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David Taylor: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Barker: No, I am limited on time. The hon. Gentleman will get his chance.

I am amazed that Ministers have the sheer brass neck to come to the House and tell hon. Members that they face the threat of up to 100 new large-scale incinerators pumping out emissions when the Government's record on recycling is so risible. They are failing across the spectrum of waste policy.

As other hon. Members said, the latest comprehensive Ernst and Young local authority waste management survey reveals a startling £6 billion to £7 billion shortfall in the investment required to meet EU landfill targets. Perhaps the Minister should tell that to the Chancellor. The same survey reveals that only 10 per cent. of local authorities have finalised plans to deliver an integrated waste management structure. Some 14 per cent. have not started their plans and the remaining plans are languishing in various states of early drafting. I hope that the Minister will address that point.

The lag is due not only to the shortfall in funding, but to the uncertainties in the procurement of contracts in the waste disposal sector. With so many areas labouring under a regime in which one authority has responsibility for collection and another for disposal, the Government's total lack of an enforceable coherent national strategy is acting as a serious brake to the development of a sensible and ambitious recycling strategy that could be delivered on the ground. That failure is driving Britain into the arms of the incineration industry.

There will be a high price to pay for this Government's poor record, not least fines of up to £500,000 per day if the terms of the EU landfill directive are not met, but that will be a small cost compared with the prospect of a whole generation of children growing up in the shadow of Labour's massive incinerator-building programme.

8.55 pm

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside): The Select Committee's report calls for vision, ambition and action to implement an integrated waste management strategy that minimises waste, reduces landfill and increases recycling and re-use. The evidence is that this Government have made great strides towards achieving that, but can still make more improvements and indeed need encouragement to ensure that that happens.

The waste strategy 2000 is a step in the right direction, and its initial target to almost treble recycling rates by 2005 is admirable. The concern lies in the absence of

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specific measures to ensure that those rates are attained. There is concern that the Government do not appear to be paying sufficient attention to waste minimisation. They seem to be accepting that household waste will continue to grow by 3 per cent. per annum. I hope that, in replying to the debate, the Minister for the Environment will assure us that the Government are concerned with waste minimisation, as well as with better methods of waste disposal.

The Government's waste disposal initiatives should be recognised and applauded. WRAP, the waste and resources action programme, set up to overcome market barriers to re-use and recycling, is to be welcomed, but it would be helpful if we could have a progress report on its targets and on how much is being achieved.

The Government's decision to call a waste summit only a month ago is a sign of their commitment. Their action in bringing together business, green groups and representatives from the voluntary sector and local authorities indicates the importance that they attach to partnership work. The Government's commitment that the performance and innovation unit will report in summer 2002 on its review of the waste disposal strategy is another important step. It is equally important that the Department of Trade and Industry is the lead Department in this matter, because that emphasises the importance of business in efficient waste disposal policies.

I draw the attention of the House to the role of key players in improving our policy and taking forward the recommendations of the Select Committee. The Government must continue to show leadership, to set targets and to introduce legislation where necessary. I hope that they will do more to recognise the importance of producer responsibility, because they have not acted on that as strongly as they might have done.

Fiscal measures are important in improving efficiency and reducing landfill. The landfill tax was perhaps the first environmental tax, and it has been greatly welcomed by those who are concerned about better means of waste management. I would hope that the Government could identify further fiscal measures and financial incentives to support better waste disposal practices and a more integrated approach to the subject. The climate change levy led to the identification of a number of energy-intensive sectors of industry in which supportive financial incentives have been introduced and are now being acted on. I hope that that thinking can be extended to the whole issue of integrated waste management, perhaps through the green technology challenge. I look forward to hearing further details about that. The regions should be used more positively to promote better practices. Regional chambers should develop better strategies on integrated waste policies and should work with regional development agencies to publicise proposals and work out better means of disposal, perhaps using regional investment funds.

Local authorities should continue to be seen as an essential part of a sensible policy. They are due to receive £140 million from the special fund that the Government established for local authority recycling. I hope that the local government White Paper, which was announced today, will provide more opportunities and flexibility for local authorities to take more action and become involved in more joint ventures. I hope that the Government will heed the Select Committee recommendation that their assessment of best value in local government should

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include recycling targets. They should also consider the specific recommendation that beacon councils should have achieved at least a 50 per cent. kerbside collection of recyclable items before they are given that status.

I want to pay particular attention to the importance of community involvement. We are all aware of the importance of community involvement in assessing and often in reacting to proposals on waste management and disposal. I wish to draw attention to the important contribution made by social enterprise in Liverpool, particularly the work of Create, an entrepreneurial and environmentally beneficial social enterprise that creates jobs and provides training that leads to jobs and, at the same time, recycles and re-uses household goods. Create was founded in Liverpool in October 1995 and is a company limited by guarantee. It began as a partnership between the Furniture Resource centre, which is a charity, and Thorn EMI. Last year, its turnover was about £650,000; it employed 15 permanent staff and trained 28 people. Indeed, since its inception, it has trained 98 people, most of whom have since found permanent employment.

Most important, perhaps, Create's work involves the recycling and refurbishment of used household goods such as fridges, washing machines and cookers. Those goods are resold in the community at affordable prices for people on low incomes. During the time in which it has been operating, 70,000 appliances have been collected, 12,000 of which have been sold following refurbishment; 3,700 tonnes of scrap have been sent for recycling and 4,000 fridges and freezers have had ozone-depleting CFCs removed.

The project is recognised for using initiative and flair, improving the environment, showing the way forward and, at the same time, creating employment. It has been involved in the new deal's environmental taskforce, has worked in Liverpool's employment zone and is seen as an excellent example of an intermediate labour market project. I hope that the Government will recognise the importance of that initiative and enterprise in Liverpool and will ensure that, through various means of allocating funding and support, such projects can be expanded and developed. Indeed, I understand that Create is already expanding and working in a London borough, but I hope that that example of local enterprise will be seen as a national leader and something that should be followed up across the country.

During the past four years, my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett) has chaired the Environment Sub-Committee with flair, expertise and commitment. It is a matter of great regret that the environment has been removed from the remit of what is now the Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions. I bring it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment that the members of that Sub-Committee and its Chairman will be following the consequences of the Select Committee's report and will retain a keen interest in the way in which its recommendations are pursued.

I hope that the importance of the current Select Committee's work is recognised. It has identified the importance of going ahead with a sound, environmentally beneficial policy for waste minimisation and disposal. I hope that in my right hon. Friend's reply, he will give us an assurance that the Government will follow the Select

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Committee's recommendations. I can assure him that its members, past and present, will listen carefully to his remarks.

9.6 pm

Jane Griffiths (Reading, East): I am not a member of the Select Committee, but I have read its report with great interest and listened to the debate with even greater interest. It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) who as always made a thoughtful contribution.

It is interesting to follow at one remove the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Mr. Barker). I do not know his constituency, but I did not recognise the picture that he painted of the good citizens of his part of Sussex cowering in the shadow of huge toxic incinerators. That is not a picture that any of us would recognise.

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