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Mr. Wiggin: I beg to move amendment No. 10, in page 1, line 8, after 'waste', insert

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 27, in clause 9, page 7, line 11, after 'waste', insert

'municipal solid waste, commercial and industrial waste and construction and demolition waste'.

No. 60, in clause 21, page 14, line 43, at end insert—

'(1A) In determining whether waste is biodegradable for the purposes of this Chapter the following is to be excluded—

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(a) waste that has had its biological activity significantly reduced through accelerated decomposition technologies or other non-incineration technologies that the Secretary of State may specify by regulations; and
(b) is within statutory limits of biological activity that the Secretary of State may specify by regulations.'.

Mr. Wiggin: Amendment No. 10 not only highlights the Bill's glaring inadequacies but tries to amend it positively and constructively. That means that the definition of biological or biodegradable would include all the different components of the municipal solid waste stream. That includes commercial, industrial, construction and demolition waste.

In his previous speech, the Minister talked about Flanders. I urge him to be careful when using European examples because European countries measure waste and recycling differently from the United Kingdom. The European Union is trying to amend the definition of waste and recycling to establish a uniform European standard of measurement. That will be constructive but before it happens we must be careful about citing examples from other countries. They do not necessarily measure the same thing as we do.

We cannot be proud of the UK's recycling record, although Conservative councils are making the greatest inroads into achieving the Government's targets. It is especially difficult for me to listen to the Government emphasising the extent of progress when I know that Conservative councils are responsible for it. The amendment would increase the small amount of waste that the Government try to cover in the Bill and therefore have a greater impact on society and the environment.

There is a second advantage, because construction and demolition waste is not combustible so it would not be appropriate to incinerate it. That would have a positive effect on local authorities because the weighting is currently in favour of incineration. Widening the waste stream would render that method of dealing with waste less appropriate. We need to widen the Bill to increase the amount of waste that we recycle, re-use and recover, and to move away from incineration.

5.30 pm

I would also like to draw the Minister's attention to the amendment passed in Committee which took away an improvement made in House of Lords. That improvement would have ensured that all biodegradable waste, having been composted, was sterilised by heating it to 90° C, which would have killed the pathogens in it. It would also have killed some of the positive elements resulting from the composting, but the important point is that the noble Lords were seeking to prevent another outbreak of a disease such as foot and mouth, which can be spread on the fields. The Government have taken a risk in removing that provision, and they must be comfortable with that; otherwise they would not have done so. I hope that they will monitor closely what is going on, in case we are unlucky enough to have another outbreak of a disease

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such as foot and mouth. If that should take place, I hope that they will immediately review the rules set out in the Bill. We have put it on record that we are aware of the risk that they are taking, and we recognise that what they are doing has been considered.

Mr. Morley: I want to deal with this point now in case I forget to do so in my main reply. I recall the House of Lords amendment. It set specific maximum temperatures in relation to composting. I understand that it was intended to deal with pathogens, but they are dealt with under the Animal By-Products Order 1999. We believe that the regulations that have been set will bring about a temperature that will kill the pathogens. The problem with the House of Lords amendment was that its provisions would not only have killed the pathogens but set the green waste on fire. The waste would have been incinerated. The temperature for the biological waste would have been so high that it would have killed all the microbes, and all that would have been left would be a nasty black sludge, rather than biodegradable waste that could be used for soil conditioning.

Mr. Wiggin: I think that the Minister is exaggerating. He will recognise, perhaps more than any other Minister, the real risk from foot and mouth. He is perhaps not being himself in taking such a light-hearted approach to such a serious disease. Let me remind him that the smell of burning sheep in Bromyard was so overpowering that residents there had to close their guest houses and hotels, thanks to the way in which the Government handled the foot and mouth outbreak. It is most unlike the Minister to take a light-hearted approach to this issue. He is wrong to do that, and he has missed the serious point that the Lords were seeking to make.

Mr. Morley: It is not like the hon. Gentleman to paint me in such a way. He knows very well that I do not approach these matters light-heartedly. I take them very seriously. It is only fair to say, however, that amendments have to be workable, and that one was not.

Mr. Wiggin: The Minister smiles as he says these things, but I know that he takes this matter seriously, and I am prepared to forgive him for his earlier comments. He is right: to some extent, it would have been extremely difficult to make the amendment tabled in another place practically applicable. But I am asking him not to ignore the spirit of that amendment. We are worried that a disease such as foot and mouth could be spread on the soil because a certain temperature was not being achieved, and the Minister should look again at that.

I have not sought to bring back that provision here, however. The amendment that we are debating simply widens the types of waste that would be dealt with under the Bill. I merely wanted to draw the Minister's attention to the risk that has been put into the Bill by ignoring the amendment passed in another place. That is all that I sought to do in this amendment. However, I think that he now realises how important the noble

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Lords' amendment was, and I am sure that he will monitor very carefully the biodegradable waste that is spread on fields.

Sue Doughty: Amendment No. 60 is about a problem of definition. The Minister may wish to make a statement or at least take note of it. People need a clear guideline or steer on what is or is not biodegradable waste. Anaerobic and aerobic treatments, worm digesters and all sorts of things take biodegradable waste and move it into a more inert form. I cannot say that those treatments move it into an inert form: it remains slightly "ert", one might say, which is where the problem lies. The question is about the level of activity within the treatment process, when something stops being biodegradable and whether it needs to go to landfill.

This is an important matter. It is important to the people who produce materials from these plants and it is important for standards. In a fairly robust previous discussion of incineration, the Minister feared that we were not looking at the wider approach to waste disposal. The approach that councils or disposal authorities take is important. Treatment must be acceptable and to known standards; objectives have to be fulfilled and they should be measurable in terms of the stability and change of the materials produced as a result of the process.

I and other members of the Committee received a letter dated 29 April 2003 from the former Minister for the Environment, the right hon. Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher) to the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin). The letter said that some treatments of biodegradable waste

incineration in this case—"will achieve this." The question is whether the Government believe that, unless treatment applied to biodegradable waste is thorough enough to ensure that the residual waste meets the definition of inert waste, it must by definition be biodegradable waste. It is either inert or biodegradable.

According to the simple definition in the landfill directive, biodegradable waste

Important issues are at stake about what one does after mechanical biological or other biodegrading treatments. We need to know whether, if mechanical biological treatment leaves a residual waste, it will be classified as biodegradable waste.

The Environmental Services Association is concerned because it believes that the correct interpretation of the directive is that processes such as MBT can be sufficient to prevent the residual waste from being classed as biodegradable for the purposes of the directive. I am sorry about the technical nature of this matter, but it is important.

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The draft European directive on biowaste also sets out to clarify the position. It concerns whether something continues to degenerate. It says:

meaning continued activity—

that is, fats, carbohydrates and proteins—per hour,

in other words, one definition says that it is and the other that it is not—

In other words, mechanical biological treatment—even where the resultant material is landfilled—becomes a legitimate route for local authorities to pursue in seeking to meet their landfill directive targets.

Amendment No. 60 would allow the Secretary of State to anticipate the arrival of that directive by putting in place a similar measure that would make clear the standards that mechanical biological treatment or other treatments must achieve to be legitimate approaches to meeting the landfill directive targets. It is all a matter of what is done with the waste afterwards.

We should like to know whether mechanical biological treatment and the landfilling of the residual waste from the treatment are a legitimate approach to meeting the landfill directive targets. That is the reason for tabling the amendment. It is horribly technical, but it does have a bearing on the industry, which needs to be dealt with at this stage.

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