Committee For The Environment
End of Session Report 2009/2010
Committee for the Environment
End of Session Report September 2009 – August 2010
MEMBERSHIP AND POWERS
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 power to:
- Consider and advise on Departmental budgets and annual plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
- Consider relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee stage of primary legislation;
- Call for persons and papers;
- Initiate inquires and make reports; and
- Consider and advise on any matters brought to the Committee by the Minister of the Environment
The Committee has 11 members including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson and a quorum of 5. The membership of the Committee since 9 May 2007 has been as follows:
Mr Jonathan Bell 7,8
Mr Ian McCrea
Mr Alastair Ross 1
Mr Peter Weir
Mr Cathal Boylan (Chairperson) 9
Mr Daithi McKay
Mr John Dallat 5
Mr Patsy McGlone (Deputy Chairperson) 6,9,10,12
Mr Danny Kinahan 3,4
|Mr Roy Beggs 2|
Mr Brian Wilson 11
1 On 21 January 2008, Alastair Ross was appointed as a Member and Mr Alex Maskey ceased to be a Member.
2 On 15 September 2008 Mr Roy Beggs replaced Mr Sam Gardiner.
3 On 29 September 2008 Mr David McClarty replaced Mr Billy Armstrong.
4 On 22 June 2009 Mr Danny Kinahan replaced Mr David McClarty.
5 On 29 June 2009 Mr John Dallat replaced Mr Tommy Gallagher.
6 On 3 July 2009 Mrs Dolores Kelly replaced Mr Patsy McGlone as Chairperson.
7 On15 January 2010 Mr Adrian McQuillan replaced Mr Trevor Clarke.
8 On 1 February 2010 Jonathan Bell replaced Mr Adrian McQuillan.
9 On 12 April 2010 Mr Cathal Boylan was appointed as Chairperson and Mrs Dolores Kelly ceased to be a Member.
10 On 12 April 2010 Mr Dominic Bradley was appointed as Deputy Chairperson.
11 On 13 April 2010 Mr Brian Wilson was appointed as a Member and Mr David Ford ceased to be a Member.
12 On 21 May 2010 Mr Patsy McGlone replaced Mr Dominic Bradley as Deputy Chairperson
1. The Committee considered 9 written briefings on the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and took oral evidence from several local authorities, the 3 Waste Management Groups and interested individuals prior to producing its report in October. Recommendations included the removal of powers to enter contracts being applied retrospectively, the inclusion of additional vires that would enhance the confidence of bidders entering major waste infrastructural procurement agreements, the need for clarity on the definition of successor councils and the constitution of Statutory Transition Committees. These recommendations were accepted by the Department and the Bill amended accordingly.
2. The Committee considered written evidence from 35 organisations on the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill and produced a report on it after taking oral evidence sessions from 9 organisations including the Department of the Environment, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Countryside Alliance Ireland, Ulster Wildlife Trust and the Ulster Farmers’ Union. The main recommendations in the Committee’s report were that the Department should be required to produce guidance on the new biodiversity duty, that there should be a total ban on the use of snares and that Special Protection Orders should be augmented to include ‘possession’ as an offence in addition to the ‘taking’ and ‘killing’ of Irish Hares currently included. The Department amended the Bill in accordance with the Committee’s suggestions relating to the biodiversity duty and the Special Protection Orders and introduced powers that would allow tighter controls on the use of snares.
3. The Committee considered the Local Government (Disqualification)(Amendment) Bill and produced a report on it after taking evidence sessions from the sponsor of the Bill, Dawn Purvis MLA, and the Women’s Resource and Development Agency. Recommendations in the Committee’s report included that an amendment should be made to the Bill to ensure it did not disqualify any person from actually standing for election even if they were currently an MLA and that an amendment was made to the Bill to address Committee concerns regarding the timing of implementation.
4. The Committee also commenced Committee Stage of the Local Government (Finance) Bill, the Waste and Contaminated Land (Amendment) Bill, the High Hedges Bill and the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill. Members have taken oral evidence session on the both the Local Government (Finance) Bill and Waste and Contaminated Land (Amendment) Bill and will commence oral evidence sessions on the other 2 Bills in September 2010. The Committee will produce a report on the Waste and Contaminated Land Bill by 5 November 2010 and reports on the other 3 Bills by 17 December 2010
5. In addition the Committee took evidence from the sponsor of the Caravans Bill. This Bill was referred to the Committee for Social Development but includes powers for the Department of the Environment to amend the definition of caravans. The Committee reported on the relevant clauses to the Committee for Social Development.
6. The Committee considered 32 Statutory Rules. Members requested an oral briefing on the Passenger and Goods Vehicles (Recording Equipment) (Downloading and Retention of Data) Regulations, particularly on the economic impact of these regulations on businesses. The Committee also requested a written briefing on the retrofitting and refilling of mobile air conditioning systems of vehicles which are in service regulations. Members requested further information on regulations to initially allow and eventually require the fitting and use of new illuminated signs and flashing warning lights on school buses; particularly on the definition of a school bus and on liaison between DOE and DRD to ensure that mechanisms, resources and legislation are put in place simultaneously.
7. The Committee wrote to the Department in relation to SR 2010/165 – The Solvent Emissions (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2010. Members were concerned that the Department admitted that the regulations were drafted in a rush and the Committee agreed with the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ recommendation that the Department needed to look at this further to consider how the amendments of the regulations in question could be set out more clearly.
8. The Committee was satisfied with the Department’s response which stated that it fully accepted that this situation should not have occurred and that it will work closely with the Examiner’s Office to ensure that it does not re-occur.
