Select Committee on European Union Forty-Seventh Report


114. We now bring together the conclusions and recommendations from the earlier parts of this report. Figures in brackets refer to paragraph numbers in the report.


Co-ordination of Government and the need for a strategic approach

i.  The Government do not provide convincing evidence of a strategic approach to EU waste policy, although they appear to have had some success in developing implementation. Currently it appears that the Government's position is essentially reactive. Without a clear idea of how EU policy should develop we believe that the Government are at a severe disadvantage in representing the interests of the UK during negotiations. (84)

ii.  We believe that the current split of responsibility between departments without a clear strategic lead results in a lack of accountability and direction. Also, industry expects the Government to speak with one voice. A single waste policy unit could provide strategic leadership on policy development and a single source of information for stakeholders. As Defra is currently responsible for overall waste policy, it would seem sensible for such a unit to be based within this Department and report to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We therefore recommend that an inter-departmental group on waste policy, reporting to the Environment Secretary, should be set up as soon as possible. (105)

iii.  The current placing of consultations and general information on disparate websites is confusing to stakeholders and the public. We therefore recommend that the inter-departmental group is backed by a single government website containing all matters relating to waste management, together with links to European Commission and other relevant sites. Whilst we look to Defra to take the lead in setting up and maintaining this website, we would expect it to have due regard to the responsibilities of DTI, other relevant departments and the devolved administrations. (106)

iv.  In the interests of transparency, all Explanatory Memoranda on relevant EU documents sent to Parliament should also be placed on this website. (107)

v.  We believe that better communication between the Government and local authorities can similarly be assisted by the creation of a single point of information and consultation on waste policy. (102)

Regulatory Impact Assessment

vi.  The UK has significant experience in preparing regulatory impact assessments and should act to champion the process in the EU institutions. (68)

vii.  Regulatory impact assessments by the Government should show how responsibilities will be divided between local authorities, central government and other agencies; the percentages of the overall cost represented by this breakdown; from which budget lines local authorities are expected to meet their shares; and whether extra money is likely to be provided. (103)

Technical Adaptation Committees

viii.  The Government should not agree to framework legislation without a full understanding of the practical implications. Where significant detail is to be delegated to technical adaptation committees this should be made explicit in Explanatory Memoranda and regulatory impact assessments made available to Parliament. (40)

ix.  We note that the Environment Agency is involved in technical adaptation committee negotiations in some cases and fully endorse this arrangement. However, to improve transparency it should be made clear which committees the UK has an active role in and from which department UK representatives on the committees are drawn. (93)

x.  As a result of the Council's decision to delegate a crucial part of the legislation to the Commission, and because the technical adaptation committee first met after Member States had begun the process of transposition, crucial details affecting the operation of the Landfill Directive were not agreed before the deadline for full implementation. The Government were thus in a position of having signed up to legislation without knowing the practical implications; while landfill operators were faced with significant uncertainty and confusion about what the law required. (29)

xi.  In relation to the WEEE Directive, it is regrettable that, as we report, so much remains to be settled. It is impossible for those affected by the Directive to run their businesses without timely decisions on these matters. (33)

xii.  We are glad that the DTI have made a start in opening up the committee system by placing informal minutes of the WEEE Directive committee on their website and by explicitly asking for comments by interested parties. We urge the Government to extend this practice to all technical advisory committees. Details of the UK representatives on the committees should in any event be made available. (41)

The Role of the Environment Agency

xiii.  The Environment Agency wishes, not unreasonably, to be involved continuously in negotiations in Brussels. For this it needs the ability to be proactive rather than just responding to requests from Government departments for information. We believe that this is crucial to enhancing the UK's ability to influence proposals at an early stage. We wish to see the provisions in the recently agreed concordat working towards this end. (91)

xiv.  The Government should therefore acknowledge that it has a duty to listen to and take into account the advice of the Agency, as the statutory regulator, and should be prepared to justify its own decisions. The Agency, for its part, must recognise that ultimately it is the Government who have to take responsibility for policy decisions. (92)

xv.  We consider it essential that on waste matters where DTI is the lead department the Environment Agency should be listened to and involved in negotiations on exactly the same basis as it should be where Defra is in the lead. We recommend that the DTI should draw up a concordat with the Agency similar to the one negotiated with Defra. Both concordats should recognise the distinct functions of Government departments, the Agency and industry. (94)

xvi.  The Government should recognise that the Environment Agency will need additional staff, with appropriate specialist skills, to carry out its responsibilities effectively. We recommend that the Government should as a matter of priority consider how the Agency can be provided with the resources and expertise not only to carry out its increasing regulatory functions in regard to waste, but also to enable it to be proactive in the early stages of policy development. (95)

