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Mr. Wiggin: My amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 7 are designed to urge the Government to hesitate before taking advantage of the four-year derogation available to comply with the EU landfill targets. The earlier target years should give a long enough time to meet the demands; those deadlines should be achievable.

The Government's lack of ambition in their landfill policy and their indecision has led to uncertainty in the waste management industry, where there is a singular lack of willing investors. That is important. The Government have failed to address the serious problems of landfill and they take advantage of derogation after derogation. We must get them to stop and think before they sign up to such things. They should ensure that their ambitions are fulfilled within the time available.

Of course, derogations are useful, and the Government should take advantage of them if they are necessary. However, the Government should be more ambitious in achieving targets that are important not only for the country and for people who care about recycling but for the future of the planet. That is why we are undertaking this legislative process.

It is extraordinary that the Government, who have a pressing legislative programme, should be so unambitious in the Bill. However, this is not the time to discuss that.

The UK should take a position of environmental leadership and aim to comply by 2016, not by 2020. The Government should invest the necessary additional resources, enhance regulatory certainty and improve the speed of the planning process, all of which would make it much easier for us to comply.

The Netherlands already complies with the 2016 biodegradable municipal waste diversion targets of the landfill directive, as do Austria and Denmark. The Government are merely shying away—again—from tackling the problem of waste. Both their approach and their strategy are inadequate, and I hope that they will adopt our amendments and buck up their ideas for dealing with biodegradable municipal waste.

Sue Doughty: I will be brief. I have a query about Government amendment No. 36. Will the Government allow further consultation, or will they say, "You've had your consultation, and we're going to do what we want"? We would like to have more information about that consultation process and about why the Government want to amend the Bill in that way.

I support amendments Nos. 5 to 7. It is clear that the Government are choosing the easy options. The target years should be the same as those in the landfill directives, and the Government should not use the four-year derogation. We want a Government who are confident about meeting their environmental targets, not a Government who allow an opt-out before they have started. We have a lot of catching up to do, compared with our continental neighbours, and the Bill

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provides a splendid opportunity to do that, but it is such a pity that, yet again, we are tiptoeing forward, rather than walking forward with confidence.

Mr. Morley: I do not accept those points. The Bill's provisions on landfill are, frankly, pioneering. I accept that we have a lot of catching up to do. I do not hide that fact or dispute it. That is why I am so strongly committed to the range of measures that we have been discussing in considering the Bill, as well as those in the Bill itself.

On the point made about Government amendment No. 36, a range of consultation will take place on the Bill's implementation, but a lot of consultation work has been done, as I have mentioned. If we have held detailed consultations on aspects of the Bill, it is not unreasonable for that work to count, rather than going through all that again, which people would find bureaucratic and would slow the implementation process. That, simply, is why we want to include that provision. In no way is it designed as a short cut or to cut out the opportunity for people to comment on a range of measures in the Bill.

I understand the reasoning behind amendments Nos. 5 to 7, tabled by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin). We have to give local authorities as much certainty as possible to plan for such strategies. I understand that such issues were discussed in Committee and I thought that our explanation had been accepted at that time, but I wish to say briefly that we cannot leave the position open-ended. To assist local authorities in planning for the scheme, we plan to operate the scheme on the basis that the three target years for the UK will be 2010, 2013 and 2020, and local authorities are aware of that.

There is a quirky technical issue: under amendments Nos. 5 to 7, we would have to plan to take advantage of the derogation for the first year, but not for the second and the final target years. The unusual consequence of not taking advantage of the derogation for the second and third target years, while doing so for the first, is that the second target year—2009—would fall before the first target year, 2010. So those amendments would have a strange effect, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that we are committed to the implementation and that we are trying to act reasonably and pragmatically.

