Examination of Witnesses (Questions 880
TUESDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2000
880. So if you press the appropriate button
for us, let us know the answer. Would you like to comment on Dr
Aickin's statement that the Landfill Tax regulations are "inadequate
and inconsistent to the point of incompetence".
(Lord Cranbrook) How could I criticise Parliament
on the Landfill Tax regulations!
881. I am inviting you.
(Lord Cranbrook) There are difficulties in implementing
them, as I have said. Some of these holes we would like to see
filled. But I do not agree, broadly speaking, that the deficiencies,
which Dr Sills has just outlined to you, amount to incompetence
in drafting. One of the things we had to do
882. May I just take you back to this question
of criticising Parliament. I think John Gummer told this Committee
some years back that you and he dreamed this scheme up on the
back of an envelope and that it then found its way into Parliamentary
legislation. So do you not accept some parentage for this scheme?
(Lord Cranbrook) I do not, surprisingly. I do not
remember that dream at all. I have had a dream with John Gummer
perhaps but not that one. I wanted to say something about the
difficulties when you are faced with a regulation drawn up in
very broad terms, of actually applying it to the nitty-gritty.
For example, what is the vicinity to a landfill? Is a school grounds
open to the public and so on? Very early on we began to draw up
a list of precedents to make sure that we were doing our best
to be fair, uniform and consistent in our application of these
regulations, which are inevitably broad and imprecise in their
details. One of Mr Carrigan's jobs has been to maintain an increasingly
long list of precedents, to make sure that internally we are consistent
in our application. I am not sure that the right way to deal with
regulations is to try to specify every possible contingency all
the way down. Probably if I was to review the scheme and to start
it again and have a dream with Michael Meacher (say) then I would
not look for endless precision in the regulations. I would allow
the regulator scope to apply commonsense and to see what this
meant when he was faced with a particular precedent.
883. Okay, so if we can talk at a general higher
level, then if you do not want to go into the detail, one of the
things you have not mentioned is whether you feel happy with the
balance of monies being allocated to the different type of projects.
(Lord Cranbrook) Again, this is outwith the regulator.
We have felt, as a regulator, that there is nothing in the regulations
that allows us to affect that balance. A project is either compliant
or non-compliant, so it is the decision of the landfill operator
where his contribution goes. It is not our decision. It is our
duty, as a regulator, to assess compliance. Therefore, we do not
at present have control of the different categories that are supplied.
All of those are equally compliant. We started off with a view
that we would hope to see equality in funding. We have given you
the statistics, so you know where precisely the funding has fallen
at the moment. We do not have the capacity to influence that.
If you wish to set up a body that made the judgments, which were
necessary to influence that and push the funding in a particular
direction, it would require a bigger organisation than we have
at present. We do not have the expertise such as is on the panels
of the Heritage Lottery Fund, for instance, to assess. If you
look at the categories A to E, you will see that we would have
to be able to assess all sorts of complicated things, including
contaminated land, the value of heritage property, wildlife value.
We would need a series of panels to give us assessment and guidance.
But if the regulations were changed so that the regulator was
also the distributorwhat we have is a core of, as I have
said, skilled and competent regulatorswe would have to
add on to that the additional expertise in order to provide us
with the right information to assist the funds to be guided in
any particular direction.
884. On this question of the funds being guided,
in ENTRUST's response to The Guardian article, you state
that: "Our strategic aims are to maximise benefits obtainable
from the Scheme, focused on sustainable waste management."
That implies to me that you can and should be focusing on sustainable
waste management, possibly creating markets in recycled goods
or recycled materials, as opposed to schemes which are very welcome
perhaps to the local community but do not do anything for sustainable
(Lord Cranbrook) Before the existence of the Government's
waste strategies, which is where we were, we interpreted sustainable
waste management in terms of broad sustainability. Therefore we
considered countryside and community developments, and things
like that, were part of sustainability. So that was our initial
approach. That is why we used those terms in the case you have
instanced. There are many schemes. We have tried to categorise
the schemes and we show there are schemes that are looking into
precisely the objectives you have mentioned. What needs to be
done now, in my view, is that some external bodyagain,
this is not within the power of the regulatorneeds to look
at all these projects that come forward under what we call C/CC,
which is a narrow definition of sustainable waste management.
Some bodyand we welcome a suggestion for that - needs to
assess what has been the output. What has been the output of all
this research? What has been the output of all this R&D that
has gone on? What has been the output of all the education programmes?
This is not our job, as regulators, to do this. It is something
we would heartily like to see done, so that an overall assessment
by Parliamentary Committees could be made of the success of the
scheme, but that evaluation is not something that is within our
885. Your rebuttal of The Guardian evidence,
when you dealt with Canford Environmental and this road up in
Scotland, you did admit that the landfill operator got some benefit
from the road. Is that in breach of the rules?
(Lord Cranbrook) Dr Sills can answer that in detail
but, broadly speaking, a landfill operator who gets benefit as
part of a general community is not in breach of the rules.
(Dr Sills) There is a provision in the regulations
that says that where benefit is shared, then it is allowable.
The view that we came to about that particular road was that there
was sufficient sharing and minimal benefit, in any case, to comply
with the regulations.
886. The fact that he got access to his site
improved, you do not think was a benefit to him?
(Dr Sills) It was a road that had been a main road
and had been by-passed. It was also a road to a naval munitions
depot, several farms and private dwellings. The experimental aspects
of the 700-metre stretch of road have resulted, as it happens,
in several of the sections being below par; so it is arguable
whether there is any benefit to anybody.
887. What is the relationship between Canford
Environmental now and EBCO?
(Dr Sills) At the moment, Adrian Gunner is the Chairman
of EBCO and is the General Manager of Canford Environmental.
888. If I could ask you to turn to page 10 of
your submission, under 39, where you indicate that I raised an
issue at a Select Committee hearing into the operation of the
tax in 1999 and later retracted this statement. I have no recollection
of retracting any statement.
(Dr Sills) It was the issue, through the Chairman,
of your suggesting that British Waterways was now a plc.
889. I see.
(Dr Sills) And that you were disturbed, quite rightly,
at the thought of a Landfill Tax Credit Scheme running into a
Mr Donohoe: Okay, thanks.
Chairman: On that note, may I thank you very
much for your evidence. If we could now have the next set of witnesses,