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Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 274:


Page 214, line 9, at end insert (" "; provided that such places as may be prescribed shall include the local authority of the area to which the particulars on the register relate."
( ) In subsection (8) (definitions)—
(a) after the words "In this section", there shall be inserted "(a)";
(b) after the paragraph (a) so formed, there shall be added the words—
" 'local authority' shall have the same meaning as that set out in section 78A(11) below".").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 275. Amendment No. 274 refers to registers kept by waste regulation authorities and is intended to extend the prescriptions relating to them, as set out in the schedule, so as to ensure that they are kept locally. That is shorthand for the local authority of the area to which the particulars on the register relate. It is intended to be convenient for those who wish to inspect.

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Amendment No. 275 deals with registers of special or hazardous waste. I understand that the Government's consultation on waste management licensing under the EPA 1990 included provision for copies of special waste consignment notes to be placed on public registers. That was followed by a response from the waste disposal industry body, the National Association of Waste Disposal Contractors, who said that the inclusion of special waste consignment notes on the register was objectionable on commercial grounds.

As there are public registers for details about emissions to air or controlled waters, the companies that dispose of waste in solid form in fact have an advantage over their competitors as they avoid public scrutiny through not having this requirement for registration. The documentation has to be produced anyway and the waste regulatory authority functions of the agency will require public registers to be kept of other documentation. So I do not believe that there will be anything more than a negligible additional burden to be placed on industry and on the agency. As I have said before, these things are always a matter of balance. I do not believe that the public interest should come second to what I think are not very strong objections. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, I am sympathetic to the concerns which lie behind both of these amendments regarding public access to environmental information, but I hope I can show your Lordships that these amendments are unnecessary.

Amendment No. 274 seeks to ensure that when the Secretary of State makes regulations prescribing places where agency waste regulation registers are to be available for public inspection, these include local authority offices. The reason for giving the Secretary of State this power to prescribe where registers are to be located is to ensure that the public have easy access to information about licensed sites and facilities in their area, and do not have to travel long distances; for instance, to a headquarters office in order to find out what is going on locally. However, before decisions are made about precisely where these places will be, we will need to have discussions with the agency, consult interested parties and consider the different possibilities. That is why the details ought to be left to the regulations and are not included on the face of the Bill.

I should, however, point out to your Lordships that Section 64(4) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (as amended by this Bill) already requires certain key information about waste management licences to be available at the offices of every waste collection authority in England and Wales. This information must be supplied by the environment agency. We may wish to prescribe in the regulations to which I have referred that other information from registers should be available at local authority offices, but that is not something which needs to be decided now. However, in any case provision is already made for the key information from the register to be available at local authority offices, and I hope that the noble Baroness will consider that this makes adequate provision.

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Amendment No. 275 would require the waste regulation registers maintained by each agency under Section 64 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to include copies of the consignment notes which waste producers and disposers furnish under the special waste regulations. The consignment note system enables regulators to exercise supervision over the movements of the most dangerous wastes. One copy of the consignment note is sent to them by the wasteholder before waste can be removed from premises, and another copy is sent when the waste is safely received for disposal or recycling. The detailed requirements for the waste regulation registers under Section 64 are currently set out in regulation 10 of the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994. When proposals for these new regulations were issued for public consultation in 1992, they included a suggestion that individual special waste consignment notes would be included on the registers. However, as a result of the consultation and further consideration, it became clear that the registers would be quickly overloaded and unmanageable if every individual consignment note received by the WRA was included, even if a time limit was specified for retention of each note on the register. The environment agency is expected to receive up to 300,000 notes per year.

It was therefore decided to limit the register to any summary prepared by the regulatory authority of special waste produced or disposed of in its area. This is a much more manageable arrangement than placing a copy of every individual consignment note on the register. Anyone who wishes to have access to such material can, of course, exercise his rights under the Environmental Information Regulations 1992. In addition, the register contains full details of all current local waste management licences, which will give a good picture of the range of waste, including any special waste, that any site is able to receive.

The Government fully support the principle of public access to information about local waste management activities, and I hope that in the circumstance, the noble Baroness will agree that these amendments are unnecessary and will see fit to withdraw them.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response to the amendments. I should like to think further about the second amendment in particular. I cannot help feeling that in these days of advanced technology there must be ways of storing bulk information which were not available even a very few years ago. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 275 not moved.]

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon moved Amendment No. 275A:


Page 215, line 26, leave out from ("(a)") to ("not") and insert ("above does").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 275A and to speak to Amendments Nos. 275B and 275C. These are intended to be helpful amendments rather than combative.