Mr. Wiggin: I wish that I could accept that, but when we consider—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sorry. This is not the hon. Gentleman's group of amendments. Government amendment No. 36 has been moved. My apologies, but the hon. Gentleman cannot speak for a second time.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2

Non-target Years

Mr. Wiggin: I beg to move amendment No. 13, in page 2, line 18, leave out 'with the agreement of' and insert 'following consultation with'.

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 14, in page 2, line 20, leave out 'with the agreement of' and insert 'following consultation with'.

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No. 15, in page 2, line 23, at end insert—

'(5) The power under subsection (1) is exercisable following consultation with the relevant local authorities.

No. 17, in clause 5, page 4, line 9, after 'may', insert

'with the agreement of the relevant waste disposal authorities'.

Mr. Wiggin: One can but try in this business, Madam Deputy Speaker.

This group of amendments seeks to ensure that physical consultation, not just things involving vague terms such as "agreement", takes place between the Secretary of State and all allocating authorities before any decision on targets is made in regulation by the Secretary of State. It also seeks to ensure that regulations are not enforced, without proper discussions, by the affected UK countries that limit the Secretary of State's power over devolved authorities. This is one of the most important areas of this Bill, and I hope that the Government will take our points seriously. What we are seeking to do is ensure that the Government, who, as the hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) rightly pointed out, are tiptoeing forward in a timid fashion—

It being one hour before the moment of interruption, Madam Deputy Speaker, pursuant to Order [20 March], put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of proceedings to be concluded at that hour.

Government amendments Nos. 37 to 58 agreed to.

Order for Third Reading read.

6 pm

Mr. Morley: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I start by putting on record my appreciation of the generally constructive way in which Members on both sides of the House have approached the Bill at all stages. I am only sorry that I did not see the Bill through in Committee, and that I was not involved with the whole process. It is an important and interesting Bill, which raises a number of key issues that I have been happy to debate with Members on both sides of the House.

I appreciate that one of the major areas of concern has been the potential impact of the Bill on incineration. I have had a difference of opinion with some hon. Members on that, and we will have to agree to disagree on the matter. Even on that subject, however, I accept that some issues, such as the health effects, need to be considered carefully. I also accept that independent research is necessary. These days, research on health effects of any kind must be done by independent bodies, which is important.

I also believe that the statutory recycling and composting targets that have been set by the Government will reduce the pressures on incineration, to which some Members have referred. I repeat, however, that it is important that local authorities, through their joint strategies, consider what is the best way forward within the structure of our waste hierarchy, which I am glad to say has received universal support from the House.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): Does my hon. Friend accept that authorities such as mine in

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North-West Leicestershire, whose recycling levels are low, are being encouraged by the Government to increase those levels and to introduce schemes that are significantly more expensive, while having fairly low levels of grant settlement? Does he believe that a more sympathetic approach to authorities of that kind is likely?

Mr. Morley: Whatever resources are available, they are never enough, whatever organisation is involved. The block in terms of the resources available to local authorities for waste and environmental protection, however, has increased significantly and substantially in the last few years. A lot of additional money has therefore gone to local authorities to reflect the fact that we want to see progress on waste and recycling. I said earlier that I have been heartened by the progress made in the last few years by local authorities, some of which have dramatically increased the rate of reuse and recycling. Apart from the increase in the cultural and environmental protection block, additional money has been made available through the challenge fund, and assistance and advice is available through the waste implementation programme. A range of measures has therefore been put in place to assist local authorities to meet their targets. Of course, when money goes to local authorities through the block, it is for them to decide how they allocate resources according to their priorities. As my hon. Friend knows, we have set local authorities targets and although the targets are ambitious, we expect them to be met. That is because a more sustainable approach on waste management is important both nationally and locally.

Increasing the amount of re-use, recycling and waste minimisation will give financial advantages to local authorities—the Bill provides for such an advantage. Local authorities will be set limits on landfill and if they make fast progress in getting below the limits, they will receive tradeable credits that will give them a financial advantage. We have a comprehensive package of measures to encourage and support local authorities to meet targets.

