Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords]

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Gregory Barker: I very much support my hon. Friend's excellent points, but is he aware that, last year, the Environment Agency commissioned research that showed that people were very positive about recycling? According to its research, nine out of 10 people surveyed on household waste claimed that they would be very likely to sort rubbish for recycling if the local council provided containers. The strategy unit commissioned MORI to inform its report. It found that the demand for kerbside collection services was high. Three in four people say that they would recycle more if such services were available to them.

Mr. Hayes: My hon. Friend makes an important point: half the battle on recycling concerns the quality of collection. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire said many times during his time on the Front Bench, half the battle is separating collections effectively and communicating that to the public, so that they know how to present their waste in a form that can easily be recycled and can be confident that recycling will take place. As was said earlier in Committee, there is concern that once rubbish has been collected, it all ends up in the same bin and not even the majority of it is properly recycled. Public confidence is important. Effective provision, in which the public can believe, must be available. In those circumstances, people will, undoubtedly, buy into the principle of recycling, which, along with the reduction of landfill, must be regarded as a key part of the strategy. The importance of the amendments is that they signal that link and that connection clear. Further legislation will be required, but they facilitate the opportunity for us to legislate in other areas to make that desired end a reality.

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The second important issue thrown up by this brief discussion is incineration. I do not want to spend long on that subject now because we shall debate it in a few moments, but if we are to be serious about the waste hierarchy and to create distance between good and poor practice, we must not simply transfer our priority from landfill to incineration. However, there are legitimate concerns that that may happen unless we firm up our priorities at this stage. That was well articulated on Second Reading by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test, who made an excellent contribution and has expertise in the field—considerably more expertise, I suspect, than I have. That important point should be signalled now. If it is not, the wrong message will be broadcast and the Bill will be seen merely as a legislative cover.

The Minister described the Conservative party earlier, in an unwise remark, as a party of rugged individualism. How could he possibly call the party of Burke, Wilberforce and Shaftesbury a party of rugged individualism? The amendments suggest that we believe in obligation and responsibility. Our approach to waste is to reinforce responsibility and a sense of continuum—it appears that we are about to hear an intervention on Conservative philosophy.

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test): I was just going to ask the hon. Gentleman whether the party of rugged individualism favours centralised planning. I also wanted to reflect on the lesson of the new economic policy and the final path to communism, which, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, was articulated by Lenin in 1921 to Sovnarkom, and developed the idea of the partiality of certain moves in that direction, as opposed to the whole picture. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is merely saying that the Bill does not deal with everything and, therefore, is not the best Bill that could be proposed, when it is actually a Bill about waste and emissions trading.

Mr. Hayes: I am rather better read on Marx than on Lenin, so I should be delighted to debate Marxism at some stage in Committee, although I suspect that that might be pushing your indulgence to its absolute limits, Mr. Amess, and I would never do that.

On a serious point, we believe that waste policy must be part of a continuum and part of a long-term plan that is broad and holistic. The amendments would go some way towards achieving that, so they are entirely consistent with the true nature of Conservatism and are extremely helpful.

Sue Doughty: I support the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes and the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings. It is an important point, to which the Committee has returned again and again, that we are not here to gold-plate European regulations—I am sure that the Conservatives would not want to do that—but to come up with good legislation that meets Europe's reasonable expectations and to move towards a more appropriate waste strategy. That is the point of the amendments and of later clauses.

The new clauses proposed by the hon. Member for Leominster, none of which I object to in principle,

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mention reducing the quantity of waste but do not say by how much. They should be more specific. That is integral to reducing the amount of biodegradable municipal waste that goes to landfill.

4.45 pm

We would support the separate collection of dry recyclable wastes. Like many hon. Members, we favour doorstep recycling and support the Bill proposed by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford. It is important for doorstep recycling to be available to everyone. Many councils have tried to achieve that, but we are still working towards it in many areas. That would help in relation to the amount of waste that goes to landfill.

We have heard about every household having a composter or making a separate collection of biodegradable waste. There are composters and green cones. Composters are appropriate for normal garden waste, peelings and uncooked waste, and I support the idea of every household having them if, by households, we mean houses with gardens. There is no point in those living in flats having composters, but that distinction is not made here. I should like the Bill to say by when such measures should be taken and to propose practical steps to move towards that.

Green cones are not mentioned. They are small devices that gobble up cooked waste—the sort of waste that would not be suitable for the composter—and are particularly useful for those with gardens. There is additional waste that cannot be disposed of by either of those methods. We need only look at the statistics: August is the high point of the season for councils that collect green waste; it is when we prune the overabundant greenery that we should have pruned in spring. Spring is the other time when the waste is woody and cannot be composted down.

Councils have tried to deal with woody waste in many ways, because it is the sort of thing that, in a landfill, produces a lot of methane. It is amazing how much methane wood produces. My constituency contains a contaminated site that is the subject of a planning application. It has a large volume of wood chippings on it and is leaching methane and causing huge problems. Councils assist in a variety of ways, including providing a ''nippy chippy'': a householder pays £10, and a man shreds the waste and gives it back in bags. That is a virtuous circle. We have considered taking green waste away in bags for nothing if it encourages people to get rid of it ready sorted—then it can go to the most appropriate sort of disposal and not into landfill.

On my local council, there are three parties that divide in various ways according to the topic. The Labour environment chair would like to charge 20p for a green bag. I suspect that the cost of doing that is higher than that of giving the bags away for nothing. Although many good methods of reducing the amount of green waste are already employed, we can do more. We can ensure that we put out green bags and that woody waste that will not degenerate quickly in a compost heap is taken away.

My other point is that although we would all like to have composters, some people, for one reason or

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another, will do very little about composting. We must also ensure that they are getting separated green waste taken away from their doorsteps. We would prefer it to rot in situ, rather than have to be taken away at all. We would also prefer to have lots of time to do the gardening, as I did on Sunday when I shovelled the stuff from my composter and tried to breathe life into the roses with it.

Mr. Hayes: I do not want to shorten the hon. Lady's fascinating account of her weekend activities, but is she saying that she does not like the amendments because they do not go far enough, or that she likes them because they are a start? She should be clear, and, we hope, brief, about her view of them.

Sue Doughty: If the hon. Gentleman had not been in the middle of a conversation, he would have heard me say that I agreed with every point that he made, that the amendments did not go far enough and that he identified areas in which they did not go far enough. I am afraid that my gardening enterprise lasted only for two hours this weekend, so my intervention describing it will not be lengthy.

I fully support the objectives, but believe that there is more still to be added.

Mr. Meacher: Having listened to the debate, I feel like saying, ''Oh dear, I have a confession to make.'' Three hail Marys are required, as I have obviously absolutely and utterly failed to win acceptance of the fundamental point. I said on Second Reading and reiterated in Committee, and must now do so again, that a Government strategy or plan does not have to be concentrated in a single Bill. The important thing is that the Government have an identifiable strategy with connecting parts that can be properly located and that functions properly. I insist that that is the situation. This is a debate about waste minimisation and reuse. As I say repeatedly, and as we all agree, those are the two most important points of the waste hierarchy: do not create the waste in the first place, or minimise the amount of waste that is created, and reuse or recover what one can.

 
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