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Publicity for, and exposure of, the draft Bill
(3) A copy of the draft Bill, or of any part of the draft Bill, shall be supplied to any person on request during the consultation period for such reasonable fee as the London Waste Authority may determine.
Deposit of the Bill in Parliament
4 (1) If, after the requirements of paragraph 2 have been complied with, a Bill is deposited in Parliament by virtue of section 359F(1)(a), that Bill must be in the form of the draft Bill, either as originally prepared or as modified to take account of
Bills affecting statutory functions of London local authorities
5 (1) If a Bill proposed to be deposited in Parliament by virtue of section 359F(1)(a) contains provisions affecting the exercise of statutory function by a London local authority, the Bill shall not be deposited in Parliament unless
(a) in a case where the exercise of statutory functions of one London local authority is affected, that authority has given its written consent to the Bill in the form in which it is to be so deposited; or
(b) in a case where the exercise of statutory functions of two or more London local authorities is affected, at least 90 per cent. of all London local authorities have given their written consent to the Bill in that form.
Publicity for the deposited Bill
(2) During the period of 14 days following the day on which the deposited Bill is deposited in Parliament, the London Waste Authority shall take such steps as in its opinion will give adequate publicity to the Bill.
(4) A copy of the deposited Bill, or of any part of the deposited Bill, shall be supplied to any person on request during that period for such reasonable fee as the London Waste Authority may determine...
I am grateful to have this opportunity to revisit the arguments that we had in Committee over the proposal to establish a single strategic waste disposal authority for London. We aired the arguments well in Committee, but none the less I remain of the view that the Government are missing the opportunity to make an important contribution to the efficient delivery of waste services and to achieve associated benefits, particularly in the area of environmental gain. It is relevant to note that today the Mayor has put forward a plan for reducing carbon in London and making London one of the leading global cities in achieving climate change targets. I am proud of the fact thatthanks to the Government and the devolution of London government that was achieved in the run-up to 2000 and subsequentlywe now have a London government able to take such a lead. However, there are
areas of service delivery in which we could put serious extra weight behind the capacity to achieve those targets.
The most important issue is that the present system is failing to deliver, and that it has been doing so for the past 20 years. The arguments put forward by the Government and the Opposition that incline the Government to believe that we are about to see a radical change are implausible, given that failure to deliver. A dynamic 21st-century London is still managing its waste as if it were in the Victorian era, with 16 different waste disposal authorities. No other world city has such a fragmented and incoherent delivery structure and, consequently, such a poor waste and recycling performance. The days of London being able to bury its waste problems in other peoples back yards are well and truly numbered. Our capital city faces a step change in the way in which it manages its waste. A creaky and declining infrastructure, based on exporting waste to landfill, must be replaced by a new and rapidly expanding infrastructure that is based on recycling and the recovery of renewable energy from Londons waste.
That challenge is daunting enough, but what is even more worrying is that, in order to achieve that and to avoid potentially massive landfill fines, London councils should have started years ago. The challenge was known. The penalties and the costs of not acting were clear. However, the snails pace has continued in spite of that. The first real crunch point comes in about three years, and yet there is still no sense of urgency among those in charge.
Mr. Pelling: Although I recognise that potent arguments are being made for one waste authority, does the hon. Lady not feel that the way in which some local authorities are now working together suggests that perhaps a grass-roots approach of different boroughs combining to deliver on the important issue of recycling would be likely to be more effective than making the straight jump to a single waste authority?
Ms Buck: I will give a straight answer to a straight question: no. Clearly, compared with chaos, evidence that London authorities are working together is a sign of progress; I accept that there is some sign that there is more co-ordinated working than there has been in the past. However, the whole thrust of my argument is that the challenge is so great and the progress so slow that there is no reason to believe that a grass-roots delivery will be capable of meeting the challenge.
Tom Brake: Perhaps the hon. Lady did not do the question asked by the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling) that much justice. Will she explain why, for instance, we might not see the lowest common denominator applied and the best authorities doing worse under a single waste authority?
Part of the answer to that is that I am not sure that that necessarily matters that much. The single thing that matters is that, across the city, we are capable of raising our game across the board. Clearly, we want to see every authority performing better. There are some authorities that perform well. Bexley, for example, is performing well on its recycling. There are
many other authorities that perform very badly. Our first task must be to ensure that we raise the performance of those laggardly authorities. If we could then achieve a better performance among the high-performing authorities, that would be excellent. However, the key thing is that London as a global city is lagging behind, and London, as a city, has to perform better.
Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): I am listening with great interest to the points that the hon. Lady is making. She mentioned the borough of Bexley, which is superb at recycling. Its achievements and progress have been tremendous. Surely what she proposes would be a disincentive to places such as Bexley to continue to do the good work that they are doing.
Ms Buck: I am at a complete loss to understand why that might be so, unless the hon. Gentleman is making the argumentan argument that I do not acceptthat the only incentive to a better performance is competition between boroughs. That rather cuts across the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling), who said that authorities are now working collaboratively. All authorities must wake up to the new reality and the new challenge, whether that is driven by the fear of landfill fines or environmental issues. The fact is that not all of them have.
Derek Conway (Old Bexley and Sidcup) (Con): The hon. Lady is being patient with the House and giving way a lot. She mentioned Bexley, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) and I obviously have a particular interest, and said that it is effective. The Mayor already has his municipal waste strategy, which gives him a lot of power to give directions to the borough. For those of us who are suspicious about giving the Mayor more powers, will she tell the House whether there are any examples of boroughs that are not complying with the Mayors strategy and where there have been fall-outs about how it should be implemented? Some of us think that he already has more than adequate power to achieve what he wants with the strategy.
Ms Buck: There have been disagreements between some boroughs and the Mayor on aspects of waste disposal, including the example of Belvedere. In a sense, we are getting to the meat of the comments that I wish to make, and I would like to avoid duplication. When one relies on a more voluntary approach to these things there is always a risk of disagreements and of a lack of enforcement capability.
The simple fact is that our performance is not good enough. This is not fundamentally an issue of political ideology. It should not divide the political parties or cause divisions within them, because we are all committed to a particular end game. The difference is that I do not believe that the proposals in the Bill represent a set of procedures that can rise to the challenge.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way, because I know that she has taken many interventions. The crux of the argument relates to her
hypothesis about why the current arrangements are failing. If she believes that the cause is organisational mismanagement, the possible solution might be to bring organisation under one umbrella. If it is a question of either a lack of creativity in how to recycle and dispose or a lack of management, culture or implementationan operational problemit will not necessarily be solved by the solution that she proposes. Will she tell us whether she feels that those other potential issues will be addressed by her proposals?
Ms Buck: If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I should point out that that goes to the heart of the comments that I wish to make. A number of reasons are involved in our failing to rise to the challenge, some of which are organisational. I hope to make some progress in the next few minutes and thus explain my central arguments.
We all agree on the end game. I am sure that everyone in this House wants a waste management system that delivers high recycling and services to all of Londons residents and businesses, that minimises landfill and avoids landfill costs and penalties, that maximises carbon reduction through the exploitation of new heat and power technology, that reduces the additional traffic on the roads caused by waste lorries moving between parts of the capital and outside it, and that does so in a way that provides value for money to taxpayers.
As I said in Committee, I remain of the view that the Governments proposed package and the present waste disposal arrangements remain confused and incoherent, with no single body able to co-ordinate disposal and recycling operations at the city-wide level. Although the proposals are to some degree progressive, they do nothing to alter the fundamental weakness at the heart of a system that has let London down for more than two decades and has secured for it the dubious honour of being at the bottom of nearly every national and international league table on recycling and waste performance.
A single waste disposal authority for the capital could drive progress, with proper co-ordination and leadership, reducing landfill and incineration, and maximising recycling and the recovery of renewable energy from our waste. The authority would be in a position to offer clear purpose and pace, commensurate with the challenges of waste management and combating climate change.
The issue of waste hierarchy is central to the argument. Our challenge is to minimise waste production, then to recycle and compost whatever we can and then to recover heat and power from the waste that remains. Then and only then should we incinerate with no recovery of energy or send to landfill the irreducible core. This is therefore a debate not about whether we support incineration, but about whether we want the universally supported concept of the waste hierarchy to be a reality or a pipe dream, and whether we want to aim high or low. Those of us who support the concept of a single waste authority are alarmed by the increasing reliance on incineration in Londonincineration that does not capture heatat the expense
of investment in recycling. There are three key arguments among the many that I would like briefly to discuss.
