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Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2009

Volume 715: debated on Wednesday 9 December 2009

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved By

That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2009.

Relevant Document: 24th Report, Session 2008–09, from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

My Lords, the Committee will be aware that those carrying out waste recovery or disposal operations must have either an environmental permit or must register an exemption from the need for a permit. The UK is one of the few member states to use the discretion that provides permitting exemptions as a lighter touch form of regulation for those operations that pose a lower risk of harm to people or the environment. It might be thought, as we discuss these issues in Committee, that we have made something of a rod for our own back, because where the line is to be drawn is the subject of this debate. But in the general pursuit of lighter regulation, we are sure that the fact that the UK pursues this broad policy is entirely right.

The problem is that exemptions have developed in a somewhat ad hoc manner over the years. When problems have been identified, previous attempts to tighten up the controls have led to the development of several complex notifiable exemptions with registration requirements not dissimilar to those in place for applying for a permit. Experience has shown that many exempt waste operations actually pose a much higher risk than some permitted operations—for instance, commercial-scale composting and large metal recycling operations. The problem is that at the moment the regulator, namely the Environment Agency, is able neither to carry out sufficient assessment of the proposals before the exempt operation starts nor to undertake appropriate levels of monitoring and inspection based on the environmental risk posed and the level of compliance being achieved. Conversely, there are no exemptions at all for many small-scale low-risk operations involving certain reuse or recycling operations for a broad range of wastes from the recycling of coat hangers to the use of lion faeces to make cat repellents, in which the wider danger is by definition somewhat restricted.

Other exempt waste operations have been subject to abuse, with landscaping developments the size of small landfill sites operating under an exemption for the use of waste in construction with no limit on the quantities deposited. The other place debated this poor state of affairs last year and the Government undertook to do something about it. These imbalances rightly led to calls for a review of the boundary between those operations that ought to be permitted and those that should be exempt. The exemptions review carried out jointly by Defra, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Environment Agency over the last three years has involved significant dialogue with a wide range of businesses and others and has included not one but two public consultations, which have led to the proposals before us today.

The regulations will change the boundary. After consideration of all the responses to the consultations, the Government concluded that the most effective and cost-efficient means of ensuring that the waste framework directive’s requirements are implemented in a proportionate, risk-based way to meet our better regulation and simplification agenda is to provide new and amended exemptions for smaller-scale low-risk waste operations, while restricting or removing the extent of exemptions for higher-risk operations. Importantly, the decision on where to draw that boundary has been carried out using a systematic assessment against a number of environmental principles and other criteria, an approach that was very widely supported by those responding to the consultation. These principles and criteria are to be enshrined in government guidance so that they can be used in future reviews. We are currently consulting on the guidance to accompany the revised exemptions. I assure the Committee that this guidance will be completed and in place before the changes to the legislation come into force next April, if these regulations are approved.

Operators of the new simple exemptions will be able to register one or more exemptions in relation to as many sites as they operate at no cost—with just one exception—and with a minimum of information needing to be submitted.

Eighty-eight per cent of the existing 145,000 sites that are registered as exempt will remain exempt. Others that are currently paying for and subject to assessment under a notifiable exemption will benefit straightaway from the free, simple exemption. The number of exempt sites will be added to by potentially thousands of additional sites for which there is currently no exemption provided in law but where the agency has not required them to apply for a permit; in other words, the low-risk positions.

Nine per cent of current exempt sites will no longer need to register as they are not considered to be carrying on waste recovery or disposal operations. That leaves the 3 per cent of sites that pose the highest risk or have been subject to abuse and therefore merit closer scrutiny. Those will need a permit. Most of them are already subject to notifiable exemption controls and may be subject to relatively minor changes to the measures they have to take to mitigate any risk of harm or pollution. These include the larger metal recycling sites, large-scale land remediation and landscaping developments, and spreading waste on land for agricultural benefit. The exception is composting, where commercial-scale composting will be subject to greater requirements to mitigate the risk that it poses.

