Environmental Liability Directive

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 21st March 2007.

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Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire 11:30 am, 21st March 2007

What discussions he has had with the First Minister and ministerial colleagues on the implementation of the environmental liability directive.

Photo of Nick Ainger Nick Ainger Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Wales Office

My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with the First Minister and ministerial colleagues on a range of issues. The Welsh Assembly Government are currently considering responses to the consultation on options and will announce their conclusions later this year.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

An ELD can only fully implement the "polluter pays" principle if there is strict liability for all occupational activities on land that lead to biodiversity damage. It is therefore regrettable that a weak English regime is proposed that exempts some hazardous genetically modified organism operations from financial penalties. Will the Minister congratulate Welsh Assembly Ministers on their more robust ELD line, which removes those permitted get-outs, and ask them to encourage their counterparts on this side of Offa's Dyke to take a firmer stance, without exclusions, in the interests of environmental protection?

Photo of Nick Ainger Nick Ainger Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Wales Office

My hon. Friend is right that the directive establishes strict liability for environmental damage to land, water, protected species and habitats. In line with the "polluter pays" principle, offenders will be required to remedy any damage caused. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Assembly Government are considering responses to the consultation before deciding how to move forward. A second consultation will focus on draft regulations. The same high standards are being applied across England and Wales. DEFRA and the Assembly Government are liaising closely on implementing the directive. The details of how it will be implemented in Wales are a matter for the Assembly Government. I will raise his concern with DEFRA Ministers, and I will also meet Carwyn Jones, the Minister in the Assembly Government with responsibility for those matters, tomorrow.

Photo of Roger Williams Roger Williams Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Nation states have a duty under the ELD to include European designations of protection, but no such duty to include national designations. It appears that Wales will take a more inclusive approach. Many designations have cross-border significance, and DEFRA will have an input there as well. Will the Minister urge DEFRA to take a more inclusive approach to ELDs, and ensure that any cross-border designations are dealt with appropriately?

Photo of Nick Ainger Nick Ainger Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Wales Office

Not only will the proposed directive cover the issue, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, domestic legislation already provides extensive protection for the environment. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be able to contribute to the consultation and make his point then: all responses will be considered carefully. However, I will raise his concerns with the relevant DEFRA Minister, along with those of my hon. Friend David Taylor.