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14 Mar 2003 : Column 574—continued

Mr. Meacher: I do not believe that that is so. One requirement in accepting a waste plan that involves incineration is that it should not pre-empt the possibility of future recycling targets. Reference has been made to the "hungry mouth" of an incinerator, and the degree to which it can pre-empt the recycling of materials. That would be a prime consideration in deciding whether to give approval to such a plan.

Clive Efford: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Meacher: I will, but I shall not make a habit of it.

Clive Efford: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Does he accept that recycling levels have remained extraordinarily low for too many years, and that although local authorities make the right noises, they have not done enough to improve their recycling performance? Is it not time that we set a challenging target, in order to achieve the recycling levels that we want to see?

Mr. Meacher: I am constantly being told not only that the targets that I set a few years ago are challenging—"challenging but achievable", according to the usual Whitehall terminology—but that they will not in fact be achieved by a significant number of local authorities. I am determined that they do achieve them, but to go significantly beyond them—almost twice as far—is a move to which we should first give very serious consideration. We shall undoubtedly consider this matter in Committee.

On the further important issue of municipal waste strategies, guidance for local authorities establishes a framework for the issues that need to be addressed in preparing such strategies. However, there are wider considerations, such as how mandatory strategies would fit in with the local government freedoms and flexibilities agenda. Such issues need to be balanced. The Government have stated their position publicly. We said that

these are the key words—

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That remains our position.

Having said that, let me accentuate the positive aspects of the Bill. It requires that strategies include policies to enable householders to dispose of waste sustainably and to have provision at or near their home—in other words, it requires that the proximity principle be accepted and adhered to. We strongly agree that giving as many householders as possible an opportunity to participate in recycling is crucial, as it ensures a clean and secure source of recyclate for reprocessing and maximises the opportunity for everyone—including the elderly and infirm and those without access to a car—to participate.

The strategy unit recommended widespread roll-out of kerbside collection, but it is not contentious to point out that that has to be combined with the provision of accessible bring-sites, especially where kerbside collection is not practical or economic—perhaps the type of housing makes the provision of kerbside collection difficult, for example, high-rise blocks—or where it is wholly uneconomic, for example, in very rural areas. I listened carefully when, in her opening speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford drew attention to an example of what I consider to be good practice by quoting the case of a caretaker taking a basket from outside a flat to the collection point. We must ensure that such examples are disseminated.

Furthermore, it is important to realise that collection is only part of the cycle of recycling. There is little use in rapidly and significantly increasing the amount of recycling only to find that there are no markets for the recycled material and it ends up in landfill. Reprocessing facilities and, above all, markets for the final product are needed. Several hon. Members mentioned that. By itself, dictating collection will not secure recycling. That is why it is important that we look at the issues in the round.

The Bill would provide a power for waste disposal authorities to direct waste collection authorities in the manner in which waste is to be collected. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire mentioned that. The waste disposal authority would thereby have a power to determine the way in which a collection authority fulfils its statutory collection responsibility. In effect, it would make the collection authority an agent, and do so at the collection authority's expense. That is not the Government's solution. I draw the House's attention to the fact that the Government have already

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tabled an amendment to the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill that tackles the same issue, but in a different form. That Bill gives a power to direct the form in which the waste is delivered so that it can be easily recycled.

Almost all of the many contributions to the debate were supportive of the Bill. I have taken note of several points to which I would reply now, were I not conscious of the passage of time. It might be for the greater convenience of the House if I say that I shall reply to them in writing. Let me conclude by saying that the Government take seriously the whole issue of sustainable waste management. We have sympathy with the Bill's aims, but I emphasise that a number of amendments have to be made in Committee if the Bill is to secure the Government's support. On that basis, I am content—perhaps I should say pleased—to allow the Bill to proceed to Committee.

12.48 pm

Joan Ruddock: With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall reply to the debate.

