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Lord Lucas of Chilworth: I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Lindsay for his full response to that series of amendments in my name. I am sorry that the Scottish Office do not have the necessary expertise and would have to rely on SEPA. Since my noble friend assures me, first, that the strategy will not be materially different from that which will obtain in the rest of the UK, and, secondly, that the ultimate responsibility will lie with the Secretary of State whose responsibility is to Parliament, I am happy to withdraw my amendments in this case.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 269A to 286 not moved.]

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 286A:

Page 80, line 37, leave out ("upon which the Secretary of State wishes to be informed") and insert ("which the Secretary of State considers appropriate").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 287 to 289 not moved.]

Clause 75, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 11 [Schedule 2A to the Environmental Protection Act 1990]:

[Amendments Nos. 289A to 294 not moved.]

Schedule 11 agreed to.

Clause 76 [Producer responsibility: general]:

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 295:

Page 81, line 30, after ("of") insert ("achieving waste minimisation at source, and of").

The noble Lord said: This group of amendments, includes Amendments Nos. 295, 296, 296A, 299, 299A, 302 and 304, some of which are in my name and others in the name of other noble Lords. The amendments all deal in one way or another with the goal that we all wish to reach; namely, the achievement of waste minimisation at source. That is a great modern problem which involves the packaging industry. I do not wish to seem to be against the packaging industry. It does a good job and sometimes the packaging may entice people to buy what they do not want. But sometimes it is overdone and there is too much packaging. We all have experience of that.

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The recovery and recycling of waste are important functions in a sustainable approach to waste management. The first step is to reduce the amount of waste that can enter the waste stream in the first place. As I said, that means the reduction of excess packaging.

More than any other component it is an aspect of the producer's responsibility and is within the producer's control. Consumers can choose to reuse or recycle material, but they have very little choice in rejecting excess packaging. They just have to get rid of it somehow. Frequently there is no way to recycle it. Producers can promote recycling but consumers may continue to dispose of mixed waste to landfill. Therefore, waste minimisation should be included in this part of the Bill.

We hope that, as we become more sophisticated about the whole question of waste, the packaging industry will co-operate much more than it perhaps does now with the manufacturers of the goods to be packaged. These amendments, in whatever form the Minister would ultimately wish to put them, would be of great help in that way. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee: I briefly support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael. The choice of words in my amendment is slightly different; it speaks in terms of:

    "securing a decrease in the use of products or materials".

That may be slightly different from "achieving waste minimisation at source", but it all goes to the same end.

Perhaps I may add the frustration of consumers, who sometimes cannot access products for consumption without fighting their way through layers and layers of what I regard as quite unnecessary packaging. I once took up that matter with a manufacturer of soft fruit sweets. They were in a package which was quite difficult to get into in the first place; but then every sweet inside the packet was wrapped in its own individual package. Apart from anything else, that made it almost impossible to drive along the motorway while trying to keep one's throat clear. The response that I received, perhaps understandably, was that that was what the consumer required.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I should like to take issue with the noble Baroness. I totally support the concept of waste minimisation. Indeed, in the hierarchy of waste management, it quite rightly comes first.

Her amendment requires not only waste minimisation but seeks to secure a decrease in the use of waste. I am not sure that the noble Baroness could have thought the matter through.

Furthermore, she is being somewhat unfair to industry about this matter. There has been in existence for a number of years a very valuable body which goes under the name of INCPEN (The Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment). It contains many of the leading industrial companies in the country, whose objectives are to lead a rational debate on packaging and environmental issues and to encourage environmentally responsible industrial practices. We have all suffered from the fate described by the noble Baroness of having to fight one's way through packaging, but I believe that

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that is becoming less common. Indeed, industries are discovering that they can package their goods more economically with fewer layers, perhaps using different materials, and so reduce the amount. To put into this clause the obligation to secure a decrease could lead to some very undesirable results. The overall use of materials is inevitably determined by the overall level of economic activity—and that determines the use of the materials, including the packaging, which has to go into the goods.

