HL Deb 05 June 1985 vol 464 cc838-9WA
Lord Nugent of Guildford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect to publish the first report of the Hazardous Waste Inspectorate, and if they will make a statement.

Lord Elton

I am glad to welcome the first report of the Hazardous Waste Inspectorate published today. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The report amply justifies the Government's decision to set up this small team of experts to advise on the problems of disposing of hazardous chemical waste. Their initial assessment provides us with a valuable picture of the general standards of hazardous waste management in the United Kingdom.

The report is based on 700 visits, mainly to local authorities and waste disposal facilities, and also to waste producers and regulatory bodies. It shows a disturbing situation. It describes a level of performance in both public and private sectors which too frequently falls below acceptable standards. It offers no evidence of harm to public health. But the report points to failures on the part of operators in their disposal practices, and on the part of authorities in monitoring compliance with licensing requirements and good practice, as reflected in guidance issued by my department.

The situation calls for prompt action on the part of all concerned. Higher standards of waste management can and should be achieved across the country. Wide variations in standards of site licensing, inspection and enforcement and in levels of charging cause serious distortions in the market. This makes it difficult for responsible operators to invest in a range of high standard disposal facilities.

The Government will therefore meet both the local authority associations and the industry within the next few weeks to discuss what measures they propose to take within available resources, to secure improvements and to carry out their duties more effectively. Action will be needed in close co-operation with the Health and Safety Executive and its inspectorates concerned.

We shall also be considering whether changes should be made to strengthen the law in this field, particularly in relation to tightening up the provisions for enforcement of licensing control. Furthermore, following the recently completed review of the Regulations on Special Waste we are considering a range of proposals concerning waste disposal issues, including the possibility of enhancing the responsibilities of waste producers.