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Session 2007 - 08
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General Committee Debates
Climate Change

Climate Change Bill [Lords]

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairmen: Mr. Peter Atkinson, Frank Cook
Baldry, Tony (Banbury) (Con)
Banks, Gordon (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab)
Barker, Gregory (Bexhill and Battle) (Con)
Brown, Mr. Russell (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab)
Buck, Ms Karen (Regent's Park and Kensington, North) (Lab)
Chaytor, Mr. David (Bury, North) (Lab)
Gilroy, Linda (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op)
Griffith, Nia (Llanelli) (Lab)
Gummer, Mr. John (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con)
Horwood, Martin (Cheltenham) (LD)
Hurd, Mr. Nick (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con)
Maclean, David (Penrith and The Border) (Con)
McIntosh, Miss Anne (Vale of York) (Con)
McDonagh, Siobhain (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab)
Ruddock, Joan (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
Snelgrove, Anne (South Swindon) (Lab)
Walley, Joan (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab)
Webb, Steve (Northavon) (LD)
Weir, Mr. Mike (Angus) (SNP)
Whitehead, Dr. Alan (Southampton, Test) (Lab)
Woolas, Mr. Phil (Minister for the Environment)
John Benger, Sara Howe Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 8 July 2008


[Mr. Peter Atkinson in the Chair]

Climate Change Bill [Lords]

10.30 am
That the order of the Committee [24th June] be varied as follows: in paragraph (3) leave out “7.00 p.m.” and insert “11.59 p.m.”—[Siobhain McDonagh.]

Schedule 5

Waste reduction schemes
Amendment proposed [3 July]: No. 108, in schedule 5, page 69, line 3, at the end to insert the words—
‘(d) the authority proposes to collect residual domestic waste at least once in every seven days, and
(e) the authority proposes to collect all recyclable material, including tetrapak materials, polystyrene and all plastics.’.—[Gregory Barker.]
Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
The Chairman: I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following: amendment No. 109, in schedule 5, page 69, line 32, at end insert
‘but no charges for residual domestic waste can be imposed unless the authority has made provision to collect all other materials not less than once every 14 days, including, (i) all plastics of whatever type, (ii) polystyrene, (iii) paper and card of all descriptions including tetrapak, (iv) glass and (v) metal and aluminium.’.
Amendment No. 110, in clause 70, page 33, line 9, leave out subsection (2).
Amendment No. 107, in clause 70, page 33, line 19, at end insert—
‘(c) does not include a power to create a criminal penalty on any householder for non-compliance with any aspect of a waste reduction scheme.’.
New clause 18—Waste authority’s power to reduce amount of council tax payable
‘After section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (c. 14) there is inserted—
“13B Power to reduce amount of tax payable in relation to household waste
(1) Where a person is liable to pay council tax in respect of any chargeable dwelling and any day, any waste collection authority or waste disposal authority may require the billing authority for the area in which the dwelling is situated to reduce the amount which he is liable to pay as respects the dwelling and the day to such extent as it thinks fit.
(2) The power under subsection (1) may only be exercised in connection with measures to reduce the amount of residual domestic waste produced in the authority’s area.
(3) The power under subsection (1) may be exercised in relation to particular cases or by determining a class of case in which liability is to be reduced to an extent provided by the determination.
New clause 22—Waste reduction incentives
‘(1) A waste collection authority whose area is in England may make a waste reduction scheme, the objective of which is to provide an incentive to recycle more domestic waste and accordingly to reduce the amount of residual domestic waste.
(2) A waste reduction scheme—
(a) must provide for the incentive to be a payment of monies worth an amount which the authority considers will be effective to achieve the purposes of the scheme, and
(b) may, in particular, permit a person to be supplied with a voucher which may be exchanged for goods or services.
(3) A waste collection authority may make a waste reduction scheme only if arrangements for the collection of recyclable domestic waste from premises separately from other waste are available to the occupiers of premises to which the scheme applies.
(4) A waste reduction scheme—
(a) may cover the whole or any part of the area of a waste collection authority, and
(b) may apply to all domestic premises, to domestic premises other than those of a specified description or to specified descriptions of domestic premises.
(5) An authority that has made a waste reduction scheme—
(a) must publish the scheme in such manner as it considers appropriate, and
(b) may amend or revoke the scheme.
(6) Where a waste collection authority that operates a waste reduction scheme is not also the waste disposal authority—
(a) the waste disposal authority may pay to the collection authority contributions of such amounts as the disposal authority may determine towards expenditure of the collection authority attributable to the scheme, and
(b) the collection authority must supply to the disposal authority such information as the disposal authority may reasonably require for the purpose of determining amounts under this section.
(7) In this section—
“domestic premises” means—
(a) a building or self-contained part of a building which is used wholly for the purposes of living accommodation,
(b) a caravan (as defined in section 29(1) of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 (c. 2)) that usually and for the time being is situated on a caravan site (within the meaning of that Act), or
(c) a moored vessel used wholly for the purposes of living accommodation;
“domestic waste” means household waste from domestic premises;
“recyclable domestic waste” means domestic waste that is capable of being recycled;
“recycling” means recycling, re-using or composting.’
Steve Webb (Northavon) (LD): I look forward to hearing what the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border has to say about the amendments that he tabled, when he has had chance to work it out. This group of amendments is different from that which we debated previously because, since our sitting on Thursday, two more measures have been added: amendment No. 110, which we tabled, and new clause 22. For the benefit of members of the Committee who might not have had chance to look at amendment No. 110, it questions the decision to restrict the number of pilots under clause 70(2).
Our approach is to allow 1,000 flowers to bloom, not five. There are big variations among local authorities. Urban, rural, and multi-tier authorities have different waste streams and structures for dealing with waste. In light of that, there is a huge amount of learning to be done. While I would not dream of accusing the Department of doing this, the present Prime Minister has a tendency to want to control things. Although, in one sense, the provision is enabling and saying, “Let there be pilots,” there must always be a “but” at the end, which is that we can have only five pilots. That is unnecessary.
The Bill refers to five pilots, so if the Government invited proposals for pilots and received 10 good ideas, they would be obliged to throw away five of them because, under statute, they will not be allowed to have more than five pilots. If the Government think that five pilots are all they can cope with, they are perfectly at liberty to decide to do that after receiving submissions, but to pre-empt looking at the pilots before they have even seen them is wrong, which is why my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham and I want to remove the stipulation.
Amendment No. 108 would exclude from participation in the pilots authorities that do not undertake weekly collections. As we said on Thursday, some schemes could be pure incentive schemes; in other words, some pilots need not be penal. Given that, at worst, they must be revenue-neutral, they could be net beneficial. Authorities, for whatever reason, that do not have weekly collections—that might be popular or accepted locally—should not be precluded from taking part in pilots whereby they could offer incentives to their residents to improve recycling. There is a valid debate to be had on weekly or fortnightly collections and whatever is appropriate in a particular area, but to preclude whole categories of authorities from running pilots because they opted in their particular circumstances not to have weekly collections seems unduly restrictive. We do not therefore support amendment No. 108.
We have a lot of sympathy with what amendment No. 109 is trying to do, but it is over-prescriptive. It refers to polystyrene and Tetrapak, for example, but we could find ourselves constantly amending legislation to cover new materials. We could certainly have central Government guidance and initiatives, but if we list specific individual materials—“metal and aluminium” itself is an interesting phrase—we would start to see some of the problems in identification. At the moment, we think that amendment No. 109 is somewhat over-specific.
New clause 18, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle on Thursday, relates to giving authorities the opportunity to cut council tax by means of an incentive mechanism. In principle, we have no problem with that. We are perfectly happy for local authorities to have that freedom. It was not apparent to us that they could not do that anyway under the Bill. If it is necessary to be explicit, we do not have a problem with that. However, we would probably need further legislation to make it happen. For example, imagine a council tenant on benefit who is on 100 per cent. council tax benefit. My understanding is that they do not pay the council tax and get the money back from the Government—they just never pay it. Therefore, if we wanted to incentivise people who do not pay council tax at all to cut their waste, it would be odd if their council tax was reduced and they got council tax benefit in excess of the council tax that they were paying. That would probably be illegal. Such an amendment would have knock-on effects, but, in principle, we do not have a problem with it.
Finally, we would be interested to hear what is meant by new clause 22, which has not yet been spoken to. It would probably be unhelpful for me to start guessing what it means, so I will draw my remarks to a close, but I might comment on that new clause once we have heard what it is meant to achieve.
David Maclean (Penrith and The Border) (Con): I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle, who leads from the Front Bench, for moving the amendment that I tabled last Thursday. I apologise for not being able to be here, but I was on the Floor of the House dealing with an equally important question as saving the planet: MPs’ pay and allowances.
Where am I coming from with the amendments? I would not seek to press them to a vote or to delete the relevant measures, unless the Government volunteered to do so. However, over the past few weeks we have had important discussions about saving the planet. We have had discussions on global warming, carbon emissions, the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of the rain forest. We have been seeking to do incredibly noble things with reporting targets for 2050. I am not sure that any Committee, dealing with any legislation, has attempted to be so far-sighted or far-reaching. Now, near the end of the Bill, we have five clauses that are, literally, on garbage—on allowing councils to come up with what, in some cases, are hare-brained garbage-collection schemes or innovative recycling schemes. This could discredit the main purposes of the Bill.
We have already seen in the newspapers over the past few months stories about some of the imaginative ideas that councils have had. We have seen how some of the public have become cynical and disillusioned, because they believe that the rubbish that they put out is being recorded by spies or by cameras and microchips in their dustbins. I believe that there is scope for recycling initiatives. I believe that the Government should be running pilot schemes under fairly tight control. However, I do not believe that such measures should be in the Bill because that takes away from the glorious merits of the legislation before us.
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Prepared 9 July 2008