§ Mr. Nigel Evans
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he proposes to take to assist small firms to improve their environmental performance when the European Community eco-management and audit scheme becomes fully operational in April.
§ Mr. Robert B. Jones
The Government strongly supports the EC eco-management and audit scheme which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be launching on 10 April. The scheme will give public recognition, throughout the European Union, to manufacturing businesses which adopt a positive approach to managing their environmental impacts. I am now delighted to be able to announce that we will be introducing a new grant to help small companies participate. The grant will be known as the small company environmental and energy management assistance scheme or SCEEMAS.
SCEEMAS will be an adaptation of the existing energy management assistance scheme. It will help small firms address the whole spectrum of environmental issues facing them. Energy will remain an important element since the scope for saving energy must always be considered in establishing an environmental management system. Eligibility will be confined to manufacturing industry and to firms with fewer than 250 employees.
The details of the grant will be refined over the next few weeks and its management will be contracted out, subject to satisfactory competitive tenders being received. I expect SCEEMAS to come into operation during May.
To make way for SCEEMAS, the existing grant scheme will be phased out over the next year. Fresh applications under the existing scheme will be allowed up to 31 March; applications for successive stages will be allowed up to 29 September; with final claims allowed up to 31 January 1996. My officials will be writing to consultants involved in the scheme in the next few days, explaining the arrangements.
The new grant should play an important role in promoting environmental management among smaller firms, and assisting them to become more competitive.