Examination of witnesses (Questions 320
WEDNESDAY 8 JULY 1998
AND Mr Bob Barker
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
320. Is this year's industrial waste management
course a new venture for the Agency? Secondly, asking my supplementary
question straight away, you were talking about your experience
of actually running the course and the expertise that you found
in Russia and Tomsk and, certainly from my own experience of working
in Russia, I would agree with that. The problem I came across,
however, and I am wondering whether you also found this, is whilst
there is great expertise in what the problems are, there are other
greater problems in employment and paying wages and all this sort
of thing, and it is a matter of convincing the people who are
actually controlling the purse strings to get some priority on
the environmental issues. How did you deal with that and with
helping the Russian environmental experts in actually presenting
their case to the people making those sort of decisions?
(Mr Tempany) The short answer to that is we did
not. We were part of a very focused part of a much larger project,
so we were dealing directly with people whom it was felt to be
advantageous for us to deal withbasically our opposite
numbersto give them clarity in various aspects they were
interested in to see how we approached these problems. As to it
being a new venture for the Agency, yes, these are the only two
projects that have been run, certainly with Russia and other Eastern
European countries to date, but it does follow on from work that
has been done with a few local authorities involved prior to the
Agency being formed in 1996. They had some relationships with
321. What was the incentive for that?
(Mr Tempany) For the local authorities? I am not
sure, I am afraid. I think that came through the European Union.
I think there was a request for assistance in projects there.
322. Were the projects to which you are
referring ones that were based in Leeds?
(Mr Tempany) Yes.
323. How far do you find that there is a
sort of inertia about dealing with environmental problems, if
they relate in any way whatsoever to unemployment problems?
(Mr Barker) In terms of the particular experience
in Tomsk, certainly one needs there to be very aware of the cultural
upheaval and the changes going on in the economic factors in Russia
and as to where their priorities lie. In the actual project in
Tomsk the director of the Ecological Committee, the equivalent
of the Environment Agency, is also a member of the Duma and is
also the member on the Russian State Protection Department so
he is very keen, from an overall Government-of-the-State point
of view, that the natural resources (and they are very vast in
Siberia) are developed for economic reasons but wants to learn
from our experience to avoid pollution of the environment, and
therefore there is a need to develop these resources. They are,
however, in certain parts of the country very well aware of the
need to balance that with the long term nature and protection
of the environment.
Lord Hughes of Woodside
324. Can I ask you about co-ordination of
aid and technical assistance programmes in the NIS? In the fields
in which the Agency has been working, are you conscious of any
lack of co-ordination between donors, international financial
institutions and beneficiaries? If you have noticed any lack of
co-ordination, have you any ideas on how the situation might be
(Mr Tempany) We are not aware how these are co-ordinated.
It is not immediately apparent to us. Certainly the project I
was involved in was an input into a World Bank project. The World
Bank were aware that such problems do exist and they have set
up their projects with a consultant who oversees the project separate
from the consultant who carries out the project. There was someone,
therefore, who was technically able to check that they have delivered
their objectives and the project is on track from that point of
(Dr Leinster) The projects that we have been involved
in have been very focused technical projects and some of these
other areas we have not yet had exposure to, so we have been going
in at a technical level with some awareness of these other, wider
social issues but it was not within the remit of our projects
at this stage to have any involvement in those.
325. And these projects would have had money
to actually deliver on the ground? It was not just technical assistance.
It was providing the follow up, was it, at the beginning?
(Dr Leinster) Yes. The purpose of the projects
that we have been involved in and one of the focuses for the projects
is that we have, before we agree to participate in them, to see
there is a long term plan, an implementation plan, and that these
are viable long term projects which will deliver something on
the ground. One of the issues we have been looking at is the transfer
of knowledge between the high technical level of expertise that
there is on technical aspects to the day-to-day, on-the-ground
regulation, education and implementation. When we have been reviewing
these projects and wondering whether we should be involved with
them, we have to make sure those aspects are adequately covered.