First, I thank all right hon. and hon. Members who have attended today's debate, those who have made such powerful and interesting speeches, those who have sat on their speeches because they want another Bill to be considered today, and all those who have given me support both inside and outside the House.

I will not take time now to answer the points made. However, I would like to point out that Delleve Plastics is the company that has had to import plastic bottles, so all the hon. Members who mentioned difficulties with plastics should refer to that company.

I thank all the sponsors of my Bill, especially those seven who contributed to the debate. I am delighted to have had the support of all the Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen today—albeit with reservations in some cases.

In particular, I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment. I thank him for sharing his passion with us; we all know it is genuine. I thank him for saying many positive things about the Bill. I look forward to working with him in Committee to deal with the points about which he has reservations.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills).

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14 Mar 2003 : Column 577

Legal Deposit Libraries Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

12.55 pm

Mr. Chris Mole (Ipswich): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I want to thank all my right hon. and hon. Friends who are here today. The aim of this Bill is to update and extend the law on legal deposit. The legal deposit libraries of the United Kingdom and Ireland entered the 21st century operating under legislation that was passed in 1911, and which covers printed publications. However, more than 60,000 non-print items were published in the UK last year and it is expected that that figure will increase by four or five times by 2005. Non-commercial publications, including websites, add enormously to the number. At present, there are no systematic or comprehensive arrangements for the collection and preservation of such non-print publications. Without new legislation to ensure that non-print materials are saved for future generations, the 21st century could be seen as a cultural dark age that failed to archive a substantial and vital part of the nation's published heritage.

I take this opportunity to thank the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the libraries, and the staffs of both, for their advice and hard work during the drafting of the Bill. My interest in legal deposit comes from my background in the information and communications technology industry and in local government. As a researcher for British Telecom, I saw the burgeoning volume of electronic media and the importance of research publications that are available only in that format. As the former leader of a council that was a library authority, I understand the importance of the local and national archives. They form a key part of our heritage.

The purpose of legal deposit is to ensure that the nation's published output, and thereby its intellectual record and future published heritage, is collected systematically and as comprehensively as possible. We do this to make material available to current researchers in the libraries of the legal deposit system, and to preserve it for the use of future generations of researchers. Both purposes are important. The system dates back several hundred years and has been vital in preserving and making available the published record of previous generations for the researchers of today and of the future.

What might we be losing? The material at risk includes: major directories, such as the Europe Information directory, which is available on DVD; news sources, including the web-published results of public opinion polls from companies such as MORI; indexes to help researchers to locate material such as the Legal Journals Index; the Cochrane Library, which is arguably the best single source of reliable evidence on the effects of health care and which is available only on CD-ROM and the web; a wide range of important local government and national Government documents, such as the Home Office series of "online only" research reports; and an increasing number of e-journals, such as Sociological Research Online, which is available only on the web.

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The Bill will allow legal deposit libraries to look seriously at archiving selected material from websites. Already, there are nearly 3 million websites in the .uk domain. To be frank, many of them contain trivial and irrelevant material, but we should think about archiving coverage of important events—events such as 9/11, general elections, millennium celebrations, the Queen's golden jubilee and the Commonwealth games. The burgeoning number of observatories that provide quality-of-life statistics for our regions and localities would be a gold mine for those who wish, retrospectively, to understand the nature of our times. All of them contain materials that future generations of researchers will want to access.

We have already lost an e-novel that was started by John Updike. The project was collaborative and was added to, chapter by chapter, by other authors. We have also lost records of events such as the petrol blockade sites, election sites such as bellforbrentwood, which has either gone or is about to go, and sports websites such as the Euro 96 football championship site in England.

Although there have been some revisions, the 1911 Act forms the basis of legal deposit as it is enacted today, namely, that publishers must deposit with the British Library within one month of publication a copy of all books published in the UK and Ireland. Five other libraries have the right to claim, within 12 months of publication, copies of the same material. The five other legal deposit libraries are the national library of Scotland, the national library of Wales, university library Cambridge, the Bodleian library Oxford and Trinity college library Dublin.

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