HL Deb 18 October 1993 vol 549 cc38-40WA
Lord Reay

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the Environment Council on 5th October.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My honourable friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside represented the United Kingdom at the Environmental Council held in Luxembourg on 5th October. The Council discussed a lengthy agenda, including a number of waste issues. No formal vote was taken on any of the items under discussion.

The Council reached political agreement, pending receipt of the Opinion of the European Parliament, on a proposal to amend Annex I to Regulation 2455/92. That regulation established a system of prior informed consent whereby non-EC countries which import chemicals banned or severely restricted in the EC are: notified of the potential dangers; informed of the necessary safety precautions; and advised of the restrictions on those products in force in the Community. The amendment will add 15 chemicals and groups of chemicals substances to the existing annex.

The Council discussed a proposed new regulation on ozone-depleting substances which will enable the Community to ratify the Copenhagen amendments to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, relating to HCFCs and methyl bromide. Good progress was made and the Council referred the proposal to the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) for further discussion. My honourable friend reaffirmed the UK's commitment to going further than was agreed in Copenhagen both on methyl bromide and on HCFCs, where he supported the Commission's proposal for phase-out by 2015. He also urged those member states which had put forward the servicing of existing refrigeration equipment as essential use for CFCs to withdraw their nominations.

The Council held a substantive policy debate on the proposed Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. This focused on six issues suggested by the Presidency; in particular the hierarchy of waste management options, the principle of prevention, and the scope, level and timescale of recovery targets. Ministers also briefly discussed collection systems, the question of marking packaging and the essential requirements it must meet. The Council referred the proposal to COREPER for further discussion.

The Council considered substantively for the first time a proposed directive on waste landfill. My honourable friend made clear the UK's view that the proposal fails to meet the guidelines on subsidiarity agreed at the Edinburgh European Council. In the event that the directive proceeds, he also spoke strongly in favour of a proposal from the Presidency which would allow for co-disposal of waste albeit with the possibility of individual member states banning this practice within their own countries. Some member states shared our concern over subsidiarity, at least in respect of the level of technical and administrative detail in the current draft. The discussion on co-disposal left the door open to the directive allowing this landfill practice, which he had explained was environmentally sound when properly controlled. Our views on co-dispersal were set out in a brochure on landfill which we had published in September and had circulated to other member states and the Commission.

The Council held a first discussion of a proposal to amend Directive 91/689/EEC on hazardous waste. Problems have arisen over the implementation of this directive (due to be completed by December this year) since the Commission has not produced the list of hazardous waste required by the directive. The Council recognised this by reaching a consensus on the Commission's proposal to prolong the existing directive on toxic and hazardous waste (78/319/EEC) to 31st December 1994 and to aim to establish the list by 30th June 1994. COREPER will continue their deliberations on the Commission's proposal.

The Council also considered a proposed directive on the disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated terphenyls (PCTs). The Council invited COREPER to discuss the proposal further on the basis of a revised text that had just been issued by the Presidency after consultation with the Commission. The UK is committed under the North Sea Conference to phasing out PCBS by 1999 at the latest.

The Commissioner introduced to the Council new proposals for a directive concerning the placing of biocidal products on the market, and for a directive on integrated pollution prevention and control. There was a general welcome for both proposals. The latter proposal is broadly in line with the UK system of IPC. The Presidency indicated that discussion of both proposals would begin at working level before the end of the year.

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