I emphasise the benefits for the majority of operators. In last week’s Commons debate, mistaken allegations were made about the impact on the 3 per cent of operations that will require a permit, particularly in respect of planning permission, as well as the extent of changes being made to the environmental permitting regime. I hope that the Government’s reply to that debate will have been sufficient to allay concerns. I know that the other place proceeded to a vote on the issue.

It is imperative that we provide the many new and amended exemptions that will encourage businesses to carry out recycling and recovery and reduce the burdens on them, as well as bring an end to abuses and inadequate controls. Not to do so, or to remove exemptions altogether, would be wrong and undermine our drive to encourage recovery and recycling to deliver the objectives of the waste strategy. It would have a financial impact on many smaller organisations in a wide range of sectors that rely on the exemptions to store, dismantle or treat a wide range of recyclable wastes. The proposals are a key simplification measure. They have been through thorough impact assessment and scrutiny by the Merits Committee and are an example of better regulation that is proportionate and targeted. That is why we have made these significant revisions of the previous regime.

That is the basis of and philosophy behind the proposals. I commend the regulations to the Committee. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing these regulations. I must declare an interest as a farmer and grower whose business may be affected by the regulations in one way or another, even though there are exemptions for agriculture.

I listened with care to the presentation of the background to these regulations. In general, we understand the reason for their introduction. We have some sympathy with the strategy and welcome the exemptions. However, I have a large number of detailed comments and questions, and I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I rather exceptionally give the pedantic side of my nature a stroll this evening. Much of the forensic work on this has been done by my researcher, but I received letters from the British Metals Recycling Association and the Community Composting Network. I noticed the Minister made special mention of these two elements. Their involvement and concern is interesting as it indicates that although what they do is currently seen as virtuous, and is encouraged by the Government, they are anxious about the impact of the regulations. The metal recyclers are concerned that these regulations will reduce capacity and increase costs and burdens for no public or environmental benefit. The CCN is rightly concerned about the impact on community food waste composting schemes. These prize-winning schemes are now obliged to pay for the most expensive permits. I shall not go into the detail of their letters because, from the way in which he introduced the regulations, the Minister is aware of this subject area. I hope it may be possible to revisit them in the interests of allowing the small-scale operations of the Community Composting Network to continue without unnecessary burdens.

The regulations come into force on 6 April 2010, which is some time ahead. Are the Government expecting difficulties? Are there any hidden nasties that they are likely to have to deal with? The document is complex and amends a number of previous permitting regulations. It is difficult to follow. There is no contents page or separation of the major chapters. Page 6 contains the place for the signatures to the regulations and the start of Schedule 2. Page 12 has a main heading, “Schedule 2”, and the start of Schedule 3. Page 51 has the end of Schedule 3 and the start of Schedule 3A. The presentation is not easy on the eye. The Government talk about light-touch regulation, but this is heavy-going regulation.

I shall go through the regulations page by page. On page 2, Regulation 2 amends Regulations 3 to 12 of the 2007 regulations. That is an interesting observation. On page 4, do the final two lines under the table mean that Schedule 3 to the regulations currently in place will be succeeded by these regulations on 6 April 2010? Midway down the page, there is a line:

“‘previous Schedule 3’ means Schedule 3 to these Regulations as it had effect on 5th April 2010.”.”.

It is confusing reading. I am not entirely sure whether “these” refers to the regulations before us or to the 2007 regulations.

I note on page 4 the exclusion of mushroom compost from the list of excluded activities, which the Minister mentioned. Why have the Government done that? What is the reasoning behind it and have the Government considered the implication for mushroom producers of this change?

On page 5, there is a mention in paragraph 12(2)(k) of the “appropriate authority” under the regulations. Who is the appropriate authority? There is no definition of what an appropriate authority is. Is it the Secretary of State, the Welsh Government, the Environment Agency or some other such body? There also appears to be some confusion on this page between the regulations of 2007 and 2009. When the regulations are consolidated, it would be useful if it were made clear to which previous regulations the text refers.

