PART 2 WITNESSES' VIEWS |
9. We now summarise
the main points which emerged in evidence from four viewpoints-those
of the Government, of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), of
statutory environmental protection and nature conservation agencies,
and of the water industry and its customers.
10. For the Government,
the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR)
has welcomed the broad aims and scope of the draft Directive,
including the approach based on river basins, which will fit well
with existing United Kingdom practice, and the proposals to rationalise
and streamline monitoring arrangements, provided they are properly
targeted and do not go beyond the legitimate interests of the
Commission and the European Environment Agency. The Department
does, however, have several concerns over the proposals as currently
drafted-in particular the lack of any clear definition of the
nature of the environmental objectives to be achieved by 2010
and the implications of Article 12 (on cost recovery through charges).
11. The Department also
welcomes the use of quality objectives for water bodies and the
"combined approach" to pollution control (the complementary
use of environmental quality standards and emission limit values
for discharges). These too accord well with United Kingdom practice.
However the Department considers that precise definition of environmental
objectives is fundamental to the proposals and must therefore
be considered by Member States prior to agreement of the Directive
and not left to the Management Committee. In particular, clarity
of definition is essential to a proper assessment of costs and
benefits, to ensure proportionality between the measures proposed
and their impact on the environment.
12. The Department intends
to probe further the precise intentions of the provisions on charging
and cost recovery, since they have implications which extend beyond
purely environmental and economic considerations; they also raise
questions of subsidiarity.
13. On subsidiarity
generally, the Department considers that the proposals reflect
the balance of responsibilities between authorities at regional,
national and Community level, working to common principles within
an overall framework but leaving Member States to determine how
best to achieve the objectives set by the Directive. But further
clarification will be sought in negotiations.
Oral Evidence from
the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
14. In oral evidence,
DETR officials made it clear that in a number of respects incoming
Ministers had not yet formed a considered view on the proposals:
much of what they had to say, therefore, was by way of amplification
of the Explanatory Memorandum.
15. The Department confirmed
that implementation of the Directive would not require major changes
to the administrative arrangements already in place, through the
Environment Agency in England and Wales, and that there was sufficient
flexibility to accommodate the rather different arrangements in
Scotland and Northern Ireland (Q 4). They were satisfied
that the Drinking Water and Bathing Water Directives were properly
integrated into the framework Directive and that it was logical
to keep them as separate pieces of legislation (QQ 12-14).
On the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (which also would
remain free-standing) there was a question whether its provisions
would prove sufficient for achieving the quality standards of
the framework Directive-depending how they were set (Q 27).
On the matter of recovery of environmental costs, the requirements
of Article 12 of the draft Directive appeared to be less
flexible and assumed a more dominant role for the Commission compared
with the corresponding passage in the Commission's Explanatory
Memorandum, which implied greater discretion for Member States
to decide how far it was appropriate or practical to seek full
recovery: this reflected more accurately the position which the
Government would be arguing for in the negotiations (QQ 31,
16. The Department felt
that the draft proposed too powerful a role for the Management
Committee, taking it into areas of policy which were properly
for Member States to determine. They suggested that there should
be, in parallel to the discussions and negotiations in the Council
at least one group (possibly more than one) of experts, drawn
from each of the Member States, who would discuss and try to bring
forward proposals on "statuses" and quality standards,
for consideration in turn by the Working Group. Membership from
the United Kingdom could include representatives of the statutory
agencies, including English Nature (QQ 37, 41). Ministers
had not yet taken a view on how far it would be appropriate to
provide public access to the proceedings of such a group, but
officials envisaged some form of "structured involvement"
of NGOs and others (Q 42). Clarification would be sought
in the negotiations of the role of the European Environment Agency-for
example, the links between its existing work in setting up a freshwater
monitoring network and the processes to be gone through under
the framework Directive (Q 46).
17. Ministers had endorsed
the previous administration's initiative in asking the water industry
to review the sources of water and to determine, with the help
of the Environment Agency, sustainable yields; they would also
be proceeding with a review of abstraction licensing, which among
other things could cover ways of recovering environmental costs,
for which charging the consumer was not the only option (QQ 47-50).
10 A group of officials from Member States' governments which prepares the ground for the Council of Ministers by discussing a proposal from the Commission and, so far as possible, resolving points of disagreement or obscurity before it is considered by the Council. Back