|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, that point goes slightly wider than the remit of this Statement. However, I recall with great pleasure, during our consideration of the Education Bill, some very interesting debates with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on the relative merits of science, history and other subjects. I recognise the issue for the QCA about ensuring that it has a very clear role. As I said, we support what Mike Tomlinson said, and we are working with the QCA to achieve that. We also have great confidence that we can achieve it. I am happy to take the noble Lord's comments back to the department. However, questions such as how best to teach science are fundamental to our consideration of the curriculum for the 14 to 19 strategy. I hope that he will bear with us until we have completed those deliberations. Nevertheless, I shall feed in his comments.
Although the Bill deals with a devolved matter, it extends also to Scotland. I am content with the Sewel motion process in this particular case as the Bill implements an EU directive and there is no opportunity for what the EU would call "sub-national variation". Although the word sub-national is not, as noble Lords will recognise, appropriate to Scotland, it is the necessary EU constitutional speak.
The Bill raises a UK constitutional issue in relation to Scotland regarding the use of the four-year derogation. The Scotland Act requires the Scottish Parliament to implement EU legislation without derogation. We therefore need to have a greater understanding of how this aspect of the Bill will work. The situation is not impossible, however, as the Bill is pretty much a skeleton in how it will affect Scotland, and the Scottish Parliament will develop all the necessary secondary legislation to shape the Scottish response to the directive.
On reflection, this may well prove a textbook example of the sensible use of Sewel motions. The risk in the Sewel motion procedure is that we could lose all chance of a specifically Scottish approach, for this Parliament does only UK-wide solutions. I do not believe that that concern applies here.
In future, Clackmannanshirethe Wee Countywill drive its rubbish to landfill sites in other local authority areas. Perversely, this new operational approach will cost us less money. I have the option of buying back the landfill area which I mentioned, but, faced with 100 years of environmental monitoring, I doubt that I shall be taking it up.
The Bill is both inevitable and modestprobably too modestand it may not set a sufficient philosophy. Clause 17(3) needs to be sharpened so that the citizen in Scotland can be informed about the more desirable and purposeful options. Although the issue of energy recovery such as the use of waste wood for heating is very close to my heart, even I recognise that some discarded wood can be reused as wood rather than as domestic heating fuel. Citizens would find it more useful to see a hierarchy of waste management in the Bill, both for their own guidance and so that they could evaluate the efforts of their own local authorities.
When I was living in Edinburgh, for my first job, the Edinburgh Corporation supplied householders with ash buckets, expecting people to use the living room fire to reduce dramatically the volume of domestic rubbish. Nowadays, when it is unusual to find a working flue in a house, the volume of household rubbish has increased dramatically.
I conclude with a few observations. First, I could weep when I visit the Forthbank tip or any other rubbish site. I see reusable items in the skips. I would be charged with theft if I attempted to take items out of those skips. This situation is absurd, especially in the context of this Bill. Councils should allow a free exchange of reusable waste. On this matter, I feel an amendment coming on.
Secondly, some Scottish local authorities have further to go than others. I am most impressed by the organisation of the Longman skip site in Inverness. The Highland Council has a good regime for sorting the rubbish which citizens bring in. Even there, however, exchange is not allowed. By contrast, at the Forthbank site, Clackmannanshire has minimal sorting, and what sorting there is operates on a voluntary basis.
Thirdly, the Bill offers no solution to the increase in fly-tipping and the dumping of cars. Inevitably, as a landowner on the urban fringe, I have to deal with plenty of fly-tipping and an increasing number of
Locally, it costs the owner £40 to have his car towed away to the scrap yard and £30 at the scrap yard gate. Much of the fly-tipping comes from small firms dodging the landfill tax. The proposals to increase that tax, eventually to £35 per tonne, will have a significant effect on the countryside around urban areas, by filling it with rubbish. That is not the Government's fault, but the citizen's fault.
Fourthly, will the United Kingdom Government keep an eye on future EU environmental directives? I do not believe that we have coped at all well with the fridges and freezers directive, and there are more such directives on cars, tyres and electrical waste just over the legislative horizon.
I finish with a question on Part 2. When the participants first voluntarily signed up to the emissions trading scheme, were they fully aware that the scheme would soon become statutory? Have they been hoodwinked?
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I start by thanking the powers-that-be for providing a new Speakers' List and rescuing me from my somewhat transvestite description on earlier print-outs of the list.
I want to confine my remarks to the waste aspects of the Bill and in particular to welcome the just published PM's Strategy Unit report calling for a far greater focus on waste reduction and considerably more recyclingI believe that it recommends a recycling target of 52 per cent, up from the current 11 per cent, one of the lowest in Europeof the waste that remains.
