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I warmly welcome the Secretary of States announcement about making it easier for local authorities to deal with small-scale commercial waste; that is long overdue. In many rural areas such as mine, fly-tipping is a genuine and growing problem, not only for people who enjoy the countryside but for landowners who end up with a bill. The White Paper makes some suggestions about better prevention,
detection and enforcement action, and making existing legislation more usable and effective. What ideas has the right hon. Gentleman to prevent fly-tipping at source?
David Miliband: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the content and tone of his remarks. Prosecutions for fly-tipping have doubled. That could mean either that there is much more fly-tipping or that the authorities are getting better at prosecutions. I agree that the courts have an important role to play in taking fly-tipping seriously. Few things disfigure an areaurban or ruralmore than fly-tipping. We need to try to work with local authorities, and give them the right range of powers and the support from the centre from all parts of Government. We have set out some ideas in the document, about which I would be happy to correspond or talk to the hon. Gentleman further. Fly-tipping is a scourge that penalises the vast majority for the benefit of a tiny minority. That is why we believed that it was right to raise that subject as a foundation of waste policy in every local authority in the country.
Tom Levitt: Will my right hon. Friend assure hon. Members that he will ensure that there are no unnecessary regulatory barriers to the use of waste as a form of energy locally? Accepted technologies now include using tipped car tyres and fuel substitution using innovative fuels in the cement industry. Will local, community-based combined heat and power programmes have their regulatory burden minimised?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend makes an important point, because he links policy on waste, planning and housing, especially new housing. I agree with everything that he said. We are determined to ensure that the sort of regulatory barriers that got in the way in the past no longer exist.
Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I am proud to be a member of Kettering borough council, which has increased its recycling rate from 4 per cent. in 2003 to 46 per cent., and climbing, now. There are two specific problems in Kettering. One is maggots and the other is fruit and vegetable peelings. Will the Secretary of State tell the House what the DEFRA guidelines are on preventing outbreaks of maggots, with alternate weekly collections in hot summer weather? Will he also confirm that the DEFRA guidelines on fruit and vegetable peelings are that even from uncooked fruit and vegetables, the waste now has to go into the non-recycling bin?
David Miliband: I do not recognise the second part of the hon. Gentlemans question. Our guidance on food waste is common sense: you tie up the bags and make sure they are in bins. I am happy to send him the rather more extensive and formal version, which may not use such blunt language. However, common sense goes a long wayin Kettering as well as anywhere else.
Given my comments on the importance of devolution, it would probably be wrong to claim credit on behalf of central Government for the astonishing improvement in Kettering borough councils performance but I cannot help but reflect on the help that may have been given in the past few years.
Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): I welcome my right hon. Friends comments that local authorities will be responsible for the way in which they collect wasteweekly, bi-weekly or even daily. Will he assure the House that no financial penalties will be imposed on any local authorities when they determine the way in which they should collect waste, as long as they meet their targets? Does he recognise that the route that he is taking, with individual penalties and rewards, may lead to perverse incentives? Would not it be better to reward or penalise the local authorities, and give them bonuses, when they exceed their targets?
David Miliband: We are absolutely clear that there is no question of prescribing specific forms of waste collection or disposal by local authorities. Instead, we prescribe the outcomes that we seek, in diversion from landfill. The landfill allowance trading system contains precisely the sort of reward that my hon. Friend mentions. It rewards the authorities that do best at diverting from landfill, as he describes. I have discussed the matter with my hon. Friend previously, and it must be right for central Government to set the national objectives, give local government all the relevant tools to fulfil them, and ensure that we have a financial system that rewards them for doing so. That is what we have put in place.
Matthew Taylor (Truro and St. Austell) (LD): Waste giant SITA is about to put in a large planning application for a giant incinerator in mid-Cornwall. It breaches Government planning guidance on the proximity principle for dealing with waste and assumes that our country will never match the best in Europe for waste recycling and minimisation. Does the Secretary of State agree that, given that he believes that todays announcement will greatly increase recycling and reduce the amount of waste that enters the waste stream, it would be appropriate to re-examine the plan? And as a public inquiry is the only way of doing that at this stage, is that not the best way forward, given that the proposal is already budgeted and timetabled?
David Miliband: Because that is a planning issue, I obviously have to be extremely careful about what I say, but there are two relevant points. First, Liberal Democrat Cornwall county council put forward the proposal, and local Liberal Democrats, who are no doubt in touch with local feeling, have decided that that is the right thing to do. Secondly, it would be wrong for me to pop up and announce a public inquiry today, and to interfere with the due processes. The demonisation of energy from waste is not sensible, not least given the discussion that we have had about anaerobic digestion and the waste hierarchy, and given that the hon. Gentleman, his party and I are in complete agreement that landfill is the last resort. All the evidence from Denmark and Sweden shows that we can get landfill rates down to less than 10 per cent. if we have high levels of both energy from waste and recycling.
