Opening shots in the liability debate

The European Commission's consultative document on how, and by whom, environmental damage should be paid for has added to the momentum behind the environmental liability debate. The UK Government and industry have responded by voicing strong opposition to any liability measures at EC level, and industry wants minimal changes in the law to protect itself against retrospective claims for compensation. The Government, though, has warned both manufacturers and bankers for the first time that they should not expect to be protected from changes in the current liability regime.

Ministers often have to think quickly during oral questions in the House of Commons. Junior Environment Minister Tony Baldry did just that during October when he invented a new principle of policy-making in response to a question about the contaminated land registers which the Government aborted in March: not legislating can be just as effective as legislating in achieving a desired policy goal. "Our work on the register of contaminated land h

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