Data collection

xvii.  The UK should not wait for EU initiatives on data collection but should seek to develop and improve its own baseline data as quickly as possible. (59)


xviii.  We believe that it is fundamental to the development of Community waste policy that the Commission identifies the weaknesses in the current approach to developing and implementing legislation and takes remedial action. (20)

xix.  Significant improvement can be made to the policy-making process at the EU and national level. The Commission should commit itself to reviewing the operation of the EU legislative process as it applies to waste. (113)

Technical Adaptation Committees

xx.  Although it is possible to discover that a committee exists and to find its legislative basis, access to information about agendas or decisions is almost non-existent. The Commission should ensure that:

a.  Clear objectives are set for committees, before framework legislation is finally agreed, which allow enough time to operate before legislation is transposed in Member States. It should be explicit when these objectives have been achieved.

b.  A timetable of meetings, agendas, minutes and other documentation should be placed on the relevant policy web pages of the Commission.

c.  Appropriate expertise should be available to the committees, not only in the form of members of committees but also through wider consultation if this is necessary. Information on the members should also be placed in the public domain.

d.  Voting patterns of the Member States should be made publicly available, to enable scrutiny by national parliaments. (39)

xxi.  The Commission should provide a project plan for each specific legislative proposal which demonstrates how the deadlines contained in framework legislation are to be co-ordinated with the work of technical adaptation committees. We recommend that where substantive definitions affecting the operation of the Directive remain to be decided, transposition into national law should not go ahead until the committee has completed its work. (34)

xxii.  We consider that care should be taken during the co-decision process to ensure that any details which are left for decision by technical adaptation committees are genuinely technical and appropriate for being decided in that way. A clearer line must be drawn between policy objectives and technical content. Besides purely technical aspects, committees may reasonably be used to resolve detailed questions of transposition but should not be relied upon to address policy gaps left behind by poor initial appraisal of the legislative proposal. (36)

xxiii.  Compared with the implementation of the IPPC Directive, the level of transparency in agreeing waste acceptance criteria and in current work on the WEEE Directive is unacceptable and should be addressed, primarily by the Commission but also by Member States. (38)


xxiv.  We agree with the Environment Agency that the existing overlaps and inconsistencies between Directives (especially on the definitions of "waste" and "recycling"), as well as inconsistencies of practice between Member States in relation to the same Directive, should be reviewed by the Commission. There should be an explicit commitment to carry out this work as part of the waste and recycling strategy, as it has a major impact on the ability to deliver the objectives of Community legislation in an efficient manner. (50)

xxv.  When new proposals are being developed the Commission should explain how they interact with existing and proposed Community legislation. (51)

xxvi.  We support the Environment Agency in its attempts to modernise procedures for issuing permits, and believe that in future the Commission should pay more attention to ensuring that requirements in Directives are, as far as possible, consistent with existing Community legislation. This is a key factor in enabling the regulatory authorities to develop efficient permit systems which take advantage of new technology. (52)


xxvii.  We are concerned that the Commission's attempt to address the lack of data through the Waste Statistics Regulation will not produce meaningful results until at least 2008; and yet significant waste policy strategies are being developed now. There are pressing problems relating to waste which cannot wait until 2008 to be addressed. (57)

xxviii.  The Commission recognises that these strategies will require a systematic review of policy. We therefore very much regret that lack of proper data will result in a hiatus in the process. We believe that the Commission has no option but to be guided by its own statement that "it is not possible at this stage to propose any operational, quantified waste prevention targets based on a comprehensive environmental and economic analysis." It should resist the temptation to rush into producing targets based on doubtful evidence. (58)

Harmonised reporting and the role of the European Environment Agency

xxix.  We agree with the European Parliament's assessment that reporting is not functioning in a manner which allows the Commission to make accurate assessments of the state of implementation in Member States. We strongly encourage the Commission to accept the changes recommended in the Parliament's report as part of its review of waste policy, with a view to securing:

a.  harmonised information;

b.  greater transparency and access to activities and publications on the website; and

c.  a more robust approach to following up non-reporting. (72)

xxx.  We recommend that one of the outcomes of the Commission's review of the European Environment Agency should be a clear acknowledgment of the Commission's duty to ensure that the Agency is able to work with data which are complete and consistent across the Union and to ensure full cooperation from all Member States. This is essential to the Agency's task of promoting awareness, backed by reliable comparisons, of the state of the environment across the European Union. (75)

xxxi.  We would not, however, go as far as recommending that the Agency be given inspection, let alone enforcement, responsibilities. (76)

Impact Assessment

xxxii.  We agree that the European Parliament and the Council should undertake impact assessment of significant amendments to legislative proposals. We welcome the inter-institutional agreement on impact assessment, which acknowledges the value of co-operation. We would encourage further work to be done on how this system can be made to work in practice. Although the Commission has some experience of conducting assessments it appears that this is an area which will require substantial further investment in expertise. (67)

xxxiii.  The origin of any future targets set by the Commission should be clearly explained and justified in the impact assessment process. (69)


115. This Report is submitted to the House for debate.

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