A Defra official said yesterday (23 October) he hoped measures intended to tackle waste crime under the Environment Bill would gain royal assent by next summer.
David Read is the joint head of waste regulation and crime at Defra. He was speaking at letsrecycle.com’s virtual Waste Crime Conference.
The Environment Bill contains seven measures Defra believes will help combat waste crime. These include substantive, enabling and technical measures.
Mr Read said: “The Environment Bill is currently in parliament. You may recall it was paused because of Covid. We hope that it will come back fairly soon into parliamentary scrutiny, when it will go straight into what’s called the committee stage in the House of Commons.
“The committee stage is where the MPs really get their teeth into the details of it, as opposed to the debate on the floor of the house, which is slightly higher level in some ways.”
The government’s plan is for the Bill to gain royal assent by next summer, Mr Read said.
The work of the committee scrutinising the Bill was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak in March (see letsrecycle.com story).
Substantive measures in the Bill relating to waste regulation and waste crime include the reformation of charging powers, which Mr Read says will “allow the regulators to have slightly more secure funding in some areas to tackle waste crime”.
Changes to emergency powers under section 57 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 are included, alongside amendments to section 108 to ensure local authorities have “sufficient powers” to enter premises.
The Bill also contains enabling powers to ensure Defra can carry out its planned reforms. These include powers enabling Defra to mandate electronic waste tracking and powers allowing the Agency to make exemptions without having to go down a regulatory route.
And, the Bill includes technical measures relating to waste regulation and waste crime. These would allow Defra to amend the levels of fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for fly tipping, without needing to use primary legislation.
The seventh measure includes amendments to vehicle seizure procedures, to allow the police to seize vehicles on behalf of the Environment Agency.
Also speaking at the conference was Sam Corp, head of regulation at the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the trade association representing the UK’s resource and waste management sector.
“We want more, and we want it more quickly, please”
He said the ESA’s priorities with regard to waste crime were effective policy and legislation, effective enforcement, and raising awareness of legal responsibilities.
Mr Corp told the conference that while he appreciated delays were inevitable due to the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit, he wanted more progress on waste crime from Defra and he wanted it “more quickly”.
“We recognise that the small matter of a global pandemic and the EU exit has certainly caused some delays to this kind of progress, but I guess from our perspective we’re always going to be saying this: we want more, and we want it more quickly, please,” he said.
“I think originally some of these proposals were mooted to be consulted on in 2019 and obviously we recognise all the pressure that government’s under, but it’s an important thing for our sector to focus on.
“We’re obviously keen to do our bit to help David and his team to develop proposals and to get the momentum increased in these areas so we can all see some of these changes that we have been asking for for quite some years.”