House of Commons
|Session 2007 - 08|
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Public Bill Committee Debates
Draft London Waste and Recycling Board Order 2008
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Keith Neary, Committee Clerk
attended the Committee
Twelfth Delegated Legislation Committee
Wednesday 2 July 2008
[Mr. Joe Benton in the Chair]
Draft London Waste and Recycling Board Order 2008
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Joan Ruddock): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft London Waste and Recycling Board Order 2008.
As always, Mr. Benton, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.
This draft order sets out the proposed constitution and membership of the London Waste and Recycling Board. The boards purpose is to improve the environmental sustainability of waste management throughout London. It takes forward the Government's commitment, following the review of the Mayor of London's powers, to set up a pan-London body, including the Mayor and the boroughs.
During the passage of the Greater London Authority Act 2007 through Parliament, the Government agreed to put the body on a statutory basis, and provision is made for that in the Act. That has support from all interested parties, particularly from London Councils and the Mayor of London.
The board will be able to look strategically at waste and recycling issues throughout the capital, and to help to drive improvements. In particular, it will aim to improve environmental performance in waste management, increase recycling and decrease the amount of waste sent to landfill to ensure that London is well placed to meet European and domestic targets. In view of the importance of tackling the top of the waste hierarchy, the board's objectives also focus on minimising the amount of waste produced and increasing reuse.
The Government have always considered that the board offers an excellent framework for the Mayor and London boroughs to work together to achieve those objectives. It recognises that the Mayor sets out the pan-London vision in his regional strategies, but also respects the boroughs' role in delivering waste services to their residents.
The Mayor and London Councils have recently written to me with a joint proposal for an eight-member board, chaired by the Mayor or a representative appointed by him. The remaining members of the board will be four councillors from London boroughs, chosen by London Councils, and three independent members from the private, community or academic sectors. Two will be chosen by London Councils, and one by the Mayor. The draft order reflects that jointly agreed proposal.
The Government have announced that they will make £60 million available to the board over the next three years. That fund will be managed by the board in whatever way it sees fits to meet its objectives. There is widespread agreement that London needs additional infrastructure, particularly for organics and food waste, and that the fund should be able to facilitate that.
I welcome the Mayor's personal interest in giving the board strategic direction. I also welcome his commitment that the £24 million that has been set aside for commercial waste projects by the London Development Agency will now be managed by the board. It is expected that the board will be able to work on both commercial and municipal waste streams, and hopefully to identify synergies and opportunities.
The board will be able to identify when partnerships will be beneficial, and to promote and facilitate them. Those could be partnerships between boroughs, or between the commercial and municipal waste sectors, where economies and efficiency savings can be made, or which realise the potential for making things easier for residents.
We have adopted a flexible approach to the board determining its own proceedings and operation, including the ability to appoint staff and sub-committees to consider particular issues as it sees fit. To ensure proper accountability and transparency, the board must set out its priorities and strategies before it can award any funds. It must also provide an annual report on its activities.
To promote openness, we have also proposed public access to the board's meetings along similar lines to those used by local authorities. The board will be audited by the Audit Commission, and its accounts will be published.
Although London's recycling continues to improve, much remains to be done to transform London's waste management into an environmentally sustainable operation. There is agreement on the need to move forward, and on the direction of travel. The draft order will help to make that happen, and I commend it to the Committee.
Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): I thank the Minister for her introduction. She is right: in the past few years there has been a welcome shift in our approach to waste. Although the UK still has one of the highest levels of landfill in the EU, and 22 per cent. of this countrys methanea gas that has 23 times the greenhouse effect of CO2is emitted from decomposing landfill, there has been steady but gradual progress in recycling and composting.
That progress has been due in no small part to the hard work of local authorities, including those in London. Indeed, successful provision for waste and recycling is an excellent example of how best-fit, local solutions can deliver real results. Wandsworth has cut tax while increasing recycling rates by 123 per cent., and Hammersmith and Fulham has increased collected mixed recyclables by 128 per cent. since 2003 through innovative new kerbside collection schemes.
