Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Meacher: I hope that I can give the hon. Gentleman a full assurance on that matter. We must rid ourselves of the perplexing descriptions of the allocating authority and the monitoring authority, and agree that what we are discussing is the regulations that the Secretary of State will issue to the Environment Agency on how the information will be made available to the public. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that whether the word used is ''common'' or ''constant'', the information should be produced in a standardised way; it should not vary unreasonably across the country, and it should certainly be comprehensible. That covers the points that we have already mentioned.

I am glad to reassure the hon. Gentleman that we agree on the importance of the public being, as far as is possible, participants in the process and on the need for people to be aware of what is happening in their area. Indeed, some of the more informed or interested people, who are sometimes members of non-governmental organisations, should be able to ask questions based on the information and thereby hold the relevant local bodies to account. I am pleased to reassure the hon. Gentleman that, to enable that to

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happen, we intend to ensure that the registers are common—or constant—and comprehensible.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 16

Registers: public access

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Wiggin: I was interested to hear the Minister's comments on the last clause, and I wondered whether he might consider the use of a website for imparting information about registers.

Mr. Meacher: I am pleased to give that assurance. In the technological age in which we have been living for some years, information should not only be posted on noticeboards and in newspapers; it should regularly—or perhaps routinely—be put on a website. I am pleased to say that all information will be posted on the website.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 17

Strategy for England

Mr. Wiggin: I beg to move amendment No. 54, in

    clause 17, page 11, line 19, leave out 'reducing'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 55, in

    clause 17, page 11, line 20, insert 'reducing' before 'the amount'.

No. 56, in

    clause 17, page 11, line 22, insert 'reducing' before 'the amount'.

No. 57, in

    clause 17, page 11, line 23, at end add—

    '( ) reducing the quantity of waste arisings, including waste arisings from households, by 2010 from 2002 levels,

    ( ) providing every household with a separate collection for the recycling of dry recyclable waste, and

    ( ) providing every household with either a home composter or a separate collection of biodegradable waste.'.

No. 58, in

    clause 17, page 11, line 27, after 'by', insert

    'waste minimisation, reuse of waste products,'.

Mr. Sayeed: On a point of order, Mr. Amess. There seems to be an inconsistency with the Government's amendments in a later group. I say that now to give the Minister enough time to consult his officials to see whether my reading is correct. The Government intend to strike out subsection (5), which would give waste disposal authorities extra powers to include requirements about the separation of waste by the waste collection authority. Reference also appears to be made to subsection (4), which would be struck out under amendment No. 61. If I have understood that correctly, I am slightly confused as to what the Minister is trying to do. If I have misunderstood, there is enough time for him to correct my misunderstanding.

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Mr. Meacher: Further to that point of order, Mr. Amess, I am not sure whether this is a matter for you or me. If it is for me, the hon. Gentleman is referring to the third group of amendments to the clause. With characteristic generosity he has given me time to gather my thoughts on the matter, which I appreciate, so that when we come to it I shall be able to give him an informed answer. Perhaps I can take note of those points and we can move to the first set of amendments.

4.15 pm

Mr. Wiggin: Here we go, once again, on the widening of the Bill. That will appeal to the Minister's better nature.

Mr. Hayes: He hasn't got one.

Mr. Wiggin: I hope he has.

The amendments will change somewhat the nature of the Bill because they will include the waste hierarchy, which we can all agree is extremely important. By taking out the word ''reducing'' in subsection (1) and putting it before

    ''the amount of biodegradable waste from England that goes to landfills''

and

    ''the amount of biodegradable waste from outside England that goes to landfills in England'',

we can add the proposed new paragraphs detailed in amendment No. 57. I hope that that will widen the Bill and improve its quality. We want to include as much as possible the desire that waste be recycled or reused rather than incinerated. That is important because although the Secretary of State's strategy does not deal with reducing landfill alone, it does not include the upper echelons: waste minimisation, recycling and composting at home. By including those we can accelerate towards the targets, rather than trigger an increase in incineration, which is my worry. Later amendments will touch on the issue. All the time we are trying to increase what is done before reaching the landfill conundrum. If every household had a home composter or a separate collection of biodegradable waste, we could perhaps do more, better and faster. That would help us achieve the targets better.

