special waste.