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Amendment No. 275A seeks to retain the definition of "harm" in relation to contaminated land which is at present applied under the Environmental Protection Act, where it can include offence to man's senses. It can include noxious smells as well as poisonous wastes. It is therefore suggested that this nuisance power should continue in relation to the abatement of fumes and gases from contaminated land where they smell extremely unpleasant as well as being poisonous or dangerous in themselves.

Amendment No. 275B seeks to deal with an increasing nuisance, namely high intensity lighting, which in recent years has been used for such purposes as burglar lights, which flash on and off when cats enter people's front gardens, and various forms of floodlighting, including the floodlighting of the decoration of buildings and structures. If that could be included within the definition of a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act, it would be possible to restrict the use of such lighting. Local authorities might welcome such a power. They report an increasing number of complaints of disturbance from light intrusion.

Amendment No. 275C is also intended to be helpful to local authorities, in that they would be able to seek injunctions against statutory nuisances in county courts rather than the High Court. At present they need to seek injunctions in the High Court in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which can be an extremely expensive and time-consuming matter. Both they and defendants may find access to the High Court difficult. It would be very much simpler for all parties if an injunction was available from the county court. This is a procedure which applies well in relation to planning legislation.

These are intended to be helpful suggestions to the Government. I beg to move.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, Amendment No. 275A concerns the potential overlap between the statutory nuisance provisions in Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the proposed contaminated land provisions set out in Clause 54 of the Bill, which will form Part IIA of that 1990 Act.

As presently provided in paragraph 75 of Schedule 18, the statutory nuisance provisions would be disapplied in respect of a wide range of the existing definitions of statutory nuisance where the premises concerned were also contaminated land for the purposes of the new Part IIA. The amendment, by contrast, would restrict the categories of possible statutory nuisance where that disapplication occurred.

The Government's intention is to ensure, so far as is possible, that any single environmental problem can be dealt with under only one of these sets of powers and is not subject to dual regulation. Local authorities and those who might be subject to any regulatory action should be clear as to which provisions would apply in any individual case. However, the Government are also concerned that in amending the statutory nuisance powers we do not create the situation where things that are currently subject to control under the statutory nuisance provisions would fall within neither the revised

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definitions of statutory nuisance nor the definition of contaminated land. It appears that this may be the result of the existing drafting of paragraph 75 of Schedule 18. The Government are therefore looking again at this question and intend to bring forward their own amendment at a later stage to resolve this potential problem.

However, we would not wish to accept Amendment No. 275A as it would leave in place a clear overlap between the two sets of powers. For example, a site on which landfill gas was being generated would clearly qualify as contaminated land. But the same problem could also remain within the definitions of statutory nuisance under the terms of Section 79(1) (c) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which refers to


    "fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance".

I hope that with the assurance that the Government are looking further at this detailed issue, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Amendment No. 275B aims to extend the statutory nuisance controls in Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to include light emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or the environment. We have for some time been aware of the potential problems which can be caused by the inappropriate design and use of some lighting schemes and have considered this issue before. Nuisance is a wide-ranging concept defined by the courts and I believe that there is no reason why in an extreme case courts should not judge that excessive light can constitute a nuisance. However, that is very different from saying that every case of excessive lighting from all types of premises should be subject to a legal penalty.

We believe that the most appropriate way to tackle the problems is by education and guidance, such as that which, as I mentioned at Committee stage, is in DoE circular 5/94, Planning out Crime on the planning aspects of security lighting.

We will continue to look for appropriate opportunities to press home the importance of the sensitive location and use of lighting and will keep under review whether other measures might usefully be taken to minimise its excessive use. I therefore ask the noble Baroness not to press that amendment.

We now come to an amendment seeking to change the provision for a local authority to take action in relation to any statutory nuisance in the High Court where in its opinion magistrates' court proceedings for an offence under the statutory nuisance provisions would provide an inadequate remedy. In practical terms, this allows a local authority to obtain injunctive relief to remedy serious statutory nuisances.

Amendment No. 275C would mean that such action would have to be taken in the county court rather than in the High Court. Last October the Government announced the establishment of a working party to review the existing controls over neighbour noise, which is largely regulated under the statutory nuisance provisions. The House will be interested to know that one of the issues under consideration by the working

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group was the possibility of altering the existing provision to allow action to be taken through either the county court or the High Court.

The Government's view was that there was no merit in confining action to the county court alone. There is evidence that cases are dealt with much more quickly in the High Court and this factor will be crucial to the remedy of a serious statutory nuisance. The issue of whether to provide for a choice of court is, however, still under consideration and the Government will shortly consult fully on the conclusions and recommendations of the working group. I hope that with that assurance the noble Baroness will feel able not to press that amendment.


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