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Mr. Ivor Caplin (Hove): Before the hon. Gentleman concludes his remarks, will he comment on the real issue that is enveloping local people in East Sussex and Brighton and Hove? The officers of both councils agreed a professional report. The councillors in Brighton and Hove approved the report, but the Liberal Democrats in East Sussex chose, for political reasons, to throw it out. Surely that should be the subject of our debate tonight.

Mr. Baker: It is important for the Government to set their strategy, but I am happy to associate myself with the members of East Sussex county council, both Liberal Democrat and Conservative, who rejected that plan.

It is important for the Government to get their strategy right nationally. The joint draft plan to which the hon. Gentleman referred included a range of unacceptable proposals, one of which was landraise in my constituency. That is the worst possible option in the waste hierarchy. It involves landraise in the lower Weald at Veals Farm, next to a development of mobile homes at Deanland, where many people have gone to retire--that is the proposal that the hon. Gentleman is presumably supporting in his intervention--and landraise between Firle and Selmeston in my constituency. Will the Minister tonight rule out landraise as an option for any authority?

The second item was incineration. There was a proposal for an incineration plant at Newhaven, with all the health implications that that might have and the impact on business, which would affect the Newhaven economic partnership, and assisted area status. Businesses in my constituency say that if an incineration plant is built at Newhaven, that will affect the work undertaken by the Government office for the south east and others to boost Newhaven.

The alternative suggestion was a plant at Beddingham in the area of outstanding natural beauty, where there is a record of groundwater pollution. An incinerator was also proposed--goodness knows how high the chimney would be. There is already a landfill site there that will be filled to capacity in 2004. I hope that the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Caplin) is listening. He commented on the waste plan, which suggests that all the disposal facilities should be in East Sussex, while Brighton and Hove--a large

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generator of waste--should take none of the responsibility. However, Government planning policy guidance note 10 states:

    "Waste should generally be managed as near as possible to its place of production, because transporting waste itself has an environmental impact."

I hope that the Minister will confirm that tonight. If he does, he should acknowledge that the substantial amount of waste from Brighton and Hove should be disposed of there, and not shunted miles into East Sussex. Brighton and Hove--a great place that wants to be a city--should take responsibility for all aspects of its management. It should not simply dump its rubbish over the border in East Sussex.

Mr. Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham): I agree with the hon. Gentleman's comments. The biggest problem that he experiences in East Sussex and that I encounter in West Sussex is a unitary authority that recycles less than 9 per cent. of its waste and looks to our respective counties to take care of its rubbish. When it proposes a site for an incinerator on the doorstep of my constituency, it refuses point blank to consult my constituents. Is not that disgraceful?

Mr. Baker: I agree. The Government have given private finance initiative credits of £49 million to the local authorities of East Sussex, and of Brighton and Hove for disposing of waste. I do not knock the Government for that. I query their strategy, but I readily acknowledge that they have provided those credits. However, what is the Government's position if East Sussex county council and Brighton and Hove fail to agree on a draft waste plan? Will the money still be available if there is no site-specific plan? Are the Government happy for the money to be used if it is simply left to individual developers to apply for sites?

I am sorry that we have no more time to debate such an important issue. Clearly, other hon. Members would like to speak. I hope that the Minister accepts that I have raised the matter in all sincerity because it is important for my constituents and others. I should be grateful for a clarification of the Government's strategy and an answer to my questions. We must have a sensible waste strategy in East Sussex; there is currently no such strategy.

10.32 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Chris Mullin): The hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) has raised an important issue, as he rightly says, and asked many questions. There will not be enough time to reply to them all, but I shall do my best.

The debate is particularly timely, given the recent endorsement of the joint application of East Sussex county council and Brighton and Hove council for private finance initiative credits to support the development of an integrated waste management scheme for the area.

In June last year, we published the draft national waste strategy "A Way With Waste", which set out Government policy for sustainable waste management for the next 20 years. The hon. Gentleman will find some of the answers to his questions in that document. Consultation on the draft strategy is now over, and the final version will be published later this year.

