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Norman Baker: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 6—Monitoring of Dioxin Emissions from Waste Incinerators—

'In section 3 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (c.43) (Emissions etc. limits and quality objectives) there is after subsection (2) inserted—
"(2A) The Secretary of State must introduce regulations to require continuous monitoring of dioxin emissions for all waste incinerators by 2006.".'.

New clause 17—Directions to waste disposal authorities—

'(1) a waste collection authority in England which is not also a waste disposal authority may direct that the waste disposal authority to whom it delivers its waste shall not dispose of that waste by incineration.
(2) Any waste disposal authority which receives such a direction shall take such steps as are necessary to ensure it is complied with within 12 months of the issuing of the direction.
(3) A waste collection authority issuing a direction under subsection (1) above shall pay to a waste disposal authority such amounts as are needed to ensure that the disposal authority is not financially worse off as a result of having to comply with the direction.'.

Amendment No. 59, in clause 26, page 17, line 23 at end insert—

'( ) A waste collection authority in England which is not also a waste disposal authority may direct that the waste disposal authority to whom it delivers its waste shall not dispose of that waste by incineration. Failure on behalf of the waste disposal authority to comply will result in a penalty as set down in Clause 9'.

Norman Baker: No doubt the Minister wants to discuss incineration. He has shown a thirst for the subject in our debates this afternoon, so I am confident that he will deal eloquently with new clause 5, which requires an environmental impact assessment of incineration—a spot check, as it were, of the current

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position. That is important, because incineration is not only a controversial matter for the public but is being reviewed, as the Minister will know, at European Union level. I am sure that he will be aware of the Luxembourg judgment, which I mentioned in an earlier debate and which has recently reclassified incineration, previously a recovery technique, as a disposal technique. That should influence the Government's thinking—it does not change the components of the hierarchy, but it moves incineration further from recycling and closer to landfill, and it is important that we view it in that way.

In "Waste not, Want not", a report on the future of waste management by a Government strategy unit, a review of the health and environmental impact of different forms of waste management was promised. The Government have therefore taken the issue on board, although the review encompasses more than just incineration. A report was promised for autumn 2003, so perhaps the Minister will say something about its progress. I hope that that there has been consideration of whether or not to introduce fiscal measures on incineration—in other words, an incineration tax. If incineration is now officially a disposal technique, should we not apply the logic that we have applied to landfill and discourage it through the introduction of a tax? Before anyone seeks to intervene, the tax would not be used to raise funds and would be redeployed on a revenue-neutral basis.

We must however find a way to discourage incineration. Like other Members, I believe that, under pressure from the European Union, the Government have sought to minimise landfill but have not sought to prioritise anything else in the hierarchy. Consequently, the waste that was going to landfill will simply go to the next available alternative which, I am afraid, is incineration. It will not be recycled, minimised or re-used—it will be largely incinerated. The Government must therefore consider whether they are content to incinerate the 50 per cent. of waste currently going to landfill that will no longer be allowed to be disposed of in that way by 2015. I urge the Minister to give the matter serious consideration, as that will happen unless the Government change the course.

The public are entitled to a clear understanding of the full national environmental impact assessment of incineration, as required by our new clause. The Government's general assessment in "Waste not, Want not" is welcome as far as it goes, but unless the Minister tells me otherwise, I do not believe that it will deliver such an understanding. He will be aware that in 1996 a European Commission report on the draft incineration directive estimated that for every tonne of municipal waste that was incinerated, between £21 and £126 worth of environmental damage was caused. Incineration therefore has a serious downside that has to be accounted for in environmental terms. If there is a cost to the environment, perhaps a cost should be imposed on incineration above that which currently applies.

We need to know the true cost of incineration—not simply a 1950s Treasury cost of incineration but the overall environmental cost, taking account of externalities, whether damage to health, transport movements or the loss of the proximity principle, if that

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can be costed. Incineration can result in such a loss because it requires a large throughput to justify the initial capital costs, pulling waste from a large geographical area, larger than that required for recycling schemes or other waste treatments. To use East Sussex as an example again—I am sorry to do so, but it is the area I know best—there is a proposal to have one incinerator there. Waste from a large geographical area will be pulled into a single incinerator, thus defeating the proximity principle that the Government correctly espouse when they talk about the waste hierarchy. The idea that local communities should take responsibility for their own waste has also been defeated. If it is all transported 40 or 50 miles to an incinerator, they are not taking that responsibility.

Paddy Tipping: I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument closely. The logical conclusion is that if an incineration plant is localised and conserves energy and heat as well as waste, that is supportable. Is that his position?

3.45 pm

Norman Baker: Not entirely, but I shall get there. In response to that sensible intervention from the hon. Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping), I can say that an incinerator that was more local, which people owned and for which they had responsibility, and which was consistent with the proximity principle and used the heat generated, would be preferable to the sort of incinerators being proposed across the country, which do not always meet those requirements by any stretch of the imagination.

We are told by those who propose incineration that it is perfectly safe and that there are no health risks. The health case is not certain, one way or the other. However, those who advocate incineration are the first to jump up and say, "We can't have it in our area." Why? Because they are concerned about the health risks and the negative impact of incineration. They want the waste taken somewhere else, out of their area. The Government should not support such a strategy, which undermines the concepts that they espouse in the '"Waste Strategy 2000"' and in "Waste not, Want not".

Transportation is an aspect of incineration that must be considered as part of any impact assessment. The process of incineration, by and large, requires greater transport movements than would be the case with waste minimisation and re-use, obviously, and possibly also with recycling. Have the Government quantified the transport movements that incineration generates?

I mentioned emissions. It is true, as those who advocate incineration say, that emission levels have been tightened considerably over the years and are now a fraction of what they were. I accept that, but there is still some doubt among eminent scientists who have looked into the matter. Dr. Vyvian Howard and others say that the present level of emissions still represents a health hazard. I do not know whether that is true or not, but people with experience and qualifications maintain that case. A further issue for those who live in the vicinity is the emissions resulting from large numbers of lorry movements to the incinerator and back. We need further investigation of the health aspects.

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We cannot necessarily believe the figures that we are given about dioxin emissions. There are two reasons for that. One is that the Environment Agency does not have enough staff to undertake proper monitoring. Their visits are pre-announced, so it is possible for the incinerator plant to be operating at maximum capacity in order to produce the minimum dioxin emissions at the time that monitoring takes place. Secondly, if there is no continuous monitoring of incineration emissions, as there should be and for which new clause 6 provides, all we get is intermittent photographs that tell us everything is all right. In the meantime, if the incinerator plant has not been operating at capacity, the emission levels may have increased without being caught by the Environment Agency.

There are other downsides to incineration. The Minister will know of the fly ash that is generated. Up to 5 per cent. of what is incinerated has to be disposed of to landfill in any case—highly toxic fly ash. There is also bottom ash, which is generated in even larger quantities.There is no doubt that incineration gives rise to significant problems. If we can avoid it, we are keen to do so, except for specialist uses such as the disposal of special waste, chemical waste and medicines waste, where incineration clearly has a role to play.

Can we obviate the need for incineration? Earlier, the Minister kept asking me questions and would not take yes for an answer. If landfill is minimised according to the landfill directives, if there are special purpose incinerators, as well as the existing incinerators, if recycling, re-use and other techniques are promoted, particularly the separation of organic material for composting, which is a strategy that we have not yet maximised, if we consider anaerobic digestion and so on, and if we have a proper waste minimisation strategy, which we do not have at present—if all those conditions are met, we do not need the expansion of incinerators. That is the aim that the Government should pursue, but they have palpably failed to do so.

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