There have been valiant efforts over a number of years to encourage voluntary action by industry, indeed, by all of us contributing to our growing waste mountain. Certainly that has resulted in some success. But it has become increasingly clear that much more than voluntary action is needed if we are even to get close to the EU directive's agreed targets.
I should perhaps begin by declaring an interest as the chairman of the British Oxygen Company's Foundation for the Environment. This was set up 12 years ago by BOC with an initial budget of £1 million and the promise of 0.5 per cent of its annual UK pre-tax profits. The foundation's aim was to support financially innovative, action-based research and demonstration projects (preferably in "niche", unresearched areas) and, where possible, to find others with the necessary expertise, such as the Environment Agency, as funding partners. Successful projects were required to produce a report on what had been achieveda best practice guide, if you likefor dissemination. So far the foundation has supported
One of the earliest gaps we identified for attention and support was waste minimisation. That was well before the government of the day had begun to realise its importance for the environmental agenda. Together with the Centre for Exploitation of Science and Technology (CEST), the Aire and Calder project, named after those two rivers, was set up whereby consultants worked with a range of industrial and commercial companies whose waste was contaminating those two rivers. Shortly after that was under way a second project for companies, Catalyst, followed in Merseyside which covered air and land pollution as well as water.
Those two projects provided clear pointers for the future for they made it very plain that companies had little, if any, idea either of just how much waste they produced or of the cost of its disposal to landfill sites. Still less did they have much idea of their waste's potential value for re-use or recycling, or of how much their waste could be reduced or in some cases completely eliminated from production processes. "Bottom-line" savings which resulted, as well as environmental gains, were considerable. Eleven companies involved in the first project made savings of over £2 million during the first 18 months. I recount a small anecdote that made me laugh. One company found that a hosepipe which had been left on was not needed at all. Turning it off saved that organisation no less than £2,000 a year.
Following the success of those projects the BOCF with other partners, funded a range of waste minimisation clubs by area and also by industry. We turned next to supporting projects alerting whole industries, for example farming, and public services such as the NHS. Their sheer volume of waste showed the greatest potential for minimisation and recycling. Understandably, by far the most difficult group to influence were the small and medium-sized enterprisesother noble Lords have mentioned thatbut recently there has been some success there too. In all, I am proud of the fact that BOCF has helped to fund no fewer than 46 waste minimisation projects.
I mention all this because despite the considerable efforts by government and some leading companies in the waste industry, and, indeed, by bodies such as Valpak representing the whole packaging industry, there clearly is not anything like enough action under way to meet our required targets, whether current, intermediate or, indeed, much longer term.
So what needs to be done and how far will the legislation and the ideas contained in the Strategy Unit's report be useful? The Government's Strategy Unit's report points to the relatively small percentage of their profits that companies spend for their waste to be disposed of. The "polluter pays" principlein use for years now in the United Statesmust surely, I should have thought, by now be firmly embedded in UK legislation, especially for manufacturers of white
There is, too, much scope for refurbishing and recycling household appliances. I remember how, as a director of Kingfisher plc, I was greatly impressed by the actions of Darty, a leading French company, which had just become part of the Comet (white goods) wing of Kingfisher. As part of its social responsibility programme Darty had for some years trained unemployed people to clear the dangerous gases from refrigerators and generally refurbish them. The finished products were sold to those unable to afford new appliances.
And we have only to think back a few months to the impact of our discarded fridges mountain mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and the huge financial and manpower burden that that and other forms of dumping have heaped on local authorities, to realise that penalties for those offences need to be made very much tougher.
I turn to the role of local government, which, incidentally, has had a pretty bad role in all this. There have been few incentives for them to play a fuller part. Universal kerbside collections mentioned in the Bill would certainly be an incentive for citizens to hand over their more recyclable waste products. Composting, too, whether within individual homes or collectively organised by local authorities, is still very much in its infancy in the UK and could make a substantial contribution to waste minimisation. However, would there not be considerable problems to be overcome with multi-occupancy premises if, under their new powers, local authorities decided to charge or otherwise "incentivise" each household unit according to the amount of waste produced?
Waste, we are told, increases with affluence. Our own waste increases, apparently, by 3 per cent a year despite current efforts to contain and reduce it. Changes in lifestyle, too, have meant changes in packaging techniques. Takeaway food is a good example. Bulky packaging keeps the food warm but, alas, it is all too often disposed of by those who eat, as it were, "on the hoof", by throwing it in the street or into other people's gardens. The "polluter pays" principle should surely come into play here for both manufacturer and the anti-social customer.