I turn now to page 6. What is the significance of and meaning of the inverted commas before the words “Schedule 2”? They are not closed off anywhere and it seems a rather strange compositional idea to have included them in the text. Paragraph 1 refers to the waste mobile plant, which,

“has the meaning given in regulation 8(4)”.

Where is regulation 8(4)? It certainly does not exist readily for me to be able to point it out within these regulations.

There is also a question about the whole business of the relevant authority. What sanctions apply in the case of invalid registrations? Who will carry forward the failure to register an exception? Apparently, it is the local authority in whose area the operation is first carried out. Can that always be proved or demonstrated? It must be quite difficult to police and local authorities may have difficulty in operations that spread over local authorities.

At the bottom of page 7, the regulations state:

“The information in this sub-paragraph is the name and business contact details of an individual officer or employee designated by the establishment or undertaking to be the primary contact for the purposes of registration”,

which is obviously trying to pin the registration to a particular individual. I am sure that the Minister will understand why that is there, but it will lead to an awful lot of bureaucracy if individuals change and the responsible person changes within an organisation. Would it not be better to make it possible for people to be designated not only by name but by function within an organisation?

Turning to page 8, new paragraph 7(2) states:

“Any other registration is valid until the end of validity of the first registration made in relation to the establishment or undertaking”.

Are registrations time-limited? What is the meaning of the “end of validity”? I have read and reread that and cannot work out where that phrase fits in and to what it refers.


“Register of exempt waste operations”,

on page 9, is something that we support. We believe that it is necessary within the framework of regulation such as this to have exemptions, but:

“The exemption registration authority must ensure the register”,

contains the relevant particulars,

“within 5 working days of the date that it receives”,

from an establishment an undertaking to be registered or renew a registration. There are not many activities within the local authority that are time-limited to five working days. Why is this particular thing so important that such an exceptional timetable should be imposed? I am all in favour of efficiency, but the administration of this may put a lot of local authorities under considerable pressure. A lot of work is involved in registering these exemptions.

On page 10, there is reference to the matters affecting national security, which it is right and proper should be a consideration. Under Regulation 11(4) for the first time and, subsequently, under paragraph (6), there is a reference to a person. Who is this person? Is it any person or a significant person? Is it a person of authority; in which case, what authority? Could it be the person next door? This rather strange phraseology is lacking in precision as to the nature of the person. How many of these exemptions have been thought likely to occur? If the Environment Agency has to deal with more than 300,000 septic tanks—the Minister and I debated the whole business of registration of septic tanks—we know that there will be many more as a result of these regulations. It is a major bureaucratic task, particularly if it is to be done properly and efficiently.

Paragraph (12) requires people to record, in the case of an exempt waste operation,

“the quantity, nature, origin and, where relevant, the destination and treatment method of all waste disposed of or recovered in the course of that operation”.

If this is supposed to apply to farm waste, what is this? Is it cart loads or weight? Surely, the Minister does not really anticipate that farmers will have to go to a weighbridge to weigh the muck before they put it on the field or the packing house waste before they replace it. I cannot imagine that that is the case. Unless record keeping is done for a particular purpose, it can often become abused. It either has to be done properly or not at all. It is hard to see how this regulation can be done with any precision, in which case it might be better not to bother to try to do it.

Under Regulation 13, records will have to be inspected. It states:

“Every exemption registration authority must carry out appropriate periodic inspections of establishments and undertakings carrying on exempt waste operations in respect of which it is the … authority”.

That could be a very large number of establishments. Where are the personnel coming from? Are there not already enough inspections on farms, for example?

I turn to page 12 to discover another pair of inverted commas before Schedule 3. I mentioned inverted commas before in connection with Schedule 2. Then I came to page 14, which refers to waste lagoons. Why would the public want access to a lagoon, slurry pit or down? It says that the public should not be able to obtain access to the waste. If the lagoon or pit is on the farmer’s property or behind a fence or wall, the public cannot be said to have access in any legal sense. Will that be sufficient? Here it does not say “legal access”; it refers only to access to the waste. That could be held to be a very different thing. Who is going to pay for the closing of these storage areas?

