Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 840 - 859)



Mr Brake

  840. On this point, could I ask you, Dr Sills. You mentioned that you carried out spot-checks. Were these seven revocations, did they occur as a result of a spot-check?
  (Dr Sills) No, they occurred as a result of the normal working of the system. We do the spot-checks in order to ensure that the system is working properly. We do engage a compliance contractor, who does a lot of the legwork for us with a check-list, and when the compliance contractor brings up a particular problem or a non-compliance, then our own staff and go in and do a more in-depth view of the activities of the body.

  841. What percentage of projects are spot-checked?
  (Dr Sills) I do not know off-hand. Could I ask for a view from my advisers. Perhaps 15 per cent.


  842. Could I also on this point ask: when you revoke someone's right, does that mean that someone gets any money back or does it simply mean that they are not entitled to receive any money in future?
  (Lord Cranbrook) If an enrolled body is revoked, it is removed from the list of enrolled bodies to which landfill operators can contribute and thereby get a tax rebate. So the answer is that revocation prevents landfill operators from contributing further to that environmental body. It also takes that environmental body outside our ambit of control altogether

  843. So would it be Customs and Excise who ought to pursue them for the money if they feel it is being misspent?
  (Dr Sills) As I understand it, Chairman, Customs and Excise have a recourse to the landfill operator who made the contribution rather than the environmental body.

  844. So of these seven, has anything happened to them except that you have taken away their rights to future money?
  (Dr Sills) From our perspective, no, Chairman.

  845. Have you passed on any information to Customs and Excise?
  (Dr Sills) We have passed all of the appropriate files of information to Customs and Excise. It is very much up to Customs whom else they inform and whether they take matters further.

Mr Cummings

  846. What progress have you made on the Committee's recommendation that the Environmental Bodies Council should "reflect the diversity of Environmental Bodies and be accountable to them"?
  (Lord Cranbrook) Under our Terms of Approval, we are required to set up a user group. We had a debate at the beginning of our activities, on how we would set up this user group. I believe Customs would have been satisfied if we had just fingered a representative section of the environmental bodies and, thereby, formed our own user group. We decided, in the interests of transparency and openness, that this would not be the right step; so we selected some key environmental bodies and we asked them to form their own user group. They set up a process by which environmental bodies, representing large and small, funded and unfunded, distributive and non-distributive, were to be represented by an election system that was also regionally based. When that group formed we debated with them. We agreed a budget and we agreed a working terms of reference. The man who is basically in charge of our liaison with the Environmental Bodies Council is Mr Carrigan.
  (Mr Carrigan) From October 1999 it has been part of my job to carry out day-to-day liaison with EBCO. EBCO's structure is based on an agreement which we made with them during last summer. We have a copy here, which we can provide if you would like to see it. Essentially, we have liaised with EBCO at various levels, and my role involves attending their monthly Council meetings, which I have done since January of this year. During that time I have watched their process developing in terms of democratically adding further representatives through a series of regional meetings. One of the frustrations, I felt, in this process was that there was not a great deal of interest in the regional meetings. In fact, in the West Midlands meeting, one member was added unopposed. There was only nomination. They subsequently had a meeting in the north east of England where there were no nominations. So EBCO, in discussion with us, have come to the conclusion that a process of nomination and election is not going to get the representatives. Representation will have to be managed through a process of appointment, so they are now proceeding to advertise for applications of interest.

  847. The Committee have been informed by EBCO: "We have endeavoured to represent the broad spectrum of environmental bodies' views and concerns to ENTRUST. This in turn has attracted criticism from ENTRUST that we have strayed outside our terms of reference." You tend to paint a very rosy picture but is everything as cosy as you would have the Committee believe?
  (Mr Carrigan) I do not think everything is rosy. I mentioned one of the frustrations in the electoral process of getting 12 representative members of the Council, that this has not been successful. Another frustration that I felt is that during the time I have been involved with them, EBCO has really tended to be focused on long-term issues and discussing flaws or defects in the legislation, when their primary purpose and what we need them for is to give us practical feedback about the way our systems work for the environmental bodies. The reason why we need that feedback is so that we can improve those systems and effectively make our operations with environmental bodies better. I felt some frustration on that score too.

