Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by the Environment Agency (HSE 14)


  1.  The roles of the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive are distinct but complementary and closely linked in a number of areas. The Agency is concerned with protecting the wider environment including health impacts, whereas the HSE's primary focus concerns protecting people at work. The need for co-operation and close liaison arises in many areas, for example regulation of new and existing substances, industrial processes, radioactive substances and pollution prevention.

  2.  The two bodies co-operate closely on many matters and the Agency looks forward to continuing this constructive joint approach. This document identifies key areas of joint working and describes how liaison is managed.


  3.  The Agency and the HSE have an MoU to ensure effective co-ordination of the regulation of plant, processes and substances and measures to protect people and the environment where these are subject to control by both bodies. The MoU established an overarching framework for liaison. It commits both parties to close co-operation to minimise duplication of effort and ensure neither industry nor any other party is faced with conflicting demands where both regulators have a concern. Several subsidiary MoUs have been produced to cover working arrangements on specific topics.


  4.  Most contacts between the two bodies arise in the context of day to day operations, and there is a range of issues on which individuals need to liaise. For example, we have a statutory duty to consult the HSE over an application to operate an activity under an integrated pollution control authorisation or a waste management licence. We have a duty to consult each other when considering applications for radioactive waste disposal authorisations and nuclear site licences. We also advise the HSE where problems concerning plant safety are discovered in the course of inspection. Likewise, the HSE alerts the Agency when significant risks to the environment are revealed during inspection.


  5.  Where formal enforcement action is planned at sites of joint interest, the Agency and the HSE take every available opportunity, at national and local level, to co-ordinate approaches to employers and operators. We consult each other before instituting legal proceedings on matters of mutual concern.


  6.  Both organisations separately advise Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) on the possible impact of industrial developments on people and the environment. The Agency and the HSE recognise the need for liaison to resolve differences of view before comments are provided to LPAs.


  7.  The Agency and the HSE have various responsibilities in connection with incidents and emergencies. These range from investigations of incidents to direct action by the Agency to avoid water pollution and in relation to flood defence. The overarching MoU requires that whenever one organisation learns of an incident or emergency where the other may have an interest, it should pass on the information as soon as practicable.

  8.  The Agency and the HSE are the Joint Competent Authority to implement the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 ("COMAH") in England and Wales. A subsidiary MoU is in place to ensure that there is effective liaison regarding COMAH sites, both in connection with planning effort to prevent incidents occuring, and to manage impact if an incident occurs. The incident liaison arrangements in respect of other sites of shared interest are currently being reviewed.


  9.  On nuclear licensed sites, the use of radioactive materials and the accumulation of radioactive wastes are regulated by the HSE's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate. The Agency regulates the disposal of radioactive wastes on and from these sites; in the case of other sites, the Agency regulates both the keeping and use of radioactive materials and the accumulation and disposal of radioactive waste. Because of the interaction between the legislation which the Agency and the HSE enforce, ie the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 and the Nuclear Installations Act 1965, a separate MoU sets out working arrangements in areas of common concern, in particular on minimising the generation of radioactive waste and ensuring that waste handling and treatment have regard for disposal requirements. The Agency, the HSE and the Government are discussing the case for providing the Agency with a statutory power, in parallel with the HSE, to control storage of radioactive waste at nuclear licensed sites. A recommendation to this effect was made by the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology in its recent Report on Nuclear Waste Management.


  10.  The Agency and the HSE have roles in preparing and implementing national and international legislation, policy, standards and commitments, in liaison with each other and Government Departments as appropriate. We have agreed to liaise with each other in the application and interpretation of technical standards and the preparation of relevant guidance and to keep each other informed of new scientific developments likely to be of mutual interest. This ensures that from the outset there is effective technical co-ordination in the application of both technical standards and working practices to proposed new developments. A current example of this is discussion between ourselves, the HSE and the Government over revision of the Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) Regulations.


  11.  Both the Agency and the HSE are open about our activities as part of our commitment to the Citizen's Charter and in compliance with Environmental Information Regulations and the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information 1994. Both organisations emphasised our commitment to openness in recent evidence to the inquiry by the House of Commons Select Committee on Public Administration into the Government's draft Freedom of Information Bill. To encourage a consistent approach to disclosure of information, the overarching MoU requires the HSE and the Agency to make each other aware of proposed disclosure where the other has a concern.

September 1999

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Prepared 26 October 1999