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"Every exemption registration authority must carry out appropriate periodic inspections of establishments and undertakings carrying on exempt waste operations in respect of which it is the ... authority".
I turn to page 12 to discover another pair of inverted commas before Schedule 3. I mentioned inverted commas before in connection with Schedule 2. Then I came to page 14, which refers to waste lagoons. Why would the public want access to a lagoon, slurry pit or down? It says that the public should not be able to obtain access
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At the bottom of page 14 and the top of page 15, there is a very untidy bit of printing. There is a line at the bottom of page 14 and an open space at the top of page 15; the composition of it is not particularly good. On page 15, Table 1, code 020103, why is plant tissue waste and dredging spoil included in a table that is otherwise devoted to inert material? There are several references, other than those mentioned in 170505, but I have been unable to find 170505 in any other table in the regulations. Does it exist? Perhaps the Minister will tell us what it refers to.
On page 16, paragraph U2, code 160103, why is there a limit of 50 tonnes on the amount of baled tyres when the top of page 19 refers to 40 tonnes off tyres when they are in a retaining wall? Page 19 refers to having 40 tonnes of end-of-life tyres. That seems a bit inconsistent; I cannot understand why 50 tonnes is considered to be okay in one place and 40 tonnes is the quantity in another. That rather suggests to me that some of these figures have been plucked out of the air, rather than reasoned.
I turn to the burning of waste, such as timber, in paragraph U4 at the top of page 17. There is a plant in Troon; I understand that Scotland is not part and parcel of these regulations, but I know of a yard that accepts all the cut timber from Arran, takes off the bark and trims the side branches and then planes or logs the trunks and has heaps of different kinds of processed wood in a huge yard, protected by a chain-link fence with double gates and a lock. The flood bank between it and the sea is higher than the piles of wood probably 50 yards away and used by the populace to walk their dogs and push their prams. Would that situation be considered secure? If not, are the Government calling for small-scale operations to be run on tighter or higher standards than commercial ones? It says that waste should be stored in a secure place, but how will that be defined?
I note, too, that 0.4 megawatts is the standard for which exemptions will apply, but why has that figure been chosen? Why is it not 1 megawatt or 0.25 megawatts? It will be only a small-scale operation if it can use only a maximum of 50 kilograms an hour, as it says in paragraph U4(3)(a) on page 17.
I have mentioned the whole question of tyres, on page 19. I notice the enormous differential between stones and bricks capable of being used in their existing state only-in other words, heaps of building materials-which are limited to 100 tonnes in a pile, and blast furnace slag and stones only, for which the figure is
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We saw the quantity of mushroom compost allowed earlier, and here we have 1,000 tonnes of mushroom compost able to be stored. I wonder how all these figures are tied up and who has gone through and audited them to make sure that there is a certain rationale behind them all.
Perhaps the gem in these regulations is on page 20, already referred to by the Minister, about lion faeces. The Minister has handled many things for this Government. I should think that this is the first time that he has found himself having to handle lion faeces and argue why it should be limited to five tonnes, whereas sheep, rabbit or deer faeces can be limited to 100 tonnes. Where is the logic in this? Does the lion limit relate to the ferocity of the beast when compared with the rabbit? How were these figures calculated and why did the Government see them as different? Are there any other animals? These are just four animals out of the animal kingdom that happened to find themselves distinguished by being mentioned in these regulations.
I had a lot more that I could say, but I do not really want to carry on going through this in detail. I hope that I have made the point that there are inconsistencies in the statutory instrument that need to be addressed. These are real concerns to the many enterprises working in this area who may well find themselves on the wrong side of these regulations. I hope that the Minister will be able to satisfy us that his department will be looking at them before they produce the consolidated regulations, which I understand will be early in the new year. I wonder what will be added, amended or deleted, and how easy it is going to be for noble Lords looking at them again to understand them. I hope that the presentation of the new statutory instrument will be a good deal more straightforward than the current one.