  848. What resources have you made available to EBCO?
  (Mr Carrigan) The agreement I referred to earlier, to which you are welcome, Chairman, is co-authored by our Chief Executive and Dr Malcolm Aickin, who was then Chairman of EBCO. In its first paragraph it sets out its status as an agreement by saying: "This document is co-authored to demonstrate this agreement." This agreement provides an annual budget of £75,000 for EBCO and provides for an arrangement of 12 representative members. In fact, the numbers have never got higher than eight or nine, I think, because of this difficulty in electing further members, but there has been no resistance from our point of view. In fact, we have supported the meetings which have tried to elect further members, and we have applied no budgetary constraints to the extent, to my dismay, EBCO over-spent its budget this year by about 20 per cent.

  849. So, if I may check, there is friction between the two bodies here. The Committee have been informed that: "ENTRUST has restricted ... the financial resources available to us to a greater extent that we would have liked."
  (Lord Cranbrook) Could I ask whether this is EBCO's submission or whether this is the leaked paper that you got from Dr Malcolm Aickin.


  850. It is Dr Aickin's document.
  (Lord Cranbrook) It is Dr Aickin's document. I would mention that this was not the final submission from EBCO which was different. It was a first draft that was leaked, purloined from Dr Aickin. It was not accepted by the EBCO when they finally made their submission.

  851. It is worrying that he is probably one of the people within EBCO with the most experience, who felt that it was a statement that he should put in, in that first draft.
  (Mr Carrigan) Chairman, it worries me greatly, as a prime point of contact with EBCO and Dr Aickin, having followed the agreement which allowed 12 members and a budget of £75,000, that we have not restricted the process of electing new members in any way. In fact, we have supported it. We have also met EBCO's costs in full to 20 per cent beyond the budget. Therefore, it is plainly wrong to say we have restricted them in either of these ways.

Mr Cummings

  852. How often have meetings been held between EBCO and ENTRUST?
  (Mr Carrigan) We meet at various levels. As I mentioned, I have attended almost all of EBCO's monthly meetings since the beginning of this year. Dr Sills also has had a series of one-to-one meetings with the Chairman of EBCO for liaison. And the agreement, which I also mentioned, also sets out quarterly meetings between the EBCO Council and representatives of ENTRUST's Board.

  853. The evidence that the Committee have received, indicates that the terms of reference of EBCO specify quarterly meetings between EBCO and the ENTRUST Board, but from details given on the website there have been just three such meetings in three years.
  (Mr Carrigan) It is certainly true that the terms of reference specify quarterly meetings and, as I have said, you are welcome to a copy of those. The terms of reference were agreed in June of last year. There was a meeting in June last year. There was a meeting in April this year. There was to have been a meeting in August this year, which was cancelled at EBCO's request. There is to be a further meeting on Thursday of this week.

  854. Do you know the reason why there have been three such meetings in three years, when the terms of reference indicate quarterly meetings?
  (Mr Carrigan) The terms of reference were agreed little more than a year ago and there will have been three meetings and one cancelled meeting since then.

  855. Can you tell the Committee why there have been no minutes produced for the meeting held between EBCO and ENTRUST in April of this year? You have indicated to the Committee that everything is up and above board and very open and appears on your website.
  (Mr Carrigan) Minutes of the meeting have been produced. We provided a secretary for the meeting and we produced minutes. As far as I know those minutes have not been agreed by EBCO's Chairman on its behalf.

  856. What reasons have been given for dispute?
  (Mr Carrigan) My understanding, from the former Chairman, is that he did not feel that the minutes of the meeting reflected the discussion. That is something we need to pursue with the current Chairman of EBCO, I think.

  857. That was in April of this year. It is now the end of the year. Does it not concern you that minutes cannot be agreed upon after this period of time?
  (Mr Carrigan) It does concern me.

  858. What actions have been taken to try and resolve it?
  (Mr Carrigan) It reflects another of the frustrations which I felt. As ENTRUST's main point of contact with EBCO, one of the frustrations was that the organisations were not communicating well.

  859. So there is severe friction between EBCO and ENTRUST?
  (Mr Carrigan) No, I do not think there is. There has been a difference of view about the appropriate agenda for EBCO. I have consistently felt that under Dr Aickin's chairmanship EBCO was focused on issues, which are no doubt valid for the scheme, but which are long-term and relate to the shape of the legislation, whereas what we needed EBCO for (and what we still need EBCO for) is to provide us with detailed and practical advice about the way the scheme works for environmental bodies. That is the purpose of the Council.

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