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Baroness Hamwee: I am grateful to the noble Viscount. I am sure that other Members of the Committee will press extremely hard on the relationship between our regulations and the EC directive, but I shall not do so. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Elvel moved Amendment No. 345ZA:


Page 106, line 4, at end insert:
(" ( ) Subject to subsection (4) above—
(a) an application to an enforcing authority for—
(i) a waste management licence under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990;
(ii) an authorisation under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993; or
(iii) a variation of an existing waste management licence and authorisation; and
(b) an appeal in connection with such an application,
must be advertised, in each case in such manner as may be prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State.
( ) The regulations shall provide that—
(a) the advertisement shall explain that any person may make representations in writing to the enforcing authority or party considering the appeal in response to the advertisement; and
(b) any representations so made shall be considered by the enforcing authority or the party considering the appeal in determining the application or appeal.
( ) The regulations shall provide for—
(a) when the advertisement is to be placed;
(b) for what period or periods;
(c) in what publication or publications circulating in—
(i) the location where the licensed or authorised activity would occur; and
(ii) the location which is likely to be affected by the activity;
(d) what information the advertisement shall contain regarding—
(i) the application;
(ii) the applicant;
(iii) the enforcing authority or the party considering the appeal;
(iv) the availability of further information;
(v) the matters referred to in subsection (2) above;
(vi) the timetable for dealing with the application or appeal and in particular the period allowed for making representations;
(e) who is to place the advertisement.
( ) In this section, "enforcement authority" means those authorities identified in section 90(1) (a), (b) and (c) above.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment, standing in the name of my noble friend Lady Hilton. Its purpose is to reinforce what is known as Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, which allowed individuals the opportunity to participate in environmental decision-making. The Committee will recall that at the Earth Summit in June 1992 the United Kingdom Government agreed to the Rio principles, including the principle that:


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Since then, as I understand it, the United Kingdom Government have quoted in support of their compliance with that principle the requirements to advertise planning applications, applications for Part I IPC and APC applications, applications for licences and consents under the Water Resources Act.

However, the Committee will be aware that all those requirements predate the 1992 Earth Summit. The Government have taken no steps that we can see to expand the application of Principle 10 since 1992, despite opportunities to do so under, for example, the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 and the new waste management regime under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, introduced in spring 1994.

For example, currently no advertisement is statutorily required for an application for an authorisation to dispose of radioactive waste and no advertisement is required for an application for a waste management licence under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. There is simply no requirement for the public to be told. Although applications are placed on the register, the keepers of the register are not required to inform the public of the existence of the application. Additionally, there is no provision for the taking into account of representations made by members of the public in those instances. The amendment is designed to make those two requirements the norm for all environmental licence applications. That would make the Bill consistent with Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater: I am very appreciative of the care that has been taken in the drafting of the amendment. I should be greatly concerned if arrangements to allow representations by the public on such important matters were not in place. However, with respect, I do not believe that the amendment is necessary. Under Section 36(2) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, a waste management licence can only be issued if planning permission has first been given for use of that site for that purpose. The planning stage is much the most appropriate one for inviting and considering public representations regarding the land use and the impact on local amenity which a waste management facility would involve. Of course, related appeals—

Lord Williams of Elvel: Perhaps I may intervene on that point. Is it not the case that a planning application, if granted, gives authorisation for five years? That is to say, one does not have to re-apply for five years. Therefore, for any of those five years, the planning application having been granted by the appropriate authority, an authorisation may be given to dispose of radioactive waste without the public knowing about it. Is that not true?

Viscount Ullswater: I appreciate what the noble Lord says and I believe that it is correct. My point is that in view of the impact on the amenity which the waste management facility would involve, any related appeals are advertised in the usual manner prescribed by the relevant town and country planning legislation.

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By contrast, a waste management licence is a technical authorisation dealing with the detailed operation of a facility. With matters on which specialist expertise is needed, there is, of course, consultation of appropriate bodies at that stage too—of the local planning authority and of the Health and Safety Executive. But we believe that it will be unnecessarily regulatory to require further advertisement as well.

Detailed information on waste management licence applications, applications for licence variations and related appeals will be available for public inspection at agency offices, in accordance with the regulations to be made under Section 64(6) of the 1990 Act, as amended by this Bill.

Current provisions in the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 require the regulating authorities to consult the appropriate local authorities and public bodies before granting authorisations for nuclear sites. The application, together with an explanatory memorandum, forms part of a consultation package and it is the regulator's practice to ensure, whenever necessary, that there is wider public consultation. The application is sent to the relevant local authorities and is available for public scrutiny at offices of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution.

It would be an added complication for small users of radioactive substances, whose activities are not radiologically significant, if such arrangements were extended unnecessarily. Existing regulations require the party considering the appeal—that is, the Secretary of State—to notify those bodies previously consulted on the application of their right to make representations concerning the appeal.

I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Williams, said about the requirement for public consultation. I hope that I have indicated that there is ample opportunity for the public to be consulted and notified on these matters.

7 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel: Well, no. The Minister has failed to persuade me that there is adequate opportunity. I am grateful for his long explanation. But I return to the principle that planning applications, if successful, give authorisation for five years before reapplication has to be made. A planning application can be for a change of use for a fairly wide variety of waste purposes. The application for an authorisation to dispose of radioactive waste—and I hope that I do not have to tell the Minister how sensitive this matter is; it may be low level radioactive waste, but it is still radioactive waste—is not publicised in any manner whatsoever. I find that somewhat contrary to the stated principle of the Rio declaration.

I hope very much that the Minister will give some thought to this point before the next stage. It is a point upon which we place a certain amount of importance. It is vital that in all these matters the public are kept fully informed about what is going on in relation to the disposal particularly of radioactive waste—of all waste,

14 Feb 1995 : Column 646

in my view, but radioactive waste in particular. I do not intend to pursue the matter further, unless the Minister wishes to add anything to what he has already said.

Viscount Ullswater: I appreciate the opportunity of being able to explain a little further. The department has undertaken a review of radioactive waste management policy. Our officials are carefully considering responses to the preliminary conclusions of the review. It would be premature to make any changes to the legislation while this process is still under way. I believe that that indicates the concern that the Government have about the disposal of radioactive waste. I do not believe that the picture is quite as the noble Lord paints it in suggesting that we are not taking the matter very seriously.


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