I turn now to my last rather different point. Are we sure that the different components that make up our household waste pay the appropriate overall financial contribution to the collection and reprocessing processes? National newspapers are an interesting case here on which it would be instructive to have the Minister's views. Noble Lords must have noticed that these have grown considerably in bulk over recent years. We take two Sunday national newspapers at home and over two consecutive Sundaysnot counting unwanted drop-out adverts but including their attached "own label" magazinesthey totalled
A substantial amount of newsprint is, of course, not only recyclable but re-recyclable. As newspapers form 7 per cent of all household waste, is the industry paying enough, not only for collection but for the electricity used in the necessary recycling and, ultimately, for disposal, which will be done, most probably, by greenhouse gas-producing incineration? I can understand the incentivenot least the advertising revenue that it producesfor our newspaper industry to continue to increase the size of their papers. However, is there enough of a "polluter pays" disincentive in the environmental charges and other taxes levied?
There is also the important contribution from individual citizens that we have, so far, failed fully to harness. We know from MORI polling that there is considerable willingness on the part of the public to become more involved. Many of the most successful projects that BOCF has backed involved the whole community, coupling expertise with voluntary effort. Children make especially good ambassadors, once their interest is gained. One hopes that the new subject of citizenship in the school curriculum will put considerable emphasis on our responsibility to preserve the environment for future generations, as well as our own.
Finally, I come even closer to home. In your Lordships' House, should not we educate ourselves in the same way? We should think of the reams of paper that your Lordships consume every day. Should not we also minimise our waste?
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I must say how much I welcome the Bill. I must also apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, for not being here at the beginning of her speech. I shall make only a few remarks, mostly in support of the Bill.
For a time, when I first joined your Lordships' House, I had the privilege of serving on one of the Select Committees concerned with environmental issues. During that time, we considered the performance of the UK Government in carrying out the waste framework directive, with particular regard to waste incineration. I was on a rapid learning curve about emissions and waste incineration. Although we were primarily concerned with incinerations and emissions, we were operating within the context of the UK's waste management strategy. It will not surprise your Lordships to hear that we found that the UK Government had a lot of ground to make up.
I was struck by the enormity of the problem that the Bill seeks to address. The UK produces nearly half a billion tonnes of waste each year, which is half a tonne per household. Every week, we could fill Wembley stadiumor, at least, we could if it had not been knocked down. We recycle less than any other
To stem waste growth, there must be a change in everyone's behaviour. A MORI pollprobably the same one as that to which the noble Baroness referredshowed that, unprompted, only 7 per cent of households named waste as an important environmental issue. I welcome the recent report published by the Prime Minister's strategy unit about municipal waste, which recommends a package of reforms. Although all those recommendations must be considered over time, it seems that the Bill is part of the drive to make progress in dealing with this huge problem.
I must refer to the performance of local authorities. In many ways, it is at the heart of whether the first part of the Bill will succeed. The performance of our local authorities is uneven. We are talking of recycling performance that ranges from 1 per cent to 42 per cent. That is a huge difference. The setting of targets is important. How local authorities fulfil the targets is up to them. In many ways, the Bill will, indirectly, have a significant impact on the figures. A reduction in landfill means that local authorities must consider more systemically the use of recycling, incineration and other measures to meet the targets.
There are initiatives such as WRAPthe Waste Recycling Action Programme. Its budget has been increased, and, in the spending reviews in 2000 and 2002, increased provision was made available to local authorities for environmental protective and cultural services, including waste. The initiatives are there, as are some of the resources, although probably not enough. The Bill will play an important part in setting the targets that local authorities must meet.
Finally, I refer briefly to the UK's emissions trading scheme. My noble friend has a record of working on and promoting that issue. The fact that we are where we are, with the Bill, is a testament to that record of work. The UK emissions trading scheme is the world's first economy-wide emissions trading scheme. It is a voluntary scheme, which, as noble Lords will know, was launched in April 2002. It aims to deliver cost-effective emission reductions as a move towards meeting our international obligations and domestic targets and to provide a learning-by-doing experience of trading greenhouse gas emissions. Not only are we doing things that will improve the emissions situation in this country, but we are setting targets and aspirations for many people in the world to follow.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, like every noble Lord who has spoken this afternoon, I welcome the thrust of the Bill and the intentions that lie behind it. I shall concentrate on the law of unintended consequences and matters to which it is wise to pay heed, when legislating.
As we heard, Part 1 of the Bill establishes the framework for local authorities to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill through tradable landfill allowances. However, uppermost in our mind must be the truth that, if a restriction is placed on the legal method of disposing of waste, it must, without any doubt, create an incentive for illegal dumping. We must plan ahead at this stage, when we have the opportunity to frame the legislation, for how we will cope with that.
