Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260
MONDAY 1 JULY 2002
260. And you do not believe that the current
extra policing of the documents and the rest of it is going to
(Mr Fielding) Undoubtedly it will deliver something.
It will probably prevent the borderline cases from happening.
It is also likely to lead to people being far more devious about
the way they do abandon their vehicles to the point that we will
not be able to identify them. We will have more burnt-out wrecks,
for instance, which increases the cost of getting rid of them.
261. I understand that but what I find difficult
is that here you are; you are the professionals backed by the
local authorities. You are saying there is a bill here of £60
million that is going to cause a lot of problems around the environment.
What are DEFRA saying to you when you say this?
(Mr Fielding) The LGA's views were made clear to the
Government in the consultation and at meetings and presumably
the Government has more faith in the system to identify the last
keeper and to recover costs through that route than perhaps local
authorities do. There is a cost associated with managing that
system as well.
262. You came to give evidence about fridges.
You are telling us there is a problem here. In three or four years'
time are you going to be coming back and saying, "I told
you we were right"?
(Mr Fielding) I sincerely hope I will not be.
263. There has been a Government consultation
on the Landfill Directive and consultation on the hazardous waste
management issue as a whole with local government direct and through
the LGA. How productive do you think that consultation has been
(Mr Fielding) Clearly we were talking about ELVs and
the concerns the LGA has over that. On the consultation process
generally the view is that it is improving. Both Government and
the LGA have learned some lessons over fridges and are seeking
to be a little more practical, particularly in relation to the
WEEE directive. We welcomed recent invitations to sit down with
DTI and DEFRA to discuss the local authority role in implementing
that. I genuinely believe there is an intention to perhaps involve
local authorities at an early stage. We would like to have been
involved earlier still and time will tell whether that wish will
264. Are you confident that the time and effort
you are putting in to responding to consultation is likely to
lead to greater clarity in terms of guidance from Government and
also a recognition of the need for sufficient resources to do
(Mr Fielding) I think that has got to be our role,
to make Government aware of what we believe the implications will
be and the costs will be and we will continue to do that. We would
not be doing it if we did not think it was going to have some
265. Of course; that is your job. I asked you
whether you felt that there is a sign now of a better response
on those issues that is likely to lead to something useful so
that you can do the job.
(Mr Fielding) It may well be too early to tell because
the examples we have quoted have not been as fruitful as we would
have liked, but we certainly feel there is a will to involve us
more in this debate, so I am hopeful that time will prove it a
Patrick Hall: We will have to return to that
to some point or many points in the future.
266. You say in paragraph 12 that already some
of the stuff that comes in household waste is going to be hazardous
waste: treated timber, fluorescent tubes, edible oils and fly
ash, and there may well be others. Yet you also say that the polluter
should pay. What is going to happen to the householder with any
(Mr Fielding) This is where we have potential confusion
and mismatches with the producer responsibility legislation, and
particularly in relation to household waste. My definition of
the producer is the manufacturer. If we take the example of treated
timber, for instance,
267. So I post my old fluorescent tubes back
to the manufacturer?
(Mr Fielding) In some cases they may well be willing
to take them today. The difficulty for us with local authorities
is that of course we get presented with this waste every day and
have to deal with it. Some may be in the dustbin, in which case
we do not even know it is there. In other cases it will be given
to us at a CA site and we have to make a decision on how we deal
with it. If we can continue to deal with it as part of the normal
household waste stream we will be able to maintain a disposal
route. If, as has been suggested in the European Parliament in
relation to WEEE, they are suggesting separate collections and
banning it from collection in the household waste stream, that
clearly has a very significant impact on our ability to deliver
268. Can I clarify one thing about departmental
responsibilities? We have talked all the way through this afternoon
about DEFRA, which is clearly the lead department on all of these
issues. Both in your written evidence and in some remarks you
made just now you say that you are talking with the DTI as well.
I think that was in relation to the WEEE directive in particular.
Do you feel that DEFRA and the DTI are talking to each other sufficiently
about these issues, in so far as you can judge?
(Mr Fielding) "Sufficiently" is obviously
subjective. There are discussions between the two. We have had
meetings where we have raised issues and been advised that we
are better off talking to DTI or the other way round to progress
those. Doubtless, as probably with any organisation, internal
communications could be improved. The difference in relation to
our discussions with DTI is that there is at least a perception
that we may well be not as influential. Local authorities generally
perceive themselves as not as influential with DTI on legislation
that is coming out of that Department as perhaps industry are.
That I think is an issue, that perhaps we should make an appeal
to Government to be treated somewhat specially in that respect,
that as local government we have the same interests at heart but
we do not feel that we are able to lobby to the same degree as
industry are. We do not have the resources or the time to do that,
but we would like to make an appeal that our messages are heard.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. Government
departments do actually read what is put in front of us. They
even send people out to spy out the land and hear what you have
to say, so one way or another somebody in the DTI and other Government
departments and agencies will have listened to what you say and
I hope that they can respond accordingly. Mr Fielding and Mr Didsbury,
thank you very much for giving your views to the Committee. You
have very kindly agreed to supply us with additional information
but if there is anything else you want to send to us ahead of
our report coming out we would be delighted to hear from you.
The only thing you cannot do is retract that which you have said.
Thank you very much for coming to see us.