Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Hayes: I may not have been sufficiently clear. The first amendment relates to the need to be clear about the signal that we send out. It is important to send out the signal that people may visit premises and deal with any alleged breach of the regulations there

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and then. That system is fair and reasonable, but also firm.

The issue about a constable visiting premises and the use of force is about defining, and therefore limiting, the powers available to the authority that will enforce the law. If that is included in the Bill, the options available to enter premises and carry out the law are limited, not stemmed. Our amendment would leave out the words between ''to enter premises'' and ''for the purposes of''. That does not prohibit the use of various means to complete the other requirements listed in paragraphs (d)(i), (ii) and (iii). I therefore find it hard to understand how the hon. Gentleman can think that that would weaken the clause.

Norman Baker: The words in the Bill explicitly refer to the presence of a constable, which shows the seriousness with which those who drafted the Bill take the matter. I suggest that the amendment, which removes the reference to a constable, would weaken the clause if passed. I do not know whether the monitoring authority would have the ability to have recourse to a constable if the Bill did not explicitly refer to it. Perhaps the Minister will deal with that point. If the use of force is countenanced in legislation, it is always useful for that to be explicitly referred to so that everyone knows where they stand. I would be very uncomfortable with the situation that the hon. Gentleman seems to be suggesting whereby the Bill did not refer to the use of force in the presence of a constable, but where he can suddenly turn up as a consequence of clause 13. That would be unsatisfactory. It would not make the Bill clear, and no one would know where they stood. I am unhappy about that, but I wait to hear what the Minister has to say.

The second part of amendment No. 65 is the inclusion of the word ''only'', which is a separate point to the one that was just made. I sympathise with it, as someone entering premises for a purpose specified in the clause may well have other convenient reasons for entering those premises at the back of their mind. Although it is unlikely, they may regard it as an option to take the opportunity to pursue other matters while in the presence of a constable or otherwise. The word ''only'' is helpful in limiting the purpose for which entry is permitted to the reasons set out in the clause. Without the word ''only'', there is the danger that other purposes that are not mentioned could subsequently be justified. For that reason, I agree with the word ''only''. The word ''solely'' could also have been used in the amendment or in the Bill, if that were to be added.

I shall make one more point on clause 13(3)(b), which saves me from making a clause stand part speech. I am concerned about the breadth given to persons in the subsection, which does not relate simply to the monitoring authority. Lines 33 and 34 state:

    ''An allocating authority may by regulations make provision enabling the monitoring authority for its area, or persons authorised by the monitoring authority''.

We do not know who these people are. They may not even be members of the Environment Agency, but

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people whom it may have authorised, perhaps from a debt collection agency or similar agency. Those people can

    ''specify the form in which, the place at which and the time at or by which records are to be produced''.

That is a very wide power to give to someone who is not necessarily a member of the Environment Agency, but who is appointed by the Environment Agency for the specific purpose. I would be happier if the Minister agreed to include the word ''reasonable'' at some point, limit the wide power, specify a time limit or otherwise clarify the power. It seems an extraordinarily wide power to give to someone who may not necessarily be a member of the Environment Agency.

Mr. Hayes: I want to establish where the hon. Gentleman stands. He seems to want to be less draconian about the breadth of the powers available to Environment Agency officials and others but more draconian when it comes to using force, constables and others. Would it not be better, as my amendments propose, to leave the matter clean and clear, send out an unadulterated signal and then make a judgement about the necessity in both points according to the specific circumstances of the event being dealt with? I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can simultaneously be both a hawk and a dove.

Norman Baker: Perhaps with genetically modified animals, which DEFRA is involved in, we might get to that stage in due course.

The answer to the hon. Gentleman is this: I want the clause to be clear so that those who are on the receiving end of it, whether that is a waste disposal authority or whatever, know exactly where they stand. The suggested elimination of words makes it less clear and more open, which is unhelpful in the present circumstances. What I am arguing for in clause 13(3)—which you allowed me to do on a clause stand part point, Mr. Amess—is that words be added to make it clear. The constant theme running through my comments, both on the amendments and the clause stand part point, is clarification. The Committee should reject the amendments, but I would welcome some clarification on clause 13(3)(b) for the reasons that I have given.

