|Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords]
Norman Baker: This has been a very good, if long, debate, so I shall try not to detain the Committee. However, I suspect that we shall make rather faster progress once clause 17 has been dealt with. I argue the merits of the clauses in my name and in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty). I shall not compare them with new clause 30, as that could be unduly divisive and inappropriate. The clauses on fly tipping cannot be called ambitious. Indeed, they are very unambitious; they are very
Column Number: 246modest clauses, and I am surprised that the Minister has not grabbed them with both hands. They merely ask for a strategy.
Despite those frivolous comments, I thank the Minister for his comments on fly tipping. He has convinced me that he takes the matter seriously and that there could be restrictions for dealing with it elsewhere rather than in his Department. Therefore I shall not press our amendments to a Division, but I hope that in return the Minister might drop a line to all members of the Committee to let us know the progress on the points that I made and on those made by the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings about the materials used in fast food. Perhaps he will let us know what contact he has had with the Magistrates' Association and others, as there are matters outside his remit that affect fly tipping. It would be helpful if the Minister could give us an update on progress so that we know how far we are likely to get. I shall certainly mention the issues that have been raised this afternoon to my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green), who is dealing with related matters on the Anti-social Behaviour Bill, so that he can raise them in that context, because it is important that an environmental impact assessment also takes place as part of that process.
The idea of zero waste is ambitious, but I make no apologies for tabling an amendment that is aspirational—a word that the Government use for targets that they do not intend to meet, such as those relating to renewable energy. It is right to put down a marker and say where we want to go. There is no harm in setting what might seem to be unrealistic targets, although I have no idea whether we will be able to meet them in 20 or 30 years. The other day I quoted Lenin, but I think it was Chairman Mao who said that a journey of 100 miles starts with a single step.
Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test): That was Confucious.
Norman Baker: How could I make such a mistake—well, it was someone Chinese.
Mr. Hayes: Presumably not from a Chinese takeaway.
Norman Baker: I would not take away either of those two characters.
If we set aspirational targets, we may find that people respond in unexpected and helpful ways. For example, in California, a target was set for the use of petrol-free cars. Everyone said that it could not be done, but it was. Sometimes, it helps to set targets that look impossible, and in many ways, Californians have led the environmental movement.
Sue Doughty (Guildford): As those of us who, for our sins, have been involved with such programmes know, some of these ideas about aspirational targets are borrowed from quality management and total quality management programmes. In the case of quality, defects are driven out until one gets as close to zero as possible. We are trying to work towards zero waste. It is rare to get total quality, but the constant process of working to keep on identifying the next slice
Column Number: 247of improvement is valuable. That is one of the original sources of the term zero waste.
Norman Baker: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes her point well and emphasises why aspirational targets are appropriate. No one has mentioned closed-link technology, except in passing, and I would like to see the Government pushing that, to ensure that industry creates no waste in the first place. If we could minimise the waste stream and minimise industry's costs, we would give this country a competitive edge. As we progress further into this century, environmental progress and environmental technology will be key drivers for the economy. We must be at the forefront of that. There are advantages all ways around from aspiring to a target of zero waste.
The Minister rightly referred to the need to decouple economic growth concepts from waste production. It is important that we start thinking along those lines in a way that we have not done hitherto.
The Minister was also right to mention local authorities, because they can do a lot to recycle litter. I would not wish to adopt the laissez-faire attitude of new Labour or the Stalinist attitude of the Conservative party with regard to dictating to local government. There is a middle way between the two. I hope that if the Minister has not done so, he will think about issuing guidance to local authorities, not in a prescriptive way, but setting out the facts and figures, the powers that they already have and those that the Government are now giving them through other legislation. There is value in telling local authorities what they can do because they do not always know.
Mr. Hayes: That is an extremely interesting suggestion. We have had a light-hearted but important debate. Given the strength of feeling on both sides of the Committee, regardless of party, I suggest that the Minister take that on board and once again issue guidance—I am sure that it is there already—to reinforce the message on the issues that have been raised.
Norman Baker: I should be grateful if the Minister would do that. He has heard both Opposition spokesmen advocating it. He would find it helpful. Perhaps he and his officials will consider how it can be done as part of the process of education.
Mr. Meacher: I am very happy to do that without a commitment, because it could be that I find that guidance was issued six months ago—I cannot recall whether that is the case. I would like to think seriously about the suggestion. It would be valuable to alert local authorities to their powers and responsibilities and to see how far we can stimulate greater use of them. I shall consider the matter with my officials and make a statement later.
Norman Baker: That is typically helpful of the Minister, who is much loved by all of us on the Committee and beyond. He is not an isolated figure—he is admired by Liberal Democrats if not in Government circles, even though, for reasons that escape me, he made an uncharacteristically partisan point about Orders in Council. However, to pick up
Column Number: 248the point made by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle, I would remind him that I tabled a parliamentary question some time ago asking why he was not in the Cabinet. That was when the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions was in place, with a Secretary of State in the Cabinet. The Transport Minister was then No. 2 in the DETR and to make a level playing field, the Environment Minister should have been put in the Cabinet, yet our Environment Minister was not. Apart from the qualities that he brings, it would indicate a wider respect for the environment by the Government. That is why I keep banging away about the fact that the Government's environmental record should be the Minister's environmental record. If I make a plea for him to be given a Cabinet position, I am sure that that will put the mochas on it once and for all.
Lastly, in terms of bring and buy, I refer the Minister to the comments that I made on Second Reading. We want local sustainability, minimum transport movements and reuse of materials. The best example that I can give him is Harvey's brewery in my constituency. It produces fantastic local beer in Lewes and sells it locally in glass bottles with deposits. They are all returned to Harvey's. I shall be happy to supply the Minister with a bottle of Harvey's beer—if he does not regard it as a bribe—so that he can enjoy it and return the bottle to me to return to the brewery in due course.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 17, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2003||Prepared 10 April 2003|