At the bottom of page 14 and the top of page 15, there is a very untidy bit of printing. There is a line at the bottom of page 14 and an open space at the top of page 15; the composition of it is not particularly good. On page 15, Table 1, code 020103, why is plant tissue waste and dredging spoil included in a table that is otherwise devoted to inert material? There are several references, other than those mentioned in 170505, but I have been unable to find 170505 in any other table in the regulations. Does it exist? Perhaps the Minister will tell us what it refers to.

On page 16, paragraph U2, code 160103, why is there a limit of 50 tonnes on the amount of baled tyres when the top of page 19 refers to 40 tonnes off tyres when they are in a retaining wall? Page 19 refers to having 40 tonnes of end-of-life tyres. That seems a bit inconsistent; I cannot understand why 50 tonnes is considered to be okay in one place and 40 tonnes is the quantity in another. That rather suggests to me that some of these figures have been plucked out of the air, rather than reasoned.

I turn to the burning of waste, such as timber, in paragraph U4 at the top of page 17. There is a plant in Troon; I understand that Scotland is not part and parcel of these regulations, but I know of a yard that accepts all the cut timber from Arran, takes off the bark and trims the side branches and then planes or logs the trunks and has heaps of different kinds of processed wood in a huge yard, protected by a chain-link fence with double gates and a lock. The flood bank between it and the sea is higher than the piles of wood probably 50 yards away and used by the populace to walk their dogs and push their prams. Would that situation be considered secure? If not, are the Government calling for small-scale operations to be run on tighter or higher standards than commercial ones? It says that waste should be stored in a secure place, but how will that be defined?

I note, too, that 0.4 megawatts is the standard for which exemptions will apply, but why has that figure been chosen? Why is it not 1 megawatt or 0.25 megawatts? It will be only a small-scale operation if it can use only a maximum of 50 kilograms an hour, as it says in paragraph U4(3)(a) on page 17.

Page 18 refers to reseeding waste water treatment plants. Under paragraph U6(3)(b), the specific condition is that,

“the waste was not produced at the plant”.

Does it have to be moved and fresh brought in? Why is it that the waste produced at the plant cannot be used for reseeding?

I have mentioned the whole question of tyres, on page 19. I notice the enormous differential between stones and bricks capable of being used in their existing state only—in other words, heaps of building materials—which are limited to 100 tonnes in a pile, and blast furnace slag and stones only, for which the figure is 50,000 tonnes. Surely these materials are essentially very similar, yet the variation in the amount of material that is allowed to be stored in one place is considerable.

We saw the quantity of mushroom compost allowed earlier, and here we have 1,000 tonnes of mushroom compost able to be stored. I wonder how all these figures are tied up and who has gone through and audited them to make sure that there is a certain rationale behind them all.

Perhaps the gem in these regulations is on page 20, already referred to by the Minister, about lion faeces. The Minister has handled many things for this Government. I should think that this is the first time that he has found himself having to handle lion faeces and argue why it should be limited to five tonnes, whereas sheep, rabbit or deer faeces can be limited to 100 tonnes. Where is the logic in this? Does the lion limit relate to the ferocity of the beast when compared with the rabbit? How were these figures calculated and why did the Government see them as different? Are there any other animals? These are just four animals out of the animal kingdom that happened to find themselves distinguished by being mentioned in these regulations.

I had a lot more that I could say, but I do not really want to carry on going through this in detail. I hope that I have made the point that there are inconsistencies in the statutory instrument that need to be addressed. These are real concerns to the many enterprises working in this area who may well find themselves on the wrong side of these regulations. I hope that the Minister will be able to satisfy us that his department will be looking at them before they produce the consolidated regulations, which I understand will be early in the new year. I wonder what will be added, amended or deleted, and how easy it is going to be for noble Lords looking at them again to understand them. I hope that the presentation of the new statutory instrument will be a good deal more straightforward than the current one.

