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Sue Doughty (Guildford): Yes, we are very strong supporters of a zero waste policy. Within that, however, there may be circumstances where it is possible to take opportunities, such as in the construction industry with cement kilns. Certain products that do not easily degrade, such as tyres, can provide good materials for other processes, so we are taking an ideal opportunity to use those materials to support another industry.
Mr. Morley: Forgive me, but that sounds as though the Liberal Democrats are really saying "Let us incinerate by sticking material in cement kilns". It is still incineration. The salient fact may be that the incineration would take place in an existing facility. I do not know why the Liberal Democrats, in particular, continue to be so evasive about this. I am simply asking whether they are saying that in no circumstances whatever could there be incineration.
Mr. Morley: I had noticed the hon. Gentleman's comment that there should be a moratorium on incineration, although I am not aware that there is a lack of business in incineration rather the opposite, in my experience. However, at this stage I do not want to focus too much on incineration, because there will be an opportunity to discuss it later.
Mr. Sayeed: I am grateful to the Minister for his courtesy in giving way. The answer to his question from the Conservatives, as far as I can remember, was that, provided the most environmentally friendly activity had been undertaken and found not to be cost-effective, one could then go to a lower level of the hierarchy. But one had at least to check that the most environmentally friendly system of disposal was used first.
Mr. Morley: That strikes me as a perfectly reasonable position to take. Incineration should be a resort, because it is down the waste hierarchy. As the hon. Gentleman fairly states, it should not be first choice. There are a lot of caveats: there are issues in relation to standards and safety, whether other options are available and whether it is the best practical measure. That is a perfectly reasonable and, I might say, honest position to take on incineration.
Mr. Wiggin : Although the Minister's initial comments were about the hierarchy and how the Bill would bring it about, they quickly descended into how the authorities would avoid being labelled failures and being fined. Immediately, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) gave an example, which the Minister pursued, quite keenly, towards incineration. Does the Minister not think that that parallels exactly what the Bill is all about, and that as soon as it becomes law everyone will run to the lowest common denominator, which is incineration?
Mr. Morley: No; absolutely not. I do not believe that. I was pursuing the point because the hon. Member for Lewes raised it and I was trying to tease out where he stands on this matter; I am still not absolutely certain. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Lewes will have the opportunity to explain as we progress through the Bill, so I do not wish to be distracted at present. I have all these bits and pieces of notes and I have to try to reach a conclusion on this.
The hon. Member for Mid-Befordshire repeatedly raised the issue of supermarkets. We do not ignore the role of supermarkets. In fact, most local authorities, including my own, find that supermarkets are a very convenient centre for recycling because many people buy a lot of material there, and it is a convenient place to take the material back to. I see supermarkets playing a very important role in relation to waste minimisation, which is a legitimate part of the joint strategies that should be developed by the local authorities through the collection and disposal authorities. That is dealt with by these amendments.
We have had a fairly broad run around on this issue, but judging by what I have heard, hon. Members accept the desirability of joint strategies. We have tried to make allowances in relation to authorities that are rated excellent, and to deal with matters that may give rise to disputes. I have tried to give some reassurances that I do not believe that the joint strategies are necessarily driven by incineration alone in relation to the waste hierarchy. The strategies and guidance from the Secretary of State will prevail and the local authorities will have to work within those in terms in formulating their strategies.
These sensible new clauses reflect the desire expressed on both sides of the Committee, and I very much hope that they are supported. I believe that the amendments tabled by Opposition Members are not relevant, although I understand the reasoning that prompted them, and I hope that I have answered hon. Members' questions.
'(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for a duty under section (Joint municipal waste management strategies: England)(1) to (7)
(a) not to apply to an authority if conditions specified in the regulations are met;
(b) not to apply to an authority if, on an application made in accordance with the regulations, the Secretary of State is satisfied that conditions specified in the regulations are met;
(c) not to apply to the waste authorities for a twotier area if, by reason of provision under paragraphs (a) and (b), it applies to one or more, but not all, of them;
(d) not to apply to the waste authorities for a twotier area if, on an application made in accordance with the regulations, the Secretary of State is satisfied that conditions specified in the regulations are met.
(2) The power under paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1) must be exercised so that provision under that paragraph will cause a duty under section (Joint municipal waste management strategies: England)(1) to (7) not to apply to an authority only if
(a) the standard of the authority's performance in carrying out functions of its has been at, or above, a particular level, and
(b) that level is
(i) the level that, in the Secretary of State's opinion, counts as satisfactory performance, or
(ii) a level that, in his opinion, is higher than that level.