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In "A Way With Waste", we identified the need for a fundamental change in the way we think about and manage our waste. That will mean curbing the growth in waste generation and learning to recognise waste as a resource. It will also require the adoption of an integrated approach to waste, covering generation, management and disposal. Within that integrated framework, we will need increased recycling, composting, and energy recovery from waste when that represents the best practicable environmental option. Not least, we must also undertake more work to develop stronger markets for recovered materials.

Our goals for waste are undoubtedly challenging, but we consider that, with the co-operation of all concerned, they are realistic and achievable. The hon. Gentleman referred to some of the key goals that we have set. They are: to reduce the amount of industrial and commercial waste sent to landfill to 85 per cent. of 1998 levels by 2005; to meet our existing targets of 40 per cent. of municipal waste to be recovered and 25 per cent. of household waste to be recycled or composted as soon as possible; to recover 45 per cent. of municipal waste by 2010--including recycling or composting 30 per cent. of household waste; and to recover two thirds of our municipal waste by 2015--at least half through recycling and composting.

A key force behind those goals is the European landfill directive, which will require substantial changes to be made to the way in which we manage our waste. At present, the UK landfills more than 80 per cent. of our biodegradable municipal waste, but the directive will require us to reduce that to 75 per cent. of the 1995 level by 2006, to 50 per cent. by 2009 and to 35 per cent. by 2016, although we have the option to extend those targets by four years. It refers to municipal, not household, waste. The goals of the waste strategy and the statutory targets of the landfill directive apply nationally, but clearly much will need to be done locally if we are to meet them. Local authorities in particular will have a key role to play, given their statutory responsibilities for waste collection, disposal and planning.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the financial burden that recycling and waste minimisation initiatives place on local authorities. We are aware that plans by authorities to invest in integrated waste management solutions will place an extra burden on their finances, and are actively seeking extra funding for local authority waste management as part of the 2000 spending review. He will not expect me to go into details at this stage for fear of upsetting my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.

As we made clear in "A Way With Waste", the Government propose first to try to reduce waste generation. If that is not practicable, we should seek to reuse waste. Failing that, we should recover value through recycling, composting or energy recovery. Only if none of those offer an appropriate solution should waste be disposed of by other means, which addresses the hon. Gentleman's point about landraise. Within that framework, we have also emphasised that recycling and composting should be considered before the recovery of energy from waste through incineration.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether it was inevitable that there should be some incineration. We believe that it is, although not necessarily the amount to which he referred. It is important that we have a rational debate, which we must not use to score cheap points--I am not

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suggesting that he did so--or as an excuse for NIMBYism. This is an important issue and we all have to take responsibility for the huge amounts of waste that we generate, although he will find that even Friends of the Earth acknowledges that some incineration will be necessary.

However, recycling and composting alone will not deliver the rates of diversion necessary to meet the targets in the landfill directive. Although we must aim for very substantial increases in recycling--indeed, we do aim for them--energy from waste will have an important role to play as part of an integrated, sustainable system of waste management. Countries elsewhere in Europe, some of which the hon. Gentleman cited, already achieve recycling rates far in advance of our own and make widespread use of energy from waste.

To East Sussex's credit, it actively sought more sustainable waste management options when faced with a lack of local landfill capacity. The fully integrated scheme, which has just been endorsed, should deliver high recycling and composting rates and high overall diversion rates by employing a mix of options, including energy from waste and recycling facilities.

I fully appreciate that local people may have concerns about the proposed development of energy from waste plant in East Sussex, but emissions from such plants are strictly regulated by the Environment Agency under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and we are confident that current environmental protection standards are sufficient to protect both the environment and public health. We also strongly support the forthcoming European directive on incineration, which will set even tighter emission standards that would apply to any plant developed as part of the East Sussex PFI scheme.

If fully integrated waste management systems utilising a range of options are to be implemented effectively, there will obviously be a corresponding need to identify sites for the development of the necessary facilities. The key instrument for that identification is the waste local plan, developed in consultation with local communities. The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Mr. Loughton) said that there would be no consultation. There should be consultation: the planning system is there for that purpose.

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