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Pollution (Inspections)

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 1 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what factors were taken into account when deciding not to put the inspection process for the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations out to tender. (98264)

Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) is a development from the system of Integrated Pollution Control which was established under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution set up as the regulator. That body became part of the Environment Agency (EA) on its formation in 1996. The EA has continued to maintain and develop the high level of expertise necessary to regulate the wide variety of often complex industrial activities covered by the Act and the wider variety covered since 2000 by the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations. Indeed, the level of expertise needed has increased as a result of the requirements of IPPC, which themselves have become fully apparent only in the light of implementation since 2000.

Even if a comparable breadth of expertise could be found at an attractive cost as a result of a tendering process, the EA would itself still be left inevitably with a range of inspection-related tasks, including:

(i) managing the tender process;

(ii) ensuring that private sector inspectors have and maintain the necessary

skills and knowledge;

(iii) reviewing inspection reports;

(iv) monitoring compliance with emission limits; and

(v) deciding on the need for and nature of enforcement action.

Furthermore, difficulties would remain arising from the need for private sector inspectors to have access to installations where national security issues are present.

However, the EA is already using private companies to assist with the assessment of applications for IPPC permits. Contractors are used by the EA to undertake monitoring of industrial releases. This work is undertaken to tight standards and specifications set by the EA.

The EA is continuing to develop its risk-based approach to inspection and the assessment of compliance with permit conditions. Commitment by an operator to the verification of its environmental performance by an independent third party verifier is taken into account by the EA's officers and can result in a reduced level of inspection and charges.

The EA is always watchful for ways of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of its regulation and the achievement of environmental goals. This includes the use of a range of regulatory and other tools and could include the further use of private sector resources. One such possibility, which is now under consideration, is that of using synergies with assurance schemes for the intensive pig and poultry sectors, whose installations are expected to account for some 1,200 of the nearly 4,000 IPPC installations regulated by the EA.