The problem of fly-tippingillegal dumpingis significant and growing. Yet, it appears that it is not taken sufficiently seriously by the Government or their Environment Agency. In looking at the likely side-effects of the Bill, we must review what has happened since the introduction of the landfill tax. In its report on fly- tipping, the Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs commented as follows:
In the circumstances, that statement is bordering on the complacent, particularly in view of the fact that, in a Written Answer in another place on 13th June 2002, Mr Meacher stated that the total number of prosecutions for the unlawful deposit of waste in the whole country was only 264.
It is widely acknowledged that there is a lack of national information about this important issue. Anyone who drives round the country or who lives in the country, particularly on the edges of cities, will see illegal dumps in lay-bys, woods, lanes, alleys, and indeed in any other quiet place.
I will return to the question of prosecutions in a moment but, before doing so, it is important to look at the central issue of the effect that the landfill tax has had on illegal dumping. I believe that in this area the Government are, in a sense, in denial. In paragraph 59 of their response to the committee they say,
They go on to say that householders are not directly affected by the landfill tax. Quite true, but they ignore the effect, since the tax was introduced, of commercial and builders' material being tipped.
The agency went on to list the landfill tax as one of the direct causes of this problem. Unless the Government accept that this is a consequence of putting constraints on access to the legal methods of disposal of waste, it will be difficult for them to get a grip on this proposed new framework for implementation of targetswith which we all agreeto reduce biodegradable landfill.
There has been very little serious research work done on this subject but I would commend to the House a detailed report produced by Maidstone Borough Council. Its opening proposition was that there has been an exponential increase in the amount of tipping in the borough, at county level and indeed nationally. In Maidstone in 2001 there were more than 1,500 incidents of fly-tipping, compared with fewer than 500 in 1997. Furthermore, it expected another increase of 50 per cent in 2002.
Angela Howard, the regional director of EnCamsI believe on behalf of the Tidy Britain Grouptold the research committee that there were a number of reasons for increases in the incidence of tipping, the main one being the introduction of the landfill tax.
Perhaps I may illustrate the problem with a brief anecdote. I was staying at a house in the Home Counties owned by a member of my family. They live down a long and quiet lane through some woods. We awoke one morning to find that builders' rubble had
I submitted pictures, the written information and notes of my interview with the householder to the local authority, which was extremely interested because it has to pick up the bill for removing such materials. I pay tribute to the very efficient work that Wokingham District Council does in removing the rubbish. It said that unfortunately the Environment Agency would not prosecute unless someone actually saw the offence being committed. Is that really the case? I would like some guidance on that from the Minister. If it is the case, given that a great deal of this tipping occurs at night, the chance of achieving any successful prosecutions is extremely slim indeed.
As it happens, there was another occasion when there was dumping in the same place. The sleuth went out and rifled through the rubbish again, and found a further name and address. On its submission to the local authority, it said yes, it knew the name and address and, lo and behold, it was the person who ran the building firm about which I had found evidence before. I understand that the local authority gave the information to the Environment Agency, which still declined to prosecute. If this is what we face, how can we get on top of the situation?
Surely, in dealing with the restriction on the implementation of targets, we are looking at only one side of the problem, although an important side? Demand for landfill reflects the supply of goods which will become rubbish and the lack of alternatives for their disposal. Limiting access to landfill is one tool. However, it can be meaningful only if used in conjunction with national and international strategies to reduce waste, particularly with regard to the free movement of goods, and to encourage recycling, and if the authority responsible for ensuring that the whole system is not bypassed by illegal dumpingthe Environment Agency in this caseis put under much greater pressure by the Government to deliver more effective enforcement than is currently the case. Unless the Government accept that the Environment Agency has not coped effectively with the side effects of the landfill tax, they will be creating a major problem when access to landfill for household waste is not constrained.
The Bill is clearly an important step forward, but we do require some assurances from the Government that the practical framework is in place and that the Environment Agency is ready for what will be the likely consequence.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, one advantage of speaking last from the Back Benches in a debatethe place usually reserved by the usual channels for rebels and expelleesis that everything you want to say has probably already been said. All one can do, therefore, is to support and perhaps elaborate on what has already been said.
I want only to deal with the waste aspects of this Bill. I very much agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, that the Bill does not include many things which should be included in it, which need to be dealt with and which, indeed, have needed to be dealt with over a very long period of time. Now we are almost in the position of having to take an emergency decision on this problem. Apparently it has arisen because of a European directive. Why on earth we have to wait for the European Community to scrabble about in our waste tips and in the dustbins of individuals, I simply do not know. This matter should have been dealt with decades ago because it has been known for a long time that our landfill sites would become full in the not-too-distant future.
