Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill

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Miss McIntosh: Clearly, the purpose of tabling and debating new clause 3 was to say that we would prefer it, in all such instances, if the specific circumstances that would warrant a police officer acting were set out in the Bill.

The Government have had considerable time and have already consulted widely on this matter through the clean neighbourhoods and environment consultation. It is hugely disappointing and complacent that the Minister has seen fit to continue as he has done. We may wish to return to this matter later but, for the moment, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 6

Charges for the collection of household waste

    '(1) Section 45 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is amended as follows.

    (2) Leave out subsection (3) and insert—

    ''(3) A charge may be made for the collection of household waste where this is directly related to the amount of waste collected from each household as prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State.''.'.—[Paddy Tipping]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) (Lab): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 9—Incentive schemes for collection of householder waste—

    '(1) The Environmental Protection Act 1990 is amended as follows.

    (2) For section 45, subsection (3), substitute—

    ''(3) No charge shall be made for the collection of household waste except in cases that are—

    (a) prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State; and in any of those cases—

    (i) the duty to arrange for the collection of the waste shall not arise until a person who controls the waste requests the authority to collect it; and

    (ii) the authority may recover a reasonable charge for the collection of the waste from the person who made the request; or

    (b) under the provision of subsection (3A) below.

    (3A) The Secretary of State may authorise a waste collection authority to operate in all or any part of their area an incentive based household waste collection scheme, a proposal for which

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    has been submitted to the Secretary of State, to reward householders who separate their waste for recycling and who minimise their residual waste.

    (3B) Before any authorisation may be given under subsection (3B) above, the Secretary of State must be satisfied that a proposed scheme—

    (a) has identified and addressed the particular needs of low income households;

    (b) has identified the needs of households with particular problems reducing residual waste;

    (c) will only operate in areas with adequate provisions of recycling collections;

    (d) will only operate in areas with either composting collections or a home composting scheme; and

    (e) has adequate measures to address potential increases in fly-tipping.''

    (3) In section 51, at end of subsection (2), insert—

    ''(2A) Where the Secretary of State has authorised a scheme under section 45(3A) above, that authorisation may include specific exemptions to subsection (2)(c) above in all or part of the area of that authority.'.

Paddy Tipping: New clause 6 provides the Committee with the opportunity to talk about how we charge for the disposal of domestic household waste. Typically, at the moment, we charge through the council tax, but new clauses 6 and 9 allow the discussion of alternative methods of charging for the disposal of such waste, which is variously called directive, variable or incentive charging.

The new clause is straightforward. Existing legislation does not permit such an approach. Indeed, section 45 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 forbids local authorities from taking such an approach. New clause 6 takes away that prohibition and gives the Secretary of State a permissive power to bring forward schemes to allow direct charging. New clause 9, in the name hon. Member for Guildford, does the same thing, but rather than giving a permissive power, it gives indications of how that might be done. I would characterise the situation as my taking, on this occasion, the more liberal, permissive approach and the Liberal Democrats being more restrictive than permissive. It is nice to get one up.

There have been widespread discussions about direct charging, and I would be grateful if, during our debate, the Minister could bring us up to date with the discussions that I know are taking place between his Department, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasury.

There is widespread support for the proposal to move towards direct charging. Let me quote from the Prime Minister's strategy unit's report, ''Waste not, Want not'', in 2002:

    ''Local authorities that wish to take forward household incentive schemes to help reduce waste volumes and increase recycling should be allowed to do so.''

The Minister will be aware that prominent, distinguished members of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are present. My hon. Friends the Members for Bedford (Mr. Hall) and for Stroud (Mr. Drew) and myself were involved in
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report, called ''The Future of Waste Management'', which was published by that Committee in May 2003. It said:

    ''We regret that the Government have not yet decided whether to allow local authorities to introduce household incentive schemes.''

There is already a body of evidence available to draw on, and local authorities are best placed to judge what it suitable for their areas. The report added:

    ''We are strongly in favour of local authorities being given the ability to introduce incentive schemes if they so wish.''

As well as the scheme finding support from the strategy unit and the Select Committee, local authorities are in favour of experimenting and piloting an approach to direct charging. In a letter, the Local Government Association stated that it is

    ''in favour of councils being given the power to introduce incentive schemes. We would not support the introduction of a duty in this respect, but we would welcome local authorities being given the freedom to introduce incentive schemes if they wished to do so.

    This reflects the LGA's underlying position on freedoms and flexibilities for councils, and proposes councils should have a power—rather than a duty—to charge.''

