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I mentioned McDonald's not because of the business of street litter but to emphasise how difficult it is for some commercial businesses. I believe that McDonald's is genuinely seeking to find ways to deal with its food-contaminated waste—all those cans, for example, which the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, mentioned, that end up in those little bins in those places where we eat far too often for our own good for the convenience of being able to get a quick meal. The

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truth is that McDonald's has a great deal of difficulty in finding agencies that will take that material away. The whole business of commercial disposal and recycling will need considerable development if we are to make the improvements that we need.

Given the nature of the debate and the very productive way in which it has opened up the issue, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 183C:

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to the other amendments in the group in my name, Amendments Nos. 183D, 183ZA and 183ZB.

We are now firmly into Schedule 5. This group of amendments covers the questions of the areas to be covered by the pilots, the number of pilots, and how representative the pilots will be. Amendments Nos. 183C and 183D, which go together, would take out of the Bill the provision that the pilots,

and replace it with,

The Minister briefly mentioned this provision in previous debates. It is not clear why a useful and sensible pilot would cover only part of a local authority. The Minister said previously that the reason was to give an authority the flexibility to decide for itself. But, throughout this part of the Bill, there are issues of equity and fairness. The purpose of the amendment is to probe how such schemes might work.

Some residents in a particular collection authority area would be covered by such schemes, but some would not. People in some places may have to buy bags at 20p or £1 a bag—whatever it is—but in other areas they would not. For those who have to buy them—who have to pay up front for a service that others are getting free—issues of equity and fairness will arise. The same applies for those who have to pay more for a bigger bin, a more frequent collection, or whatever. People will believe that it is not fair that others within the same council are being treated differently. The Minister may say that it is up to the council to cope with that but there is an issue of principle here which the Government have to address.

Amendment No. 183ZA deals with the number of pilots. I must say that the numbering of the amendments in this part of the Bill is a nightmare, but no doubt we will all cope. Amendment No. 183ZA is also for probing purposes. It would leave out the line that says that there can be only five pilots. The obvious question is: why five? Why not six, 10 or 50? What is the justification for five? One guess would be that someone has worked out that £100,000 is the amount that will have to be paid to a local authority to take part in the pilot, and that £1.5 million divided by five authorities over three years comes—if I have understood it right—to £100,000

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a year. If that was the only sum that Defra could get out of the Government for this, there could be only five pilots.

The question of the number of pilots is also linked to Amendment No. 183ZB, which inserts into the Bill new wording to insist that the areas covered by the pilots should be representative. The amendment states:

That is a slightly more detailed version of the Conservatives’ amendment in this group.

It seems self-evident that the more pilots we have, the greater will be the variety of areas that can be tested. Think of the types of area that could be included. There are far-flung rural areas: uplands, farms and hamlets. There are more compact rural areas with larger villages, and those could be very different in the lowlands. There are large council estates, some with blocks of flats and others with low-rise garden houses. There are new towns. There are inner cities with private flats, council flats, housing associations, town houses, and mixtures of shops and housing of the kind that the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, mentioned. There are garden suburbs. There are Pennine towns and villages in areas such as the one where I live, with higgledy-piggledy terraces and cottages. There is the question of students and of houses in multiple occupation generally, and probably lots of others that I have not thought of. There are many different sorts of area. If this is going to be rolled out to 60 or 65 per cent of areas across the country, those areas will have to be part of a pilot. One wonders whether that can be done with only five pilots.