I hope that I have adequately drawn the Grand Committee's attention to what I see as the arbitrariness in these regulations. My main question is whether the waste directive requires the maintenance of a register of those carrying out exempted waste recovery or disposal operations, because that is a heavy duty that is being imposed on people who are by definition exempted. I have very serious doubts about the ability of local authorities and the Environment Agency to maintain a register in accordance with the terms laid down without having to spend a lot of money, which we know is not there. I have even greater doubts that these regulations actually serve the public interest, but I have no doubt that they will greatly increase the regulatory burden on the vital recycling industry.
Baroness Barker: My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for his introduction of this instrument, and I commend the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, on his comprehensive analysis of it. It falls to me at very short notice to speak from these Benches, because my noble friend Lord Addington has had to attend to duties in the Chamber. However, I am delighted to do so, because it enables me to do something that I never dreamt I would be able to do, which is to share with
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I am delighted to be speaking on these regulations for a couple of reasons, which will become evident in my very short speech. These are the latest in a series of environmental permitting regulations from 2007 and 2009. They are all due to be included in consolidating regulations, and the environment planning regulations 2010 will come into force on 6 April 2010. In fact, these regulations will not come into force until that date, and they will exist in law for only a very short time before they are consolidated into the new regulations.
The Government have failed, despite a great deal of consultation, to reach consensus in two areas that concern us. We are not clear why the Government are insisting on pressing ahead with these regulations four months before they come into force, rather than using the time to make more efforts to find consensus with the operators. The two areas of dispute, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said are metal recycling and composting.
It is obvious that both those areas can and must make a major contribution to the objective of a zero-waste economy, as part of the overall strategy of carbon reduction, recycling and waste reduction. It is worth noting that it is 30 years since the Liberal Party, of which I was a member, adopted a policy of zero waste. It is very nice to see other parties slowly catching up with us.
It is equally obvious that inappropriate systems of metal recycling and composting have the capacity to cause real nuisance to residents. No one wants a scrapyard next to their home, and in the case of metals we all know about the problems of theft and illegal trading-for instance, stolen fencing and gully grates. We agree that there is a real need to stamp out illegal operators. The proposal for an enhanced public register of exempt businesses will help with this, but more and better co-ordinated resources by the police and enforcement agencies is also needed. What estimate has been made of the capacity of local authorities to enforce these regulations?
The danger with the regulations as they stand is that they might result in unintended consequences of less metal being recycled, and they may even tempt some small businesses on the margins to use the illegal sector.
Composting is a tremendously important subject. I, too, have received the briefing from the Community Composting Network. Community composting schemes, where they exist, provide a means of removing and using vegetable waste in areas where composting would otherwise be impossible or unlikely-in the kinds of urban areas where there are very few gardens, for example. Noble Lords will know that there is a specific campaign in London at the moment targeted at enabling people who have very small gardens, or indeed sometimes just have balconies, to grow more of their own vegetables. Having a resource such as a community composting scheme is very important. I listened very carefully to the Minister's opening speech and I noticed that he talked about commercial-scale composting. I suggest that there is a difference between commercial-scale composting and commercial composting. There are a number of community organisations that encourage composting on a very large scale. They do not do so for commercial benefit; they do so for other good. The Community Composting Network is one such organisation. They are concerned that compliance with a threshold of 10 tonnes of waste at any one time will cause problems for their schemes. They have made the argument for a 50-tonne limit. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister what was the clear evidence-based justification for the Government proposing a limit of 10 tonnes. What efforts have the Government made to draw a distinction between commercial-scale composting by commercial operators and composting by not for-profit organisations?
It is estimated that the cost of registration, as proposed by these regulations and others, would mean that local community schemes would have to find between £7,500 and £15,000. That is a considerable sum for small community organisations. Even the proposed permit of £1,590 in the first year could be prohibitive and prevent people setting up schemes that we know have an environmental and social value.
I end by making a plea to the Minister to consider whether, given the four months that remain, it might be possible to engage in further discussion about these regulations and to see if it is possible to come to a consensus that would enable schemes which, for all sorts of other reasons, not least their health benefits, we all wish to encourage.
