Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260 - 268)



  260. And you do not believe that the current extra policing of the documents and the rest of it is going to deliver?
  (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.

Patrick Hall

  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 so far?
  (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 be realised.

  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 the job?
  (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 effect.

  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 "yes".

  Patrick Hall: We will have to return to that to some point or many points in the future.

Mr Mitchell

  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 of these?
  (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 on that.

Mr Lepper

  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.

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