The Government say that there are four types of scheme: the big bins and little bins, the chip and bin, the frequency-based, and the pound-a-throw schemes—or give them their official names if you like. If you have four types of scheme and nine or 10 types of area, it makes you wonder how five pilots will be enough. It may be that you cannot get more than five councils to volunteer, but that is a different matter. Nevertheless, if it is going to be piloted properly, it has to be piloted in lots of different sorts of area. The fear—it is a very genuine fear—is that it will be piloted in easy areas. It is easy to see how a wheelie-bin based scheme can work in a practical way in suburban areas where there are gardens, every house has its own entrance and it is easy to identify the bin for that house. It is easy to see how it can work in that sort of area, whether it is right or wrong. It is not easy to see how it will work in a lot of other areas. Unless the Government pilot in a sufficient range of different areas, a very substantial rollout is probably impractical, and if it were enforced, would probably not be a good idea. So will the pilots give a full and true picture? The question probed in the amendment is whether five pilots are enough. What guarantees can the Government give that the areas will be representative? I beg to move.

Earl Cathcart: The first two amendments, if accepted, would make the Bill read:

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This seems sensible as, once the scheme has been introduced nationally, the whole area of a local authority would have been tested by the pilot scheme. It will provide a fuller picture when examining the results of the pilot schemes than if there is cherry-picking. When we looked at Clause 51, the Minister said that councils should be able to do part of that themselves rather than the whole. But my council, for instance—Breckland Council—is a rural council which has five market towns. If Breckland Council was able to just test one of the towns, it would not be testing the rural part of this district. Therefore, we will not learn anything about the problems that the rural areas may have.

We believe that the choice of pilot areas selected should reflect the different types of authority in question and, in our Amendment No. 183ZAA, we wanted one which was predominantly rural in nature and one that was totally urban, to try to get the Minister to recognise that there is a need to test the different types of local authority. There seems little point in rolling out a scheme nationally following a pilot scheme if that pilot scheme has not tested the various constituent areas that make up a local authority. The Minister has already said that there was a need to target a range of different types of authority.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I say to my noble friend that I think there is some merit in what the Government are doing here. In the area in which I live, a council which is rather good at public relations is trying out, in one town after another, new ways of dealing with wheelie bins. It is not trying them out in all towns at once but in one at a time and it is adjusting the scheme when it has experience of each town. In that way, it is getting the public, who in our case are rather averse to the whole idea, more interested. It is working, so I think that there is some merit in this scheme, although the Bill does not apply to the area where I live. Our scheme may be totally different, although I suspect not when it comes to the issue of rubbish, so there is a different method from that employed in my noble friend’s local authority and I have some sympathy for the Government’s way of doing things.

7 pm

Lord Rooker: I touched on this issue in general terms when I dealt with Clause 51. We have to trust local government. It does not make sense to be prescriptive in this part of the Bill, particularly when we are looking at piloting what would be a major national policy. Probably the best way to learn something is by letting local authorities have the chance to design a scheme that best fits their local needs and implement it in areas where they consider it to be most appropriate. For a start, that would increase the likely effectiveness of the scheme and we think that it would be good for the local population.

I doubt whether all five pilot areas would want to include all their residents, but I hope that we do not get the situation that happens now with residential parking schemes where some people have to pay to park in front of their house, while others in the next road do not. However, one person does not go knocking on his neighbour’s door, as the noble Lord,

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Lord Greaves, implied, saying, “You’re having to pay for something that I am getting for free”. Such schemes are usually implemented at the request of local residents anyway following a ballot and consultation but, even when there is a ballot, not everyone in the area will vote for it. This is a question of looking for local circumstances and meeting local needs.

The evidence collected from the pilots will be pretty crucial, and it would not make sense if they did not reflect the various parts of the country both demographically and geographically. Obviously, the local flexibility that comes from the pilots will go into a pool of evidence, and we think that, as they stand, the provisions offer the best terms.

I do not know why five pilot areas have been stipulated rather than six, but our view is that five local authorities—we do not know which ones they will be—looking at pilots in their areas is the right number. A local authority may say, “We want a pilot in this part and that part of our local authority”. It will still be a pilot but in two different parts of a local authority. If local authorities want to do that, it is up to them, and I do not think that at the moment we should put any hurdles in their way.

