Clause 145

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 12th June 2008.

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Photo of Kitty Ussher Kitty Ussher Economic Secretary, HM Treasury 3:45 pm, 12th June 2008

The hon. Lady raised four points. She asked: what constitutes serious non-compliance? I will explain that shortly. What are the numbers? How many issues have there been in practice, and have we worked with Entrust in understanding how to implement these rules?

If I may take those in turn, the obligations of an approved body are set out in the landfill tax regulations. This change gives the commissioners for HM Revenue  and Customs the power to revoke an approval if the body fails to comply with any of those obligations. In exercising that power, however, they will revoke the approval only if there is evidence of serious non-compliance. Entrust is responsible for identifying and investigating breaches of the regulations so the process is as follows. Where in Entrust’s view the alleged breach is serious, it will report the case to the commissioners for consideration under an agreed process. Each case will be considered by the commissioners on its merits so there are no duplicate processes in this regard. Factors that may be taken into account include the financial sums involved, any previous incidents of non-compliance, the circumstances under which the breach occurred and the potential ramifications of the breach.

Prior to the change before us, the decision on whether to revoke an environmental body’s approval for non-compliance was made by the regulatory body. Entrust used that power on only six occasions between 1996 and 2008. I hope that that answers the hon. Lady’s question about numbers.

Are we working with Entrust? Yes, of course we are. On the specific amendment, it restricts the commissioners’ power to withdraw approval of an environmental body to cases where there is serious non-compliance on the part of the environmental body concerned. It is likely in most cases, as it has been to date, that commissioners will exercise the power to withdraw the approval of an environmental body where they assess that serious non-compliance has occurred. However—this is the crucial point that I need to explain to the hon. Lady—there may be cases that fall outside any interpretation of serious non-compliance but where under the circumstances it will still be reasonable to withdraw the approval of the environmental body concerned, for example, where there is an accumulation of a number of minor incidents of non-compliance. That is why we would urge the hon. Lady to withdraw her amendment because in those cases the Opposition amendment would mean that the commissioners could not withdraw the approval of the environmental body even though there had been serial minor incidents of non-compliance that, added together, were taken as sufficiently serious to warrant action.