So far as I can see, the Bill does not contain any provisions to help local authorities to deal with this enormous problem. Local authorities' finances are so constrained that they simply cannot deal with it on their own. They need a good deal of government support if they are to build recycling plants and so on. So far as I can see, they are not receiving such help. The support needs to be specific and directly applicable to the problem. Local authorities cannot deal with it themselves because they do not have sufficient money. They are already finding it necessary to increase council taxes by three or four times the rate of inflation. Therefore, they are not able to deal with the problem themselves. It is a job that the Government should be dealing with and one with which they should have dealt a long time ago. However, the Bill is now before us.
As I said, ratepayers, or council tax payersthat is the problem with having been a local authority leader many years ago; one cannot get out of the habit of describing council tax payers as ratepayersare already under great pressure. But it seems that they will now be presented with another bill to enable local authorities to deal with the consequences of the Bill which is before us. We are hearing about individuals
I want to stress a point raised by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, during debate on the gracious Speech and, indeed, by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, this afternoon. It is not the ordinary peoplethe householderswho are at fault. It is not they who wilfully generate the excess waste which goes into landfill sites. It is the packaging industry, the manufacturers, food processors and retailers and others who shower them with junk mail.
The newspaper and magazine industry wastes millions of trees churning out free newspapers and weekend supplements to provide work for hack journalists and writers. That industry causes the problem. Householders, who have to cope with the amount of waste, are not the polluters. It is not they who should pay. They are the victims in this crisis of excessive waste and in this era of throwaway products. It is to the generators of this avalanche of material that pleas for restraint should be made. Such pleas should not be made to householders, who are the unwilling recipients of the torrent of unwanted material which they cannot return to those who impose it upon them.
A friend of mine, who is 77 years of age, recently had a rather bulky piece of furniture delivered to her house. In my day, a bulky piece of furniture would normally be placed in a blanket. The delivery men would bring the item into the house, put it in place and then take the blanket away and use it again. But that does not happen now. My friend's piece of furniture was packed with piles of polythene, cardboard and God knows what else. The delivery men dumped the package on the floor and said, "Goodbye, madam". She said, "Just a minute. Aren't you going to unpack this?" They protested but unpacked it grudgingly. The whole room was covered in packaging. She asked, "Aren't you going to take it away?" "Oh no", they said, "that's not our job". Therefore, this lady, who is 77 and has arthritis in her hands, was left with a mountain of packaging simply as a result of having a piece of furniture delivered.
That is the type of problem which we must try to deal with and to which we should pay attention. It is an area that should be explored with manufacturers and retailers in an attempt to place a restraint on the masses of paper which are doled out. Again, I refer to a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe. We always seem to agree these days; I believe that we agreed on the subject of the BBC in a recent debate. As the noble Baroness said, in this place and throughout Whitehall, the, in most cases, unnecessary, mountains of paper that are churned out cause part of the problem. Therefore, the Government themselves should clamp down on the amount of waste produced.
I also want to mention the problem caused by free newspapers. As though we did not have enough of them, Express Newspapers are to produce yet another free newspaper for London. Noble Lords can imagine what that will do to householders who have one delivered, regardless of whether or not they want it. Therefore, there are great problems.
It seems that in one respect we are tackling the problem from the wrong endthat is, we are tackling it from the disposal instead of the creation end. Therefore, I hope that the Government will do a great deal to stop the creation of the mountain of paper that afflicts us every day, week in, week out, month in, month out, year in, year out, and decade in and decade out.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, this has been an interesting debate with a number of extremely valuable contributions. Members of your Lordships' House seem to have been discussing these matters for a long time. I believe that it was Lord Palmerston who said that dirt is not dirt; it is simply matter in the wrong place. Whether Palmerston had ever heard of the word "recycling", I do not know, but that seems to be the issue at the heart of our discussions.
I thank my noble friend Lord Livsey of Talgarth for setting out, in part, the position of the Liberal Democrats in relation to the Bill. I also thank my noble friend Lord Mar and Kellie, who referred to "household flues". I believe that, in our part of the world, they are known as "chimneys". Perhaps he can confirm that following the debate. There were a number of excellent contributions, notably that of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, whom I had never thought of previously as being a cross-dresser. One learns many things in this House.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, raised the question of charges. I take this opportunity to say that we have grave reservations about imposing on householders extra charges related to the volume of refuse they produce. In principle that sounds right, but in practice it seems to be the wrong point in the chain to levy extra charges. The implications for extra fly-tippingso ably set out by the noble Viscount, Lord Goschenand illegal dumping and so on, are huge. Certainly, in our part of the world the backyards of derelict houses are the first point of call or, if the amount is too big, it is dumped on the moors. So we have considerable reservations about that matter. We shall want to return to it in Committee.