Obviously, we would like there to be a balance of urban and rural, and certainly high- and low-density, populations in the pilots. That is axiomatic. Of course, we have to look at local authorities’ current performance and at what they are able to do. Some local authorities might look on the pilots as a means of substantially improving their index of performance on recycling. Taking part could put them up the league as being good, competent local authorities, together with all the other good things that can flow from that, such as having the Government on their back less. Therefore, we want to ensure that the tests are effective and we think that five pilots would probably be sufficient. However, we are not being prescriptive about the size and nature of the pilots.

Amendments Nos. 183C and 183D would prevent an authority applying a waste reduction scheme to just a part or parts of its area. As I said, it is up to the local authority where the scheme is applied. It does not have to cover the whole area, although it can if the authority so desires. If it is an area with good recycling in place or one that has a type of waste collection system that could easily be adapted to a waste reduction scheme, the authority might want to seize on that and build on what it has. Instead, the amendments require that any scheme should apply to the whole local authority area, but we do not think that that makes sense in a pilot.

In addition, the amendments could significantly limit the number of authorities interested in coming forward to take part in a pilot, because they would reduce their flexibility administratively and financially and, from a professional point of view, as regards the collection of the waste. In some areas, it might be far too costly to roll out that kind of operation because of the nature of the housing in the area, whereas in the rest of the local authority area there could be great benefits for everyone. Therefore, we do not want fewer interested local authorities, as

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that would reduce our ability to select the best pilots. That is why I cannot accept Amendments Nos. 183C and 183D.

Amendment No. 183ZA would remove the limit on the number of areas which can pilot a waste reduction scheme. Currently, we say that there should be no more than five. As I have explained, we consider that having up to five pilots will allow us to test in depth a sufficient number of schemes around the country. The more flexibility we have, the more likely we are to get more local authorities coming forward as potential pilots. That will give us a greater choice and help to ensure that we choose those that better reflect the whole country. We believe that we can do that provided we get a good-sized sample. The sample can be broad but we want it to be manageable as well, and we think that we can get that with up to five pilot areas.

Amendments Nos. 183ZAA and 183ZB would place conditions on the types of areas selected for piloting. We will be looking for a range of areas. It would be preposterous if we did not pilot in any rural areas—we recognise the terms “rural”, “isolated” and “low density”—in areas where recycling materials may or may not be easily collectable, or in urban areas, where it can also sometimes be very difficult to carry out recycling programmes. We want to look at as wide an area as we can and not be prescriptive.

I am very conscious of what I said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. I never said that the money that we got in a little pot was for the local authorities and I did not mean to imply it either. I said that it was a small amount of money that could facilitate some of the pilots, and, as I have said, some of the pilots could save local authorities a lot of money—certainly for evaluation.

Regarding the calculation, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, was out by a factor of three. The £1.5 million a year for three years amounts to £4.5 million, which is somewhat more than the figure of £100,000 that he cited. It is not for us to pay the local authorities for the pilots. We are to discuss that with them when they come forward with a business plan, but that small sum of money is there for some of the incidental issues.

Lord Greaves: I am grateful for the Minister’s last comment correcting my arithmetic, or perhaps I misread the figure. I thought that it was £1.5 million over three years, whereas it is £1.5 million a year, which means that rather more money is available. Perhaps I may pick up that point. If local authorities do not get some government grant to introduce these pilots, I do not think that the number taking part will be five, as the Government say; I think that it will be zero, given the state of local government budgets this year. There has been a very tough settlement in much of the country—certainly for collection authorities, which are often district councils. They have been very hard-hit this year, as, I understand, have London boroughs. I do not think that people will come forward if they have to put the money up front to run the schemes.

The Minister may be right that local authorities will save loads of money, but I do not think that they

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will. It is a pipe dream, because the savings that they make will be offset by the costs of dealing with additional fly-tipping and so on. I accept that that can be tested in pilots but I do not accept that there are no significant set-up costs for at least some of these schemes. If we have a system in which people are provided with a rebate or are sent an extra bill each year on the basis of the volume of non-recyclable refuse that they put out, there has to be a system for measuring how much refuse they put out, which will require quite a lot of investment, and there has to be a bureaucracy in place for sending out the bills and chasing them up when people do not pay.