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I have listened to this, not being part of the Bill team. I have been part of the environment team in the past. We are in Grand Committee and bound by its rules. This is a classic example of legislation that should never have come into Grand Committee. It should have been taken on the Floor of the House in a much more open way. We cannot divide in here and we would have to cause a significant upheaval if we wished to have a Division on this legislation now. Having listened to the wonderful dissection of this legislation by my noble friend and supported in many ways by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, from the Liberal Democrats, I have to ask the Minister to be gracious enough to take this away and do a lot of work with it and give us another opportunity to go through it before it comes to the Floor of the House to be passed, otherwise I believe he will risk losing a Division in the House when it comes back.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I hear what the noble Lord has just said. I understand the seriousness with which he approaches these issues, as do we all, but I hope that I am in a position to give such reassurances about the regulations as to make his rather nuclear approach to them seem unnecessary. I hope that he will feel that we have made enough progress, given our consultation in preparing the regulations. We all recognise that what is involved here is a shift of a boundary. As with any boundary, there will always be concern that, just across one side, the case is almost the same as on the other-that is in the nature of the issue. I wanted to emphasise in introducing the regulations that we are concerned both with rationalising the present position so as to exempt that which can be exempted and with environmental objectives, which I think are subscribed to in all parts of the House.
I want to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, on commercial composting by small community groups. A cost may be involved in applying for the permit, but community groups also have a responsibility for the environment-an issue which I know the noble Baroness holds dear. We need controls to ensure that the environment is protected, because there have been instances where the operations of community groups have produced problems in the local environment; hence the necessity for us to bring them within the framework. I understand entirely the distinction that she made between a commercial operation and a small community group being involved in an activity which has a commercial dimension to it but is on nothing like the same scale. However, there are obligations with regard to the environment in that process, which is what the regulations seek to address.
I am torn between two responses in this speech. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, demanded of me that I make a defence of the principle of the regulations, the importance that we attach to them and the extent to which we have carried out the necessary consultation, yet I heard from his noble friend what he rightly called a precise "dissection" of where explanation is necessary; that is, on almost every page of the regulations. So it is a fairly tough call, but I shall do my best.
I shall give the general proposition, which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, both hinted at and disregarded when he outlined a number of his anxieties about the regulations. The regulations amend those of 2007. The provisions will be incorporated into the regulations of 2000. The mystical inverted commas are there to indicate that they will be included within existing regulations. I assure the noble Lord that, when the consolidated version of the 2000 regulations is available, nearly all his anxieties about text and ease of understanding will be allayed. I have the greatest sympathy with him and commend him on his research-if anyone else helped as well, I hope that he will commend them on behalf of the Committee for their diligent work. The textual complexity reflects the fact that these regulations amending other regulations must be put within that context. That is why some of the difficulties occur, including our dear friends the inverted commas, which are a metaphor for the problem as a whole.
I take the obvious point that the noble Lord made about being unsure what the appropriate authority was and how it was defined in the regulations. However, the appropriate authority is defined in the 2007 regulations, into which these provisions fit. Of course, as he would expect, the appropriate authority is the Secretary of State, or Welsh Ministers in the context of the Welsh provision. That problem obtains right the way through these issues. I shall address his substantive points in a moment. However, he identified the fact that these regulations are far from being a clear read and that one can identify references which are difficult to analyse. I repeat that these are amendments to the 2007 regulations and are incorporated within them. That is why the appropriate authority is not repeated in these regulations because that is incorporated in the ones which clearly identify that authority. I hope he will accept that I am not in a position to dot every "i" and cross every "t" in relation to how these regulations read.
The noble Lord asked a number of important and substantive points, one of which concerned mushroom compost and why it was not included under the exemption operations. Composting operations will be required to be regulated by local authorities through a Part B permit, as is the case now for off-farm commercial composting. We deem that mushroom composting needs to be brought under greater control because of the problems it causes for the environment. We have had complaints about this form of waste and we are responding to them. The noble Lord may say that he has never been upset by mushroom compost in his life. I bow to his experience, which, I have no doubt, is greater than mine. However, I draw deep on my 16 year-old daughter's experience of spending a week on a mushroom farm. She said to Dad, "never again". She made the point that mushrooms were good to eat but were not necessarily the most congenial thing with which to be involved every hour of one's working day. As the noble Lord will appreciate, the problem with compost is that it can lead to persistent complaints from local people. That is why we need regulation.
