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It is dangerous to pre-empt local decision making by saying that, if local authorities are incapable of changing the mindset and consciousness of their local populations, they will inevitably come back with the incineration proposal. I believe that they would be foolhardy to do so. They had better get on with the persuading now, because if they deem themselves faced with that problemthat may be what they fear, as the analysis of my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test may suggestthey will face some difficulties. If they are in tune with their local populations, the campaign against incineration should be the way in which authorities meet the Government's agenda. That is why I fear proposing these particular changes at this time.
I hope that the two parties will reconsider. Having secured a degree of agreement in Committee, it is not right to divide the House now. We should be clear and the message should come out loudly from this Chamber that incineration is not the way forwardand it is not what is happening out there. The Minister was accused of not knowing what is going on, which I honestly cannot understand unless I am misreading all the parliamentary answers that suggest time and again that planning has resulted in not proceeding with incineration. Even where there has been an attempt to expand existing capacity, it has not progressed. Something confusing is going on out there, but I believe the parliamentary answers.
Further to challenge the Liberal Democrats, I hope that they will not repeat what they did in the fluoridation debate. They led me to believe that there would be four-square opposition to fluoridation, but at the last moment bottled out on their opposition, resulting in a much bigger majority for clause 61. I understand that that is a different issue, but if the Liberal Democrats are against incineration, they should state that they are against it. Similarly, if they want incineration, albeit with qualifications, it would be honest of them to say so. It is no good making proposals that tend to mislead, for example by saying that the process is up to local authorities, and the waste collection authority can be predisposed to argue in favour of a different process from the waste disposal authority. That is quite an assumption. One cannot envisage waste disposal authorities opting for incineration where the waste collection authority says something different.
Mr. Sayeed: During the course of our debate on Report thus far, the Minister has tried to persuade hon. Members that the Government have a coherent strategy and that the Bill is just one part of it. We are told that the other parts of the strategy will mesh together comfortably to provide a series of policies that fulfil all the environmental aims that we all share. I have to tell the Minister that he has not persuaded the participants in the debate, and in respect of his particular assertion that the Bill will not encourage incineration, he has very clearly not persuaded some hon. Members. Furthermore, neither he nor his predecessor has been able in the past to persuade Committees in which his own party has a majority.
What we do know is that incineration is already cheaper than recycling, thanks to the perverse tax breaks that it receives from schemes such as the climate change levy and the renewables obligation, as well as enhanced capital allowances and exemptions from business rates. With co-incineration plants also receiving tax breaks to burn waste, incineration operators could reduce their gate fees to compete even with landfill. That would make the prospect of incineration even more attractive to local authorities.
I am indebted to Friends of the Earth, which has conducted a series of case studies, which provide us with evidence from outside this place that seems to indicate that some local authorities are already planning to reduce the amount they send to landfill and intend instead to resort to incineration. For instance, Brighton and Hove and East Sussex councils, in a confidential report to the cabinet dated 12 March 2003, have identified that their contract with a major incinerator company, Onyx Aurora, will enable them to sell surplus landfill permits, generating extra income for the councils. Onyx then plans to build an incinerator in Newhaven with a capacity of 250,000 tonnes. The councils intend to recycle just 14 per cent. by 2015.
Norfolk county council has voted for a policy of landfilling nothing by 2010. That sounds great, but it has also rejected the recommendation of a 50 per cent. recycling target. How will it fill the gap between recycling just 36 per cent. and landfilling nothing? I suggest that some of it will go in incineration. A report to the county council's cabinet on 14 July 2003 acknowledged that the council
We know that some European countries have proved that high levels of recycling can go hand in hand with certain forms of incineration, but what do we know in this country? We know that small-scale energy-from-waste plants that deliver energy to the local community, coupled with incentives to minimise waste, should help us to develop policy that leads to sustainable consumption and resource management. We also know that local authorities have a pivotal role in that, but what does the Bill say about it? It is silent. Therefore, I believe that it is necessary to support new clause 17, as it will force the Government to face up to reality.
The new clause does not go far enough. We need to ensure that the Bill encourages local authorities to provide a market for recyclables. Part 2 uses a market mechanism to produce an emissions trading scheme. It is rather odd that such a mechanism should be accepted as a way to get rid of waste, but not to encourage the better use of that waste. The Bill could, and should, have used fiscal measures to encourage a market for recyclable materials. It should have contained the mechanisms, drivers and signals to encourage the right type of design, production, consumption and investment. In that way, more of what we produce could be recycled.
The Bill also fails to provide the raw materials that allow us to recycle more efficiently. One of those raw materials is source-separated waste. The Bill is silent on that. We have shown that environmentally friendly councils could produce source-separated waste that could be mixed again to produce the right mix for an incinerator. That is another opportunity that the Bill has missed.
Sue Doughty: The Bill is yet another example of the Government transposing a European directive into law without taking the opportunity to introduce some sensible legislation to support the environment. Amendments on packaging waste and the WEEE directive could have been incorporated in the Bill, and we have not even touched on the subject of hazardous waste. Only last week, members of the sustainable waste group heard Sir John Harmon of the Environment Agency say that we are nowhere near ready to deal with the hazardous waste directive. That is another matter that must be resolved.
The problem is that we are not looking at waste in an integrated way. The Minister probes us about Liberal Democrat policies on incineration, but the Bill deals only with biodegradable municipal waste. It does not cover hazardous waste, or clinical or construction waste. It contains no strategies to help councils avoid the pitfall of incineration.
People worry about incineration. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) implied that councillors were unelectable if they were keen on incineration, but incineration is part of Surrey county council's waste strategy.
Taxation is another problem. The fact that landfill waste is taxed and incineration waste is not is a cause for concern. The Select Committees have pointed out that if we taxed materials that are currently being destroyed we should promote the recycling market. That is what we are really talking about. It is not merely that we are unhappy about incineration and the health risks and problems; it is sheer folly to build incinerators to burn materials that could have a further use. There is so much in the waste strategy relating to re-use and minimisation that implementing a policy that pushes such matters right down the waste hierarchy seems completely perverse.