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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 880 - 889)



  880. So if you press the appropriate button for us, let us know the answer. Would you like to comment on Dr Aickin's statement that the Landfill Tax regulations are "inadequate and inconsistent to the point of incompetence".
  (Lord Cranbrook) How could I criticise Parliament on the Landfill Tax regulations!

  881. I am inviting you.
  (Lord Cranbrook) There are difficulties in implementing them, as I have said. Some of these holes we would like to see filled. But I do not agree, broadly speaking, that the deficiencies, which Dr Sills has just outlined to you, amount to incompetence in drafting. One of the things we had to do—


  882. May I just take you back to this question of criticising Parliament. I think John Gummer told this Committee some years back that you and he dreamed this scheme up on the back of an envelope and that it then found its way into Parliamentary legislation. So do you not accept some parentage for this scheme?
  (Lord Cranbrook) I do not, surprisingly. I do not remember that dream at all. I have had a dream with John Gummer perhaps but not that one. I wanted to say something about the difficulties when you are faced with a regulation drawn up in very broad terms, of actually applying it to the nitty-gritty. For example, what is the vicinity to a landfill? Is a school grounds open to the public and so on? Very early on we began to draw up a list of precedents to make sure that we were doing our best to be fair, uniform and consistent in our application of these regulations, which are inevitably broad and imprecise in their details. One of Mr Carrigan's jobs has been to maintain an increasingly long list of precedents, to make sure that internally we are consistent in our application. I am not sure that the right way to deal with regulations is to try to specify every possible contingency all the way down. Probably if I was to review the scheme and to start it again and have a dream with Michael Meacher (say) then I would not look for endless precision in the regulations. I would allow the regulator scope to apply commonsense and to see what this meant when he was faced with a particular precedent.

  883. Okay, so if we can talk at a general higher level, then if you do not want to go into the detail, one of the things you have not mentioned is whether you feel happy with the balance of monies being allocated to the different type of projects.
  (Lord Cranbrook) Again, this is outwith the regulator. We have felt, as a regulator, that there is nothing in the regulations that allows us to affect that balance. A project is either compliant or non-compliant, so it is the decision of the landfill operator where his contribution goes. It is not our decision. It is our duty, as a regulator, to assess compliance. Therefore, we do not at present have control of the different categories that are supplied. All of those are equally compliant. We started off with a view that we would hope to see equality in funding. We have given you the statistics, so you know where precisely the funding has fallen at the moment. We do not have the capacity to influence that. If you wish to set up a body that made the judgments, which were necessary to influence that and push the funding in a particular direction, it would require a bigger organisation than we have at present. We do not have the expertise such as is on the panels of the Heritage Lottery Fund, for instance, to assess. If you look at the categories A to E, you will see that we would have to be able to assess all sorts of complicated things, including contaminated land, the value of heritage property, wildlife value. We would need a series of panels to give us assessment and guidance. But if the regulations were changed so that the regulator was also the distributor—what we have is a core of, as I have said, skilled and competent regulators—we would have to add on to that the additional expertise in order to provide us with the right information to assist the funds to be guided in any particular direction.

  884. On this question of the funds being guided, in ENTRUST's response to The Guardian article, you state that: "Our strategic aims are to maximise benefits obtainable from the Scheme, focused on sustainable waste management." That implies to me that you can and should be focusing on sustainable waste management, possibly creating markets in recycled goods or recycled materials, as opposed to schemes which are very welcome perhaps to the local community but do not do anything for sustainable waste management.
  (Lord Cranbrook) Before the existence of the Government's waste strategies, which is where we were, we interpreted sustainable waste management in terms of broad sustainability. Therefore we considered countryside and community developments, and things like that, were part of sustainability. So that was our initial approach. That is why we used those terms in the case you have instanced. There are many schemes. We have tried to categorise the schemes and we show there are schemes that are looking into precisely the objectives you have mentioned. What needs to be done now, in my view, is that some external body—again, this is not within the power of the regulator—needs to look at all these projects that come forward under what we call C/CC, which is a narrow definition of sustainable waste management. Some body—and we welcome a suggestion for that - needs to assess what has been the output. What has been the output of all this research? What has been the output of all this R&D that has gone on? What has been the output of all the education programmes? This is not our job, as regulators, to do this. It is something we would heartily like to see done, so that an overall assessment by Parliamentary Committees could be made of the success of the scheme, but that evaluation is not something that is within our capacity.


  885. Your rebuttal of The Guardian evidence, when you dealt with Canford Environmental and this road up in Scotland, you did admit that the landfill operator got some benefit from the road. Is that in breach of the rules?
  (Lord Cranbrook) Dr Sills can answer that in detail but, broadly speaking, a landfill operator who gets benefit as part of a general community is not in breach of the rules.
  (Dr Sills) There is a provision in the regulations that says that where benefit is shared, then it is allowable. The view that we came to about that particular road was that there was sufficient sharing and minimal benefit, in any case, to comply with the regulations.

  886. The fact that he got access to his site improved, you do not think was a benefit to him?
  (Dr Sills) It was a road that had been a main road and had been by-passed. It was also a road to a naval munitions depot, several farms and private dwellings. The experimental aspects of the 700-metre stretch of road have resulted, as it happens, in several of the sections being below par; so it is arguable whether there is any benefit to anybody.

  887. What is the relationship between Canford Environmental now and EBCO?
  (Dr Sills) At the moment, Adrian Gunner is the Chairman of EBCO and is the General Manager of Canford Environmental.

Mr Donohoe

  888. If I could ask you to turn to page 10 of your submission, under 39, where you indicate that I raised an issue at a Select Committee hearing into the operation of the tax in 1999 and later retracted this statement. I have no recollection of retracting any statement.
  (Dr Sills) It was the issue, through the Chairman, of your suggesting that British Waterways was now a plc.

  889. I see.
  (Dr Sills) And that you were disturbed, quite rightly, at the thought of a Landfill Tax Credit Scheme running into a plc directly.

  Mr Donohoe: Okay, thanks.

  Chairman: On that note, may I thank you very much for your evidence. If we could now have the next set of witnesses, please.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 29 December 2000