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Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Greaves is ill. Until about midday he was going to lead on this Bill, but he is now unable to do so. I shall try to make the best of it. I was going to act in a supporting role, but I shall try to comment as I was in Committee on the Bill and know a little about it.
Many aspects of Amendment No. 1 are desirable. It is similar to Amendments Nos. 74 and 76 tabled in Committee. The idea is to reduce the number of miles travelled by waste and therefore reduce the pollution from transport. That would be done by detailed regulations. However, the amendment proposes no penalties for failing to meet the regulations.
The amendment seems almostI stress almostlike an old-style east European command economy way of tackling the problem, involving top-down state bureaucracy. It is questionable whether that is desirable. Secondly, there are no details of how it would work and how it would be enforced. We do not think that it is practical as proposed. A whole new set of penalties and ways of enforcing them would be needed. Local authorities argue that the ones that the Bill imposes on them as waste disposal authorities are already a great burden.
Thirdly, there is no logic in imposing such a bureaucratic regime on the transport of waste alone. Many other things are transported on the roads. Would such penalties be applied to those materials as well? If the Government want to reduce road transport, they should intervene in the market through taxation, or whatever, to encourage the use of other modes of transport, such as rail.
Amendments Nos. 42 and 62 address the question of a proximity principle. Amendment No. 42 says that waste disposal authorities shall have a duty to apply the proximity principle. Amendment No. 62 says that a waste disposal authority has to take BMWbiodegradable municipal wasteand possibly other waste to the nearest tip if disposing of it inside its own area. It also says that an authority disposing of it outside its area must obtain the agreement of the waste disposal authority in whose area it is being disposed.
Our reasons for not supporting these amendments are, first, that the proximity principle does not appear to be clearly defined in the Bill. Secondly, the amendments refer to BPEObest practical environmental optionwhich again does not appear to be defined. Thirdly, instructing a waste disposal authority to use the nearest tip may result in silly operational constraints. For all kinds of reasons, that may not be practicable. In any case, there is no penalty if that is not done and therefore it is not enforceable.
We have doubts about the amendments. Some of the objectives are highly desirable but quite a bureaucratic administrative series of procedures are placed upon authorities without the possibility of enforcement. We are concerned about that. Certainly, to my knowledge, some large local authorities in England are surrounded by other waste disposal authorities whose operations it is sometimes much more convenient to use because of the distances involved. Although there are provisions within the amendments to tackle those sorts of problems, at the moment we are not wholly convinced that they would work without placing a large burden on waste disposal authorities. That would produce many practical problems.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith said, this group of amendments deals with transportation. Like the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, I have some sympathy with what the amendments attempt to achieve. However, I do not believe that they succeed. In any case, I would argue that this is not the Bill for that purpose.
As noble Lords will know, the Bill is primarily designed to implement the requirements of Article 5(1) and 5(2) of the landfill directive. If we add to it this dimension of waste management, then we might also wish to consider many other areas of waste management. It is important that those issues are resolved by more flexible methods than the requirements contained in the amendments.
In any case the amendments are incomplete and flawed. I do not go as far as the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, and call the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, a Stalinist, but the amendments are heavy handed in dealing with the flexibility which waste disposal authorities need. If there are restrictions as to which landfill sites authorities can go by definition of the nearest areanot necessarily the nearest landfillit is not entirely clear how that would be measured. Would it be related to the appropriate roads or as the crow flies? In any case, the decision must be based on the overall environmental benefit not simply on the transport environmental effects.
The requirement in Amendment No. 62 for a waste disposal authority to use facilities within its geographical area unless it can achieve agreement with either the receiving waste disposal authority or the allocating authority could work in the opposite direction to the first amendment. For example, the nearest suitable landfill site to the source of waste could be outside the waste disposal authority's boundaries. If so, Amendments Nos. 42 and 62 would have directly contradictory effects.
The host authority has means of restricting access to the landfill site in terms of planning permission and subsequent planning permission. Were it to wish to restrict access, then the appropriate way of doing so would be through the planning permission arrangements and not through landfill allowances or the restriction of access to appropriate landfill sites for neighbouring authorities. The right way to manage any waste stream is through best practical environmental options. That will include both going through the waste hierarchy and the assessment of the transportation costs. In that way the proximity principle is covered. Doing that unilaterally on one basis is not appropriate.
Likewise the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, referred to the additional waste coming in over and above what the authority had planned for. But the maximum amount of waste in a site is dealt with in planning permission. If the waste coming from a neighbouring authority is within that figure, then it is not appropriate that it should be denied simply because it is coming from another authority.
The overall principle involved here is that it must make more economical and environmental sense for the waste disposal authorities to take their own decisions in the light of all environmental dimensions and not simply restrict them rather inflexibly on the transportation issue.
The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, also referred to Amendment No. 69. That will only arise if Amendment No. 62 is agreed to. As I indicated, I do not accept Amendment No. 62 and therefore, while Amendment No. 69 raises interesting issues, we cannot accept that amendment either. I hope that the noble Lord will not pursue the amendments in this group.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, and to the Minister for their responses even though they are somewhat negative. We are discussing a Bill largely directed at the subject of biodegradable municipal waste. We are discussing neither general waste nor inert waste. Those are quite specific wastes. It is a growing view that there is no longer any need for any of those wastes to be disposed of outside a waste disposal authority's boundary, wherever that waste disposal authority might be. The technological developments in this field make
I hear what the Minister had to say about the complications that my amendments might cause to a waste disposal authority if it were required to use the nearest site, particularly if that site happened to cross a boundary. The amendment refers to the disposal of waste within an authority's own boundaries. I suggest that waste that was not within the authority's boundaries would not be affected. I accept that planning permission is the issue that regulates the size and scope of any disposable facility. The arguments that I used to advance the amendments include an existing case in law and two existing planning appeals. While those matters will unquestionably be taken into account in the future, if we want to encourage good practice we ought to give some legislative assistance. However, the Minister does not appear to wish to do so at this stage. I shall go along with him and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.