End of Session Report 12 May 2011 – 31 August 2012

Committee: Committee for the Environment

Session: 2012/2013

Date: Wednesday, 31 October 2012

ISBN: Only available online

Mandate Report Number: 2011/15

The Committee for the Environment is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Belfast Agreement, section 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and under Standing Order 48.

The Committee has 11 members including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson and a quorum of 5. The membership of the Committee since 9 May 2011 has been as follows:

 

Ms Anna Lo MBE (Chairperson)

 

Mr Simon Hamilton (Deputy Chairperson)

 

Mr Cathal Boylan

 

Mr Gregory Campbell1

 

Mr Colum Eastwood5

 

Mr Tom Elliott2

 

Mr Chris Hazzard4

 

Mrs Dolores Kelly3

 

Mr Francie Molloy

 

Lord Morrow

 

Mr Peter Weir

1 Mr Gregory Campbell replaced Mrs Paula Bradley on 20 February 2012

2 Mr Tom Elliott replaced Mr Danny Kinahan on 23 April 2012

3 Mrs Dolores Kelly replaced Mr Patsy McGlone on 23 April 2012

4 Mr Chris Hazzard replaced Mr Willie Clarke on 8 May 2012

5 Mr Colum Eastwood replaced Mr John Dallat on 18 June 2012

Primary Legislation

1. The Committee considered 34 written briefings on the Marine Bill and took oral evidence from several of these organisations prior to producing its report in July. The Committee made twelve recommendations all of which were accepted by the Department and delivered through commitments for action or amendments to the Bill. In particular the Committee was keen to ensure that the legislation would require the Department to adequately take account of existing marine interests such as fishing, before designating Marine Conservation Areas (MCZ) and that it would require any public authority that failed to comply with its duties in an MCZ to provide an explanation in writing. The Committee also agreed its own amendment on increasing integration and coordination of marine functions across government departments.  Click here to view the Committee Report 

The Committee took part in an event on the Marine Bill at Castle Espie hosted by the Northern Ireland Marine Taskforce.

The Committee visited Marine Scotland to learn about the development and implementation of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010

Subordinate Legislation

2. The Committee considered 78 Statutory Rules. Members requested further information from stakeholders on proposals for exemptions to the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act. The Committee considered the replies from the freight industry and the Ulster Farmers’ Union before recommending the Rule be approved by the Assembly. After due consideration, the Committee also recommended the Assembly approve the Local Government (Rates Support Grant) Regulations (NI) 2011, the High Hedges (Fee Transfer) Regulations (NI) 2012, the Dog Control Orders (Prescribed Offences and Penalties, etc.) Regulations (NI) 2012, the Local Government Best Value (Exclusion of Non-commercial Considerations) Order (NI) 2012 and the Local Government (Boundaries) Order (NI) 2012.

Inquiry into the Safe Disposal of Used Tyres in Northern Ireland

The Committee made 20 recommendations in an interim report which was endorsed by the Assembly. At the outset of the inquiry the Department agreed to update its statistics on the number of used tyres arising in Northern Ireland and the Committee agreed to review its recommendations when this information becomes available. In addition to a number of recommendations for NIEA to improve the ways in which it monitors and reports the number of used tyres arising and their storage and disposal, the Committee called for all sectors in the used tyre chain to be required to register with a compliance scheme.  Click here to view the Committee Report  

The Committee visited R4 Ltd. Tyre Recycling Plant in Portadown 

Budget Scrutiny

3. The Committee received regular briefings on the Departmental quarterly monitoring rounds. Areas of particular concern included the redeployment of Planning Service staff, waste infrastructure projects, funding for environmental projects and the single use bag levy. The Committee subsequently received a briefing on the Department’s planning workforce model. It is also to be regularly updated on the Department’s action plan for meeting the recommendations of an independent review on delivering waste management infrastructure and implementation of the single use bag levy.

Policy Scrutiny

4. The Committee considered 48 proposals for secondary legislation including High Hedges Fees proposals, taxi operator licensing fees and Goods Vehicles Test Fees. Members were concerned at the proposed increase for goods vehicles test fees and requested a Departmental briefing. The Department explained that the fees increases were needed to recover a compliance assurance fee to allow DVA to meet its obligations under the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 2010. The Committee was content for the Department to proceed with the policy after the Departmental officials explained that the increases were necessary for full cost recovery and that this had been the first increase in fees since 2005.

5. The Committee also considered 56 consultation documents, receiving oral briefings where it felt it needed more information. Members requested a briefing on the synopsis of responses to the consultation on the single use carrier bag levy. The Committee questioned the Departmental officials on the plan to introduce a 5 pence levy from April 2013. Members then requested further briefings on this issue from the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association and the British Hospitality Association. The Committee will scrutinise the legislation in the next session but its immediate concern, that the Department was proposing to extend the levy beyond plastic bags as a means of generating additional revenue, was brought to the Assembly’s attention through a Committee Motion. Members also requested briefings on the synopses of responses to the consultation on national parks enabling legislation and the learner and restricted driver scheme. The Committee agreed to look at both issues in more detail in the next session.