These are long term projects, and we have on-going contact with
the people. The one at Tomsk is on-going and we will continue
to have involvement there.
326. One of the criticisms we have had about
the TACIS programme is that there is a lot of money spent on western
consultants producing marvellous plans and that all this money
and effort is put in and yet nothing happens after that. You have
got these specific programmes you have been working on but what
do you think should be done to enable TACIS to ensure that there
is a self-sustained follow-on activity? Given the amount of land
involved, the big areas to which you have already referred, how
do you get a multiplier effect through dissemination of Know-How?
Is it just a question of money?
(Mr Tempany) No, I do not think it is just a question
of moneythough that is a big problem too. I think they
would like nothing more than for us to say "We will pay the
salaries of your people for a period". We think it is best
that there needs to be a basis for the projectthere needs
to be a clear planand we need to be able to link into the
local government, to the oblast Government and the oblast organisation,
the State Committee locally, as well as to the State where appropriate,
to make sure those people are committed to taking up that and
carrying on with it. I think that is what we have done with both
our projects and I think that has been assisted. The project I
was involved in, ERM, have a local office in the oblast headed
by a senior ex-regulator from Canada who has Russian staff there
who are both technically very competent and, obviously, know their
systems very well. I think that helps make sure that the message
is appropriate and that there is take-up locally.
327. Do you think we should have a condition
that the technical assistance in the transfer would be provided,
unless there is actually a guarantee that the money would be there
from whatever source, to actually implement the plan once it is
drawn up, or is that going too far?
(Mr Barker) In terms of the Agency, we do insist
in terms of the projects we look at that they do have viable long
term plans and clear implementation and that they are capable
of being carried out over the long term and are self supporting.
Now, for some of the programmes we are involved in, it would be
difficult to say that there would be a definitive end point in
the implementation of something, but what there needs to be are
sufficient longer term steps so that there are appropriate review
points at which you make the decision for what the next longer
term steps should be. We do insist on this when looking into the
projects, and we believe it is viable to look at this when reviewing
328. How much money is involved in these
two projects and where does it come from? Is it all European Union
money, or is there some contribution from the UK Government itself?
(Mr Tempany) On my project there were something
like 55 man days effort from the Agency; that was staff time funded
by the Agency. The out-of-pocket expensesif you like, the
travel, subsistence, the small amount of catering for the Russians
when they visited herecame to just over 8,000 pounds in
all. That was paid for by the Know-How Fund through the Department
of the Environment and DFID.
(Mr Barker) I cannot talk about what the overall
project funding is for Tomsk but, in terms of Agency's part, it
is a similar situation of about 60 to 70 man days of Agency time
currently being spent, although we are going to be receiving this
autumn six regulators from the Ecological Committee who are going
to train with us for three weeks as part of this training course.
Over the longer term, therefore, there will be a number of man
days and tens of man days per year for a number of years to ensure
the training programme occurs and, again, it is the expenses and
the out-of-pocket expenses that is the kind of money we are talking
about for the part of the project which Agency is involved in.
Lord Hughes of Woodside
329. What money is the World Bank putting
(Mr Tempany) I am not quite sure what the costs
for that World Bank industrial waste management project are but
there must be some millions of dollars of effort going into that
overall, over a four year period.
(Dr Leinster) The World Bank project is $3.5 million.
Lord Mackie of Benshie
330. What sort of a place is Tomsk? One
hears about it in jokes mostly.
(Mr Barker) Tomsk is a university city; it was
really founded about 200 years ago or soI cannot remember
exactlyas a trading post. It is the third University of
Russia and very well respected. It is the capital of the Tomsk
Oblast, which is a large region with very significant metals,
including gold and zirconium, natural gas, coal, oil and forestry
resources. It has extremes of temperature, being in the centre
of a land mass as you would expect, from being extremely hot in
the summer to many tens of degrees below in the winter. It is
a city which I think has seen better days, to some extent, but
really I think part of the economic programme there gives it the
potential again to be the well maintained centre of the Siberian
331. Would you agree that, if you are going
to be effective in collaboration and co-operation, it is very
important to understand and be sensitive about the prevailing
social realities, the culture, the mores, and so on? What have
you really learnt from your exposure about this? What kind of
advice would you give to people coming in?