The noble Baroness, Lady Byfordonce the Minister had introduced the Billstarted off by expressing disappointment. We share that disappointment. Part 1 is called a "waste" Bill. In many ways it is a waste of opportunity Bill. We would have much preferred to see a Bill which set out a comprehensive waste strategy. This is very much a bits and pieces Billtaking a bit here and a bit there. I suppose that if it had been a comprehensive waste strategy it might not have started its passage in this House. Nevertheless, it might have been a more useful Bill.
I am fascinated by the formula in Clause 3(2). It is disappointing that no-one has discussed it in detail, taken it apart and explained what it means. I look forward immensely to discussing it and the amendments that may be moved to it in Committee. It would help enormously if, before the Committee stage, the Minister could provide some workings by way of example to show how the formula will work in practice and what it means. That might save a great deal of confusion and thoroughly ignorant discussion by many non-mathematicians.
My next point is in relation to the huge quantity of the Bill that will rely on regulations and secondary legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, read out the relevant part of the report of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform. It is clear that a main reason for so many regulations is that implementation of the principles in the Bill will be left to the jurisdictions in the different parts of the United Kingdom or, at least, Scotland, Wales and England. In the case of England, that is the Secretary of State.
It is a very good example of the kind of pseudo-federalism we now have in this country that Scotland has a substantially devolved administration, which could almost be described as federal, Wales is a half-way house, and England is nowhere. There is a difference between the three places. For example, in Wales the National Assembly will be able to discuss the secondary legislation in detail and will be able to amend it in detailor in considerably more than detail if it wishes. It is only in England where secondary legislation is now presented to this Parliament on a "take it or leave it" basis. That is not satisfactory. It is a constitutional matter that will have to be tackled.
There is a great deal of secondary legislation consisting of one page just changing a price, a figure, a quantity, or so on. That is straightforward. But the kind of legislation clearly required from the Bill will be statutory instruments consisting of 70, 80 or 150 pages. It is not acceptable and satisfactory that they are presented to Parliament on a take it or leave it basis. We shall at least want to return to the matter and discuss it in Committee.
There is a classic "shall" or "may" argument looming on the horizon in Clause 15. I refer to the question of public access to the registers which will be set up under Part 1 of the Bill, where it says "may". I think we shall be batting for "shall" in the classic argument there. I ask the Minister to look at that matter. It is freedom of information. It should be mandatory. It is more than just the normal argument we have on these things.
A larger issue perhaps is the question of whether this country should be taking advantage of the four-year derogation on the landfill directive. Can we really not do all this work by 2016? Do we really have to wait until 2020? I ask rather teasingly how many Members of your Lordships' House will still be around in 2020 to see itperhaps not many. So it is a long period of time. We are one of the richest countries, not only now but ever, in the world. If we cannot do jobs such as this
On the theme of missed opportunitiesthe waste of opportunity Bill perhapsthere are a number of issues that we believe should be tackled as part of the Bill. One is the whole area of incineration. There is a risk that if landfill becomes more expensive and more difficult to useand it is not just the illegal and the fly-tipping at a low level, which will take placethere will perhaps inevitably be more incentives for people to use incineration. It is our view that there should be a moratorium on new incinerating facilities and perhaps a system of allowances for incineration brought in. Those matters are integral to what is being attempted in the Bill; perhaps they should be tackled at the same time. There is nothing in the Bill about essential parts of a strategy to reduce landfill and particularly landfill biodegradable waste.
I return to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. It is all very well tackling the problem at the end, but the real problems are at the beginning of the cycle. Unless far more attention is paid to that, tackling the problems at the end will be very difficult and will create the kind of bottlenecks which have been talked about.
We should like to see this country perhaps moving towards a real genuine zero waste strategy over a medium terma reasonable period of time. It may be that zero waste is an unattainable dream, but, like many unattainable dreams, one can get quite close before one actually comes up against an impossible situation. As a party, we have put forward a 40-year strategy for waste. That sounds a long time. It is certainly beyond the life expectancy of most Members of your Lordships' House. But that is the kind of timescale which, if we are looking at fundamental issues, we could be examining.
Waste minimisation should be fundamental to what we are talking about. We are not just dealing with the waste that is produced. If a large amount of waste being produced at the beginning of the cycle has to be dealt with, a zero waste strategy is not the whole answer. Recycling everything is not the whole answer if we are using too many resources already at the beginning of the cycle. Some of those matters may be appropriate for discussion in Committee; some may be too grand or major topics. But we shall certainly be putting forward some amendments.
