Select Committee on European Scrutiny Eighth Report


COM(00) 546

Draft Council Decision amending Commission Decision 94/3/EC establishing a list of wastes pursuant to Article 1(a) of Council Directive 75/442/EEC on waste and Council Decision 94/404/EC establishing a list of hazardous waste pursuant to Article 1(4) of Council Directive 91/689/EEC on hazardous waste.

Legal base: Article 175(1) EC; for voting procedure, see paragraph 19.2 below
Document originated: 8 September 2000
Forwarded to the Council: 8 September 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 31 October 2000
Department: Environment, Transport and the Regions
Basis of consideration: EM of 6 November 2000 and Minister's letter of 12 February 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
Discussed in Council: 12-13 December 2000
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared


  19.1  Council Directives 75/442/EEC[42] and 91/689/EEC[43] set out Community provisions for the handling of waste and hazardous waste respectively, the latter being subject to more stringent controls, notably the requirement for movements to be accompanied by a consignment note from an enforcing authority. Each directive provides for a list to be drawn up of the substances to which it applies. In the case of ordinary waste, that list is contained in a Commission Decision (94/3/EC), whereas the equivalent list for hazardous waste is set out in a Council Decision (94/904/EC). In 1999, a draft Commission Decision envisaged replacing these two lists by one list, and, when this was considered in December of that year by the Technical Adaptation Committee set up for this purpose under Council Directive 75/442/EEC, the changes proposed by the Commission were agreed, with one exception.

  19.2  The exception related to end-of-life vehicles, which are regarded as ordinary waste if they have been drained of liquids and emptied of other hazardous components. The Commission had proposed that, if those steps have not been taken, such vehicles should be classified as hazardous, on the grounds that the substances to be removed (oils, brake fluids, and lead acid batteries) are themselves all classified as hazardous waste. It also pointed out that the recently adopted Directive on end-of-life vehicles (2000/53/EC)[44] requires the removal of these substances prior to subsequent treatment. Notwithstanding the view taken by the Technical Adaptation Committee, it still considers that the classification proposed is necessary, and it therefore referred the matter to the Council on 8 September 2000. Under the relevant rules of procedure, the Council then had three months (until 8 December 2000) either to adopt the proposal by qualified majority, to reject it by unanimity, or to amend it by a qualified majority: if the Council did not act within this period, the Commission was free to adopt the proposal.

The current proposal

  19.3  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 6 November 2000, the Minister for the Environment at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (the Rt. Hon. Michael Meacher) said that the proposal to add end-of-life vehicles to the hazardous waste list was not accepted by the Technical Adaptation Committee, principally because some Member States were concerned that the resulting controls would be difficult to administer, and were not, in their view, fully consistent with Council Directive 2000/53/EC. He also pointed out that the most significant extra control arising from such vehicles being classified in this way would be the need for movements to be accompanied by a consignment note issued by the Environment Agency and costing £15 (£23 in Northern Ireland). This would have implications for vehicle dealers, recovery services and local authorities, which the Minister said would be dealt with in an outline Regulatory Impact Assessment which was being prepared and which would be submitted to Parliament "shortly" under cover of a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum. However, the promised Assessment did not reach us until 5 December 2000, only three days before the deadline for the Council to act.

Minister's letter of 12 February 2001

  19.4  Our Clerks were subsequently told by the Department's officials that the Council had not in fact been able to reach a view, and that the Commission would therefore be adopting the proposal. However, no formal confirmation of this was given until the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr Bob Ainsworth) wrote to us on 12 February 2001.


  19.5  We appreciate that this issue came to the Council, and hence before us, only because the Technical Adaptation Committee was unable to agree the Commission's original proposal. We do not have any particular problems over the substance of what has been agreed. However, whilst we are for those reasons content to clear the document, there are three procedural matters on which we wish to register our concern.

  19.6  First, although the proposal was transmitted by the Commission to the Council on 8 September 2000, it does not appear to have been circulated to the Member States until 6 October. It was then not deposited in Parliament until 31 October, by which time nearly two-thirds of the three-month period allowed for the Council to act had already elapsed. Secondly, although we appreciate that this situation was not of the Government's making, the subsequent delay in providing the promised Regulatory Impact Assessment made it virtually impossible for us to subject the measure to any kind of meaningful scrutiny. Thirdly, we do not in any case see why it should then have taken the Minister a further two months to confirm what had taken place in the Council and the Commission's subsequent adoption of the proposal.

42  OJ No. L 194, 25.7.75, p.39. Back

43  OJ No. L 377, 31.12.91, p.20. Back

44  OJ No. L 269, 21.10.00, p.34. Back

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