(Mr Barker) I think some of the advice to people
coming in would be that one must respect the very high degree
of technical excellence that exists in Russian culture: it is
very high. One must emphasise the importance of personal relationshipsthey
are open and honest, if you are, and I think it is important to
build up those relationships. One of the things which helps to
build up those relationships is to admit that there are issues
still to solve and that we do have problems and, therefore, one
can work together to some extent on those problems. One has to
be very aware of the high and rapidly changing culture and market
economy from the command economy. It is important to bear in mind
that there is no social security system; that the command economy
did appear to us, when we were there, to be very much based on
full employment and therefore, when one is talking about the ways
of doing things in the west, one has to very much bear in mind
that it is going to take time to change and they are a different
culture and society and one must respect that.
332. Do you think, from what you have experienced
and what you have just said, that in the west's interventionnot
least in this area that concerns usenough attention has
been given to the complications of a very big journey in moving
from A to B, as distinct from just saying "A was wrong, and
we should be at B"?
(Mr Barker) I think, in the projects I have been
involved in, everyone has very much been aware of that. Certainly
in Siberia they very much respect the UK and very much want to
learn and work with us and, provided that we accept them as technical
equals and can have a certain amount of common learning from that,
I think it works. If one does assume that they want to get to
being western in total, then that may not be a particularly good
starting point. They may wish to take certain things from the
west but still keep certain things of their own. One very much
has not to impose a solution which happens to be right for this
country and think it is right for them.
333. They would have a more acute perception
of balance between market and intervention for the common good
than perhaps romantic marketeers might have?
(Mr Barker) They are in such a period of change
I am not quite sure whether they would have that perception yet.
It was not so much part of the project as forming part of the
discussions when I was there.
334. You say they have a great deal of respect
for the UK, but for what? The Houses of Parliament, or the British
Constitution, or what?
(Mr Barker) The respect they expressed to us was
for the way we carried out environmental regulation. They had
visited a number of countries and they respected that aspect.
There is certainly still some feeling from the war, because Tomsk
lost half the number of people who went to the war and they still
have a very high regard, to some extent, for that allied relationship
because of the millions of people they lost, and that is just
expressed in normal discussions as well as, for instance, when
people get married, the place they visit is the war memorial.
The knowledge that it was an allied effort in the war still exists
today. It is historic, as well as the fact they have been round
Europe and, in terms of environmental regulation and I am sure
in other areas, one picks up certain things. I could not say I
spent long enough talking to them to be able to give more than
a few snapshots.
335. Candidly there is some anxiety in this
Committee about how far, whatever the intentions, TACIS is really
responding to perceived needs in the countries themselves in really
building up, enhancing, the capability and empowering people on
the spot to take things forward themselves, or how far we are
doing things in the context of somebody else's country. In that
sense, do you feel enough use is made of the expertise, the knowledge
and the excellence to which you have referred which is there itself?
Are we incorporating that enough? Are we building on that enough?
What can we do more specifically to improve that essential dimension
in the equation?
(Dr Leinster) One of the things we are looking
for in the projects we are running is this idea of participation
and partnership. That is the key and vital area. We cannot talk
more generally at present than about the projects we are actually
involved in, and the reason we selected our particular ones was
either it was education and training and working alongside a university
and setting up a university course alongside the Russians, or
it was providing assistance in implementation of waste regulation.
