Pollution police plan revived

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The Independent Online
PLANS to set up Britain's first comprehensive anti-pollution police force, repeatedly shelved by ministers, have been unexpectedly revived in the final stages of preparations for this week's Queen's Speech.

The proposals, for a new Environment Protection Agency, have been promised - and then dropped - every year for the past three. They would create a single force to control pollution of the land, air and water by combining the National Rivers Authority, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution and the council officers who control waste disposal.

The on-again, off-again agency was originally promised by John Major in July 1991 in his first big speech on the environment as prime minister. But the legislation to establish it was omitted from that year's Queen's Speech.

It was promised again in the 1992 election manifesto, but dropped again - amid some embarrassment - shortly before the Rio Summit. It was then due to be in this year's legislative programme, but was sacrificed again in May to make way for the Deregulation Bill, in what was widely seen as a sign of the Government's waning interest in green issues.

However, with only days to go, it has suddenly re-emerged as a late contender for the new Queen's Speech, on what sources say is the initiative of the Prime Minister himself. No final decision has yet been taken, but there is likely at least to be 'paving' legislation to enable essential preparations for the agency to proceed, with an outside chance of full-scale provisions to set it up.

The sudden resuscitation of the agency proposals has come as a surprise because it seems to contradict the Government's deregulation drive. But the Department of the Environment has made a persuasive case that combining three anti-pollution forces into one will be less burdensome to industry because it will avoid duplication.