Engagement

6. The Committee held 2 stakeholder engagement events on the draft Programme for Government and enabling legislation for national parks.

7. The stakeholder event on the draft Programme for Government took place on 12 January 2012 to gauge stakeholder views on the draft programme and included deputations from 14 organisations and groups including councils, Northern Ireland Environment Link, RSPB, Community Places and Belfast Healthy Cities. Members took the views of the stakeholders before formulating a response to the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.

8. The stakeholder event on enabling legislation for national parks was held at the Balmoral Show and was attended by representatives from 9 invited organisations including the Ulster Farmers’ Union, Mourne AONB Residents’ Group, Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust and the Mourne Heritage Trust. A transcript of the event was produced and the views expressed on the day will be taken on board by the Committee when the legislation is introduced in autumn 2012.  Click here to view the transcript 

Members at the Stakeholder event on enabling legislation for national parks

Committee Motions

The Committee tabled two motions for debate. The first motion was tabled in response to concerns about the risk of infraction being incurred from the failure to protect and restore the Modiolus habitat of Strangford Lough along with the potential impact this might have on those that derive an income from the lough. Click here to view the transcript

The second resulted from suggestions that the Department would be implementing the single use bag levy in a way that maximised its income from the levy. The motion called on the Minister to confirm that the single use bag levy would be introduced in a way that focused on reducing bag consumption and impact on the environment. Click here to view the transcript

The Assembly supported both motions. 

The Committee also tabled a joint motion with the Committee for Culture Arts and Leisure on the need to close gaps in the policy frameworks and legislation regarding the excavation of archaeological artefacts from planning-led developments. This too, was supported by the Assembly. Click here to view the transcript 

Meetings Held

9. During the period of this report, September 2011 – July 2012, the Committee met 42 times. Where possible meetings were held in public session but on 8 occasions it was necessary for the meeting to go into closed session constituting 4% of meeting time.

10. There were 7 meetings held outside Parliament Buildings at Castle Espie, Burrendale Hotel, the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute, Greenmount Campus, Hilton Hotel Templepatrick, Kings Hall Complex and the ECOS Centre Ballymena. Members also visited Edinburgh to meet with Marine Scotland officials as part of the Committee’s scrutiny of the Marine Bill.

11. The Committee visited Castle Espie to hold its regular weekly meeting and to take part in event on the Marine Bill hosted by Northern Ireland Marine Taskforce.

12. The Committee visited Newcastle to hold its regular meeting in the Burrendale Hotel where members met with key stakeholders from the area and were briefed on enabling legislation for national parks.

Members of the Committee with representatives of the Mourne AONB Residents’ Groups

13. The Committee visited the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute to hold its regular weekly meeting and to attend an event on climate change.

Members at the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute to attend an event on climate change

14. The Committee attended a climate change conference held by Climate Northern Ireland at Greenmount Campus. Among the speakers at the event were the Minister of the Environment, the Met Office and Rivers Agency.

Members with guest speakers at the Climate NI conference

15. The Committee held its weekly meeting at the Hilton Hotel Templepatrick before taking part as panelists in a question and answer session in NILGA’s annual conference on local government.

Members taking part in the panel at the NILGA annual conference

16. The Committee held a stakeholder meeting at the Balmoral Show to hear the views of invited guests on the enabling legislation for national parks. There was a transcript produced of the meeting and the views that were recorded will be used during the Committee’s consideration of the legislation which is due for introduction to the Assembly in autumn 2012.

17. The Committee held a meeting in the ECOS Centre Ballymena having been invited by the Mayor of Ballymena to hold a meeting and take a tour of the facilities.

Members at the ECOS Centre, Ballymena, with the Mayor of Ballymena 

18. The Committee visited Edinburgh to meet with Marine Scotland officials to hear of their experience of introducing marine legislation and also to hear from local NGOs and fishermen about the impact of the Scottish legislation.

Key priorities for the next session

In the next session the Committee is likely to focus on scrutiny of enabling legislation for national parks, policy proposals for the learner and restricted driver scheme, implementation of the single use bag levy, local government reorganisation, metal theft and planning reform. The Committee will also review the recommendations it made to improve the management of used tyres in Northern Ireland when the Department produces new statistics on the numbers of used tyres arising.

ANNEX A

Committee for the Environment – Expenditure for the period

Budget area

Details

Expenditure

Committee travel – Committee members and staff travel and subsistence in relation to visits and meetings outside Parliament Buildings

Includes the costs of external meetings held at Ballymena, Greenmount Campus, Templepatrick, Castle Espie, Newcastle and Balmoral Show and visits to Edinburgh and Dublin

£5330.83

Printing of Committee reports

Reports and CD ROMS on Inquiry Report into the Management of Used Tyres and Marine Bill

£2937.48

Advertising – the cost of public notices relating to Committee inquiries, the Committee stage of bills and meetings held outside Parliament Buildings

Public notice calling for evidence for Inquiry into the Management of Used Tyres and public signposting notice to call for evidence on Marine Bill

£2678.32

General expenses

Committee meeting refreshments, room hire, stakeholder engagement events and hospitality

£2306.17

Total

 

£13,252.80

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