I hope that I have adequately drawn the Grand Committee's attention to what I see as the arbitrariness in these regulations. My main question is whether the waste directive requires the maintenance of a register of those carrying out exempted waste recovery or disposal operations, because that is a heavy duty that is being imposed on people who are by definition exempted. I have very serious doubts about the ability of local authorities and the Environment Agency to maintain a register in accordance with the terms laid down without having to spend a lot of money, which we know is not there. I have even greater doubts that these regulations actually serve the public interest, but I have no doubt that they will greatly increase the regulatory burden on the vital recycling industry.

My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for his introduction of this instrument, and I commend the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, on his comprehensive analysis of it. It falls to me at very short notice to speak from these Benches, because my noble friend Lord Addington has had to attend to duties in the Chamber. However, I am delighted to do so, because it enables me to do something that I never dreamt I would be able to do, which is to share with your Lordships a true story. Many, many years ago—about 30 years ago—a very good friend of mine, Mr Roger Hayes, left school and went to work as a horticultural trainee for a London council. One afternoon in the summer he was working away, doing his job in the potting shed, when there was an almighty bang outside the window. He looked out to see flames shooting 30 feet into the air. He dialled 999 and asked for the fire brigade. It was all going very well until the lady from the emergency services asked him what exactly was on fire. He had to confess that some months earlier, the circus had come to town and had gifted to the local authority three tonnes of exotic animal dung. It had rested there in the yard at the park and, over time, the methane within it had accumulated to the point at which it spontaneously combusted and was about to set off another major fire. I think I know how the noble Lord is going to answer about why lion faeces gets a mention in these regulations. That is a true story.

I am delighted to be speaking on these regulations for a couple of reasons, which will become evident in my very short speech. These are the latest in a series of environmental permitting regulations from 2007 and 2009. They are all due to be included in consolidating regulations, and the environment planning regulations 2010 will come into force on 6 April 2010. In fact, these regulations will not come into force until that date, and they will exist in law for only a very short time before they are consolidated into the new regulations.

The Government have failed, despite a great deal of consultation, to reach consensus in two areas that concern us. We are not clear why the Government are insisting on pressing ahead with these regulations four months before they come into force, rather than using the time to make more efforts to find consensus with the operators. The two areas of dispute, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said are metal recycling and composting.

It is obvious that both those areas can and must make a major contribution to the objective of a zero-waste economy, as part of the overall strategy of carbon reduction, recycling and waste reduction. It is worth noting that it is 30 years since the Liberal Party, of which I was a member, adopted a policy of zero waste. It is very nice to see other parties slowly catching up with us.

It is equally obvious that inappropriate systems of metal recycling and composting have the capacity to cause real nuisance to residents. No one wants a scrapyard next to their home, and in the case of metals we all know about the problems of theft and illegal trading—for instance, stolen fencing and gully grates. We agree that there is a real need to stamp out illegal operators. The proposal for an enhanced public register of exempt businesses will help with this, but more and better co-ordinated resources by the police and enforcement agencies is also needed. What estimate has been made of the capacity of local authorities to enforce these regulations?

The danger with the regulations as they stand is that they might result in unintended consequences of less metal being recycled, and they may even tempt some small businesses on the margins to use the illegal sector.

Composting is a tremendously important subject. I, too, have received the briefing from the Community Composting Network. Community composting schemes, where they exist, provide a means of removing and using vegetable waste in areas where composting would otherwise be impossible or unlikely—in the kinds of urban areas where there are very few gardens, for example. Noble Lords will know that there is a specific campaign in London at the moment targeted at enabling people who have very small gardens, or indeed sometimes just have balconies, to grow more of their own vegetables. Having a resource such as a community composting scheme is very important. I listened very carefully to the Minister’s opening speech and I noticed that he talked about commercial-scale composting. I suggest that there is a difference between commercial-scale composting and commercial composting. There are a number of community organisations that encourage composting on a very large scale. They do not do so for commercial benefit; they do so for other good. The Community Composting Network is one such organisation. They are concerned that compliance with a threshold of 10 tonnes of waste at any one time will cause problems for their schemes. They have made the argument for a 50-tonne limit. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister what was the clear evidence-based justification for the Government proposing a limit of 10 tonnes. What efforts have the Government made to draw a distinction between commercial-scale composting by commercial operators and composting by not for-profit organisations?

