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Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, as a practising leader of a local authority perhaps I may add to those remarks. We normally work from April to April or sometimes from January to January. To bring in a July date for a fairly complicated piece of paperwork and record keeping would only add to the costs, about which I want to speak later. I hope that the Government will think again about the matter and will bring the date in line with others used by local authorities.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, we discussed these issues in Grand Committee. The amendments seek to change the definition of a scheme year to run in line with the financial year. As was made plain in Committee, we understand the intentions behind the amendments.
The definition of a scheme year comes from the Landfill Directive. The directive requires reductions by the specified percentages by not later than 16th July in the specified years. So there is a target date. That could create a problemI say this in passingfor local authorities because reducing the period would make it harder for them to meet the specified date.
The other matter to which noble Lords should have regard is that there is a system of quarterly reporting. The process of quarterly reporting will take to the end of June. So there would be a period when the information had to be available anyway. That would provide consistent obligations and data across member states and would accord with other requirements that appear to fall due on 16th Julyas I have said, the quarterly reporting entitlement.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have taken part and to the Minister for her response. I hear what she says about the difficulties of having a different date to that promulgated by the directive. That will be a problem even with quarterly reporting. The quarter ends at the end of June. I accept that the end of June is closer to the beginning of July than the end of April, but even with quarterly reporting one still has 16 days unaccounted forif the Commission is that rigid. So there is a problem.
I shall be very interested to hear what the Commission says about the matter. I suppose that it is inevitable that the Commission will not have responded before we reach Third Reading. That is too much to hope for, but one never knows. I may not be disappointed, but I expect to be.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, we are back to the graph. Clause 3 contains this wonderful formula which provides a default line with which waste disposal authorities must comply in years between the target yearsin the event that the Government have not made another target, since they have that power.
In Grand Committee, there was general agreement that it was highly unlikely that a straight-line progression would happen. Waste disposal and planning authorities can see the directive and the Bill coming. They will unquestionably already be actively considering how they are to meet the Bill's requirements. The reality is that, if different disposal facilities or waste conservation systems are required, investment will be required. That investment will require new plant and buildings, and that means planning permission.
Waste disposal is a highly controversial subject in planning terms. It provokes the "nimby" factor in a way that I should like to think was completely unreasonable, but which, given human nature, is inevitable. It is likely that initially there will be a period when nothing changes very much. As time passes people will either accept some of these planning permissions and they will be granted or, indeed, the Minister may find that he has to grant them on appeal. If he does get appeals in this particular field I suggest that he will need to devise what I would call an accelerated process for hearing them if we are ever to meet the targets set by the Bill.
I return to Amendment No. 8, which seeks to leave out Clause 3. The clause sets a straight-line graph. We think that the key dates are the target dates mentioned in the directive. One could perfectly well leave those target datesof which waste disposal authorities are
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said. I understand why he seeks to remove Clause 3, which refers to non-target years. On the overall management of the scheme, is the purpose of the clause to allow the gradual attainment of the targets, rather than authorities falling behind and failing to meet them? It seems restrictive.
I am glad to see that subsection (8) provides that consultation shall also take place with Scottish Ministers, the National Assembly for Wales and the Department of the Environment. Why are the arrangements specified in such detail? What outcome does the Minister expect? Is the clause necessary to secure the targets outlined in the Commission's proposals?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, Clause 3, which Amendment No. 8 would delete, provides default rules for setting the maximum amount of biodegradable municipal waste in non-target scheme years. Clause 2 spells out the powers to set such figures for non-target years. But it provides that the Secretary of State may only specify maximum amounts for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with the agreement of Scottish Ministers, the National Assembly for Wales and the department in Northern Ireland.
There is possible confusion about default powers: they relate, not to individual waste disposal authorities, but to the figures and the rate of progress agreed between the four countries of the United Kingdom as contained in Clause 2. Where agreement is not reached, a formula for the default situation in each country is needed. Initially, I thought that the Opposition's objection to Clause 3 was based on a simple aversion to having algebra on the face of the Billmany noble Lords might share that opinion. But it became evident that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, was adept at working out what the formula meant in graphical terms.
The formula applies to the split between the countries rather than the allocation by waste disposal authorities, which is determined by the Secretary of State in England and the authorities in the other countries. A default formula is needed; otherwise, if an agreement is not reached between the allocating authorities in the four countries, our ability to progress towards the targets set by the directive could be impeded. In the absence of an agreed figure for each intervening year, the natural equal progression
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, the problem with a formula is that it is always inflexible. I apologise for misrepresenting the situation slightly. Clause 3 deals with setting a default position for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the four countries of the United Kingdom. I would have hoped that the Government might have had sufficient confidence in the authorities to feel about them as I do; that is to say, the default position for target years is what matters, and each authority should be left to determine its position by its own devices. The Government apparently do not feel that. They want to have a default position that is subsequently negotiable if an unexpected situation arises. I shall study the Minister's reply. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
If the provision does not mean what I have suggested, I shall be pleased to hear it. But the provision could be interpreted in that way, so we should do something about it, as I am sure that that was not its intended meaning. Subsection (5) is an oddity that has crept into the Bill, perhaps because we did not question it sufficiently at an earlier stage. I beg to move.
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