I was interested to hear my two noble friends who have spoken promising amendments on this and amendments on that. I am not sure whether they were threatening the Minister or me. We shall find out in the next week or two. We are considering whether it is possible to write a provision into the Bill to deal seriously with fly-tipping and illegal tipping. That may be inappropriate and may need to be done in other ways, but it is a major matter that should and, we hope, will be discussed.
Lord Luke: My Lords, "Waste not, want not", is how I was brought up. In those daysquite apart from Lord Palmerston, I am sure that this is truerecycling was not an option. But surely that is where the future of waste management lies, not in vast quantities of mixed rubbish taken down the Thames in barges every day. It is hugely ironic that this great city, which owes its very existence to the river, should now use it to transport only rubbish.
Details of targets, allowances trading and the various powers of the various bodies have been well discussed. My noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith said that we must do much better over the next few years or pay huge penalties to Europe. He is quite right. If we do not do much better over the next few years, we deserve to pay huge penalties to Europe.
My noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith asked a specific question, which I hope that the Minister will be able to answer: under what financial regime will the Bill work? What will be the cost of incineration as a general rulealleviated as it may be, and is, by the saleable energy created by incineration? My noble friend also told us that transport costs of waste are high, so treatment centres and holes in the ground, if they are to be used, must be close to the producers of waste. My noble friend also mentioned something about nappies into wallpaper, but I shall not go into that.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, made a most interesting speech. My noble friend Lord Goschen emphasised the importance of considering beforehand the unintended consequences of any measures taken. Like many noble Lords, he mentioned how important it is to cope with fly-tipping, to which I shall shortly return.
My main concern about the Bill concerns its strategy. It is fundamentally the same for each of the four countries. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, did not mention Northern IrelandI could not fail to say that with my noble friend Lord Glentoran sitting next to me. In the words of the newly ennobled but very late Monsieur Dumas, it is a case of my comments being,
First, the strategy relates to biodegradable waste. It is undoubtedly true that 63 per cent of 29 million tonnes is an awful lot of reusable, recyclable material going to landfill. It is also indisputable that the situation is unacceptable and must be corrected. However, I am greatly concerned at the implied quantity of inert material going to landfillespecially because, as my noble friend Lady Byford said, so much of it must be plastics. Why is there nothing in the strategy to impel the Secretary of State to set targets and draw up a strategy for reducing inert waste?
Secondly, the strategy is to reduce biodegradable waste going to landfill, which implies that it will cover waste from all sources: municipal, commercial, industrial, hospital, and so on. Yet the first part of the Bill is concernedit repeats this over and over againwith biodegradable municipal waste. The Local Government Association has pointed out that it has no authority over collection authorities. The landfill operator has a licence to carry on the trade and accepts waste from all sources. The LGA has also declared that it would not want landfill operators to lose out because of the Bill's operation. I am concerned that they may find themselves between a rock and a hard place, because there seems to have been no consideration of their position.
The Secretary of State is required to consult representatives of industry, local government and the public. There is no mention of commerce or of other government departments such as defence and health. If biodegradable municipal waste is intended to encompass biodegradable waste from all sources, why does the Bill carry a separate definition for biodegradable waste? Will the Minister give examples of biodegradable waste that is not biodegradable municipal waste?
The strategy separates biodegradable waste originating within the country from that entering from outside. It does not impose a duty to reduce the volume of biodegradable waste leaving the country. Despite the requirements on the relevant authorities to consult each other about the formulation of their strategies, the omission of such a duty may be a source of considerable friction in the days and years to come.
My noble friend Lady Byford asked the Minister about the chapter on waste management in Wales. Devolution is not my strong point, but I also question the need to go into such detail about Wales in the Bill, when there appears to be no comparable provision for England. Presumably, the Secretary of State will have parallel powers to produce regulations for English local authorities. If so, is he likely to exercise them?
How much research has been done by the department in countries such as Switzerland, Austria and Germany, whose municipal waste management is so much ahead of our own? In each of those three countries, about 50 per cent of their waste is recycled. Our comparable figure is 12 per cent. I understand that we have a target of 25 per cent by 2005. Does the Minister believe that that will be achieved?
I have done some research into the situation in Germany. Each household has separate sacks for biodegradable waste, paper and cardboard, plastics and polystyrene and, finally, for anything that is unrecyclable. In Germany, the citizen is involved in that management. Some waste is collected free and some, especially unrecyclable waste, must be paid for.