First, I shall address the coherence of the existing arrangements. The Government point out that the creation of a single waste disposal authority would involve the separation of collection and disposal. They argue that that would undermine both the effectiveness of the system and its accountability to residents. I find that argument rather confusing for several reasons. First, 21 of Londons waste authorities are already part of a two-tier system and the Governments proposals would not change that. Secondly, the majority of authorities in England operate under a two-tier model, and the Government have not signalled their intention to alter that fact. Thirdly, the recycling performance of two-tier areas is better than that of unitary areas. Two-tier authorities achieved a recycling rate of 31 per cent. in 2005-06, while unitary areas achieved a rate of just 23 per cent. Fourthly, control does not imply ownership. Just as Tesco does not need to own all its suppliers to have a mutually beneficial commercial relationship with them, it is not necessary for the proposed single waste authority to own waste collection to influence it and integrate with it.
The single waste authority that I propose is designed to be more effective and accountable. Its fundamental premise is that processing and disposal, as matters of strategic impact and importance, are best managed at the London level. It would be right and proper for such a body to have strong local representation on its board, so my new clauses would allow for that. Equally, most of the authoritys day-to-day operations would be undertaken through a sub-regional structure that would be close to the reality on the ground locally. Collection services need to be managed locally, so it is right for that to continue and for the services to be co-ordinated with strategic processing and disposal operations.
There has been something of a mischievous attempt to confuse waste disposal, which is the subject of my new clauses, with waste collection. It has never been the casethis has been unambiguously stated by the Mayor of Londonthat rubbish collection and street cleaning should not remain with the boroughs. The attempts to muddy the water made by the leader of Westminster were mischievous and have not helped us to move the debate forward.
Mr. Mark Field: As the hon. Lady seems to think that there is an unimpeachable argument in favour of a single waste authority, why not have a single authority to deal with street cleaning and the enormous amount of refuse in London? I do not understand her argument for drawing such a distinction. Surely there is a risk that one authority would lead to the other, after time.
Among other factors, the central argument is probably the fact that street cleaning and rubbish collection generally work well at the devolved level. However, recycling and waste disposal are not working well in most London authorities, which is not helping us to avoid the risk of landfill fines, to deliver on
carbon emissions and to achieve what we need to achieve. There are many responses to the hon. Gentlemans question, but that is probably the simplest.
Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): City of Westminster has a recycling rate of only 18 per cent. Clearly recycling is not working well there, however good the authority might be at sweeping the streets.
Ms Buck: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, although Westminster meets its targets. To be absolutely fair to my authority and inner London as a whole, recycling in inner London is extremely difficult, which is precisely why we need to consider how we can use a London-wide provision, ensure that there is planning capacity to build recycling facilities and achieve a co-ordinated approach through which we can raise our game both in Westminster and across the board.
Mr. Mark Field: I thank the hon. Lady for her relatively supportive comments, at least on this occasion, about City of Westminster. May I come back on the point made by the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey)? It is clearly very difficult to recycle in a place such as Westminster, which has improved its record almost beyond recognition in recent years, although I accept that it has a long way to go. Of course, the terrorist threat makes a difference to the amount of refuse collection and recycling that can go on. The same is true in the other part of my constituency: the City of London. Although its headline recycling rates are poor, none of us should ignore the great terrorist risks during our consideration of the matter.
Ms Buck: I accept much of what the hon. Gentleman says. However, this is not about playing party political games over whether authorities of certain political complexions are good or bad. We need to examine Londons performance as a whole, which is poor. The situation needs to change, and that is the case in inner London, with its challenging circumstances, and in several outer-London authorities, too.
One needs only to look at the diagrammatic representation of Londons waste management structure to get a sense of its disservice to accountability. I am a great believer that the most basic starting point for proper accountability is clarity, and a single waste disposal authority creates a clear line of accountability for waste processing and disposal. The Mayor would be directly accountable to Londoners and to Government for the processing and disposal of their waste, and boroughs would be accountable to the Mayor and residents for ensuring that recycling and collection services are integrated with strategic disposal needs. That can be contrasted with current arrangements, whereby the joint waste disposal authorities, which collectively manage 60 to 70 per cent. of Londons waste and spend vast sums of money, are not directly accountable to the people whom they purport to serve. They are little better than quangos and just as elusive in accountability terms.
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