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Mr. Wiggin : I agree with the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) that this is a Bill for incineration, although I do not believe that the Government intended it to be. I know that the Minister strongly favours implementation of the waste hierarchy, and I share that sentiment; what I do not share is his optimistic view that the Bill will lead to such implementation. The purpose of new clause 17 is to ensure that we do not increase the amount of incineration. I know that that will find favour with the Minister, which is why we are trying to amend the Bill in a helpful and constructive way.
The important thing about local authorities and, indeed, all involved in the waste scheme is that they will try their best to do what they interpret the rules as making them do. That means, first and foremost, that they will avoid being penalised. They will not allow themselves to fall into the trap of having to pay because they have failed to achieve their targets. They will therefore look for the best way of achieving those targets. They will start with good intentions, and recycle, re-use and recover as much as they can; but if they feel for one second that they will not achieve their targets by those methods, they will immediately investigate incineration. Because there is little incentive for them to do otherwise, they are likely to choose that option.
The Minister responded positively when I pressed him on the incentives issue earlier, but he should give it proper consideration. This is the way in which to encourage people to do the right thing. I always prefer incentives to penalties, but unfortunately that is not how the Bill has been drafted. Local authorities are opting for incineration to meet reduced landfill targets because the Bill contains no measures to implement the waste hierarchy, which places recycling and re-use above incineration. A decision on incineration needs to be made properly.
I am a member of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as are a couple of Labour Members who are present. The Committee expressed a fear that incineration will be the sole beneficiary of the landfill directive. It said:
We have not yet mentioned energy recovery today. The United Kingdom currently recovers only 9 per cent. of energy from waste, compared with 78 per cent. in Japan, 58 per cent. in Denmark, 45 per cent. in Switzerland, 42 per cent. in the Netherlands, 38 per cent. in Sweden, 35 per cent. in France and 18 per cent. in Germany. Those figures are impressive. If we are to follow the incineration route, we must also have energy recovery. I am keen not to rule out incineration, because it is not an inappropriate method of dealing with waste, but it must not be encouraged in the Bill. However, the
Paddy Tipping: I wonder whether it would be helpful to caricature the hon. Gentleman's position. He does not like waste or incineration, but does he accept that incineration of locally collected waste, which produces energy, is relatively better than many other options? Does he support that?
Mr. Wiggin: The hon. Gentleman's caricature is most unfair. The Bill was not designed to encourage incineration, but it will do that. That is its failure. The hon. Gentleman should have drawn that caricature but, sadly, he did not. I have no objections to the position that he outlined. There are many benefits, especially in terms of carbon dioxide, to be gained from local incineration, but the Bill aims for implementation of the waste hierarchy and it fails. That is a fundamental problem, which new clause 17 seeks to resolve.
Mr. Wiggin: The hon. Gentleman should read new clause 17 carefully. He is trying to force me to make a statement on incineration when I do not need to do that. According to the Minister, the Bill does not promote incineration. However, he, the hon. Members for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping) and for Stroud (Mr. Drew) and I know that the Select Committee found that it would do that. Although local incineration that cuts carbon dioxide and provides energy has many benefits in principle, and Britain could increase the amount of energy recovered from waste from 9 per cent. to the levels of our European counterparts, that is not happening. Worse, it may never happen if we do not insist on energy recovery from incineration. Nothing in the Bill does that. The Minister tells us that the measure promotes the waste hierarchy. Unfortunately, the Opposition do not believe that that will happen. That is a shame, because we all want to do the right thing for the country and the planet. We shall fail because the measure is inadequate. I have made my position clear and I note that the hon. Member for Sherwood is no longer trying to intervene.
Waste collection authorities may direct the waste disposal authorities to which they deliver not to dispose of waste by incineration. However, the hon. Member for Lewes gave the example of waste collection authorities collecting sorted waste that could have a more beneficial use but goes to incineration because that allows the disposal authorities to avoid penalties. It will be a mistake and a wasted opportunity if we allow the Bill to progress without rectifying that.
Mr. Drew: I rise not to continue the debate that we had in Committee but to try to clarify the misjudgment in relation to the new clauses. In Committee, we managed to redefine the Bill as one that would not speak the name of incineration. That was probably achieved from a position of opposites, and I am sure that I do not necessarily agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping). From my perspective, the reason that the Bill does not speak the name of incineration is that incineration is not a possibility. It is certainly not a possibility at present, and I do not foresee it being one in the future.
Unlike the Liberal Democrats, I genuinely believe that local democracy should flourish. From all the analyses that I have carried out in my area, I have discovered overwhelming opposition to any proposals for incineration, in terms both of planning procedures and of the overall debate on waste disposal. I worry about putting the term into the Bill, because if we begin to speak the name of incineration, it could become a possibility. It could become a viable option, but I do not think that it should be, either for economic, social ordare I say itpolitical reasons. I should like to see a local authority launch a campaign for incineration as its means of waste disposal, because I hate to think what would happen if such a campaigning agenda were adopted.
Norman Baker: The hon. Gentleman makes a good case for individual councils not promoting incineration. Like him, we are committed to local decision making and democracy. He must, however, address the issue of why, if there is such overwhelming opposition to incineration from the public, for a whole variety of reasons, local authorities up and down the country are promoting it.
Mr. Drew: My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead) did some interesting evaluations of local authorities in regard to this issue, and it is fair to say that they are in something of a mess. A meeting will take place this week in Gloucestershire with the county council, the waste disposal authority, at which its waste proposals will be discussed. Its waste plan did not get a very good response. In fact, it was so badly written that the inspector ended up coming in like a deus ex machina and talking about putting back the proposal of a regionally centred incinerator, which has caused an outcry. The one thing that the whole panoply of parties in Gloucestershire can agree on is that incineration is not the right way to go.
In our long discussions in Committee we agreed that incineration would not be on the face of the Bill. That does not mean that we removed incineration, but it is a piece of realpolitik that no one on the Committee saw us going in that direction in the immediate future, so I do not quite understand why hon. Members are now trying to put it back into the Bill.