It is estimated that the cost of registration, as proposed by these regulations and others, would mean that local community schemes would have to find between £7,500 and £15,000. That is a considerable sum for small community organisations. Even the proposed permit of £1,590 in the first year could be prohibitive and prevent people setting up schemes that we know have an environmental and social value.

I end by making a plea to the Minister to consider whether, given the four months that remain, it might be possible to engage in further discussion about these regulations and to see if it is possible to come to a consensus that would enable schemes which, for all sorts of other reasons, not least their health benefits, we all wish to encourage.

My Lords, I have listened to this, not being part of the Bill team. I have been part of the environment team in the past. We are in Grand Committee and bound by its rules. This is a classic example of legislation that should never have come into Grand Committee. It should have been taken on the Floor of the House in a much more open way. We cannot divide in here and we would have to cause a significant upheaval if we wished to have a Division on this legislation now. Having listened to the wonderful dissection of this legislation by my noble friend and supported in many ways by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, from the Liberal Democrats, I have to ask the Minister to be gracious enough to take this away and do a lot of work with it and give us another opportunity to go through it before it comes to the Floor of the House to be passed, otherwise I believe he will risk losing a Division in the House when it comes back.

I hear what the noble Lord has just said. I understand the seriousness with which he approaches these issues, as do we all, but I hope that I am in a position to give such reassurances about the regulations as to make his rather nuclear approach to them seem unnecessary. I hope that he will feel that we have made enough progress, given our consultation in preparing the regulations. We all recognise that what is involved here is a shift of a boundary. As with any boundary, there will always be concern that, just across one side, the case is almost the same as on the other—that is in the nature of the issue. I wanted to emphasise in introducing the regulations that we are concerned both with rationalising the present position so as to exempt that which can be exempted and with environmental objectives, which I think are subscribed to in all parts of the House.

I want to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, on commercial composting by small community groups. A cost may be involved in applying for the permit, but community groups also have a responsibility for the environment—an issue which I know the noble Baroness holds dear. We need controls to ensure that the environment is protected, because there have been instances where the operations of community groups have produced problems in the local environment; hence the necessity for us to bring them within the framework. I understand entirely the distinction that she made between a commercial operation and a small community group being involved in an activity which has a commercial dimension to it but is on nothing like the same scale. However, there are obligations with regard to the environment in that process, which is what the regulations seek to address.

I am torn between two responses in this speech. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, demanded of me that I make a defence of the principle of the regulations, the importance that we attach to them and the extent to which we have carried out the necessary consultation, yet I heard from his noble friend what he rightly called a precise “dissection” of where explanation is necessary; that is, on almost every page of the regulations. So it is a fairly tough call, but I shall do my best.

I shall give the general proposition, which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, both hinted at and disregarded when he outlined a number of his anxieties about the regulations. The regulations amend those of 2007. The provisions will be incorporated into the regulations of 2000. The mystical inverted commas are there to indicate that they will be included within existing regulations. I assure the noble Lord that, when the consolidated version of the 2000 regulations is available, nearly all his anxieties about text and ease of understanding will be allayed. I have the greatest sympathy with him and commend him on his research—if anyone else helped as well, I hope that he will commend them on behalf of the Committee for their diligent work. The textual complexity reflects the fact that these regulations amending other regulations must be put within that context. That is why some of the difficulties occur, including our dear friends the inverted commas, which are a metaphor for the problem as a whole.

