Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-199)
MR RICHARD BROADBENT, THE EARL OF CRANBROOK, MR MICHAEL WHITING AND MR NEIL CARRIGAN
MONDAY 5 NOVEMBER 2001
180. Would you be able to let the Committee have a note setting out the proportions for all of them, A to F?
(Mr Broadbent) Yes and we could do it either for now or for now compared with an earlier date. I am not sure whether you are looking for the trend or for the statement.
181. It would be interesting to see the history of it and then where it is expected to be.
(Mr Broadbent) The history is interesting.
182. Finally I should like to ask you about another point the Environment Committee referred to, namely that there was perhaps too much emphasis on PR. Do you think that is a fair point, that there has been too much emphasis in schemes on public relations and not enough on real environmental benefit?
(Mr Broadbent) If you are referring to individual schemes, so long as they actually meet the criteria ENTRUST does not have the power to block them. That does mean of course that we have to interpret what the criteria are and in every individual case that has been properly done. As an overall judgement, the Government cannot really have a view which says this is right or wrong because the nature of the scheme is that those decisions are taken as an aggregate of local decisions.
183. I was thinking particularly of the evidence given by the UK Quality Ash Association which told that Committee that there appeared to be a number of approved schemes which were more related to public relations and not to providing society with real environmental benefits. It went on that Friends of the Earth also noted a need to prevent the use of landfill tax money by landfill operators for public relations purposes.
(Mr Broadbent) These are absolutely correct aspirations. In the regulation of the scheme, we are satisfied that all the individual projects meet the requirements of the scheme.
184. You are.
(Mr Broadbent) Yes, we are. It may be in aggregate that because the actual decisions are taken locally as to what to spend the money on that has produced an emphasis towards a set of objectives which do not fit a top-down strategic objective; that is part of the nature of the scheme. We are satisfied that the individual projects have been satisfied, have been properly regulated, recognising in some individual cases that that judgement has to be quite a fine one.
185. You mentioned at the beginning of your evidence that everything has a cost and a benefit and there would be a cost in changing the arrangements and probably smaller community groups would lose out effectively. In terms of the impact on the environment specifically, what do you think is likely to produce a better effect: a large number of schemes or a very large number of small schemes?
(Mr Broadbent) That is an issue of environment policy on which I am not sure I am qualified to comment. My job is to collect the tax and to monitor the credit scheme. My observation was simply that in making judgements about the scheme Ministers will need to weigh what would probably be a more strategically effective scheme if it were run and financed by central government against the loss probably of some local involvement in smaller scale projects. The judgement between those two things is a policy judgement I am not qualified to make. Ministers will make it and they have probably already indicated by saying they are attracted to a scheme which is part or fully public spending; you can see perhaps where the balance of their thinking lies as this scheme gets bigger and bigger. Originally the scheme had quite small sums of money in and might have been entirely appropriate. It now has £100 million a year, so maybe we do need to think that this is a strategic sum of money and not a tactical amount of money.
186. Who sets the salary levels at ENTRUST?
(Lord Cranbrook) Of the staff or of the board?
187. The board.
(Lord Cranbrook) Members of the company.
188. What is the maximum salary?
(Lord Cranbrook) Mine I should think; it must be.
189. I was not asking who, I was asking what.
(Mr Whiting) About £21,300
190. For how many days a week.
(Lord Cranbrook) At present it is about four days a week, sometimes five. It is not determined on that basis. This week it is going to be three.
191. I noted that in the early days you did not take remuneration either. I just wanted to clarify the position. A second point for clarification. When the Environment Select Committee was having its hearing and there was the question of Mr Roger Hewitt and also the question of people being arrested, it was all sub judice. Is that all still sub judice?
(Lord Cranbrook) Yes.
192. Was Dr Sills required to sign a gagging clause?
(Lord Cranbrook) A confidentiality agreement was signed at the time of his resignation.
193. By him?
(Lord Cranbrook) By both parties.
194. What did you want him to keep quiet about?
(Lord Cranbrook) It was part of the negotiated terms which is quite normal.
195. It is not in the public sector. After hearings in relation to the Development Board for Rural Wales and after hearings into the Welsh Development Agency many years ago we laid down that gagging clauses would be unacceptable in the public sector. Mr Broadbent, how relevant is that since it applied in the public sector to the situation of ENTRUST?
(Mr Broadbent) It does have relevance. Equally it has relevance that the individuals concerned in this case were pursuing private sector careers and a balance of interests had to be found.
196. I see that the board suspended the Chief Executive, Dr Sills in April and there were lengthy negotiations and then he resigned in July. For that period, April, May, June, July, three to four months, was he on gardening leave?
(Lord Cranbrook) I believe we have agreed that we shall be discussing issues of this nature in a moment or two.
Mr Williams: I would not regard that as all that intimate. I doubt the Committee will regard it as something once we go into private session that we shall retain as confidential. In the past we never have done. We have always allowed people to state their case if they wish to in private, but I cannot off hand, other than where prosecutions were pending, think of any circumstance where we have actually allowed it to remain confidential. I shall just ask one or two questions when we are in closed session.
197. I did not get an answer to one particular point and I should like to ask Mr Broadbent. If you were overseeing a department which ran its audit and inspection staff down to one, whilst transferring the remainder of its staff onto work which was required to get projects through, and in this period from 1996 they got 11,000 projects through, was the reason that the site operators were unwilling to contribute any monies to the projects unless ENTRUST gave its prior approval therefore moving the risk from them to the taxpayer? What would you think of an organisation which did that?
(Mr Broadbent) It was a combination of things. There was actually a staff shortage at the time and there was also an allocation of resources issue. In the allocation of resources a lot of priority had been given to seeking to give some pre-clearance, some pre-assurance in the earlier stages of a scheme. It is possible to argue that in a changeover from that to actually auditing the scheme there was a lag which led to this pinchpoint on resources at that time.
(Mr Carrigan) There was never at any time a transfer of staff from compliance duties to approval duties. The staff were grown as the workload developed.
Mr Jenkins: Dog and tail comes to mind.
198. May I ask that we receive a written note to clarify the issues around the memorandum and articles of association of the company and the changes which were made to that and precisely what effect those changes had?
(Mr Broadbent) This is in relation to the disposition of assets.
(Lord Cranbrook) All the changes of course are recorded at Companies House and open to public inspection.
Chairman: Thank you very much. That concludes the public session. Could anybody who is not either a witness or an official directly involved now kindly leave the room. I thank you for your attention and for attending this public session.
The Committee continued to take evidence, in Private
199. We are now in private session and I should say that anything we say is private, but the Committee does have the power to decide to publish anything it hears today if it wishes. You understand that.
(Mr Broadbent) Yes.
3 Ev 24-25, Appendix 1. Back
4 Ev 25, Appendix 1. Back