There are other amendments in the group, to which hon. Members want to speak, so I shall not take too much time. However, the amendment is constructive. Friends of the Earth has studied the amendments and I am grateful for its help.

Gregory Barker: My hon. Friend has put his finger on a good point, which is about the Bill's lack of an holistic, national strategy for recycling, composting, reuse and minimisation. Does he think the Government are reluctant to articulate a really bold national strategy in this or any other Bill because they probably know full well that such a strategy will, rightly, prompt questions about national funding, and that they will not be able to dodge the resourcing issue that we have seen them attempting to dodge all the way through the debates on this legislation?

Mr. Wiggin: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention; I agree with him. I do not wish to detain the Committee. Unless I have misunderstood the Minister's intention, we should accept the

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amendments quickly and without a great deal of debate. That would be helpful, and I look forward to his greeting them with open arms.

Mr. Sayeed: I offer my hon. Friend my support. The amendments require a much broader and more comprehensive waste strategy than that outlined in the Bill. I also urge that similar requirements be placed on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through equivalent amendments to clauses 18, 19 and 20. It is crucial that the Bill, in persuading councils to turn away from landfill, does not drive them towards incineration rather than encouraging them towards minimisation, reuse and recycling.

Although I accept that the Minister often talks about and believes in the waste hierarchy, there is nothing in the Bill that promotes recycling over and above the burning of waste. The amendments would add to the duty to produce a strategy for reducing biodegradable waste, duties to put into effect waste minimisation and to provide all homes with doorstep recycling and composting. The duty for doorstep recycling is particularly important. It encourages higher participation and results in higher quality materials that are less contaminated. It allows all households to do their bit and to become part of a waste-minimising, waste-recycling, greener society.

Relying on bring banks makes it difficult for elderly people, those without cars and those who find it difficult to take things a long distance in order to get them recycled to participate. Doorstep recycling is important because it is more convenient and encourages greater participation. That point was endorsed by the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee in March 2001, when it said:

    ''It may seem rather obvious but if householders are to recycle their waste, they must be given the opportunity to do so relatively easily. In practice, this means that kerbside collections of recyclable materials are required . . . Kerbside collections are much more convenient for householders than taking separated materials for recycling to 'banks' around the locality. For many years, such 'banks' or 'bring sites' have been the main method of collection . . . but they suffer from many limitations. They require collection, sorting and a journey for the householder, the banks themselves often become full or soiled and this acts as a disincentive to further efforts to recycle. The simplest argument against 'bring sites' being the main future route of collection is a logistical one: while there continues to be a kerbside collection of the 'black bag' of waste materials from every household, it makes sense to try and include the collection of recyclables in that system.''

That report was supported by Government—at least my reading of the Government's response to it was that they supported the proposition. My question is, therefore, why is it not included in the Bill? We clearly need a degree of flexibility for local authorities in different areas with different circumstances. In some densely populated urban areas, bring banks may be more feasible. I think in particular of those in high-rise flats, although it is a problem that has been overcome in places like Germany. The Government need to think more imaginatively and more comprehensively about how we deal with waste.

I hope that the Government will not seek to water down the provisions of the private Member's Bill on municipal waste recycling introduced by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan

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Ruddock). It was supported by the Government on Second Reading. The Minister entered a series of caveats about what he could or could not support. It will be regrettable if we end up with piecemeal legislation that does not deal with the fundamental problem. The problem with this Bill at the moment is that there is no disincentive to incineration. There is no encouragement for recycling. As a consequence we may move from one bad way of dealing with waste to another.

 
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