However, Greater London provides some additional challenges for waste management and recycling. Demands on space, the high density of dwellings in inner-city boroughs and the constraints of the transport infrastructure mean that it seems sensible that some mayoral oversight should inform waste and recycling over the whole of the Greater London area.
The London Waste and Recycling Board has been put together to provide that very oversight and to find a balance between effective local authority action and the need for a joined-up approach to Londons waste and recycling, particularly in respect of the planning issues around waste facilities; for example, where the Mayors
The boards structure has been conceived to reflect that balance. As the Minister will know, we are broadly in support of the board and, accordingly, of this instrument. However, the introduction of yet another decision-making body should be carefully scrutinised, particularly in London, where the complicated relationships between the different bodies has been the subject of much consultation and disagreement in the past.
London is a city with unique governance arrangements. The London Mayor is expected to provide a strategic direction for London, primarily through his eight statutory strategies covering transport, economic development, spatial development, which includes planning and land use, culture, municipal waste management, biodiversity, noise and air quality. The Greater London Authority Act 2007 brought into law a package of additional powers for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly, including increased powers in respect of planning and waste.
The Act was the result of a good deal of consultation, not least the Governments July 2006 review of the powers and responsibilities of the Mayor of London and the Greater London authority. It is therefore of some note that the Government feel that further legislation is now required, so soon after the Act. Can the Minister reassure us that the introduction of another layer of bureaucracy in decision making in the waste sector really will produce a better, more streamlined and best-fit outcome?
It is also important that structural changes are examined in the light of the relevant targets. Last year, the Government stated that a key benefit of maintaining the current structure and responsibilities of waste authorities was to ensure the stability that they need to continue their ongoing investment in waste services and facilities, and to help the UK meet the challenging targets set out in the EU landfill directive for 2010, 2013 and 2020.
What assessment has been made of the effect of the board on meeting those challenging targets? Indeed, what assessment has the Minister made of the risk that the formation of the new board will divert attention and resources away from our priority of switching to more sustainable waste management options and, in so doing, pose a threat to meeting the EU landfill targets? Does the Minister still support the view that, to minimise the risk of failing to achieve our landfill directive targets, we should ensure a strong strategic role for the Greater London authority while allowing current authorities to maintain responsibility for delivering waste services? If that is the case, and if the board is designed to change that relationship, how does she envisage it improving the status quo?
The board may provide financial assistance to London boroughs for the purpose of providing facilities and
conducting research into new technologies or techniques for the collection, treatment or disposal of waste,
in respect of their waste management and recycling responsibilities. Although the board has a duty to publish details of the London waste and recycling fund annually, what possibility is there for consultation before funds are granted? Will the Minister assure us that funds will be allocated transparently, with the sole intention of
I look forward to hearing the Ministers response. I hope that the board will deliver on its promise to facilitate a strategic direction for our capitals waste and recycling, without treading on the toes of hard-working and increasingly successful local authorities.
Steve Webb (Northavon) (LD): The Liberal Democrats are broadly sympathetic to the order. My noble Friend Baroness Hamwee, when this issue was discussed in another place on 9 May 2007, supported a Conservative amendment that would have created a London waste and recycling forum, which is a predecessor of the body that we are talking about today.
I shall ask one or two questions to enable me to understand exactly how the new body will work. A strategic body that engages the Mayor and the authorities working together will have a higher political profile than the individual authorities would have with regard to the relevant issues. That is a potential benefit.
The explanatory note says:
A Regulatory Impact Assessment has not been prepared for this instrument as it has no impact on business, charities or voluntary bodies.
I am puzzled by that, because I would have imagined that a London waste body would have some impact on the private sector; otherwise, it would not be doing its job properly. Perhaps the Minister can clarify what that means.
On a few points of detail, the aim of the board is
to help London reach its 2020 target of managing 85% of waste created in the city.
Perhaps the Minister will give us an idea of where we are starting from in respect of that goal and whether there is any requirement that the waste be processed and recycled within London or whether the board is simply a London body that can do what it wants to do where it wants to do it. Is there a London boundary set on that?