The relationship between waste disposal and waste collection authorities has understandably featured strongly in the debate. Successful waste management depends on close and constructive relationships between those authorities, although we acknowledge that there can be tensions, not least political ones, from time to time. We have touched on that during our consideration of the Bill. It is in the interests of both parties and the people whom they represent for them to work together and co-operate, which is why we are trying to encourage that through the joint municipal waste strategies that we agreed on Report. I know that those issues were of interest to hon. Members during the Bill's progress and we have honoured our commitments.

Hon. Members have a range of interests in waste and recognise that the Bill represents an innovative step forward on the handling of waste. By making use of economic instruments, the Government recognise that prescription alone is not always the best way forward. It is sometimes better to supply the means by which to achieve the ends, and it is sometimes valuable to introduce financial instruments to provide levers for local authorities. We have had a broader discussion on

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other possible financial levers and it is always worth considering them. The examination of the range of incentives and financial instruments that we could use to achieve our waste targets and a generally sustainable approach is ongoing rather than static.

We are sometimes accused of merely following the European Union's lead on waste rather than taking the initiative, but the Bill's provisions on landfill and the scheme that will follow provide evidence to the contrary. Although it is true that many European countries have a longer and better established system of recycling than our country and we are pushing forward to catch up, the Bill will introduce what we understand to be the first trading scheme in the world involving waste. Moreover, the European Commission has expressed a strong interest in the scheme and has asked for views on the use of waste trading schemes in its communication on a thematic strategy for waste prevention and recycling. We expect our ideas to be studied closely by Commission officials. I believe that the Bill will introduce pioneering new techniques that will influence other countries.

We have spent little time discussing emissions trading, but its impact should not be underestimated. The Bill supports the world's first economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme with statutory penalties. Climate change is the subject of an important international commitment that we have made, especially through the Kyoto protocol, and the Bill will help the UK to deliver on its commitments.

There is a clear link between the two main aspects of the Bill. One of the principal reasons for tackling waste generation and management is to reduce the production of greenhouse gases. The Bill addresses such challenges with the use of economic instruments that will stimulate reductions in the emission of pollutants and make us less reliant on landfill in the most economically efficient manner.

The Bill is important. It will have a strong impact on our approach to sustainable development and the various targets that the UK must meet. Opposition Members have not opposed the principles behind it. Most of the discussion has focused on whether it could go further and do other things. That is legitimate and we need to consider those issues. I hope that I have convinced hon. Members that although the Bill is not an appropriate vehicle for all the proposed measures, I do not disagree with many of the points made, and I hope to address those within the work streams that I outlined.

I believe that progress will be made on all issues raised. They are important. Hon. Members on both sides of the House agree about what we must do to minimise waste and to take a more sustainable approach to waste management. The process is dynamic and ongoing. We intend to build on what we have put in place and to review those measures. Some ideas, suggestions and points raised may be incorporated in that process.

As I said, I am grateful for the constructive and thoughtful way in which hon. Members approached their work. The Bill is better than when it started. We have taken into account the issues raised and it has been amended accordingly. It is only right and proper to put on the record my appreciation of the work by my right hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West and Royton

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(Mr. Meacher), who was involved in the Committee stage. Like him, I am deeply interested in showing that protecting our environment is a high priority for both DEFRA and the Government. I accept that the problem is not merely DEFRA's responsibility. It cuts across Departments and influences the shape of Government policies on sustainability, both nationally and locally. The Bill will make a major contribution to achieving that end.

I thank Committee members, who worked hard on the Bill, and all hon. Members who contributed to the debate, especially Labour Members. I also acknowledge the work of DEFRA officials and their enormous commitment to the Bill. They have been involved in all its stages and have shaped it so that it is a pioneering Bill that sets the pace on how we use financial instruments to deal with landfill and to construct a sustainable agenda. It will influence many other EU countries.

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