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Madam Speaker: I have not been informed by any Ministers that they are seeking to make a statement today on that issue. I certainly never make any comments on newspaper reports. I think that that is always wise, and a good line for any Speaker, Back Bencher or Minister to follow.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): On a point of order--

Madam Speaker: Order. I have not finished yet. I very seldom get a chance to speak in the House and, when I do, I am certainly not going to be interrupted by a Back Bencher on what may well be a bogus point of order when it comes.

However, the serious point is that Ministers and the House know that I am strongly of the view that policy announcements should be made in the House in the first instance. I very much hope that my comments will be borne in mind when Ministers finally reach a conclusion on this matter.

Now, Mr. Paterson, I will hear your point of order--and it had be better a good one, too.

Mr. Paterson: May I refer back to Question 6 in Health questions, Madam Speaker? The Secretary of State said that he would eat his hat if I could provide documentary evidence to back up the question that I had put to him. Page 63 of 22nd edition of "Erskine May" clearly states that

I quote from a letter from the Shropshire local medical committee, which represents all the general practitioners in the county. The letter states:

    "no bed was available in Shropshire to admit acutely ill patients",

even though

    "this was a fairly normal winter, with the sort of seasonable rise in activity that is predictable and which should be coped with as a matter of routine."

1 Feb 2000 : Column 921

Would it be possible to call the Secretary of State back to the House, so that he can accurately answer my question, and possibly eat his hat at the same time?

Madam Speaker: I am not sure about any demonstration of hat eating, but the hon. Gentleman will know that I do not have the authority to call the Secretary of State back to the House. The hon. Gentleman asked the Secretary of State a question earlier, and I suggest that he tries to rephrase the matter and bring it to the attention of the House in general by means of questions or an early-day motion.

1 Feb 2000 : Column 922

Retail Packaging Recycling

4.25 pm

Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove): I beg to move,

Six weeks ago, hon. Members were rushing around the shops, buying last-minute Christmas presents for their family, friends and relatives. Five weeks ago, hon. Members were busy opening their stockings and unwrapping the gifts and presents given them by their family, friends and relatives. And four weeks ago, the refuse collection services of various local councils were rushing around Britain collecting a huge volume of cellophane, polystyrene, cardboard, bubble pack, plastic bits and bobs, paper and bags from hon. Members. This week, hon. Members have the chance to support my Bill, which will help to stem the flood of the unwanted and unnecessary packaging that filled their living rooms on Christmas day and their dustbins on Boxing day.

The Bill has a simple aim, and it seeks to achieve it in a straightforward way. It uses a well-tried and effective mechanism--the market--which I hope will find favour on both sides of the House, to achieve a much desired result. The power to do this will be put in the hands of ordinary consumer--of shoppers. It does not require a regulatory body or special powers to be given to a statutory authority.

The Bill's aim is to reduce the unnecessary over-packaging of products bought by consumers. That excess packaging has a very short life. We take it home, rip it off and stick it in the bin. Much of the packaging defies recycling by conventional methods. There are a lot of mixed materials bonded together, cardboard and plastic bonded together and multiple plastic products that cannot be separated. Quite often, the resulting materials are bulky and uncompressible.

In short, excess packaging presents an environmental nightmare. So why does it happen, why is it getting worse and who wants this packaging mountain? Well, it is not the waste disposal authorities; it is not the bin men who collect it; it is not the customer, whose dustbin is overflowing, and it is not the retailer. The retailer does not telephone the manufacturer and say, "Please send more polystyrene and cellophane with your products." The marketing people are responsible. That is a term of abuse in many areas, and I have to say that this marketing blitz is a catastrophe for the environment.

I have mentioned some of the problems that arise when the packaging is used and goes into the formal waste stream. There is a further problem of when it is used and goes into the informal waste stream--or the ditch and the hedge, as we call it in professional circles. As far as packaging goes, the less of it there is, the better.

How does the Bill help? It will place an obligation on retailers--those trading from larger premises--to take back from their customers any packaging that they have supplied to them. Larger retailers will have to provide a point where packaging can be taken or handed in. The retailer will then recycle it or safely dispose of it, which is often not so easy.

The experience of Switzerland and Germany, where similar legislation is in place, is that retailers soon tell wholesalers to cut down on the junk that is being sent

1 Feb 2000 : Column 923

with the products they are selling. The wholesalers tell the manufacturers, and the manufacturers soon get the message. Products in those countries tend to have less junk packaging than in the United Kingdom, and there is no reason why this Bill should not produce the same result.

The Bill will not cost anybody anything; it produces savings at every step. There is less cost for the manufacturer in providing the packaging and less cost for the wholesaler in transporting it; less hassle for retailers, less rubbish in the dustbins of hon. Members and of other consumers and, of course, less waste in landfill sites throughout the country.

It is my privilege to introduce a Bill that is benign in all respects--free of cost and supported on both sides of the House. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Andrew Stunell, Mr. David Chaytor, Dr. Vincent Cable, Mr. Nicholas Winterton, Mrs. Linda Gilroy, Mr. Norman Baker and Mr. Alan Simpson.

Retail Packaging Recycling

Mr. Andrew Stunell accordingly presented a Bill to require that certain retailers shall provide free of charge a collection point for any packaging materials sold or supplied by them; and to require them to recycle or safely dispose of such materials: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 10 March, and to be printed [Bill 56].

1 Feb 2000 : Column 924

Orders of the Day

Financial Services and Markets Bill

As amended in the Standing Committee, further considered.

New Clause 4

Authority to conduct review of rules made under Part IX

".--(1) Within three years of any rules (other than rules which impose fees) being made under this Part the Authority must carry out a review of such rules to determine whether they continue to be appropriate for the purpose for which they were made.
(2) If, following such a review, the Authority concludes that the rules in question should be changed in a way which is, in the opinion of the Authority, significant the Authority must make new rules and the provisions of section 127 shall apply to them.
(3) If, following a review, the Authority concludes that the rules in question should be approved in the form then in force, or in a form which does not differ from such rules in a way which is, in the opinion of the Authority, significant, it must publish a statement of its conclusions in the way appearing to be best calculated to bring it to the attention of the public.
(4) The statement of the Authority's conclusions must be accompanied by--
(a) a cost benefit analysis;
(b) an explanation of the purpose of the rules;
(c) a schedule of the changes (if any) proposed to be made to the rules;
(d) a statement of the Authority's reasons for believing that the rules continue to be compatible with its general duties under section 2; and
(e) a statement that representations about the rules may be made to the Authority within a specified time.
(5) Before approving any rules to which subsection (3) applies, the Authority must have regard to any representations made to it in accordance with subsection (4)(e).
(6) If the rules are approved by the Authority, it must make a statement as to the representations (if any) made to it and its response in general terms.
(7) If the rules approved by the Authority differ from the rules under review (taking account of the changes referred to in subsection (4)(c)) in a way which is, in the opinion of the Authority, significant--
(a) the Authority must publish a statement of the differences; and
(b) the statement must be accompanied by a cost benefit analysis.
(8) 'Cost benefit analysis' means an estimate of the costs together with an estimate of the benefits that will arise if the rules under review are approved.
(9) Rules approved under this section shall be deemed to be made on the date on which the rules are approved.".--[Mr. Heathcoat-Amory.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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