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The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, Sir Michael Lyons, in his inquiry into local government, recommended that the Government should give local authorities the freedom to implement such incentives developed in close consultation with local residents.
Englands waste strategy is currently being reviewed. In this context, the Government are considering the full range of options that could encourage producers and consumers to change their behaviour, including Sir Michael Lyonss recommendations. The revised strategy is due to be published soon.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that informative reply, but is not charging people extra for removing their domestic waste an appalling idea? It would require a highly complex new local bureaucracy and would result in endless rows with neighbours as people put rubbish in other peoples bins.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I always understood that the noble Lord supported local government. The idea is to allow local authorities to have flexibility. In fact, the Local Government Association has called on the Government to allow local authorities to introduce financial incentives. They may not necessarily be charges; they could be rebates. There is a range of options that could lower the cost for some people, but it will depend on local circumstances. People living in flats will be treated differently from people living in houses as the waste disposal is different. Whatever solution is come up with must take account of that. The strategy will give local government options, which may not necessarily amount to extra charges.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I do not accept that. I believe that something like two-thirds to three-quarters of local authorities are in the top echelons following the comprehensive performance assessments. Local authorities are responsible for waste collection. They have different policies and they consult residents about whether they want to have garden refuse bins or fortnightly collections. It is up to local choice and local authorities consulting with local residents. What they lack at the moment is the opportunity to give financial incentives; that is, potential rebates or perhaps a mixture of charges. That potential is not there for local government.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, does the Minister hold with the principle that the polluter should pay where he has deposited hazardous industrial toxic waste on land and the land needs reparation? If he does hold with that principle, what is happening with the Environment Agencys claim in the US bankruptcy court against New Monsanto, and the companies that it has indemnified, for huge depositsmillions of tonnes of industrial wasteon various sites in England and Wales? Why has the 1972 agreement between Monsanto and Redman-Purle not been enforced? It would save the taxpayer at least £100 million.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am all in favour of saving the taxpayer money on waste collection. I can confirm to the noble Countess that Parts IIA and IIB of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 place the costs of cleaning up sites on polluters. Costs fall on the public purse only in the event that the polluter cannot be identified or cannot pay. I can also confirm that, in May 2006, the Environment Agency filed a protective reservation of rights at the Solutia Incorporated bankruptcy proceedings in the United States, seeking protection and clarification for any liabilities under Part IIA of the Act at Brofiscin or elsewhere in the United Kingdom that derive from historic Monsanto tipping activities. No date has yet been set for the hearing of the agencys representations. The agency is in regular contact with the US legal representatives and has had confirmation from them earlier this week that there is no two-week deadline for making a claim against the company.
Lord Naseby: My Lords, does not the Minister recognise that we should learn from experience? We had the situation of dumped cars where individuals were charged and as a result we had cars all over the place; now there is a more sensible policy in most local authority areas where you can take your car for free disposal. We also had the experience over refrigerators where the Government forgot to turn up in Europe at the key meeting. Can we not just learn from experience and recognise that if you tax people extra for their refuse, we will have huge problems all over the country?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. We have to learn from experience. If this policy was managed and introduced incorrectly it could cause an absolute disaster for those involved. People would find a way round it, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said. It is much better to encourage people to
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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the problem for many households is the number of things that cannot be recycled? What progress are the Government making with manufacturers on changing their packaging?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, discussions on that are ongoing although I do not have the details. As the noble Baroness knows, there have been consultations with supermarkets, food producers and other producers of domestic goods on unnecessary packaging. The costs of both producing and disposing of this packaging is wasteful for everybody concerned.
Lord Brookman: My Lords, will my noble friend join me in my campaign? On Sunday mornings I get a plastic glove from the garage on the corner, take a carrier bag from Waitrose and, by the time I get to the newspaper shop to get the Sunday papers, I have put all the villages domestic refuse into that bag. In other words, I wonder whether people cannot show some interest and take a bit of personal responsibility for this whole issue.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. I am not sure whether he was saying that he could dispose of half of the Sunday newspapers before he got out of the shop. That is what most newsagents would like us to do. He gives a good example of civic responsibility.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, perhaps the Minster will inform the local democracy debate by telling us of any evaluation that the Government have made of the effect that bin taxes could have on the incidence of fly-tipping, and what are the latest figures for fly-tipping prosecutions?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I do not have figures for fly-tipping prosecutions. However, as I said, the revised strategy was consulted on and we are looking at the options that Sir Michael Lyons put forward. We will publish a revised strategy soon. Before anyone asks me when, it will be some time in the summer. It is not imminent in the sense of the next weeks, but it will be after the local elections. But that is not the reason why it will be later. There is a variety of ways of doing this: volume-based schemes, set-based schemes, weight-based schemes and frequency-based schemes. A whole range of issues will have to be looked at. It cannot be one-size-fits-all for a local authority, and it cannot be one-size-fits-all within a local authority, simply because of the nature of the dwellings in this country.
