Government

Consultation opens on waste shipment amendments

ship

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) yesterday (18 Mar), opened a consultation seeking views on the proposed Transfrontier Shipment of Waste (Amendment) Regulations 2013 which would amend and update the 2007 Regulations.

According to Defra the 2013 Regulations will ‘contribute to the government’s commitment to improve enforcement and control of the waste exports regime, in particular, to help combat illegal waste exports from the UK’.

‘Ambiguities in the 2007 Regulations’

Defra has claimed that currently there are ‘ambiguities‘ in the 2007 Regulations regarding competent authorities (CAs) – the bodies responsible for monitoring import and export shipments from the UK – and ‘at present it is impossible for CAs to access key information and intelligence held by HMRC’ and in some cases enforcement is a ‘complex process involving the Secretary of State’.

As such, a key change proposed in the 2013 Regulations would provide ‘legal authority for HMRC to disclose relevant export data to the UK CAs (Environmental Agency, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland and the new Natural Resource Body for Wales) and go about ‘clarifying the role of the CAs for the transit of waste and the marine area’ (currently the role of the Secretary of State).

The consultation calls for views regarding transferring the authority as the CA (responsible for granting import and export permission into or from the UK) from the Secretary of State for Environment to the Environment Agency, as the Secretary of State was only given this power ‘on a temporary basis’.

Further, the consultation seeks to include ‘provisions specifically restricting the onward disclosure of HMRC information along with a criminal sanction to support any unlawful disclosures of this information’.

It is hoped that these changes will enable CAs to ‘increase their intelligence base and help combat illegal waste exports from the UK’.

BF could detain shipments for ‘up to five days’

The new regulations could also see the Border Force (BF) stop and detain suspect containers ‘for up to five days’ if suspected illegal waste shipment is detected.

Currently, the BF can only detain shipments when specifically ordered to do so by UK CAs, but under the proposed amendments, the BF would have the power to detain suspect shipments as ‘they may sometimes identify shipments that CAs may not be aware of through their intelligence’, such as ‘suspicion from a visual perspective and/or with the paperwork accompanying the shipment’.

The consultation will also look at changing the fees payable for the import and export of waste into and from Northern Ireland, as ‘there are a number of areas where the original assumptions and projections failed to predict the impact, cost or resources associated with enforcing the regulations’ and as such ‘do not reflect a realistic cost’.

Thoughts on whether the new Welsh CA, Natural Resources Body for Wales, should overtake the functions of the Environment Agency and become responsible for exports from Welsh ports are also sought.

The consultation will close on 10 May and updated regulations are expected to come into effect by ‘early summer’ 2013.

Read more about ‘Transfrontier Shipment of Waste (Amendment) Regulations 2013’.