There is a growing body of opinion in favour of direct charging in this country. We can set that against examples in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, to a lesser extent in France, and more recently in Ireland, where direct charging has been introduced. The Socialist Environment and Resources Association, a body that my right hon. Friend knows well, undertook a study in the United States in 2000 in which 6,000 communities used direct charging.

It is now possible to draw some lessons from that body of evidence and experience. Experience shows that there are advantages to incentive charging. Most importantly, it makes local residents and householders aware of the costs and consequences of waste disposal. At the moment they are not, because the costs are hidden in the council tax.

Mr. Patrick Hall (Bedford) (Lab): I am very interested in what my hon. Friend is saying, and he is talking now about evidence from elsewhere—largely from the continent—about how incentive charging works. Is there any evidence that charging individual residents leads to an increase in fly-tipping? That point may crop up and be made by those who oppose such charging.

Paddy Tipping: There is widespread research on the subject. I am delighted that we are discussing the new clause in the context of this Bill, which is very much about fly-tipping. We have had long discussions about fly-tipping, and it is important to change the culture surrounding it. The evidence from the United States and mainland Europe suggests that although the introduction of direct charging led to short-term problems, in the medium term when new standards were set and new levels of behaviour were expected, there was no increase in fly-tipping. We can resolve the problem of fly-tipping and encourage people by making them aware of the cost of waste disposal.

We can also reduce the amount of waste produced. All the evidence suggests that if people are responsible for the volume and weight of the material in their
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dustbin, they will be more careful and will reduce the amount of waste. In Ireland, there is a big financial incentive from direct charging. The waste bills of people from Monaghan have reduced; they saw that they would save money and so changed their behaviour. The amount of waste has reduced, the amount they are paying has reduced, and the amount that the council is paying for waste disposal has reduced. It sounds to me like a win, win, win situation.

Another win is that people are more careful about what they buy. Some of us—not me frequently—will have bought small bottles of perfume in large packaging. If people are responsible for paying for its disposal, they will buy less packaging. The large supermarkets, particularly Tesco, are undertaking some interesting work on packaging. I am very much of the opinion that an approach that measures the amount of waste—makes the disposal directly at waste cost—is going to reduce waste across the piece.

3 pm

Finally—I have an exciting life—I went to Bradford recently, to have a look at their dustbin lorry. The dustbin lorry can weigh the amount of waste in the bin, can tag the bin and knows where the waste is coming from—each particular household. A picture of waste disposal in Bradford can be built up.

Increasingly, we need to be more aware of where waste is being produced and how we dispose of it. That is a big issue for local authorities, because of the landfill tax. We need better data and methodology. Such an approach would give us that. The result in Sweden, Holland, Germany, Ireland and, more locally, the Isle of Man has been waste reduction. In Germany, Denmark and Ireland recycling through direct charging has risen by 90 per cent. There is a lot going for that approach.

I am pleased that the Committee will have a chance to debate direct charging. Both new clause 6 and new clause 9 give very permissive powers to the Secretary of State. Should a scheme come forward later, the Secretary of State is given considerable flexibility to take such an approach. On new clause 9, I was interested that the hon. Member for Guildford spelt out some of the criteria that the Secretary of State might like to consider in bringing forward such a scheme. For example, is it possible to design regulations that take into account household size or the ability of people to pay?

Finally, when the Minister comes to reply, could he update the Committee about what is happening in the real world, outside this place, with waste disposal? A lot of local councils are piloting such an approach, which seems to show a willingness to go in that direction.

Perhaps he could also tell us what has happened since December 2004, when the Government announced £5 million for local authorities to provide incentives for households to recycle waste. The money is available and local authorities are in a position to bid for it, giving the clear indication that, despite—or perhaps as a result of—the discussion that is going on between Departments, there is a feeling in Whitehall that we should look at the approach seriously.

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Perhaps the Minister will give us a stock take. Perhaps he will weigh the waste for us. Perhaps he will tell us how he views such approaches. What recognition is taken of the Select Committee report, of the strategy unit and of the pleas from local authorities and waste contractors? There are a lot of people now signed up to this approach.

I am pleased that we have discussed this issue once again. Last time I moved a similar clause in Committee, I was told that it would not be long before we went down this road. I believe firmly that we will. The Minister, I suspect, will tell us not today, but I look forward to the next Parliament. I look forward to the manifestos of the individual political parties. If I was looking in my crystal ball, I would see not waste, but a more sustainable way of waste disposal through direct charging.

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