I take the obvious point that the noble Lord made about being unsure what the appropriate authority was and how it was defined in the regulations. However, the appropriate authority is defined in the 2007 regulations, into which these provisions fit. Of course, as he would expect, the appropriate authority is the Secretary of State, or Welsh Ministers in the context of the Welsh provision. That problem obtains right the way through these issues. I shall address his substantive points in a moment. However, he identified the fact that these regulations are far from being a clear read and that one can identify references which are difficult to analyse. I repeat that these are amendments to the 2007 regulations and are incorporated within them. That is why the appropriate authority is not repeated in these regulations because that is incorporated in the ones which clearly identify that authority. I hope he will accept that I am not in a position to dot every “i” and cross every “t” in relation to how these regulations read.

The noble Lord asked a number of important and substantive points, one of which concerned mushroom compost and why it was not included under the exemption operations. Composting operations will be required to be regulated by local authorities through a Part B permit, as is the case now for off-farm commercial composting. We deem that mushroom composting needs to be brought under greater control because of the problems it causes for the environment. We have had complaints about this form of waste and we are responding to them. The noble Lord may say that he has never been upset by mushroom compost in his life. I bow to his experience, which, I have no doubt, is greater than mine. However, I draw deep on my 16 year-old daughter’s experience of spending a week on a mushroom farm. She said to Dad, “never again”. She made the point that mushrooms were good to eat but were not necessarily the most congenial thing with which to be involved every hour of one’s working day. As the noble Lord will appreciate, the problem with compost is that it can lead to persistent complaints from local people. That is why we need regulation.

The noble Lord referred to validity of registration in Regulation 7(2). That gives effect to the three-year registration period for all operations carried on by operators. That is a general basic rule with regard to the operation of the regime. The noble Lord said that Regulation 10 concerned national security. Any person can apply for a direction. There is no particular requirement about who can apply for that. That provision is consistent with all other legislation. He asked about the responsible person on page 7 of the regulations. I understand his point entirely; you name someone and that person leaves the organisation the following day and the business has to inform the authority who the relevant person should be. The reference to the name of the person is merely an administrative concept to provide a contact for queries. It is not part of the information that will appear in the public register, but it is important. It might not be a person. It might be an officer or whatever it is defined, but the noble Lord will recognise that it merely identifies to whom the authority should make the appropriate approach.

I have several other references in great detail here, but they all fall within the broad framework that these regulations must be placed within the context of the 2007 regulations that they are amending. They are nothing more than that and are no more sinister in their drafting. If the noble Lord is saying that he cannot accept this type of drafting for regulations, that would put quite a burden on the Government. If we had to provide with every regulation the finished product of the regulation that we were amending—if that is what is being considered—the person moving the regulation would have to separate the whole time the difference between that which is already law and established and that which is being changed. No Government have done that before. It is an interesting concept but not one that I favour. I have enough problems dealing with regulations on this basis let alone the more onerous one.

The Minister knows, of course, that a consolidated statutory instrument will come out of this. That is the whole purpose of the exercise. It would greatly reassure us if we knew that that consolidated statutory instrument could be debated on the Floor of the House. If that were possible, all these matters would be much clearer and noble Lords would have proper control over the finished documents, whereas the Minister has admitted that it is quite difficult for noble Lords to fully understand the implications of everything that is here.

My Lords, that is a good try. It is difficult to understand, but as I just indicated the only alternative is enormous. Already, at the stroke of a pen and as the result of one phrase, the noble Lord would double the amount of work relating to this particular regulation if every regulation or order that comes before the Committee which amends orders from the past needs to be considered in those terms. I am afraid that no Government would think that that was the way to go about amending. I sympathise with the difficulty and I enormously applaud the rigorous way in which he sought to overcome those difficulties and identify the real issues as well as the drafting ones. But if he will forgive me, I will ask him to accept the drafting and I will try to deal with the real issues.

The noble Lord mentioned the thresholds for anaerobic digestion. The limit was developed in conjunction with the National Farmers’ Union and the biogas industry and is deemed to be an appropriate threshold for small-scale on-farm biodigestion. That is an agreed position with the interests concerned.

