HC Deb 22 December 1997 vol 303 cc439-40W
Mrs. Ellman

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proposals he has for the regulation of contaminated land, pursuant to the recommendations made by the Environment Committee in its Second Report of Session 1996–97 (HC22) on contaminated land and the responses received by his Department to consultation on draft statutory guidance and regulations to be issued under Part HA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. [22491]

Mr. Meacher

We have now reviewed the primary legislation in Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (inserted by section 57 of the Environment Act 1995), and the package of draft statutory guidance and regulations published for consultation in September and November 1996. This review has been greatly assisted by the detailed recommendations of the Environment Committee in their Second Report, Session 1996–97, as well as by the more than 400 responses received to the consultation exercises.

We have concluded that this package of primary legislation and guidance sets out, in principle, broadly the right framework for the protection of human health and the environment, without imposing unnecessary burdens on homeowners, landowners, developers or industry. However, it is clear that implementation of the legislation would create significant financial burdens for local authorities and for the Environment Agency. These potential burdens are being considered as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review process, and the decision on when to bring the regime into force will not be made until that process has been completed. In the meantime other relevant legislation, in particular that dealing with statutory nuisances in Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and works to deal with water pollution in Part VII of the Water Resources Act 1991, will remain in force.

My Department, together with the Welsh and Scottish Offices, will continue to develop the package of draft guidance and regulations in the light of the Environment Committee's recommendations and the consultation responses. We have identified a number of areas where there would be a need for changes to the detail of the existing drafts, and I have today written to the Chairman of the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee explaining the more significant of these, as well as responding more generally to the Committee's report. I have also placed in the Library of the House a list of those individuals and organisations which responded to the consultation exercises last year; reference copies of their responses have been placed in the DETR library.

As well as taking forward work on the development of the main regime for contaminated land, I will also be publishing shortly a consultation paper setting out proposals for a parallel regime dealing with radioactively-contaminated land.