HC Deb 12 December 1997 vol 302 cc727-8W
Charlotte Atkins

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) for how long the Environment Agency has been investigating waste disposal activities by Gilbert's Animal By-Products, Cheddleton, Staffordshire; and what plans they have to initiate prosecutions; [19792]

(2) what steps the Environment Agency has taken to establish whether the condensate produced by Gilbert's Animal By-Products as a by-product of its recycling activities is classified as a waste. [19793]

Angela Eagle

[holding answer 10 December 1997]: Whether or not a substance is waste must be determined on the facts of the case and ultimately the interpretation of the law is a matter for the Courts. However, the Environment Agency's responsibilities for the management and enforcement of the waste management licensing system under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 may require it to take a view on whether a particular substance is waste.

I understand that when the Environment Agency was formed on 1 April 1996 it took over an investigation initiated by the former waste regulation authority, Staffordshire County Council, into the spreading on agricultural land of condensate from the rendering plant operated by John Pointon and Sons, formerly Gilbert's Animal By-products Ltd.

The Environment Agency has continued this investigation with the aim of establishing the facts of the case and reaching a view on whether or not the condensate is waste. In so doing, I understand that the Environment Agency has investigated instances in which the condensate has been spread on agricultural land, has obtained analyses of the condensate, has investigated the methods by which the condensate is produced and following internal legal advice has sought an opinion from Counsel.

A decision on whether to initiate a prosecution will be taken by the Environment Agency on conclusion of its investigations. I understand the Agency hopes to be able to take its decision shortly.