The advice that the industry council gives is that if Amendment No. 296 were included in the Bill:

    "The effect would be anti-growth, anti-competitive and anti-employment and would take no account of the level of demand".

I hope I am not taking a point that is out of order, but the president of this valuable body, INCPEN, is my good friend Sir Peter Parker—a notable member of the party of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I do not say that he necessarily supports every single word of the briefings it gives to Members of the Committee, but we might be wise not to accept that amendment. I hope that my noble friend will resist the noble Baroness's blandishments and not support the amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: At the risk of extending the debate for 30 seconds, may I say that I am not against growth; that is not what the amendment is aimed at. It is aimed at securing a decrease in the packaging per unit, not in the number of units produced.

6 p.m.

Viscount Ullswater: Clauses 76 to 78 concern the policy area of producer responsibility for waste. It might assist your Lordships if, before we begin to consider the more detailed amendments, I say a few words about this relatively new initiative.

Producer responsibility is an instrument which seeks to encourage those who are responsible for placing goods on the market to assume an increased share of the responsibility for dealing with the waste which arises from these products. In other words, it seeks to increase the environmental awareness of producers by placing some of the costs of waste disposal onto those who produce products. It gives as much scope as possible for a market-based response.

The initiative has generally operated by means of a challenge from government to key industries. Our general approach has been to seek to offer the maximum scope to industry to organise itself to respond to the challenge. In this way, our objectives will be achieved in the most cost-effective manner.

There are seven separate waste streams involved in the first tranche of the initiative and the most prominent of these is the packaging chain—namely, those companies involved in manufacturing and using packaging. The general response from industry has been very encouraging. In the background to our discussions on packaging waste has been the EC Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste, which was adopted, with UK support, in December.

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In November, the former Producer Responsibility Group finalised its report on increasing the level of recovery and recycling of packaging waste. Key among its recommendations was that government should introduce legislation to eliminate the potential problem of "free-riders", namely those companies which might seek to gain a competitive advantage by refusing to accept their share of the responsibility to act.

In bringing forward these clauses, we are responding to that request, and propose to put in place a mechanism which will allow us to legislate in respect of any waste stream, where this proves necessary and appropriate. In this way, we can assure that the policy area is capable of further development and that we can incorporate additional waste streams, if appropriate. With this in mind, our aim is to introduce the minimum legislative structure which is consistent with effective enforcement, in support of the objective of more sustainable waste management practices.

The general purpose of these amendments is to extend the proposed powers to promote or secure an increase in reuse, recovery or recycling, which already feature in Clauses 76 and 77, by adding a power to regulate to achieve waste minimisation at source. I have a good deal of sympathy with the intentions of the noble Lords in putting forward these amendments. As my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding has indicated, waste minimisation comes at the top of the so-called "waste hierarchy" which we have articulated in our draft waste strategy for England and Wales published on 31st January. We are consulting in this draft on ways in which waste minimisation can be promoted and encouraged, and will wish to consider further in government what we should do to aid that process.

The clauses before us today, however, are concerned with the activities of reuse, recovery and recycling, where there is more experience to draw on and for which hard targets can more easily be set. It is intended that the regulations which will stem from these clauses will set and enforce these specific targets. We can envisage how industry might respond in a cost-effective way to meet these targets.

It is more difficult to set such targets for waste minimisation and therefore more difficult to see what form the regulations might take. Essentially, in setting targets here, we risk involving ourselves in a misplaced comparison between what would have happened in the absence of legislation aimed at producing waste minimisation, and what did in fact occur. It would not be cost-effective to impose, by statutory means, a blanket target for waste reduction on all companies in a particular sector. These clauses were drafted to impose the lightest regulatory burden possible on industry and my concern is not to increase this necessary burden. For all the sympathy that I have with the principle of waste minimisation, I need to reflect hard on the extent to which this mechanism is appropriate. Having said that, I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

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