I was asked why plant tissue waste is included in the inert waste section. The waste type issue will be subject to review and, if deemed necessary, we will amend that at the earliest opportunity. The noble Lord has a point there. We may need to reconsider that. On the issue of plant codes, the references on codes are set out in the list of waste regulations. Again, I agree with the noble Lord. The problem is one of cross-referencing. That is the difficulty. There is nothing more sinister to it than that.

The noble Lord asked about the difference between the two concepts of tyres, the different forms of storage and why they had different limits attached. The tonnage allowed depends on the use to which the bales will be put. They are stored in different ways and are intended to be used in different ways. That is why, in certain circumstances, one has to have limits of 50 tonnes and 40 tonnes in the regulations.

The noble Lord asked a general question about quantities, and the noble Baroness identified a particular dimension on which, as she rightly indicated, I do not have much experience. For the most part, the quantities have been arrived at following assessment of the risk and discussion with businesses that carry out the activity. We have exemptions from European law, and are much more flexible than it might have directed. One of the advantages of the way we have gone about this is the flexibility, but we have to stipulate maximum quantities under that law, and that is why these figures are there. There is bound to be a certain arbitrariness about that and it is, of course, bound to be a matter of judgment.

On access and security, all page 14 does is set out a definition of what is secure for the purposes of interpreting storage conditions. On waste not produced at the plant, which is covered on page 18, to which the noble Lord drew attention, I emphasise that this exemption is to enable water treatment plants to reseed the treatment process. To do that effectively, they need to bring waste in from other plants. The exemption has been developed with the full input of the waste water industry. We have had extended discussions on that. I hope the noble Lord will accept that point.

The waste directive will require the registration to be updated. It will be updated as operators reregister every three years. The noble Lord will recognise that three years is in the regulations.

I hope I have answered the questions that the Committee raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, raised broader issues. I need to put them into context. The risk-based approach that we are taking and the environmental principles we have used to determine that operations should or should not be exempt now and in the future have received overwhelming support. I have indicated how narrowly focused these changes are. We believe that the changes to waste exemptions will benefit the industry and regulators and will encourage genuinely low-risk waste recycling and recovery operations. Those who will benefit include a wide range of businesses, particularly the smaller enterprises to which the noble Baroness referred. Our estimate is that these measures will lead to savings of around £255 million over 10 years, which is not a negligible amount. The overwhelming majority of those that are currently exempt from the need for a permit will continue to be exempt, and many others, including some of the sectors mentioned today, will benefit from a new, low-risk exemption that will be free to register.

The noble Baroness raised metal recycling. We are aware of the metal recycling industry’s concerns that the revised exemption will be onerous for those who will no longer benefit from it and will need a permit. I am aware of the great contribution made by the metals sector and support it wholeheartedly. We have given a commitment to take measures to encourage legitimate operators to regularise their planning status within the current laws, which they must do not only for their own benefit but to ensure that local authorities reflect the need for metal recycling sites in their waste plans. So that is the advantage of the obligation—the information that local authorities collect. We also support this professional industry, and its competence to operate its sites can be demonstrated in a way that is appropriate for it.

Reference has also been made to composting. We have significantly reduced the size, scale and scope of the composting exemption. Unfortunately, many composting sites merit much greater assessment and inspection than is provided under the current exemption. This will rightly lead to commercial-scale operations having to provide some of the same infrastructure and pollution-control measures that other waste treatments are required to meet and reduce the high level of concern surrounding some operations. It will be appreciated that a balance has to be struck between the interests of those who are seeking to increase composting—we all see the value of that—and the fact that there are dangers in local environments from composting that is not regulated, which is why we have put things in a framework.

This has been an intensive debate. I am not sure that I was fully equipped to deal with quite the degree of precision with which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, addressed the regulations, and I congratulate him on the intensity of his scrutiny, but I hope I have done enough to allay his concerns—and, even more, to allay the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Motion agreed.