Tuesday 11 December 2018
Health and Social Care
Clinical Waste: Healthcare Environmental Services
I am today taking the opportunity to update the House about a company which provides clinical waste services to NHS Trusts.
This company—Healthcare Environmental Services (HES)—was subject to previous discussions in Parliament. On 9 October, the then Minister of State for Health, set out concerns that a number of waste storage and treatment sites were well over the permitted levels. This included waste collected from hospitals and other public services. Although the waste was stored securely, the Environment Agency was sufficiently concerned at the activities of this company that they took regulatory action, including launching a criminal investigation.
At the start of October, a number of trusts served by HES’ Normanton site, terminated their contracts, and arranged for Mitie to provide waste collection and incineration services instead.
Until last week, a number of other NHS trusts continued to receive services from HES. Those organisations, supported by NHSI and the Department of Health and Social Care, have been monitoring the situation.
However, HES has now failed to collect waste from 24 further trusts. NHSI has sought assurance from HES that it has not ceased trading and is capable of, and will continue to provide services. Such assurance has not been forthcoming. Contingency arrangements are in place for each of the affected trusts. An optional extension in the Mitie contract has been exercised, which will allow all affected trusts to access a replacement clinical waste collection service. This has been communicated to all Trusts and NHSI is working with affected trusts to mobilise and implement contingency plans.
These robust contingency measures mean there is no gap in service provision and no health risk to the public.
Housing, Communities and Local Government
Joint Inspection Team: Contingent Liability
I am today laying a departmental minute to advise that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has received approval from Her Majesty’s Treasury for a contingent liability associated with the joint inspection team (JIT) advisory role to local authorities.
The departmental minute describes the contingent liability that MHCLG will hold as a result of the JIT providing advice to the local authority. The local authority is still responsible for making decisions on enforcement.
The unquantifiable contingent liability will remain for the duration of the JIT operations, likely to be a period of 12 months, plus six years.
If the liability is called against JIT, provision for any payment will be sought through the normal Supply procedure.
EU Transport Council
I attended the only formal Transport Council under the Austrian presidency (the presidency) in Brussels on Monday 3 December.
The Council reached general approaches on the social and market pillars of the first tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’. The ‘social pillar’ is intended to establish a specific regulatory regime for the posting of workers in the road transport sector, and the ‘market pillar’ is intended to introduce new regulatory requirements for the operation of light commercial vehicles (vans); and to modify the ‘cabotage’ rules for vehicles operating in countries other than their country of establishment.
I welcomed the work that the presidency had done to achieve compromises on these challenging proposals, give the range of view from member states. During the discussion, I pressed for a further reduction in the proposed cabotage ‘cooling-off period’ (a period of time between cabotage operations) and for extending the period after which a vehicle should return to base to 10 weeks. After a lengthy debate a compromise was reached which included the reduction of the ‘cabotage’ cooling-off period to five days; clarifying when the posting of workers rules would apply to different haulage operations; removing altogether the requirement for the return of the vehicle; and retaining the original proposal to ban drivers from taking weekly rest in the cabin of their vehicles.
Following this, the Council reached a general approach on a proposal from the second tranche of the ‘Mobility package’, to amend the current directive on combined transport. The existing directive liberalises cabotage operations when part of a freight journey that comprises a rail or sea leg. The general approach included an amendment to these cabotage provisions in line with the earlier compromise on cabotage rules.
The Council reached a general approach on the proposed directive on road infrastructure safety management (RISM), from the third tranche of the ‘Mobility Package’.
The lunchtime debate consisted of Ministers discussing how to address airspace capacity constraints and was followed by presentations from Eurocontrol Director General, Eamonn Brennan and Transport Commissioner, Violeta Bulc.
Later, the Council reached two general approaches on the proposed directive on minimum level of training for seafarers and the proposed regulation establishing a European maritime single window. In addition, the Council adopted conclusions on inland waterway transport.
The Council reached a partial general approach on the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), endorsing the text presented by the presidency. The outstanding elements are those subject to horizontal negotiations on the multi-annual financial framework beyond 2020.
The Council noted the presidency’s progress reports on discontinuing seasonal changes of time, rail passenger rights, streamlining the trans-European transport network, clean and energy efficient vehicles and electronic freight transport information.
Finally, there were several information points from member states, the presidency and Commissioner Bulc under any other business. The presidency updated Council on the provisional agreements reached with the European Parliament on electronic road tolling and exchange of information, safeguarding competition in air transport and aviation wet-leasing. Commissioner Bulc noted good progress in on-going EU-ASEAN aviation negotiations that she hoped would conclude this year. In reply to a joint declaration from Luxembourg, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands on the social agenda in aviation, Commissioner Bulc noted that she would present a progress report on the social agenda identifying actions for potential completion. Ireland intervened to defend the value of new business models in aviation. Commissioner Bulc also drew attention to the 17 December conference on sustainable transport infrastructure charging and internalisation of transport externalities to be held in Brussels. The presidency provided an update on the EU’s space programme and the outcome of the informal meeting of Transport and Environment Ministers held in Graz on the 29-30 October 2018. Finally, Romania presented transport plans for its incoming presidency of the Council of the European Union.