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Mr. Drew: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Meacher: I have very little time and am very reluctant, but I shall give way this once because it is my hon. Friend.

Mr. Drew: I am grateful and I shall be very brief. Will my right hon. Friend therefore agree to examine closely and rule out of order any waste plan proposing waste importation to bulk up the numbers and make an incinerator economic?

Mr. Meacher: The requirement in our policy is that statutory recycling targets must be met and that no incineration proposal shall be permitted which will pre-empt recycling or reduce the option of recycling for the future. A local authority may be able to demonstrate that it can achieve those targets consistent with small-scale incineration, preferably linked with combined heat and power. Although I do not rule out such proposals, I do not think that there will be many such examples. The Government's proposal is to increase recycling to the fullest degree to which it is environmentally the best option.

I am not sure of the exact figures on fluorescent tubes, which my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish mentioned, but I know that they are nowhere near what they should be. I shall write to him, and I shall once again press local government and central Government Departments to recycle more of their fluorescent tubes.

My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish also mentioned refrigerators. The ozone depleting substances regulation was agreed in October 2000. Before that, my Department queried Brussels on the exact interpretation in relation to the extraction of chlorofluorocarbons, not only from cooling equipment but from foam. We did not receive an answer for 18 months, until June 2001.

Contrary to what the hon. Member for Gordon said, it is a question not of misreading but of interpretation of the regulation's exact meaning. As soon as we found out the meaning, we took the necessary action, which is to seek

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to put in place, when we can, a producer responsibility regulation. We are also installing a capability for recycling which currently is not available. Many developers are certainly interested in creating that capability provided that they are assured of a market. Many of them have said that they can have the technology in place early next year.

In the interim, we are also funding local authorities' storage capacity, providing £6 million which should cover them until the end of March 2002. We believe that the rate of about £2 million a month is certainly adequate. We have made it perfectly clear that in the light of experience, we will make further funding available as necessary.

Mr. Sayeed: Is the Minister saying that the Government—I am not sure which one—signed up to a directive without knowing what it meant?

Mr. Meacher: The regulation, we believed—along with many other member states—did not include the extraction of CFCs from foam. We are not alone in uncertainty on this matter. It is remarkable that the Commission took 18 months before making up its mind.

My hon. Friend's last point was about the zero waste concept. It is an attractive idea—nothing should be wasted to landfill or incineration but should be recycled or re-used and there should be penalties for non-biodegradable material. It is a valuable concept, although a long way from being realised. That, ultimately, would be the optimum solution.

The hon. Member for Gordon does not seem to have taken on board what has happened. He is diligent and conscientious, and I cannot understand how he could make some of the statements that he made. He said that we are dragging our feet—we are patently not. He said that we need a national recycling programme—we already have one. He said that what was needed were incentives, penalties, markets and funding. With regard to incentives, there are statutory recycling targets introduced by this Government, not the last one. They are statutory and enforceable, and we shall enforce them.

Secondly, there will be penalties for local authorities which do not achieve the doubling or trebling that we require of them. We are concerned about markets. There is no point in recycling if people have a collection of glass, aluminium or cans that cannot be used, but that is what WRAP is meant to do. The Government set it up with £40 million.

Following the 2000 spending review, by the end of the three-year period, we provided £1.1 billion in the local government settlement for environmental protection and cultural services, a sizeable proportion of which I hope will go towards waste management. The sum of £140 million has been ring-fenced for local authorities, specifically for waste management, £220 million is for private finance initiatives and £50 million is for the new opportunities fund for community recycling. That is a sizeable amount of funding.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned packaging. The regulations are being tightened year on year. They are 50 per cent. this year, with 15 per cent. material-specific requirements for each product. Those will be tightened in successive years. The hon. Gentleman mentioned Germany as a better example. He should say that to the packaging industry. The green dot system that Germany

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uses costs three times more than our packaging waste regulation system. Our system costs about £0.6 billion, while theirs costs nearly £2 billion. I do not think that our industry has much doubt about which is the better one, and nor do I.

