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CREATION OF WASTE POLICY UNIT URGED TO PREVENT REPEAT OF FRIDGE MOUNTAINS FIASCO

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The UK could better influence and implement the European Union's green policies by setting up a single inter-depart...
The UK could better influence and implement the European Union's green policies by setting up a single inter-departmental waste unit, according to a Lords report published today.

Prompted by ambitious new waste strategies from the European Commission, the inquiry sought to examine the current approach to implementing European waste legislation in the UK, as well as addressing the way legislation is formulated by the European Institutions.

The chairman of the inquiry, Lord Selborne said: 'EU waste policy is becoming increasingly sophisticated; the government must be more proactive in influencing European strategies, rather than reacting passively to legislative proposals from the commission.

'We believe that the current split of responsibility between departments without a clear strategic lead results in a lack of accountability and direction. A single inter-departmental waste unit could improve co-ordination within government, act as a centre of expertise and provide a single voice on waste policy, helping to avoid repeats of past failures such as the fridges fiasco.

'The inter-departmental group should be backed by a government website containing all matters relating to waste management.'

The commission's waste and recycling strategy identifies areas of policy in need of reform. We believe that in addition this strategy should focus more clearly on issues of process, which affect the quality of legislation.

The committee recommends the government:

- Set up a single waste policy unit supported by a website providing a single source of information on waste management for stakeholders.

- Provide the Environment Agency with sufficient resources to play a more proactive role during policy development in Brussels.

- Should not agree to framework legislation without a full understanding of its practical implications.

- Where significant detail is left to be decided after Directives are agreed, this should be made explicit in regulatory impact a ssessments made available to Parliament.

The commission should:

- Improve the transparency of the legislative process, in particular providing publicly available objectives, timetables and documentation for committees which provide the technical detail for Directives after the co-decision process.

- Address existing overlaps and inconsistencies between waste Directives resulting from poor definitions, which impact on member states' ability to provide effective compliance.

NOTES

The members of the sub-committee who conducted the inquiry were:

Baroness Billingham

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

Lord Carter

Baroness Maddock

Lord Crickhowell

Countess Mar

Lord Fyfe of Fairfield

Lord Palmer

Lord Haskins

Lord Renton of Mount Harry

Lord Lewis of Newnham

Earl of Selborne (chairman)

The full text of the report European Union Waste Management Policy, House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union, 47th Report, Session 2002-03 will be available hereshortly after publication.

The first Community Waste Strategy was published in 1989, although interest in waste had been evident at community level from the mid-1970s.

The committee examined 10113/03 Communication from the Commission: Towards a thematic strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste (COM (03) 301) and 10801/03 Communication from the Commission: Integrated product policy - building on environmental life cycle thinking (COM (03) 302).

Much of the UK's waste legislation derives from the European Union. The Department of Trade and Industry works with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - the lead UK department on waste issues - and leads on the development and implementation of certain waste instruments.

Examples of the areas DTI lead on include: waste from electrical and electronic equipment (The Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive); packaging and packaging waste; restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic waste (RoHS).

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