§ Jane Griffiths
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the Government's position on the proposed EU directive on environmental liability. 
§ Mr. Meacher
The purpose of the proposed Directive is to establish a framework for the prevention and remediation of environmental damage in accordance with the principle that the polluter pays. This represents an important and significant development in EC environmental law. The Government have therefore conducted a public consultation on the proposals, and the UK position on the detail of the proposal will be finalised in the light of the comments received.
In broad terms however, the Government support a regime which is equitable, proportionate, clear, insurable, easy to implement, does not damage business competitiveness, and delivers clear environmental benefits.
The partial regulatory impact assessment submitted to Parliament (COM (02) 17), indicates that much of the environmental damage covered by the directive is already the subject of existing domestic regimes, but the proposals go further in some respects. The directive would set higher standards of remediation and introduce the concepts of equivalent compensation and interim losses. Further benefits would arise from introducing a regime across the European Community which would harmonise the rules and standards for environmental liability across member states. Provided that the right balance between costs and benefits is achieved, this proposal could therefore play a useful part in safeguarding the environment.