On the role of incineration, the hon. Gentleman said that we have left the door open to large-scale use of incinerators. That is blatantly untrue.

Malcolm Bruce: The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish said that.

Mr. Meacher: Well, I do not think that my hon. Friend did say that. Whoever said it, it is not true. I repeat again that there may be some incineration as a result of integrated waste management plans so long as there is maximisation of recycling, re-use and recovery.

Having paid a visit in or near the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien), I agree that Rockware Glass is a model company. It provides educational facilities at the factory to enable people to understand the importance of recycling. I agree with him about the need for encouraging civic amenity sites and the importance of kerbside collection. Our view—[Interruption.] I have never before managed to turn off the microphones.

I recognise the commitment of the hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) to such issues, but I was surprised that she asked how to measure recycling and whether it includes packaging waste. Of course, they are two totally different systems. Packaging waste comes under the regulations on packaging waste and involves a specific requirement on retailers. The hon. Lady also mentioned the £12 landfill tax, but we recognise that a £1-a-year tax—

Sue Doughty: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Meacher: I am sorry; I simply cannot give way—I need to mention so many other hon. Members. We are certainly considering what level of landfill tax will deliver the increase in recycling that lies at the heart of the strategy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping) referred to the need for a big gear change in landfill tax, and I understand that point. He also referred to the desirability of charging households directly. Of course, the point is that we need to incentivise waste minimisation, and the hon. Member for Gordon intervened to suggest that the simplest way to do that is to get local authorities to provide multicoloured boxes and then take away the contents. However, in no way does that incentivise the reduction of waste; it is simply a more organised way to get local authorities to take away whatever waste is produced.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood also made a point about the Isle of Wight and the renewables obligation. The Government have recently consulted on our view that waste incineration should not be promoted through the renewables obligation and that such projects will not contribute to the Government's proposed target that renewable sources should comprise 10 per cent. of electricity sales by 2010.

The Government propose that support under the obligation should be concentrated on those technologies that require such support to succeed commercially.

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That is the key point. The issue is not whether something is good and should be supported; it is whether support is necessary for commercial success. The incineration of mixed waste, as a well established technology, is not regarded as requiring support under the obligation. The obligation has also been framed with a view to supporting more efficient and environmentally benign technologies.

The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Mr. Barker) must be making a bid for the parliamentary award for the silliest speech this year. We have to recognise that there was not a single person behind the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) throughout the debate and that it is necessary to recruit someone to say something from the empty Opposition Benches, but surely anything is better than Bexhill and Battle.

First, I shall mention the Tory record. The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle accused us of having only 11 per cent. recycling—in 1992, the Tory record was 2 per cent. After four years of Labour Government, the figure is 11 per cent., and it will be 25 per cent. by 2005–06. The Tory record is one of no statutory recycling targets and no shift from landfill, and some incinerators were built, which has not happened under this Government.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) drew attention to an important initiative, and we will certainly consider it as a national model. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading, East (Jane Griffiths) talked about Reading's integrated waste management project, which we shall discuss next week.

The hon. Member for Colchester asked about the position on incinerators, and I have made that very clear. He also asked whether there is a legal requirement to include incineration. There is absolutely no such legal requirement.

The speech made by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire at least shows that he has a sense of humour. He made a passionate statement of the Tory commitment to preserving the landscape, but the Tory Government had the biggest road-building programme in modern times; 60 per cent. of building took place in greenfield developments; and they had a recycling rate of 2 per cent. He made an attack on the landfill tax, on the grounds that it had had little impact and had increased fly tipping, but seemed to forget that it was the Tory party that introduced the tax. He referred to 165 incinerators, but he knows that that figure is total nonsense. He referred to a moratorium on incinerators, which is a cheap point in this House when Tory councillors throughout the country—

It being Ten o'clock, Mr. Speaker proceeded to put forthwith the deferred Questions relating to Estimates which he was directed to put at that hour, pursuant to paragraphs (4) and (5) of Standing Order No. 54 (Consideration of estimates).

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