I thank the Minister for the 2020 targets for Government Departments, but could we not be more ambitious for the Parliamentary Estate? Every day we see Order Papers, Hansards and early-day
motion booklets that are not only unread but not even unpacked. Each MPs office receives a great deal of literature, including thick glossy pamphlets that are even less read than Focus leaflets, if that is at all believable. Is it not possible to persuade some of the organisations concerned to use electronic means of getting in touch with us? At least the delete button on the computer is fairly carbon-neutral.
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, which relates to the House rather than the Government. A few months ago I spoke to the Leader of the House about the matter, and he has taken it up with, I think, the Modernisation Committee
David Miliband: I stand corrected. Having just picked up the Order Paper, I notice that it does not say anywhere on it that it is printed on recycled paper, so that will be an early task to consider. In my own office in the House, which is far from palatial, I have a green waste paper basket with a special plastic cover, and any Order Papers, plus any speeches by the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans), or anyone else, that I feel need to be recycled can go straight into that bin. That is a step forward.
Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): A surprisingly high proportion of food purchased by households and commercial caterers ends up as waste, and if it goes into landfill it produces a lot of methane, which is very damaging. I welcome the announcement yesterday in the energy White Paper about the increased support for anaerobic digesters. Has the Secretary of State made any estimate of the amount of food that could go into such systems, and the amount of renewable energy that would accordingly be produced?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman makes a really important point. I think that I am right in saying that over one third of household food is wasted. Not all of it is edible, as some of it is past its sell-by date; none the less that is a remarkably high proportion. Let us understand what that means, and not just in terms of the environment: about £400 a year is being wasted by families, so that waste is actually hitting people in their pockets, as well as affecting their local environment. Our country has now started out with real drive, thanks to the energy White Paper and the announcements that I have made today on food waste. I would not want to start to suggest figures, but the potential is very great indeed.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con):
May I press the Secretary of State a little further on the issue of resources, which was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack)? In response to my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State conceded that the White Paper was silent on resources. Until that issue is resolved, there must be some doubt about the attainability of the measures set out in the strategy. Does he believe that the ambitious target can
be reached from local authorities existing baselines? Does he anticipate getting additional grants from the Chancellor, or will any additional costs be borne by the council tax payer?
David Miliband: I recognise that the right hon. Gentleman, as a former Minister for local government, speaks with authority on the subject. I think that it is recognised on both sides of the House that waste costs are one of the larger pressures on local authority funds. No one would say that there were not real pressures on local authorities to go above their current spending in that regard. Obviously, we need to study the exact nature of those pressures. Of course, there are savings to be made as a result of some of the announcements that I have made today. The diversion from landfill and the avoidance of landfill tax fines is an important way of minimising the extra costs, and obviously we are looking into those issues. I am happy to write and give the exact figures, but I point out that there has been a very large increase in both the revenue and the capital support provided to local authorities to take care of waste infrastructure. There is further to go, but we have made big strides over the past 10 years.
Does the Secretary of State agree that the transport over long distances of lorries full of household rubbish is not a good idea environmentally? Does he therefore agree that we should encourage local authorities to have smaller, local disposal units, rather than using just a handful of large units? If he does agree with that, will he encourage London boroughs to
set up incinerators in which to burn their rubbish, instead of dumping it in Essex?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman is correct that, all other things being equal, fewer transport milesespecially by lorryare desirable. He mentioned London; the use of barges on the Thames to take a significant part of Londons waste to the Belvedere plant is an important step forward and a good use of one of Londons obvious natural resource. Behind his question was the important point that Gargantuism is not the answer. Decentralised local solutions are important, including composting, to which the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) referred. The hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) is right to say that we need the right balance between strategic large-scale investment and more local activity, and that is what we hope to promote.
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): There is much to welcome in the White Paper, including the retention of waste prevention at the top of the waste hierarchy. We must judge whether the tougher measures on wasteful packaging recommended by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) are needed, or whether the current largely voluntary regime is working, so I am sure that the Secretary of State will be able to tell us whether we are set to meet the very first voluntary Courtauld commitment target to design out packaging waste growth in just seven months time, and exactly how that is being measured.
Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes) (Lab): It is a privilege to be the first Member to speak in todays recess Adjournment debate. In my time in the House, I have usually been the last Member to speak in such debates. It is encouraging to see the number of people in the Chamber; the faces are certainly familiar. We must set up a recess Adjournment debate club to promote this wonderful opportunity to raise local issues. I shall pick up on some of the themes that I mentioned in the last such debate, because the issues are ongoing.
