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Mr. Morley: I cannot comment on individual councils, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's knowledge of his local area is greater than mine. None the less, I can say that there will be a duty for co-operation in relation to a joint strategy. He will be aware that, on top of that, the waste collection authorities are

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set a number of targets and responsibilities in relation to the waste strategy. Of course, the Bill also places obligations on the disposal authorities.

All those involved have their own responsibilities. The disposal authority can also make directions to the collection authorities, and they will be binding. Thus, a range of measures provides a strong incentive for agreeing the joint strategy. The thrust of the new clauses is not to provoke division among local authorities or different tiers, but to bring about co-operation between them. Surely that is better than division.

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle): Let me pick up on the valid points made by the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker). Where the collection authority has a clear strategy to increase the amount of waste that is recycled, but the disposal authority has entered into long-term contracts to provide waste to an incinerator, there will be not only philosophical differences between their interests, but economic ones. I do not see in the proposals a sufficiently robust legal strategy to enable such bodies to work together where there are genuine differences.

Mr. Morley: The hon. Gentleman is leading us on to other amendments and new clauses dealing with issues such as incineration. Of course, different circumstances will apply where a waste authority has an existing incineration strategy as part of its policies. Such a strategy will involve a considerable capital investment, and the collection authorities will have to work with the waste authority on a joint strategy that takes that into account. There may be other cases in which the disposal authority wishes to consider incineration. In those cases, we would expect them jointly to consider with the collection authorities the most appropriate way forward in relation to disposal policies, which may include incineration. We want discussion and consultation to take place between all those involved in developing the joint strategy.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): My inquiry is altogether more prosaic than that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker). Under subsection (11) of new clause 18 and subsection (6) of new clause 19, the Government apparently propose that regulations should be subject to the negative procedure of the House rather than to its affirmative counterpart. If that is so, can the Minister enlighten me as to how there will be an opportunity to debate the contents of those regulations?

Mr. Morley: As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, that issue has already been independently scrutinised. As far as I know, the use of negative or affirmative procedures was not queried. He will also be aware that negative procedures are fairly common. Personally, I am fairly relaxed about which procedure is used. There are reasons why legislation is sometimes implemented by negative rather than affirmative procedure; those reasons are separately scrutinised by the various Committees.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire): Can the Minister direct me to any part of the Bill or the amendments that deals with dispute resolution? Where

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two elected authorities are both concerned with the collection and disposal of waste, that gives rise to a problem if one authority pursues one strategy while the other pursues a different one. Furthermore, the Bill contains penalties. How are those to be divided up between the two authorities; and what system is there to resolve any dispute between them?

Mr. Morley: That is a rather complex series of questions. I am happy to deal with them, but it might be better to do so as I outline the meaning and implications of the amendments. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that I have missed a point, he must feel free to intervene.

Norman Baker rose—

Mr. Morley: I shall give way, but I should like to make some progress.

Norman Baker: I understand that the Minister wants to make progress, but this is an important issue. No one can deny that the joint strategy is right in concept, but the final decision—the whip hand—is given to disposal authorities, which can issue a direction. It is therefore possible—in fact, likely—that a scenario will arise whereby a waste collection authority wants to perform in a way that is more akin to the Government's waste strategy than that of the waste disposal authority. That could create a ludicrous situation in which the waste disposal authority issues a direction to require the waste collection authority to behave in a way that is further away from the Government's intentions. That cannot be right.

Mr. Morley: If I may say so, the hon. Gentleman seems to be assuming that all waste collection and disposal authorities will be at each other's throats. That is not so. It is true that disagreements may arise and that directions can be given by the disposal authority to the collection authority. That is why there has to be a system: the amendments address that.

The hon. Gentleman argues that one authority might be trying to implement strategies that are much more in line than those of others with what the Government want. The answer to that is that all waste collection authorities will work to a series of targets, especially on recycling and re-use. That is sometimes forgotten. Some of the discussion that took place in Committee, particularly on incineration, seemed to overlook the fact that waste authorities cannot simply do exactly what they like: they have obligations in relation to recycling, re-use and reducing the amount of biological waste. In that sense, they operate within a framework that provides certain disciplines—it is not a complete free-for-all.

The hon. Gentleman must also recognise that we are committed to giving as much freedom as we can to local authorities in coming together to determine the most effective strategy for their area by taking into account their local circumstances and needs. We do not want to be too prescriptive in terms of taking tight, centralised control, but we do want a framework for delivering targets in relation to fulfilling our commitment to

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sustainability and to meeting our obligations in line with various directives. The amendments strike that balance: I shall outline some of the reasoning behind them.

1.45 pm

On the point that the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) raised about exempting local authorities, we plan to give some exemptions in the form of freedoms to those that hit the excellence targets. That is not unreasonable. We have to take into account the possibility that some authorities might go backwards at a later stage, so there must be a facility whereby exemptions granted to authorities whose performance drops below the levels that we would expect are withdrawn. Even then, we would expect them to have a period in which they could improve their performance before being required to produce the strategy. We are trying to be flexible in dealing with that by tailoring the requirements to enable us to target those areas that need to improve their waste performance, while refraining from placing unnecessary burdens on authorities that are performing well.

New clause 20 defines what is meant by a two-tier area. New clause 21 repeals the requirement for waste collection authorities in England and Wales to prepare and publish a waste recycling plan in accordance with section 49 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It also provides certain consequential repeals in relation to the Greater London Authority Act 1999. That is a clear example of our desire to remove unnecessary and ineffective burdens on local authorities while expecting them to have in place appropriate arrangements for strategic planning of their waste management functions. That strategic planning is vital in moving towards more sustainable forms and in helping us to meet our ambitious targets for composting and recycling.

Amendments Nos. 44 to 46 remove certain powers to make regulations, and certain references to the duty under section 49 of the 1990 Act to produce a waste recycling plan, from clause 29, which concerns municipal waste management strategies for Wales. The repeal of section 49 of the 1990 Act through new clause 21 negates the need for those references.

The remaining amendments relate to the commencement and extent of new clauses 18 to 21.

The Government believe that these provisions, together with clause 31, give waste disposal authorities the power to direct waste collection authorities about the separation of waste and address the concerns that influenced Opposition amendments Nos. 16 and 31, the purpose of which is to require allocating authorities to take into account that there can be

when making an allocation of allowances authorising the sending of biodegradable municipal waste to landfills under clause 4(1) and appointing a person to be the monitoring authority for its area under clause 10(1). There is clearly a genuine functional division of responsibilities in two-tier areas, because waste collection is carried out at district level and waste disposal is carried out by the county council. If the Bill is to succeed in its aim of ensuring that the UK meets its targets under the landfill directive, it is important that we have a clear ownership of responsibility. To that end,

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obligations to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill are imposed on the disposal authorities, whether unitary or county, as those authorities are responsible for the final disposal of waste, and therefore for sending waste to landfill. That touches on the point that was raised about who is responsible for any financial penalties.

I understand the reasoning behind the amendments in relation to where responsibilities and potential financial penalties fall. The Bill, however, necessarily works by imposing duties on the disposal authorities. As I have explained, we have already catered for the consequences in two-tier areas, and I do not think amendments Nos. 16 and 31 will help in that regard. I hope that in the light of my explanation they will not be pressed to a vote.

The Government's preferred approach, as I have stressed, is to encourage waste collection and disposal authorities to tackle waste management together, while taking account of the distinct role that each tier plays.

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