Defra minister Jim Paice has been forced to defend the Government’s plan for a second consultation on landfill bans in two years, following criticisms that the initial results were “hidden”.
In a debate in the Commons, Southampton Test MP Dr Alan Whitehead strongly criticised the Government’s proposals for a consultation on wood landfill bans in 2012 following an initial consultation on landfill bans in 2010.
Whitehead said: “The results of the consultation were “published”—I say that advisedly—in September 2010. Members of Parliament will have to work very hard to find them because, astonishingly, they were published straight to Defra’s archive, and I am not sure that that counts as publication at all.
He added: “If a consultation had taken place, why have another one? And why did the Government say that that were not minded to introduce a landfill ban if they were just a few months later? Why hide the results of such a consultation from public view at a time at which they were consulting on something very similar? If we really wanted to make progress on such a ban—and I think the case for doing so is overwhelming—would it not be easier to note the consultation results and get on with it?”
In his response, environment minister Jim Paice defended the second consultation, explaining the differences between it and the original.
Paice said: “The Government were committed to a waste review, which is why we had to respond to the earlier consultation, as the gentleman mentioned. That consultation—on banning individual items from landfill—was very general, unlike the specific and more targeted consultation on wood waste, which we are talking about now. That consultation allows us to explore in much greater detail the practical implications of dealing with different types of wood. For instance, some wood waste might be treated with toxic materials that we cannot burn. There is a raft of issues.”
He added: “He [Alan Whitehead] raised a specific point about the previous consultation and criticised us for putting it in the archive. This is not an issue of secrecy; it is just where these things eventually belong. The Defra website has been refreshed over the past year under the new Government. The material has not been buried—or even put in landfill—but is freely available in the archive. I can assure him that we take this seriously.”