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The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): In the 2000 spending review, the Government found significant extra resources for local authorities. By 200304, the environmental protective and cultural services standard spending assessment, which includes waste services, will have risen by £1.1 billion over the provision for the previous year. There is also a private finance initiative provision of £220 million over the spending review period and a ring-fenced pot of £140 million over the next two years, on which we have now published a consultation paper.
Mr. Baron: I thank the Secretary of State for her response, but that money is not enough and it is not forthcoming. Is she aware that, after the recent waste summit, Friends of the Earth and other bodies such as Waste Watch estimated that about £375 million will be required annually if targets are to be met? In addition, the £140 million that she mentioned, which was first identified in the 2000 comprehensive spending review, has still not been paid. My county council in Essex has not received a penny. If the Government[Interruption.]
Margaret Beckett: Of course, it is perfectly understandable and not at all unreasonable that organisations such as Friends of the Earth continually press the Government to increase further the already substantial extra resources that we are prepared to provide. Those issues will be considered in the next spending review. As for the progress of the hon. Gentleman's county council, I know that it has had discussions with our officials about projects that it has in mind but, as far as I am aware, it has not yet made an application.
Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): Does my right hon. Friend believe that in parts of the country where one local authority is responsible for the collection of refuse and another is responsible for its disposal, there is adequate co-ordination to ensure that recycling is given sufficient consideration and is high on the agenda?
Margaret Beckett: As my hon. Friend will know, the Government recognise the importance of that. Indeed, one purpose of the recent waste summit was to press for more action to produce the recycling facilities that we need. I accept entirely my hon. Friend's point about co-ordination between different authorities. It is important that authorities try to develop waste management and waste minimisation strategies for their area because that enables the most efficient and cost-effective arrangements to be made.
Mr. Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle): Given the Secretary of State's rhetoric about waste, can she tell the House whether over the past five years, the amount of waste generated per person in the United Kingdom has increased or decreased?
Margaret Beckett: The figure is continuing to increase at a rate of about 3 per cent. a year. That is one of the reasons why the Government have made such a priority of waste minimisation, rather than just the handling of waste. Unfortunately, there has not been the investment
Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South): Is my right hon. Friend aware that in areas where the local authority is seeking to build an incinerator, there is a fear that that will remove the incentive to recycle, so the incinerator will suck in large quantities of waste that should be recycled?
Margaret Beckett: I am aware of that perfectly reasonable and sensible concern. That is partly why I told my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) that it is extremely important that local authorities have an overall plan for the handling of waste in their locality, and that they engage the public in discussion about such issues, so that there can be a properly considered set of proposals. However, there are occasions when any proposal for any incineration under any circumstances is opposed, on the grounds of the perfectly reasonable fears that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg) mentioned.
The Government do not accept that there is no place for some, perhaps relatively small-scale, extension of incineration facilities. Unfortunately, there is still a quantity of waste that cannot be dealt with by re-use or recycling, and there remains a need for some incineration. I am sorry that some who campaign very well on these issues refuse to accept that.
The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Michael Meacher): My hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Energy and I launched the UK fuel poverty strategy on 21 November. It shows that since 1996, efforts to tackle low incomes and reduce fuel bills have cut the number of fuel poor by some 1.5 million. Our first target is to take the remaining 3 million vulnerable householdspensioners, families and the disabledout of fuel poverty by 2010. At the same time, we will work with those expert in the subject to identify how to reach our overall goal of an end to all fuel poverty in the UK.
Simon Hughes: In the week before the beginning of winter, in a country that has a high level of excess winter deathsmuch higher than many other countries in Europedoes the right hon. Gentleman accept that the policy announced, which was expected to produce great things, is widely regarded as disappointing? Does he accept that we need to re-examine the Government's strategy, which was announced at the Labour party conference last year and set a target date of 2010 for eliminating, as far as practical, all fuel poverty? Furthermore, will he reconsider the definition of household income? By referring to household income, not disposable income, about a million people, on best estimates, are taken out of the programme, rather than vulnerable people being included in it.
Mr. Meacher: The hon. Gentleman is being remarkably and uncharacteristically churlish. We are the first Government who have ever given a commitment to end fuel poverty. We say that we will achieve that by 2010, and it is obviously right that we concentrate on the key priorities: pensioners, families with young children on low incomes, and the long-term sick and disabled. We have also saidand I gave strong support to the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000that once we have dealt with the priority categories, we will complete the objective by dealing with all those who are fuel poor. As to the definition, it is open to question whether that should include mortgage interest payments and housing benefit. Our commitment is to end fuel poverty on either definition.
Mr. Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye): May I tell my right hon. Friend that low-income families in Hastings and Rye have received very well the insulation scheme support that they have been given? However, many people are not receiving such support. Eaga in particular is failing to deal with applications for months, and the target of 2010 may not be achieved in respect of some people who have already made applications.
Mr. Meacher: My hon. Friend makes a fair point. There have been significant delays in the scheme because of the lack of sufficient heating engineers. We have recruited a further 400 engineers in the past six months and are now beginning to pick up speed. The home energy efficiency scheme has helped 250,000 households since its launch in the middle of last year and is installing more than 3,000 new central heating systems a month in pensioner households. We are getting on track and I believe that we will certainly fulfil our objectives by 2010.
European Standing Committee ARelevant European Union Document: 5771/01, Sixth Environmental Action Programme of the European Community. Relevant European Scrutiny Committee Reports:HC 28-xi (2000-01); HC 152-i and HC 152-ii (2001-02).]