The Committee's inquiry followed a review of HMIP by the National Audit Office (NAO). This highlighted slippages in HMIP's enforcement programme and shortcomings in its record-keeping and management arrangements as it strove to get to grips with the workload created by the introduction of integrated pollution control (IPC) against a background of staff shortages and frictions created by the merger of four inspectorates (ENDS Report 199, pp 4-5).
Senior DoE officials were subjected to hostile questioning by the Committee when it took evidence on the NAO's report last November (ENDS Report 202, pp 28-9). But in the event the Committee's report applies only a gentle rap to the DoE's knuckles.
It was "unsatisfactory, in this key area of environmental protection, that it took four years to start to introduce effective systems for management information and performance measurement" within HMIP, the report says. The Inspectorate lacked a "systematic procedure or clear policy or priority for a firm programme to review and update site registrations and authorisations," and the reduced level of inspections in the late 1980s "posed risks to effective pollution control."
But MPs were reassured by HMIP's Director, Dr David Slater, about the efforts now in hand to set clear objectives and targets linked with systems for measuring achievements. HMIP is also looking to assure the quality of its activities by seeking accreditation under BS5750, the British Standard on management systems.
However, HMIP has been put on notice that it will be expected to maintain its progress. The Committee says it may carry out another scrutiny of HMIP "in due course," and has made several detailed recommendations on its policies and practices. These include: