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25 Feb 2009 : Column 281

Mr. Byrne: There can be challenges of co-ordination between public agencies, but there can also be such challenges between social enterprises and other voluntary groups. That is partly the inspiration for the £16 million of funding that we announced in our third sector action plan a week or two ago, which will make it easier for charities and voluntary sector organisations to get the advice that they need in order to come together. May I say, though, that it is important for local authorities to play their part. A survey a week or two ago provided quite a lot of feedback about the track record of different authorities and how well they are doing to support social enterprises. One of the conclusions was that local authorities in some parts of the country could do a great deal more. I am sure that that is a shared political agenda between us.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): In the north-west, there is an organisation called Wheels2Work, which assists young people in particular who live in remote rural areas who do not have their own transport and where there is no public transport to access training, employment and further education. Unfortunately, the Northwest Regional Development Agency is ending its generous grant to that organisation at the end of this financial year. That means that it will have to withdraw all those scooters from the young people who are able currently to get to work, training and so on. Will the Minister look at that and give some encouragement not only to me in seeking to help them, but to the Northwest Regional Development Agency to continue its funding?

Mr. Byrne: I will of course look at that and see what more can be done to help. We are very clear that the support provided to the business community should be available and must help social enterprises, just like any other business. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree that it would therefore be a backward step to shut down RDAs, which are, of course, at the sharp end of delivering much of this help. I know that he, too, will welcome the commitment made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to give social enterprises the right to bid where they show that they can deliver back-to-work programmes more effectively than the Government. That is surely the right thing for us to be doing.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): A group of students in my constituency have set up Vanilla Galleries as a way to exhibit their work after they have left college. That is a fine example of a social enterprise. Will the Minister tell us what success he is having with Departments across Government to mainstream social enterprise and co-operatives as a way of encouraging people to move into the workplace? Many examples of such enterprise need the Government to respond positively and see them as a solution, not as a last resort.

Mr. Byrne: That sounds like yet another example of where a social enterprise in one of our constituencies is making a real difference not only to the wider delivery of public policy, but to a large number of young people. We have to ensure that right across Government there is a shared commitment to increasing the number of people who work in the social enterprise sector. Crucially, however, we have to back that commitment to increase the sector’s work force by 25,000 not with cuts but with real investment—investment that is routed through to social entrepreneurs right across Government.

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Mr. Francis Maude (Horsham) (Con): The whole House will agree with the Minister about the importance of social enterprise and the huge contribution that it makes to addressing social problems. It is great that so many people want to commit their energy, skills and drive to this terrific cause. But is not the problem with the growth of social enterprise a lack of access to capital? When does the Minister expect the social investment bank envisaged in the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act 2008 to be set up, and how much capital does he expect it to be set up with?

Mr. Byrne: I welcome what appears to be a shared commitment. I do not consider that weaning social enterprises off public support should be an objective of public policy, because I think that public support is an important part of the mix, but I also think that it should be accompanied by increased help from the private sector. We now have the requisite legislation in place, but the conversations with banks are more complicated this year than they were last year, because there is a wider agenda for Government to advance. Regulations are now being discussed with the banks, however, and I hope that substantive progress will be made in getting the social investment bank up and running this year.

Mr. Maude: It is good to hear that there is some progress, but the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act gained Royal Assent in November last year, and people now expect to see at least the setting up of the framework. Given the effect of the recession on the most deprived areas, is not the answer to encourage more social enterprise by establishing social enterprise zones in those areas? Why do the Government not simply adopt our proposals?

Mr. Byrne: We continue to be open to any ideas that we think would help create a flourishing social enterprise sector, but that policy ambition must be backed by investment. I do not agree with the notion that we should somehow cut the Cabinet Office budget by £100 million, because that would close down 400,000 volunteering opportunities and about 2,500 small local charities across the country which rely on our support. As I have said, we have a complicated argument and a complicated agenda to present to the banks this year, but I am determined to ensure that our conversations about the creation of a social investment bank do not get lost in that wider set of ambitions.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): What steps will the Government take to try to ensure that the importance of good terms and conditions for staff, and the importance of trade unions, are recognised by social entrepreneurs?

Mr. Byrne: We think that many of the 25,000 jobs that we want to be created in the social enterprise sector will come through spinning out the work of public servants from the public sector, but if that work is to be conducted effectively in the future, it is clearly vital for the terms and conditions enjoyed by staff working in the public sector to be preserved. My noble Friend Lord Darzai undertook a great deal of pioneering work, ensuring, for example, that NHS staff who wanted to take spin-outs could carry with them important benefits such as pension rights. Protection of that kind will be vital if we are to make this transition effective and good for all.

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Civil Service Employment

6. Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): How many new posts he expects to be created in the civil service in the next 12 months. [257853]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr. Tom Watson): I send my condolences to David and Samantha. Their loss will be immense, but I hope that they can find comfort in the knowledge that the thoughts and prayers of all of us are with them today.

I do not want to predict what will be in the Budget, but overall we continue to expect and to achieve efficiencies in the civil service. We will create posts in some services, such as Jobcentre Plus, to respond to the downturn, and where possible we will move existing resources to those services.

Andrew Selous: I thank the Minister for his condolences, which are warmly appreciated on this side of the House and, I am sure, across the whole House.

The National Audit Office estimates that the cost of recruiting civil servants could be cut by as much as 68 per cent. In the current tough economic conditions, private sector firms would have no choice but to follow that course. What action will the Government take to ensure that the NAO’s recommendations are followed?

Mr. Watson: We are still considering the NAO report, but the hon. Gentleman is right: there has been a digital revolution in how the private and public sectors can recruit staff. I hope that we not only learn the lessons raised in the NAO report, but create some digital solutions that will help drive down costs and ensure we have attractive packages on offer to potential civil servants.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Q1. [257863] Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 25 February.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): Lance Corporal Stephen Kingscott, Marine Darren Smith and Private Ryan Wrathall have all given their lives in the service of our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know that the whole House will join me in expressing our condolences to their families and friends. Time and again our service personnel show us their courage and commitment. They are dedicated men and women who are prepared to sacrifice their lives for our country and in the interests of a safer world. They shall not be forgotten.

I know that the whole House will want to express our sorrow at the sad death this morning of Ivan Cameron at the age of just six, and our condolences go out to David, to Samantha and to the Cameron family. I know that, in an all too brief young life, he brought joy to all those around him, and I also know that for all the days of his life he was surrounded by his family’s love. Every child is precious and irreplaceable, and the death of a child is an unbearable sorrow that no parent should ever have to endure.

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Politics can sometimes divide us, but there is a common human bond that unites us in sympathy and compassion at times of trial, and in support for each other at times of grief. Sarah and I have sent our condolences to David and Samantha, and I know that the whole country, and our thoughts and our prayers, are with David, Samantha and their family today.

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Lance Corporal Stephen Kingscott and Marine Darren Smith, who were killed in Afghanistan, and to Private Ryan Wrathall, who died in Iraq. Whenever we read out such names, it is a reminder that whenever death comes, or however it comes, it is a devastating loss to the families involved. That is why I want to thank the Prime Minister on behalf of David and his family for his very generous and, I know, heartfelt words and for the private condolences that he passed on this morning. I also want to thank the Prime Minister for suggesting that we suspend the normal exchanges of Prime Minister’s questions, and the Speaker for agreeing to that exceptional action, which is deeply appreciated by David’s friends and colleagues in every part of the House. As much as anyone in the House, the Prime Minister will understand the dimensions of this loss—which, as he has said, is something no parent should have to endure. I spoke to David a little while ago, and he has asked me to pass on his thanks for the sympathy already expressed by so many colleagues in this House and beyond.

Ivan’s six years of life were not easy ones. His parents lived with the knowledge for a long-time that he could die young, but that has made their loss no less heartbreaking. They also wanted me to say, once again, how hugely grateful they are to the many NHS and care workers, who not only did their utmost for their son this morning, but have helped him every day from the moment he was born. We should remember today that many thousands of other families are deeply grateful for the dedication, support and love of these highly professional people. We know how much their help has meant to the Cameron family. Ivan, their son, suffered much in his short life, but he brought joy and love to those around him, and, as David himself has said in the past, for him and Samantha he will always be their beautiful boy.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): May I add my condolences to the family and friends of the three servicemen who died serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. May I also say a few words on behalf of my party leader, my parliamentary colleagues and my party to extend our deepest sympathy to the Cameron family for the loss of their son, Ivan, this morning. Everybody in the House will have experienced bereavement, but there is something especially sad and shocking about the loss of a child. We all recognise that that is especially difficult to cope with. This is a personal tragedy that transcends all party barriers, and I simply express the hope that the family are given the space and privacy to grieve and cope with the tragedy that they have experienced.

Mr. Speaker: This House will share my sadness at this news. Our hearts and sympathy go out to David and Samantha, and to Nancy and Arthur. As a mark of respect for Ivan, this House will suspend until half-past 12 o’clock.

12.5 pm

Sitting suspended.

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12.30 pm

On resuming—

Bill Presented

Driving Instruction (Suspension and Exemption Powers) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Willie Rennie, supported by Ms Katy Clark, Mr. David Hamilton, Mr. Mark Lancaster, Nick Harvey, Jo Swinson, Danny Alexander, Gordon Banks, John Barrett, Mr. Adam Holloway, Mr. Alan Reid and Linda Gilroy presented a Bill to provide for the suspension in certain circumstances of registration and licences relating to the provision of driving instruction; to make provision about exemptions from prohibitions concerning registration (including provision about suspension); to make provision about compensation in connection with suspension; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 March, and to be printed (Bill 65).

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Renewable Content Obligation

Motion for leave to introduce a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

12.31 pm

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): As the House resumes its sitting, I add my heartfelt condolences to David and Samantha Cameron on the tragic loss of their son, Ivan.

I beg to move,

Recent press reports about waste mountains piling up, because of the collapse of markets for recovered waste as raw materials for new production, are wide of the mark. Most recovered waste continues to be sold at reasonable prices, although it is fair to say that there has been a considerable falling off in the price for cans, PET plastic, paper and cardboard. Those are the sinews of recovered material in the UK and the vital ingredient in ensuring that the waste hierarchy is maintained.

That hierarchy, long adopted as the guide to waste management practice, indicates that the best way to reduce waste is to avoid creating it in the first place; if it is created, it should be possible to recover and reuse it. If not, and if it is organic, the waste can be composted and, further down the hierarchy, used for energy recovery. Only after all other uses have been considered might residual waste be disposed of in landfill.

The press reports perhaps gain more credibility than they deserve because they reflect an underlying question often asked about recovered waste: what happens next? If all the efforts of recovery are lost because nothing does happen next, the point of those efforts will come into question. Where recyclates are concerned, the establishment and development of markets for the raw materials that come again into existence are a vital part of the process.

As a country, we have been doing well in recent years on the issue of recovering waste. Landfill is reducing significantly, waste growth is slowing and, in the past 10 years, recycling and composting have quadrupled. The recycling of packaging has doubled. Those are impressive gains on the picture 10 years ago of overwhelming reliance on landfill, with the consequent huge waste of usable resources and the huge loss of opportunity to replace virgin material coming into the production cycle with recovered, already-used raw materials. It also represented an enormous cost in carbon emissions, but we still have a long way to go. We are still landfilling far more of our waste than virtually any other country in Europe and we face ambitious targets for the further development of the recovery of waste over the next 10 years.

By 2020, we should be recovering 75 per cent. of municipal waste and rapidly reducing to a minimum residual municipal and commercial waste that goes to landfill. That means, quite simply, that we will need to find ever more widespread markets for the resources that we are recovering. An increasing range of products will have to have a substantial element of recovered materials in their content. If we do not find markets for this resource, it will inevitably tumble down the waste
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hierarchy—high-grade waste such as food standard plastic will be mixed with low-grade plastic, and recyclates that could be used for manufacture will be used for energy. At worst, pre-collected and sorted waste with no market for its potential will return to landfill.

The Daily Mail and its like tell us regularly, and usually erroneously, that carefully collected and sorted waste is all going into a big skip and thence to landfill. It is true that a good proportion of that waste is exported for reuse and does not enter the domestic product cycle, but some of this is justified in the long term. For example, we produce far more scrap metal as a country than we could conceivably use for metal manufacturing, so it makes sense to export clean metal for manufacturing abroad. The recent dip in markets was very much a phenomenon of demand for exported waste and indicates that the international market is perhaps a less reliable way to go than has been assumed. Yet today we rely on this market to remove much of our sorted waste.

As regards glass, we export 250,000 tonnes a year out of 1.5 million tonnes recycled. We export more than half the 8.6 million tonnes of paper and card that we recycle. Two thirds of plastic packaging and almost 80 per cent. of metal is exported. We can imagine what the loss of these markets might do to the stream of recyclates coming through the system on a continuous basis. That will not happen, of course, but to keep up with the expanding stream of recyclates, we need to export more, as matters stand, and in some instances to export more where identical virgin material is coming through our docks the other way to enter the production cycle.

My ten-minute Bill, which should perhaps be more exactly and accurately entitled the recyclate content Bill, would provide a way to face up to this future and emerging problem for our waste with confidence and with secure markets, primarily here in this country, for the results of our efforts to recover and reuse our waste streams. It would enable the Government to specify levels of recyclate to be included in the production of designated products on sale in the UK. In short, where a product or a range of products was designated by the mechanisms contained in the Bill, it would be required, as a condition of sale, to have the right amount of recycled content within it.

This might be thought of by some as a sudden and irrational flight of fancy—“That would never work!” Yet it does already, in goods and services that we all buy and use. The renewable transport fuel obligation, or RTFO, requires producers of fuel in the UK to include in their products an aggregate of 2.5 per cent. renewable fuel this year, rising to 5 per cent. by 2010—that is, the addition of biodiesel or bioethanol to mineral fuel. If someone switches their lights on, the product that they will be using and buying—electricity—will have, as a requirement of sale to them, a defined element procured from renewable sources. The Bill, then, would not introduce a new concept or restrain the market but instead provide a level playing field for the makers of designated products and, as in the case of the RTFO and the renewables obligation, a buy-out price or the opportunity to purchase credits if someone does not or cannot comply. Those exceeding their targets in recyclates have an opportunity to benefit by trading additionally with those who do not.

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