Mr. Meacher: This has been an interesting debate, and there are important points about the exercise of power. In general, I believe that the hon. Gentleman is right, although I take issue with him on his last remarks.

Amendments Nos. 64 and 65 relate to records that landfill operators will be required to keep about the sending of biodegradable municipal waste to landfills. There are good reasons why a landfill operator will need to keep records and make them available to the monitoring authority in its area—no one is disputing that that underlies the debate. Each waste disposal authority will need to provide the monitoring authority in its area with information about the amount of waste arriving, the amount that it sends to landfill and the amount that it has diverted to other waste management options. One way to verify the information will be to obtain records from landfill

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operators about the amount of waste that they have accepted from each waste disposal authority over a certain period.

I may not have fully understood amendment No. 64, but it certainly looks as though its intention is to prevent monitoring authorities from being able to remove records from landfill operators for inspection elsewhere. The reason for giving allocating authorities the power to enable monitoring authorities to remove such records is simply practical. It will be necessary to cross-refer between the records kept by landfill operators and the returns made by waste disposal authorities. It will be a much easier administrative task from the point of view of the monitoring authority and landfill operator if the cross-checking of records can be done from a central point.

The hon. Member for Lewes said that the monitoring authority, which in England could read the Environment Agency, could tamper with the records. Although that could be physically possible, it would be virtually inconceivable, so I do not think that that is even a remotely minimal risk. However, the point is that in order to do its job effectively, the monitoring authority will need to remove the records and take them to a central point. It would not be sensible for inspectors to take all the returns from each waste disposal authority to each landfill site and then to take up office space and possibly staff time in that site as they check through the records. It is purely a question of practicality, simplicity and effectiveness. To prevent it would not be desirable.

Mr. Hayes: I shall make this point for the third time, because it is important. Compliance is likely to be founded on trust. A signal has to be broadcast that this is fair, clear and open. If one is to increase the likelihood that the Bill will be effective, one needs to send out a signal that that will be done in a proper and open way. For the purposes of this intervention, I shall use the parallel of the auditing of a company's accounts. The auditor visits the company, and does much of the work on its site. There has to be trust. A relationship is established, although not an over-familiar one because there has to be a degree of empiricism and independence. I worry about the idea of material being removed, because that might undermine the trust and therefore the compliance.

Mr. Meacher: I understand better the hon. Gentleman's point. There is not a very close analogy between an auditor visiting the central office of a major company, where all the records are kept and are ready to hand, and the more diffuse and disaggregated situation of a large number of landfill sites and 121 waste disposal authorities. Waste could go to any of those landfill sites and more than one waste disposal authority could be involved; in most cases it almost certainly is. It is a much more complicated situation. I see the comparison not in terms of openness and transparency, which is a thoroughly good concept, but in terms of practicality. In the case of the accountant, that is a practical way for him to do his work, and in the case of landfill sites the way that I am proposing is the most practical.

Amendment No. 65 concerns entering the premises of a landfill operator. The intention behind it seems to

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be to prevent monitoring authorities from entering such premises with the police, with any necessary equipment or material, or by force. Those are sensitive matters. I have made this point, but I shall stress it again: it is vital that the monitoring authorities for each country in the UK have access to the records of landfill operators. They form an essential cross-check on the returns made by waste disposal authorities. What happens if the landfill operator does not comply? We hope and expect that landfill operators will comply with the requirement to keep records and to produce them for inspection. However, any law has to contain a mechanism to enforce it in respect of the few individuals in any large group who do not obey the rules. The monitoring authority must have the power to access such records. In those circumstances, it is important that the Bill permit the use of force to enter premises. Nobody wants to use force unless there is no other way of obtaining the information.

 
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