HC Deb 24 February 1984 vol 54 cc640-1W
Mr. Mark Robinson

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he has completed his review of responsibility for waste disposal in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The review is now complete and I have today written to the chairmen of the Committee for Welsh District Councils and the Welsh Counties Committee to inform them of my decision. I have placed a copy of my letters in the Library.

Briefly, I am satisfied that there is considerable room for improvement in the way in which the waste disposal function is carried out in Wales, and that the criticisms which led to the review were, in general, fully justified.

The transfer of the function to the county councils, which consultation has shown to be the most satisfactory of the alternative options set out in the consultation paper, would require legislation. The period of transition would be lengthy and the counties, if they were given responsibility for waste disposal, would still then be faced with a need to develop operational plans and strategies within their areas, and effective liaison and co-operation with adjoining authorities. This would result in significant delays in achieving effective management of the waste disposal function.

In the course of my consultations, I have receive certain assurances from the Association of District Councils which, if carried through, would result in major improvements, particularly in the shorter term. In the circumstances, I have decided not to make any changes at the present time.

However, as my letters make clear, I shall not hesitate to bring in contingent legislation to enable me to transfer the function if I consider that those assurances are not being fulfilled. To this end, I am asking the Welsh district councils to prepare, as a matter of some urgency, waste disposal plans for their areas, as required by section 2 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and to strengthen and restructure the regional waste disposal study groups to ensure that the planning organisation of waste disposal will be properly co-ordinated and managed as necessary over wider areas than is now the case.

I recognise that the task is not an easy one, and I am therefore giving Welsh local authorities time to bring about these essential changes. In the meantime, I am giving them an assurance that, provided there is satisfactory progress towards a major improvement in the quality of the service, which I shall formally review towards the end of 1985, I do not intend to effect changes in their responsibilities in this respect.

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