Lord Rooker: No, my Lords, I cannotnot with respect to domestic refuse. Too much of it goes to landfill, for a start. We want to recycle as much as possible, and household recycling is up to 27 per cent. The recycling of household waste has doubled over the past four years. There is a recycling element. I do not have a figure for incineration, but too much is going to landfill.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, the problem is not only recyclable waste or packaging waste; a lot of the waste that goes into dustbins is food waste, because people are encouraged to buy far more food than they need. Is there anything that the Government or local authorities can do about that?
Lord Rooker: Yes, my Lords, an enormous amount of work has been done on that. Something like half the food purchased is wasted. Some local authorities are providing green bins for food waste, and there are schemes on both research and practicality around the country where food waste, mixed with green wastetrees and shrubsis being fed into anaerobic digestion plants to create electricity. I visited Greenfinch at Ludlow, where I saw a first-class example of what is happening; there are other cases around the country. On some farms there are large anaerobic digestion plants, which are reliant both on animal waste and food waste, whether the food waste is from animals or humans. An enormous amount of work is being done to get energy out of waste. Waste is the wrong word; that product is a resource, and we should make good use of it.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My Lords, I beg leave to repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, in another place. The Statement is as follows:I should like to make a Statement about the current situation regarding the 15 British service personnel detained by Iranian forces on Friday of last week. The Government are doing all that they can to ensure that they are released immediately.
there is no doubt at all that these people were taken from a boat in Iraqi waters. It is simply not true that they went into Iranian territorial waters, and I hope the Iranian government understands how fundamental an issue this is for us. We have certainly sent the message back to them very clearly indeed. They should not be under any doubt at all about how seriously we regard this act, which is unjustified and wrong.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am sure we are all very grateful to the Minister for repeating the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretarys Statement, for presenting the details of the situation with such clarity and, if I may say so, for his own part in seeking a swift resolution of this ugly problem.
Do not these details show beyond doubt that both HMS Cornwall and its boarding party boats were at least 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters when surrounded and that they were going about their lawful business? Is that not confirmed by the GPS pictures, by witnesses and by the master of the Indian merchant vessel, which was anchored and unloading and was being examined? Therefore, were the Iranians not, frankly, acting in error, as they continue to do?
This is potentially a very grave situation in which there will be full support from this side of the House and, I suspect, from the whole House and all parties
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Perhaps I may put a number of questions to the Minister. First, we have heard that there have been repeated requests for consular access to the naval personnel. Has any firm reply of any sort been received about when this can occur and where the naval personnel are? Surely it is time that we at least knew that. At this point, I should add that we obviously share fully in the overriding concern for the safety of those seized and in the very understandable anxieties of their relatives, colleagues and friends.
Secondly, what went wrong operationally? Clearly, something did. It seems that the Iranian fast patrol boats must have been lurking and hiding, perhaps behind the Indian freighter, in order to spring a trap. Why did these boats not show up on the maritime recognition systems and screens of HMS Cornwall? Would preventive action have been possible if they had been spotted in time, or did the rules of engagement prevent any moves being made, even if they were spotted? If so, are these the right rules of engagement for patrolling in such dangerous waters? Had we been warned by any intelligence sources that a raid of this kind might be tried at this stage in the broader political context? Are we sure that its timing is not in any way linked with other events, such as the UN sanctions debate or the detention of Iranian suspects, who had been making mischief inside Iraq?
Can the Minister tell us something about the report that Turkish intermediaries have sought to be involved with Iran? Is that true and are they of any help? Does the Minister agree that, for the moment, we must pursue mattershe obviously agreesby the most vigorous presentation of the facts? If that does not produce results, the full pressures of the international community, in its various guises, such as the United Nations, the European Union and all our other allies and friends across the globe, will have to be mobilised.
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