Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Hayes: I raised a couple of significant questions in the debate on the first group of amendments. The Minister properly did not respond to them because, as he implied in his response, they were really stand part points, so I shall raise them now. I shall repeat them for his convenience, and he may want to address them.

My first point is about the nature of biodegradable waste. As I said, that is dynamic, as the contents of a waste bin are changing, and, because technology is changing, things are now biodegradable that were not before. Processes are improving, and it would be useful to have some feel for how that is happening. What are the trends? What is the current picture and what is it likely to be in a year or five years? If we are going to have the strategy we all want, we will need to set targets, and we will need to set them against the trends. Is there a model for that, and is the Minister aware of it?

My second related point is about subsection (3), which defines municipal waste. If we are going to make a judgment about whether the nature of biodegradability is changing, we must make a

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judgment about the profile of the average household's waste. It may be getting bigger or smaller, or it may be that the balance of waste is changing. Lifestyle issues may have had an impact on that during the past decade or more. I do not want to speak too much about my childhood, as it makes me sound as if I am lost in a halcyon past, but in the golden age when there were only ever Conservative Governments and television programmes were so much better, I suspect that the average waste bin was rather different. Again, there are probably models of that, and if we are going to meet the targets, I would be interested to know what measurements have been made of the change in waste profile and how it affects them.

Those are specific and testing issues, and I appreciate that the Minister may not have the information readily to hand, though perhaps he does, judging by what he is reading. If he wishes to return to the Committee later with the information or send it in writing, I would be satisfied.

Mr. Meacher: I apologise to the hon. Gentleman; he did raise the issue earlier. I made a note of it and failed to respond to my own note. The definition of biodegradability does not change. I think that the hon. Gentleman is asking about the nature of biodegradable waste and the trends in it. The main components of municipal waste are paper, cans, glass, textiles and disposable nappies. Trends develop over time, but I do not have the information to hand. However, I will endeavour to collect it and make a statement at the beginning of the next sitting on 29 April.

Mr. Hayes: That is most helpful. I am sure that the Minister has accepted that I asked the questions for a good reason, and I am grateful to him.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 21 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 22

''Landfill''

Norman Baker: I beg to move amendment No. 84, in

    clause 22, page 15, line 8, after 'land', insert

    'both solid rock and sedimentary deposits, including soil'.

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

No. 85, in

    clause 22, page 15, line 15, at end insert

    ', provided that this waste is not subsequently sent to landfill at that same site.'.

No. 15, in

    clause 22, page 15, line 19, leave out 'three years' and insert 'one year'.

No. 86, in

    clause 22, page 15, line 20, leave out 'one year' and insert 'three months'.

No. 87, in

    clause 22, page 15, line 21, after 'deposit', insert 'and/or storage'.

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Norman Baker: With good will on both sides, it should be possible to deal with this group of amendments quickly. They are disparate amendments that have been grouped together, so each will require an explanation. Amendment No. 84 is simply a probing amendment to establish the Minister's definition of land, as it is important to clarify that. We have suggested a possible definition. Amendment No. 87 is an attempt to tidy up what could be an ambiguous arrangement in clause 22(3), by inserting the word ''storage.''

Amendment No. 85 expresses our concern that a possible abuse could be built into the Bill because clause 22(2)(a) allows for the temporary storage of waste, but clause 22(2)(b) speaks of waste being deemed suitable for disposal. It is possible, with a site that is doubling as a waste transfer site as well as a landfill site, that waste received for landfill could, if it is convenient for reaching targets, be classified as waste that is being stored. That could happen even if the intention is to deposit it in landfill elsewhere on the site or even at the place where it is being stored. That loophole should be closed. I hope that the Minister will respond to that.

Amendments Nos. 15 and 86 seek to reduce the time that waste can be held in limbo. They seek to

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avoid possible abuses in the classification of waste. It may be possible for waste to be held under clause 22(2)(d) for up to a year before it is disposed of. The receiver of the waste ought to know quite quickly whether it is to be disposed of or not. If it is to be disposed of, what is the point of storing it on site for a year? That opens a possible loophole. Clause 22(2)(c) speaks of

    ''the storage of waste, prior to recovery or treatment, for a period of less than three years as a general rule''

That is excessive. How will such waste be held for the three years? Is that counted for the purposes of the Bill as waste that has been subject to treatment or disposal, and therefore recoveryŚwaste that has been dealt with effectively, as is the Bill's intention? Or is it treated as waste held, or waste that is in effect landfill because it is being held without being recovered or recycled? There is a loophole in that respect that needs to be closed.

The Chairman: I wish the Committee a happy Easter.

Debate adjourned.Ś[Mr. Ainger.]

Adjourned accordingly at Five o'clock till Tuesday 29 April at five minutes to Nine o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Amess, Mr. David (Chairman)
Ainger, Mr.
Baker, Norman
Barker, Gregory
Dobbin, Jim
Doughty, Sue
Drew, Mr.
Hayes, Mr.
Kidney, Mr.
Kumar, Dr.
Meacher, Mr.
Robertson, Hugh
Thomas, Gareth
Whitehead, Dr.
Wiggin, Mr.
Wright, Mr. Anthony D.

 
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