9. The Committee received regular updates on the Departmental quarterly monitoring rounds. Members requested further information in relation to Departmental bids and questioned underlying policy where necessary in areas such as the redeployment of Planning Service staff , deferred income and overspend in areas such as the electronic planning system, e-PIC. The Committee is keeping a watching brief on these ongoing issues.
10. The Committee considered 31 proposals for secondary legislation and received briefings from Departmental officials where appropriate. The Committee also considered 78 consultation documents and issued responses to consultations on the Department’s marine policy proposals, planning reform, several Planning Policy Statements and the Road Safety Strategy 2010 - 2020. On the Road Safety Strategy consultation the Committee took briefings from organisations such as the PSNI, the Road Haulage Association, the Driver and Vehicle Agency and Coleraine Road Safety Committee before submitting a comprehensive response to the Department on issues which members considered to be of vital importance.
11. The Committee held 2 stakeholder engagement events. The first of these, on 10 November 2009, was to gauge stakeholder views on the planning reform process. Members met with representatives from organisations such as the Quarry Products Association NI, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Northern Ireland Environment Link and Community Places. Members took the views of the stakeholders before formulating a response to the Department on the planning reform process.
12. The second stakeholder event, on 22 June 2010, heard from various stakeholders on a diverse range of issues. During the year many organisations wrote to the Committee requesting the opportunity to brief. Due to the heavy workload of primary legislation there was insufficient time to hear from them in formal meetings and members decided to hold an event where organisations would each have 10 minutes to brief 2 members and the main points of the meeting would then be forwarded to the Department for comment. The event was very successful with 7 organisations attending and the Committee is currently awaiting responses from the Department to the issues raised.
13. During the period of this report, September 2009 – August 2010, the Committee met 40 times. These were open to the public except for 2 brief closed sessions at the Department’s request when discussing developing policy proposals on marine issues and planning reform.
14. There were 3 meetings held outside Parliament Buildings at Derrygonnelly Field Studies Centre, Lough Neagh Discovery Centre and the Driver and Vehicle Agency in Coleraine. Members also conducted 5 visits to the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Tayto Castle, the Balmoral Show, Bryson House and NWP Recycling facilities and the European Commission in Brussels.
15. The Committee visited AFBI to view the research being carried out in relation to the link between agriculture and climate change. Members received briefings on the role of AFBI, nitrous oxide emissions from grassland and possible mitigation strategies, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and mitigation strategies to reduce enteric methane emission from cattle. Members were also taken on a tour of the facilities which included a question and answer session on the research into methane emission from cattle and AFBI’s renewable energy facilities.
Members of the Committee hear details of renewable energy projects at AFBI, Hillsborough
16. The Committee visited Tayto Catle to view a waste oil recycling project as recommended by the Carbon Trust.
Members of the Committee viewing the waste oil recycling project at Tayto
17. The Committee attended the Balmoral Show as part of the Assembly’s outreach programme. The focus of the Committee’s visit was ‘road safety in rural areas’ and members engaged with the public to gauge views on the Department’s proposed road safety strategy. At the Committee’s request The PSNI also attended the event and brought along their Project Evo car which demonstrates how cars can be modified safely along with other safety features.
The Chairperson showing the Speaker round the Committee’s Road Safety Stand at the Balmoral Show
18. As part of its focus on the Waste and Contaminated Land (Amendment) Bill the Committee visited Bryson Recycling and NWP Recycling facilities where members viewed the recycling process at first hand and were able to ascertain the problems and challenges faced by those in the recycling industry.
Committee members discuss recycling challenges at Bryson Recycling
19. The Committee’s visit to Brussels enabled members to gain an insight into the implications of European Commission environmental policies on Northern Ireland. Along with members of the Northern Ireland Environment Link, members were briefed by senior European Commission officials on areas such as the marine and freshwater environment, waste and biodiversity and also met with Bairbre de Brun MEP to discuss the importance of early engagement in European legislation.
Committee members with the Northern Ireland Environment Link in Brussels
Likely Priorities for the Next Session
20. The key priority for the next session is to complete Committee reports on 4 Bills – The Local Government (Finance) Bill, The Waste and Contaminated Land (Amendment) Bill, High Hedges Bill and the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill. There may be 2 other Bills that come to the Committee depending on the progress of the Local Government Reform Programme.
21. Other key priorities are the Department’s response to the Committee’s inquiry into climate change, the Budget process 2011 – 2014, the implementation of the Taxis Act 2008, waste obligations and the responses to the Department’s road safety strategy consultation.
Committee for the Environment – Expenditure for the period 1 September 2009– 31 August 2010
|Committee travel – Committee members and staff travel and subsistence in relation to visits and meetings outside Parliament Buildings||External meetings in Derrygonnelly Field Studies Centre, Lough Neagh Discovery Centre and the Driver and Vehicle Agency in Coleraine. Visits to Brussels, the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute, Hillsborough, Tayto Castle, Balmoral Show and Bryson House Recycling centre.||
|Printing of Committee reports||Reports and CD ROMs on the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, the Climate Change Inquiry, the Wildlife and natural Environment Bill and the Local Government (Disqualification) Bill||
|Advertising – the cost of public notices relating to Committee inquiries, the Committee stage of bills and meetings held outside Parliament Buildings||Public notices calling for evidence for the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill, the Local Government (Disqualification) Bill, the Waste and Contaminated Land (Amendment) Bill, the Local Government (Finance) Bill, the High Hedges Bill and the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill.||
|Consultancy support – the cost of specialist advisers appointed by the Committee and commissioned research||Specialist advisor to the Committee’s inquiry into climate change||
|General expenses||Committee meeting refreshments, stakeholder engagement events and hospitality.||