Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Hayes rose—

Mr. Wiggin: I shall give way to my hon. Friend.

3.15 pm

Mr. Hayes: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way almost before rising. In recommending, through this intervention, that my hon. Friend might seek to withdraw his amendment—I do so in a paternal way; it is entirely up to him—I would say that we must appreciate, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire said, that amendment No. 27 is important and that more remains to be answered. Indeed, that is obviously what the Minister's advisers thought, which is why they prepared such a detailed brief—the one to which the Minister moved with such enthusiasm slightly earlier than anticipated.

I finish on this happy note. It is a reflection of the Committee that only you, Mr. Amess, recognised that we were speaking about the wrong amendment—a good three minutes into the debate.

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Mr. Meacher: For the sake of clarification—I sense that there is a good deal of amusement at my expense, to which I have no objection—

Mr. Hayes: Good natured.

Mr. Meacher: Yes, I am very good natured.

Amendment No. 26 amends clause 11(2)(b), which provides that the regulations proposed by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin) may

    ''make provision for the maintaining of registers of matters relating to landfill allowances''.

I was referring to amendment No. 27 because it is directly relevant. I shall not go into detail, but it was not a mistake and I was not verging on the next set of amendments. The question that I was seeking to answer is who should maintain such a register, and I provided reasons for its being different from what the hon. Gentleman proposes in amendment No. 26. I do not think that I was entirely out of order, but I am sorry if I gave that impression.

Mr. Wiggin: It is clear that the Committee has fulfilled its role in scrutinising clause 11 to the nth degree. I am grateful for my hon. Friends' interventions and for the Minister's guidance. I could find it difficult to withdraw the amendment because of the trouble that I have with the devolved issues. However, it would be prudent to withdraw it because I may wish to return to the matter on Report. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Wiggin: I beg to move amendment No. 27, in

    clause 11, page 8, line 41, at end add—

    '( ) The Secretary of State shall publish all infringements under this section in the London Gazette, Edinburgh Gazette and Belfast Gazette.'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 28, in

    clause 12, page 9, line 21, at end add

    '( ) The Secretary of State shall publish all infringements under this section in the London Gazette, Edinburgh Gazette and Belfast Gazette.'.

Mr. Wiggin: Here we go again. The amendment speaks for itself. I note that it has been grouped with amendment No. 28, which relates to clause 12, but I intend to speak to the first of the two amendments. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire said, the purpose of the amendment is to draw the full glare of public attention to all infringements; the authorities' infringements should be published. I have listed some of the potential newspapers in which publication should be made. That is all that the amendment seeks. It would help if the Secretary of State had that extra weapon in her armoury. It would encourage authorities to fulfil their obligations. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response.

Mr. Sayeed: There is no doubt that the publication of infringements would act as a deterrent. It would also increase transparency and public trust. I would support all those gains. My hon. Friend proposes publication in

    ''the London Gazette, Edinburgh Gazette and Belfast Gazette''

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I know that that is the normal way for the Government to publish information. I regret, however, that he has been so modest in choosing the newspapers and publications. Had he chosen The Sun, The Mirror or the Daily Star, he would get more publicity. One can imagine the headline: ''Meacher muzzles muck-makers''. It would have been fame for the Minister. [Interruption.] Yes. Perhaps that is too many syllables for those newspapers. Naming and shaming seems to be the current ploy, and it certainly works against local authorities, which do not like to be chastised and shown to be deficient. Even if the amendment is not perfectly phrased, I hope that the Minister will endorse its general concept.

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle): My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point about the need to widen the readership. If the publication is not The Sun or The Mirror, perhaps thought could be given to using local newspapers serving the districts where the waste disposal authorities that have infringed are based. It is important that the people who get access to that information are not the anoraks who might read the London Gazette—I cannot even conjure up in my mind what the London Gazette looks like, and I am sure that many of my constituents could not do so—but those who are affected. The biggest club with which we can beat those councils and waste disposal authorities is local popular opinion, which the London Gazette, or any other such gazette, will not be able to affect.

Mr. Sayeed: I am surprised that my hon. Friend, who is a gentleman of considerable means, does not read the London Gazette—after all, it contains all the court and social events. His point is that such information should be published in local newspapers, which, it must be said, normally better trusted than national newspapers, as well as in newspapers with more lurid headlines such as ''Meacher muzzles muck-makers''. His point is very good, and I hope that the Minister listened to it.

Mr. Meacher: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's solicitude. I suspect that the headline will not be ''Meacher muzzles muck-makers'' but ''Meacher murders muck-makers'' because muzzling is a modest form of torture.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the amendment because the forces of publicity are influential with business, local authorities and the Government. Everyone wants to have a good brand image, which they do not want to tarnish. Publicity is effective partially because it is internalised as a norm, and I think that it is useful. The question is whether publicity is necessary and whether there are other means by which to achieve the same goal. There is also the interesting question of how many people read the London Gazette, the Belfast Gazette and their Edinburgh equivalent. I can see that my hon. Friends have their heads down busily going over page 17 of all those publications, but I suspect that the impact of publication would be relatively small.

The amendment would require the Secretary of State to publish in those gazettes any breach of the provisions in regulations made under clauses 11 and 12. Such regulations may require disposal authorities

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to produce evidence about the amount of waste sent to landfill, to have regard to guidance or to make certain returns to the monitoring authority. Those are the compellingly titillating issues that will command the attention and attract the great interest of those who might read about them. The matters are relatively technical and, although I am not saying that they are not important, even The Sun or the Daily Mail would find it difficult to make them attractive.

We can all agree that waste disposal authorities should comply with the rules of a scheme set out in regulation. It would clearly be difficult to run such a scheme if the monitoring authority could not obtain proper records. The question is whether the public announcement of those who failed to meet the scheme's rules is necessary or desirable to ensure compliance. I have no objection to naming and shaming—it is quite effective—but I wonder whether it is the most powerful driver. If I am honest I think that local authorities are more likely to respond to the possibility of a financial penalty. The regulations that can be made under clauses 11 and 12 may make provision for authorities to be liable to penalties, and clause 26 makes general provision for those penalties. I wonder whether there is any need for an additional or separate deterrent.

Any register that monitoring authorities are required to keep by regulations made under clause 15 could include information about infringements of the requirements of the landfill allowances scheme. Clause 16 would allow that register to be open to the public. I am keen for both of those to be made effective. That is probably a perfectly adequate way of getting the information into the public domain. It would be quite effective if it could be taken up, as the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire said, and used by local newspapers, which are widely read by people in the neighbourhood. The most effective method is the risk of financial penalty plus the publicising of the registers, which are open to the public so that journalists can consult them and present the information in a form that is much more likely to attract the attention of the local electorate.

Mr. Hayes: I intervene not because the matter requires a great deal more elucidation, but because I believe that, if we get this right, the political embarrassment of failing to perform effectively and to meet targets, and of not trying to achieve a good objective will be just as powerful as any financial penalty. Applying the appropriate pressure through public scrutiny and the publicity of these issues is crucial to the Bill's success.

Mr. Meacher: I am not entirely sure that I agree. The risk of financial penalty is probably the biggest driver. I entirely agree that it would be useful to harness and mobilise the force of public opprobrium. We are then down to deciding whether to accept the amendment, which talks about publicising the information in these rather obscure and arcane gazettes, or to have registers that would include evidence of failure to comply in particular ways. Such registers would be open to the public, and local journalists would have their attention drawn to them. That is a much more effective method.

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