The noble Lord referred to validity of registration in Regulation 7(2). That gives effect to the three-year registration period for all operations carried on by operators. That is a general basic rule with regard to the operation of the regime. The noble Lord said that Regulation 10 concerned national security. Any person can apply for a direction. There is no particular requirement about who can apply for that. That provision is consistent with all other legislation. He asked about the responsible person on page 7 of the regulations. I understand his point entirely; you name someone and that person leaves the organisation the following day and the business has to inform the authority who the relevant person should be. The reference to the name of the person is merely an administrative concept to provide a contact for queries. It is not part of the information that will appear in the public register, but it is important. It might not be a person. It might be an officer or whatever it is defined, but the noble Lord will recognise that it merely identifies to whom the authority should make the appropriate approach.
I have several other references in great detail here, but they all fall within the broad framework that these regulations must be placed within the context of the 2007 regulations that they are amending. They are nothing more than that and are no more sinister in their drafting. If the noble Lord is saying that he cannot accept this type of drafting for regulations, that would put quite a burden on the Government. If we had to provide with every regulation the finished product of the regulation that we were amending-if that is what is being considered-the person moving the regulation would have to separate the whole time the difference between that which is already law and established and that which is being changed. No Government have done that before. It is an interesting concept but not one that I favour. I have enough problems dealing with regulations on this basis let alone the more onerous one.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The Minister knows, of course, that a consolidated statutory instrument will come out of this. That is the whole purpose of the exercise. It would greatly reassure us if we knew that that consolidated statutory instrument could be debated on the Floor of the House. If that were possible, all these matters would be much clearer and noble Lords would have proper control over the finished documents, whereas the Minister has admitted that it is quite difficult for noble Lords to fully understand the implications of everything that is here.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is a good try. It is difficult to understand, but as I just indicated the only alternative is enormous. Already, at the stroke of a pen and as the result of one phrase, the noble Lord would double the amount of work relating to this particular regulation if every regulation or order that comes before the Committee which amends orders from the past needs to be considered in those terms. I am afraid that no Government would think that that was the way to go about amending. I sympathise with the difficulty and I enormously applaud the rigorous way in which he sought to overcome those difficulties and identify the real issues as well as the drafting ones. But if he will forgive me, I will ask him to accept the drafting and I will try to deal with the real issues.
The noble Lord mentioned the thresholds for anaerobic digestion. The limit was developed in conjunction with the National Farmers' Union and the biogas industry and is deemed to be an appropriate threshold for small-scale on-farm biodigestion. That is an agreed position with the interests concerned.
I was asked why plant tissue waste is included in the inert waste section. The waste type issue will be subject to review and, if deemed necessary, we will amend that at the earliest opportunity. The noble Lord has a point there. We may need to reconsider that. On the issue of plant codes, the references on codes are set out in the list of waste regulations. Again, I agree with the noble Lord. The problem is one of cross-referencing. That is the difficulty. There is nothing more sinister to it than that.
The noble Lord asked about the difference between the two concepts of tyres, the different forms of storage and why they had different limits attached. The tonnage
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The noble Lord asked a general question about quantities, and the noble Baroness identified a particular dimension on which, as she rightly indicated, I do not have much experience. For the most part, the quantities have been arrived at following assessment of the risk and discussion with businesses that carry out the activity. We have exemptions from European law, and are much more flexible than it might have directed. One of the advantages of the way we have gone about this is the flexibility, but we have to stipulate maximum quantities under that law, and that is why these figures are there. There is bound to be a certain arbitrariness about that and it is, of course, bound to be a matter of judgment.
On access and security, all page 14 does is set out a definition of what is secure for the purposes of interpreting storage conditions. On waste not produced at the plant, which is covered on page 18, to which the noble Lord drew attention, I emphasise that this exemption is to enable water treatment plants to reseed the treatment process. To do that effectively, they need to bring waste in from other plants. The exemption has been developed with the full input of the waste water industry. We have had extended discussions on that. I hope the noble Lord will accept that point.
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