On the Government’s own figures, the bills might be only £20, £30 or £40 a year, and chasing them through the local courts is not a cheap process; it would certainly cost more than the amount of money that comes back with the bills, although I suppose people might have to pay the court costs as well. The idea that there will no substantial setting-up cost to run these pilots is totally unreasonable—indeed, it is just wrong. I notice that Mr Eric Pickles, with whom I normally do not have much in common apart from the city that we both come from, has been asking penetrating questions in the House of Commons about these setting-up costs and not getting satisfactory answers, so far as I am concerned. The Minister said that the Government wanted more flexibility and a good sample size. This is at the heart of the debate. More flexibility and a good sample size frankly do not add up to five pilots. This is an issue of principle, and we may wish to return to it at a later stage of the Bill.

The Minister also said that there are differences now because there is residents’ parking. If you go putting in the park—if parks still have putting greens—you pay for the putting because you are getting an extra service. Residents’ parking is just the same; you get a parking place somewhere in your street because you pay the extra money and other people are kept out. That is what a residents’ parking scheme is. As the Minister said, it is done by agreement, perhaps by a majority vote by people living in that street. You are paying for something extra. Under the Government’s scheme, people will be penalised or given a bounty for improving or worsening their behaviour. That is the difference. They are not getting a better service; they are being told that they will have to pay more unless they improve their behaviour. If they improve their behaviour, they will pay less. That is completely different.

My final point relates to wheelie bins in one area after another—a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, made. She is absolutely right; that is how councils by and large have been introducing recycling. They have introduced a pilot scheme into part of their borough and then extended it. The difference here is that there is a financial penalty, and people will have to pay more. That is what people will think is very unfair.

This group of amendments deals with issues of pretty important principle, to which we may want to return. At this stage, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 183D not moved.]

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Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 183E:

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 183E, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 183FA, 183ZZA and 183ZZB.

Amendment No. 183E is another probing amendment that deals with the types of premises to which the scheme may apply. It would delete paragraph 1(2)(b) of new Schedule 2AA in Schedule 5, which says:

Again, the amendment probes the way the Government see this working. The previous group of amendments dealt with the way in which a scheme can apply to part of a district or a collection authority and not to the rest of it. Paragraph 1(2)(b) says that a scheme can apply to some types of premises and not to others within a particular part of the collection authority area. It would be helpful if the Government explained what this is and why it is, and again how they see the principles of equity and fairness applying if some premises and households in a ward, a village or a district are in the scheme and some are not. Is this not a recipe for setting neighbour against neighbour?

7.15 pm

Amendments Nos. 183FA, 183ZZA and 183ZZB deal with composite hereditaments—I use the word “hereditaments” because it appears in rating legislation for properties, some of which are the sort that the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, talked about, which are partly commercial and partly domestic. Typically, they are workshops where the owner or operator lives on the premises, or small shops which people live above or behind and which are rated for commercial purposes at commercial rates while the rest of the property is not and is subject to council tax. These are often known in local authorities as mixed hereditaments, but the correct title as defined in the Local Government Finance Act 1988 is composite hereditaments. The last two amendments in the group simply define that this is what is meant.

It is not clear why a couple of corner shops on an estate or some other area of housing that are entitled to throw out domestic refuse each week or fortnight and that take part in the recycling scheme should be excluded from the system that applies to all the other domestic properties in the area. There is already a separate system for their commercial waste, which will be collected separately and charged for separately. There is no problem there; the probing question for the Government is why they propose that a composite hereditament such as the one that I have just described, which takes part in the normal domestic waste collection system, should not or could not be included in the Government’s new mantra of flexibility for local authorities and could not be included in the pilot scheme. I look forward to the Minister’s answers. I beg to move.

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