Mistakes in assignmentin other words, putting the wrong waste into particular sacksare punished by a yellow card for the first offence: one does not receive a collection next week. If one carries on doing it wrong, one receives a red card. One must then prove
It is expected that rubbish should be washed before assignment. I cannot see that happening here, but that is what they do. Also, in Germany, one is not allowed to keep bins sitting on the pavement in full sight; one must keep them out of sight. Perhaps that is not right for this country, but there are messages that could make a great deal of difference here if we tried to get ordinary citizens to co-operate. On that I draw a slight distinction between myself and the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. Quite apart from trying to assign less waste, we have to work hard at the other end as well. I am sure that if we do both we shall get somewhere.
In certain local authorities in England I understand that some progress has been made. In the Test Valley in Hampshire there is a three-bin rubbish system: normal, compostable and recyclable. That sounds the right route. What are the Government doing to encourage that elsewhere?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, this has been a very informed and informative debate and I thank all those who have participated in it. There have been expressions of disappointment with the Bill, followed by huge expectations of what a piece of legislation can do. The Bill deals with an important part of waste management. It does not seek to deal with a whole range of waste management. There are other instruments already on the statute book. A strategy was developed in 2000 for waste management. Last week, the strategy unit report made further proposals and we also had the Chancellor's commitments on the taxation side of landfill and related matters.
Therefore, many of these measure are more broadly within waste strategy, including hierarchy, other local authority responsibilities, commercial responsibilities and so forth. In addition, part of the programme encourages households and individuals to take responsibility. Not all of that can rest on what is in some ways a modest Bill. However, it is a strong Bill in the sense that it will deliver the key target on municipal biodegradable waste and do so in a way that is a mixture of government targets and economic instruments.
Therefore, it is partially a market system and partially what the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, referred to in passing as a "Soviet system". However, I believe that it is somewhat different from that. We need those targets. Although I am all for leaving local authorities to get on with it, as my noble friend Lady Thornton said earlier, the achievements are somewhat variable. Recycling achievements can vary from 1 per cent to 42 per cent and therefore targets must be imposed. How the local authorities meet those targets is up to them.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, regretted that we are in this situation because we were forced to comply with an EU directive. I know his views on those matters, but he might agree with my view that thank God we did. Thank God the EU put pressure on us because our present system of dealing with waste is totally unsustainable. The timetable imposed, which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, believes is too long, will be difficult for us to manage because of the decades during which we have simply relied on landfill for dealing with the bulk of both biodegradable and other waste. Therefore, a range of other measures has to be brought to bear, but the requirement on biodegradable municipal waste is very important.
The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, raised a number of specific questions. I shall do my best to reply to as many as I can. We are using other measures in delivering the overall waste targets. The noble Baroness asked whether the targets can be changed. The answer is yes, but the overall targets can be changed only by an agreement to the amendment to the directive. Therefore, we are maintaining the overall target unless the directive is changed. The only way that that can be changed is by the review that is taking place in 2014. Therefore, we are on an established course.
The noble Baroness also mentioned transporting waste over long distances. We shall try to avoid that as far as possible and we can do so in part by the training system and in part by trying to ensure that local authorities and commercial operations meet the least-cost options for dealing with their waste.
The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and others, referred to packaging. That is being dealt with separately by the EU directive on packaging and packaging waste which is being implemented. It requires at least 50 per cent of packaging waste by weight to be recovered by 2001. Further obligations have come into force since then. In part, we have exceeded the target. However, the growth of packaging is a major problem and contributes to the growth of waste.
The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, referred to catering waste and to the fact that it cannot now be recycled on farmland. That is the case and our consultations on amendments to the animal by-products order will allow for the composting of catering wastesomething that I believe we all agree is vital. That will be dealt with through that route, rather than in this Bill.
It is also true that under packaging regulations any firm with a turnover of more than £2 million in its last accounts and handling more than 50 tonnes of packaging must be covered by the regulations. That also applies to the commercial side as well as to the local authority side. However, it does so through the packaging regulations rather than these provisions.
As regards the targets, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, drew our attention to what he regarded as an over-complicated formula in Clause 3. I thought that it was fairly simple. I have called a meeting of all Peers interested in the Bill for next week, when I shall give a lengthy seminar. The point is that there are several target years and at any point one has to remain on the trajectory. If the algebra is transferred into calculus, one should be able to work that out.
I have already referred to the importance of the strategy unit report on the way forward. It is a complicated but cohesive publication with a lot of recommendations. We are setting up a ministerial group to look at the funding implications. It will report to my Secretary of State and to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and others referred to the problems of funding. Although we have allocated significant additional resources on waste both at governmental level and at local government level in the Spending Review 2002, charging and resource issues have to be faced.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page