Clause 13 - Powers in relation to landfill operators

Part of Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 8th April 2003.

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Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment) 3:45 pm, 8th April 2003

I understand better the hon. Gentleman's point. There is not a very close analogy between an auditor visiting the central office of a major company, where all the records are kept and are ready to hand, and the more diffuse and disaggregated situation of a large number of landfill sites and 121 waste disposal authorities. Waste could go to any of those landfill sites and more than one waste disposal authority could be involved; in most cases it almost certainly is. It is a much more complicated situation. I see the comparison not in terms of openness and transparency, which is a thoroughly good concept, but in terms of practicality. In the case of the accountant, that is a practical way for him to do his work, and in the case of landfill sites the way that I am proposing is the most practical.

Amendment No. 65 concerns entering the premises of a landfill operator. The intention behind it seems to

be to prevent monitoring authorities from entering such premises with the police, with any necessary equipment or material, or by force. Those are sensitive matters. I have made this point, but I shall stress it again: it is vital that the monitoring authorities for each country in the UK have access to the records of landfill operators. They form an essential cross-check on the returns made by waste disposal authorities. What happens if the landfill operator does not comply? We hope and expect that landfill operators will comply with the requirement to keep records and to produce them for inspection. However, any law has to contain a mechanism to enforce it in respect of the few individuals in any large group who do not obey the rules. The monitoring authority must have the power to access such records. In those circumstances, it is important that the Bill permit the use of force to enter premises. Nobody wants to use force unless there is no other way of obtaining the information.