With regard to the boards membership, there are independent and non-independent members. Will the Minister tell us a bit more about how those non-independent members have been selected, in terms of the balance between, for example, inner and outer London and representation from different political parties? Are we confident that this is a representative board in that sense?
Is the board already up and runningeffectively in shadow formand was that done in the confidence that this statutory instrument would be agreed to, with those involved just wanting to get on with it? Such things are always slightly intriguing. I appreciate that sometimes the world cannot wait for Parliament to go through its processes, but it would be interesting to know whether the body has already been created.
Paragraph 8 states:
The Board may establish committees.
It is slightly strange that we should need to legislate to allow a body like this to have committees, because one imagines that such bodies have committees all the time. Why is that provision included and what kind of committees are we talking about? Why is it necessary to have some
Finally, on paragraph 15(b)(ii)touching on a point that the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle mentionedthe funding for
research into new technologies or techniques for the collection, treatment or disposal of waste
is a good thing. Does the Minister have a sense that that will be an important part of what the board or the fund actually does? I assume that it is a matter for them rather than for the Government. However, does she envisage the body having a significant role in funding such research or is that a marginal and peripheral aspect of what it does? We would certainly want it to encourage new technologies in this area, because, as we know, waste management done well can be a source of renewable energy and a positive thing, environmentally, but done badly it can be dreadful. I hope that the Minister reassures us that this body will actively be pursuing new, innovative ways of tackling the problem.
Joan Ryan (Enfield, North) (Lab): I support the formation of the board, but we in Enfield have some major concerns about recycling and its future, in terms of the placing of new waste sites in north London and the seven north London boroughs and how those will impact on Enfield. I want to ask my right hon. Friend about the relationship between the board and the local authorities. She is aware, because I have raised the matter with her before and she was very sympathetic, that a couple of years ago Enfield Conservative council closed a successful recycling centre in Carterhatch lane. That has caused huge problems for residents. Enfield is bounded by major roads. There is the M25, the A10 goes through the middle and the North Circular is on the other side. So we are somewhat trapped in the middle of a major road network. A lot of traffic can travel through Enfield and so getting from one side to the other, although not much of a distance, can take a good 45 minutes. So, having to put recycling material into ones car and spending that length of time to get to the other side of the borough now to the only remaining recycling centre, which is not terribly accessible, is a big problem. What would be the role of the board in a situation like that? If it has a strategic role to increase recycling across London, it would surely want to be consulted on such a catastrophic decision. That decision has meant that in eastern Enfield, which was the population that would most use that recycling centre, we have seen quite an increase in fly-tipping.
Our local authority is always patting itself on the back, saying how good it is at bringing prosecutions. I understand it was 18 last year. The local population do not think that 18 is very many in view of the amount of fly-tipping that goes on. I feel that our council is looking good by comparing itself with very poor councils. Closing our recycling centre was not a good idea and I wonder how the board could help the people of Enfield. I do not want to take decision making away from the local authority, as it is accountable to the people and we can
The subject is important now because the North London Waste Authority is putting together its preferred options for its strategy in the coming years. Those options will be published next February. There is a huge concern in Enfield that consultation has been very poor. It did not take place in the area where some of the waste sites might be located. Enfield might well become a dumping ground for seven north London boroughs.
I believe that we should recycle as close to source as possible and that London boroughs cannot justify shipping their waste out to the midlands or anywhere else. They need to recycle it themselves if that is at all possible, and I believe that it is, to a large extent. Equally, I do not think that Enfield would be happy to be a hazardous waste recycling centre for seven other London boroughs. I therefore thought it opportune to raise the matter with my right hon. Friend. She may not be able to cover those points in detail now, so I will be happy for her to write to me.
The only other point that I wish to make is that the explanatory memorandum states that the informal consultation took place between January and February 2008 and that only five responses were received. That seems a very low figure, which chimes with things I hear from my own council: lots of fine words, but perhaps not as much in reality to back it up. I should be keen to know which councils responded and whether Enfield was one of them. I would be pleased if it was, but not too surprised if it was not. Was the Minister disappointed that the figure was that low? Hopefully, we can look to the board to increase engagement on these important issues.
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