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David Taylor: My hon. Friend refers to a swifter system, but is it not equally the case that communities pitted against a very powerful applicant, as with the New Albion site in North-West Leicestershire, face a very

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uneven struggle when the public inquiry takes place? Surely there have to be improved opportunities for communities to express their concerns.

Paddy Tipping: My hon. Friend will have to contain himself, but I suspect that the Green Paper on planning will address that point. It is important that community groups are supported in such David and Goliath situations, so that their voices can be heard in a contest that is not always equal.

It is important to note that waste is viewed as cost-free to the householder. In the United Kingdom, waste disposal costs the householder £47 a year—90p a week. That is typically 25 per cent. of the sewerage and water costs. The comparable figure is £100 a year in France and £150 a year in Germany.

It is important that we consider other ways of raising money to build an infrastructure for waste disposal. I agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) that there is a strong case for increasing the landfill tax substantially from the current £12. I would not advocate a move to the £46 charged in the Netherlands, but there is a case for a big gear change in charging policy. Providing kerbside collection across the country will cost a great deal of money. The hon. Member for Gordon said that it would cost £200 million and my own estimate would be around £500,000 for a small district council.

There is a compelling case for charging householders for the waste that they produce. It must not be seen as cost-free, or as free of cost to the environment. Those households that recycle could receive a reduction in council tax bills. I hope that the performance and innovation unit will also consider charging households directly for the waste that they produce.

Andrew Bennett: Does my hon. Friend accept that the great danger of what he suggests is that it would increase fly tipping? Another issue is how we could stop people putting their rubbish in next-door's wheelie bin or dustbin.

Paddy Tipping: Such a move would cause problems, but we cannot continue with a situation whereby the amount of waste going into rubbish bins is still increasing and people have a perception that they pay nothing towards the disposal of waste. We must establish a link between charging and waste disposal.

Malcolm Bruce: The hon. Gentleman's idea is interesting, but would it not just introduce another complication? Most people regard the local authority as the body that removes their waste. Would the simplest answer not be for the local authority to say that people had to put their waste in certain boxes and that it would be taken away only if they did so—and for penalties to be charged for non-compliance? That is what people pay their taxes for. It would not be cost-free, but it would be the simplest answer.

Paddy Tipping: Yes, but we must establish a link. Householders must know that the disposal of waste costs both the environment and real cash. We lack the attitude to tackle the problem, and that is reflected in the amount that we spend on waste disposal. In the UK, local authorities spend £1.5 billion on waste disposal. In France, they spend £3 billion.

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If we are to build an infrastructure, we must find ways to deliver the money to do so. My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) mentioned the Ernst and Young report that suggested that it would cost £7 billion over 10 years. There is big money in waste and if we develop a national plan for waste disposal, the private and public sector should both contribute.

Waste planning should be localised, too. It is a local problem and local solutions should be found. I was especially struck by developments in the Isle of Wight, where a partnership between the local authority, Biffa and the ENER.G Group has reduced landfill by 45 per cent. through recycling and energy recovery. Some 65,000 households are served by the scheme, but it costs. The average cost in the UK is 90p, but that service costs £1.50. However, it is more sustainable and it is a local solution to a local problem.

The Isle of Wight scheme has its problems. The waste recovery heat and power plant is losing money hand over fist and there is a real danger that it will go out of business or relocate overseas. The Minister will be aware of a possible solution using the draft UK renewables obligation order, which is in its second draft form at the moment. That perceives that support for "Advanced (Energy from Waste) Technologies" might be available. However, the order specifies that it is for gasification and pyrolysis, but we should not be backing technologies but examining good quality heat and power schemes. What is significant is not the technology but the inputs and, more important, the outputs of a plant. There is a strong case for extending the order to high quality, more conventional means of disposal and incineration. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will comment on that.