So, again, we are not saying "This is the way you must do
things" but "This is our experience. How can we adapt
it to be suitable for your experience". What we need to do,
taking the waste project which is going to be a demonstration
project, is to work with our Russian colleagues and set up a demonstration
project so that our procedures and processes become Russianised
so there is a local dimension given to it to ensure that it works
in that situation. I am convinced that our procedures will not
just slip into their system. There are certain lessons we have
learned in the process by which we have come to our solutions
that will assist them in that learning process. We can get them
up the learning curve more quickly than if they are doing it by
themselves. We therefore set up those demonstration projects,
which might have to be regionally based because of the size and
nature of the country and the regional differences, and the dissemination
occurs through those demonstration projects. So we set up a project
which works in Russia and that information then gets disseminated
throughout the rest of the country. If we take those sort of models
of demonstration projects, education, training, which are based
on our procedures and processes that they can then adapt to their
situations, that is the sort of way we can actually develop and
make sure there is a programme in place which will be viable and
336. Could I ask, as a supplementary to
that, how you find, when you are out there, that the use of general
western engineering is being considered by the fraternity there?
One of the things I slightly worry about is the statement you
made earlier when you said that, in fact, the size of the country
was X, where X was much bigger than the UK, the population was
significantly smaller, and the pollution problems you were envisaging
were problems that could be there for 200 years. Now, that provides
a totally different problem, to my mind, than the problems in
this particular country. You have implied that you Russianise
the problem, as it were, or the solution, but it does strike me
there could be problems we have not even conceived of here. How
far is our expertise able to help in that sense?
(Mr Barker) The particular Tomsk project, being
a joint project with Holland and various universities within the
UK and ourselves, covers a significant range of environmental
issues and a significant range of land masses and a very important
part of that project is the joint nature of it with Tomsk University
and the Ecological Committee who are clearly very well aware of
their own problems and issues and their own technical expertise
and putting that together with our experience, both here and on
the Continent and the rest of the European Union, and developing
that into a Russian MSc for training Russian regulators about
Russian issues. So it is putting their own expertise together
with our history and our management and risk assessment type philosophies
and similar matters and then allowing, very much, the Russians
to Russianise it for their own criteria.
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
337. May I ask a quick supplementaryagain
harking back to my own experience of working in western Siberia?
My own view was that the major problem was a question of compliance
with relatively minor environmental regulations. Certainly the
Russian environmental officers I came across were, indeed, experts
and all the rest of it but there was a tendency to want to pursue
grandiose projects where they demonstrated their engineering prowess,
if you like, and that is where the brownie points, to use slang,
would be won rather than getting low-level compliance on everyday
matters. Do you have any comments on that? How do you actually
get people to comply with environmental regulations on a local
(Mr Barker) I think my experience of the Tomsk
region was that the director of the Ecological Committee was very
much driving a new and improved philosophy of environmental regulationvery
much a more integrated one. He had combined the water, waste and
air regulators; he was very conscious of the local as well as
the larger aspects of the environment and he, to my mind, was
a great engine of change and improvement in terms of environmental
regulation. I was there to tie in where that was happening and
I think they recognised that had a way to go and that is why they
very much wanted to discuss experiences and had that in mind.
In Tomsk itself, most of the chemical plants around Tomsk are
actually designed by either UK or Italian or other European or
American contractors. In the oil fields there is a reasonably
significant Canadian input and there is also, I understand, an
increasing input from the Eastern countries of Taiwan andI
cannot honestly remember but I thinkJapan as well.
338. Is there any indication that there
are problems over corruption or anything like that in the system?
(Mr Barker) I had no experience of corruption
while I was there.
(Mr Tempany) We did notnot with the people
we were dealing with.
Countess of Mar
339. We know in the United Kingdom that
non-Governmental organisations are well respected by the Environment
Agencyparticularly in England and Wales - and that you
work quite closely with them. Have you any experience of NGO's
in the Newly Independent States and what do you think is needed
to equip the NGOs here?
(Mr Barker) We have no experience of dealing with
NGOs in either of these projects. The development and standing
of NGOs is going to be very much dependent on the culture of Russian
society as it develops and I think it would be appropriate, while
describing the situation here, to allow them very much to come
to their own view as to the position, or whether they have another
way of doing it within their own culture.