The first subject that I want to mention is the problems regarding the A180 in north and north-east Lincolnshire. The road is constructed of concrete, and as a result is one of the noisiest in Britain. We have managed to get some sections resurfaced with low-noise materials, and that has brought phenomenal benefits to residents, but large sections have still not been resurfaced. I want to work with the people who are suffering from the noise pollution to put pressure on Transport Ministers to see whether they can find some funding to complete the resurfacing work. It is two years since the first section was resurfaced with low-noise material, so there has been an unacceptable delay for the residents who are still suffering from noise pollution.
Increased traffic movement is another problem. Immingham is one of Britains busiest ports, and it is growing fast, but many heavy goods vehicles go through the town centre. That raises noise levels, causes noise, pollution and disturbances, and heightens concerns about safety. I hope that my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House will have a word with Transport Ministers to see whether something can be done in the short term to alleviate the problems. There are plans for a bypass, and I hope that the Government will look favourably on any proposals from my local authority, but we all know that such plans take many years to come to fruition. It is unfair that residents must suffer in the meantime.
Immingham is one of Britains busiest ports, so a lot of goods pass through it. One of the major commodities is coal, and there is also a large iron ore quay that supplies the steel works in Scunthorpe. There are many other industrial sites in the area, with the result that coal and iron ore dust are deposited on window sills in the town on windy days. The dust is thick and black and looks disgusting. In the recent council elections, it was the major issue mentioned by residents.
The dust also covers windows, and people tell me that the laundry that they hang on the line before going to work ends up filthier than before they washed it. I also heard a lovely anecdote about a beautiful, fluffy white cat: if it went out on a windy day with the dust settling on the town, it would come back a mucky shade of dark grey.
The problem is serious. I am working with Associated British Ports and North East Lincolnshire council to resolve it, and tomorrow I shall meet representatives from both organisations to try to find a
solution. The association tells me that the coal piles are sprayed to keep the dust down, and that other measures are taken to alleviate matters, but the problem is still ongoing. It has been suggested that the firms that operate in the docks could go beyond the requirements of their licences in a bid to make the environment better, healthier and less polluting for the residents of Immingham. I hope that the proposals get Government backing and, given peoples increased awareness of environmental issues, I believe that it may be time to look again at the operating licences, which were drawn up some time agoanother matter that I shall take up with Ministers.
Whenever I contribute to a debate, whether it is on transport or not, I always mention the tolls for the Humber bridge. Today, I want to talk about them in connection with health care. The local reorganisation of health services means that people on the south side of the riverin Grimsby, Immingham. Cleethorpes and Barton, for examplewho need cancer treatment have to travel to Hull to get it.
Everyone knows that cancer treatment can be difficult and tiring, and that it can cause nausea, yet people in my area who need it have to make a lengthy round trip, and to pay a very high toll. Many residents, especially those on low and fixed incomes, tell me that they pay more than £5 a day every time they go for cancer treatment. That is unacceptable.
A cross-party group of local MPs has been lobbying on the matter. We want to see whether there is a way to alter the Humber Bridge Act 1971, or to work with local health providers so that the people who need cancer servicesand their families, and otherscan get some sort of discount when they have to cross the bridge.
I now turn to police community support officers, and antisocial behaviour. I brought those matters up in the Adjournment debate before the Easter recess, and I am glad to say that, perhaps due to the influence of my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House, the topics that we raise do not merely fall on deaf ears. However, we are still experiencing problems recruiting PCSOs in Grimsby and Cleethorpes. We are struggling to get people to take up the jobs, even though the salary is good and the work worthy.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker), has told me that he wants to visit the area to see what assistance can be given to the drive to recruit more PCSOs. That is excellent news for my constituents, who support the idea of PCSOs.
I still feel that the local authorities, police and other organisations in my area are not using to the full the powers available to them to deal with antisocial behaviour. That problem is exacerbated by the fact that we do not have all the PCSOs that we need. I recently visited Immingham school to speak to the head teacher. Not long ago, the school came out of special measures, and the fact that its results are improving is a good-news story. However, it is plagued by gangs who hang around the gates, intimidating and threatening children on their way into school.
That is not good enough. We need something like a dispersal order to tackle that example of antisocial behaviour. It cannot be right that children on their way
to school, perhaps to important exams, should suffer intimidation like that. When we talk about problems with gangs and young people, we assume that the victims are adults, but it should be acknowledged that often the victims are other children.
Cleethorpes salt marsh is a wonderful habitat, but its growth is causing worry in the area. I have had discussions about the issue, and English Nature has asked the council to monitor the situation and see whether a solution can be brokered, but we still need ministerial involvement. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House had a word in the right ears, so that I could bring a delegation to meet Ministers and discuss this environmental issue.
I am very pleased to have been the first Member to speak in the debate. I shall stay and listen to the other speeches with great interest. As I have said, this is one of the most marvellous opportunities Members have to raise constituency concerns: it is democracy at its best.
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