Last month, the decision to call a waste summit was announced and the PIU has been charged with the task of producing solutions. I hope that those solutions will be sustainable. Waste is a cost to us all. It is a cost in real terms and to the environment, so we must use the waste summit and the PIU report as a spur to finding a long overdue solution. We must change the rhetoric of sustainability so that reality lies behind it.

8.46 pm

Mr. Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle): I am extremely pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this important debate. Conservation and sustainable development are causes very close to my heart, so I was glad recently to join the Environmental Audit Committee.

As a constituency Member of Parliament, I have a duty to fight for the interests of an area of which more than 70 per cent. is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty. As a Conservative, I care passionately about the environmental future of the country and indeed the planet. However, I wish to start by praising those local councils that have bucked the national trend and have managed to put in place a progressive recycling regime.

One such authority is Wealden council, part of which I am proud to represent in the House. It has one of the best recycling records in the country and I hope that Rother—which I am also proud to represent and which is now firmly Conservative after years of Liberal control—will start to blaze a trail in that regard too.

Getting a grip of the problem of waste in Britain is not just a lofty aspiration; it is a political imperative. After five years of Labour Government, any semblance of a

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progressive and effective waste strategy has ground to a halt. The recent waste summit called by the Secretary of State was not about taking a record of achievement to its next logical step or shifting up a gear. It was a vain effort to breathe life into what was clearly a political corpse.

So soon after winning a fresh mandate from the electorate, one would have hoped that the Secretary of State would have her own ideas or even manifesto commitments to which she could refer to deal with the mess and intractable muddle that is the Government's waste management strategy. However, as with so many moribund areas of Government policy, she has contracted a nasty outbreak of "reviewititis" in the vain hope that a problem deferred is a problem halved.

After five years of Labour Government, there is no effective waste strategy; after five years of Labour Government, the Secretary of State was unable to tell my Committee where she stood on incineration; after five years of Labour Government, there is no effective national recycling policy; after five years, the amount of waste we generate is increasing not diminishing; and after five years, the Secretary of State has gone back to the political drawing board and passed the buck to the PIU.

It is not sufficient expert advice that the Government lack—far from it, because there have been numerous reports and reviews in recent years—but political will. They lack the political will to go beyond the soundbite and the political cliché to tackle the problems head on. That is not the only problem. Rather than face up to the environmental challenge, the Government have neutered the issue of environmental protection and sustainable development by salami-slicing policy responsibility between the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. While we wait for the Government to rearrange the office furniture in Whitehall, the environmental future of the country is going up in smoke.

As the problem of incineration has been offloaded into the political long grass of the PIU, beleaguered county councils up and down the country are being left to make critical decisions on incineration in a political vacuum. While the Government procrastinate yet further, councils are being asked to take decisions that could have consequences for countless communities for up to 25 or 30 years to come. Councils such as East Sussex in which my constituency sits, face the prospect of having to give the green light to the building of incinerators while important issues of public health remain unanswered.

I have pledged to fight the siting of incinerators in my constituency at Mountfield or Pebsham. That is why I wholeheartedly backed the Conservative party's commitment at the recent election to obtain a national moratorium on the building of new large-scale municipal incinerators until independent British scientific evidence proves that they are safe.

Too much incorrect information is flying around on both sides of the argument for proper conclusions to be drawn. Too many unanswered questions swirl around the incineration debate, and the Labour Government deliberately choose to ignore them. Without an effective national waste strategy, councils such as East Sussex may find themselves driven into the business of incineration

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and licensing commercial incinerators that will ultimately rely on importing rubbish into the county to keep those costly facilities commercially viable. I vigorously support free enterprise and I have seen in my lifetime the value of throwing off the shackles of the state, but the clean air of Bexhill and Battle is not for sale.

As the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) said, the United States of America, the home of free enterprise, manages to recycle an average of 250 kg of municipal waste per person every year compared with a lousy 60 kg in the UK. After five years of a Labour Government, the UK now produces 550 kg of municipal waste per person per year, which is among the highest in Europe.

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