|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, prompted this interesting discussion. Paragraph 2 of Schedule 5 places a small number of conditions on waste-collection authorities when introducing a waste-reduction scheme. That is to ensure that schemes do not have negative social or environmental consequences that are easily avoided, as we discussed on the last group of amendments. On this basis, we require authorities to take account of groups that are unduly disadvantaged; to have in place a fly-tipping prevention strategy; and to offer all residents a good recycling service. However, it is most important that local authorities have enough flexibility to run waste-reduction schemes in the way best suited to their area. We do not want to impose conditional restrictions on them that do not necessarily deliver materially different outcomes.
Amendment No. 183J would require that an authority had a successful fly-tipping prevention strategy in place before setting up a waste-reduction pilot; and the first part of Amendment No. 183K states that the fly-tipping strategy must meet the standards set out in guidance by the Secretary of State. It is nice to hear the noble Lord proposing adherence to guidance issued by the Secretary of State because often I find myself having to give reasons why the Secretary of State should be allowed powers to issue guidance. I wholly support the need for all local authorities to take strong and effective action on fly-tipping. I am sure that the Committee will agree with that. That is why we require a fly-tipping prevention strategy to be in place before a scheme is set up.
I know that it is obvious to say, How do you know that there is a scheme set up? You cannot start the scheme before the strategy is there. What comes first, the chicken or the egg? The pilot scheme designation process will also assess the quality of a pilots fly-tipping prevention plan, and we have identified that as an important step.
The second part of Amendment No. 183K would require pilot authorities to have in place a strategy that they had agreed with local retailers to minimise packaging. That is an important part of the jigsaw. However, we believe that the levers for bringing about meaningful changes in packaging levels lie primarily at national and international levels, not at a local level. That is not to undermine the efforts that could be made locally, but we do not see the need to include in this Bill reference to our committed work to tackle the packaging issue, which is going on elsewhere in government. We do not feel it necessary to put that in this Bill at this point when we are trying to set up these pilot schemes. We are taking action nationally, and we have already delivered real changes.
Amendment No. 183L specifies that authorities wishing to introduce waste pilots should provide for kitchen waste to be collected separately. For the purposes of this amendment, we presume that kitchen waste means food waste. The Bill already requires participating authorities to provide a good recycling service to households in the scheme. That will be defined in guidance to which authorities must have regard, and we will be looking at the quality of recycling services in designated authorities as pilots.
Although food waste is an important waste stream to be tackled, the lack of a separate food waste collection does not necessarily denote a poor recycling service. Only 10 per cent of authorities have a food waste collection, and only one out of five of the top recycling councils in England in 2005-06 operated a food waste service. Yet, they all had recycling and composting rates of 50 per cent or more. It is not as straightforward as direct cause and effect, but we are saying that it is important.
We are talking about giving powers for pilot schemes. You could argue that the more diversity there is in the pilots, the more benefit to policy making in this important area. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, many components of kitchen waste may best be treated by home composting. It may not be the best environmental option for every authority to collect all kitchen waste separately. Guidance is therefore the right place for detailing the operational aspects of a good recycling service. It can be more readily applied to different types of authority to reflect their different demographies, infrastructure and access to markets for recyclers.
Amendment No. 183N would make it harder in the long term to change the conditions of the scheme in the light of experience. Once the opportunity to make changes at repeal or roll-out stage has passed, any changes would have to be made via primary legislation. We do not think that that is appropriate. Even though we consider that the conditions are extremely important, and we would not change them lightly, they are already subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, which affords sufficiently strong protection. We need some
30 Jan 2008 : Column 689
I hope that noble Lords will accept that we see as extremely important issues such as the fly-tipping strategy and kitchen waste. All those factors are tested in pilots, which we are committed to seeing make a real contribution to our knowledge and understanding of how to achieve the overall goal: reducing the waste in landfill and the impact on climate change. I hope, with that, that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing his amendment.
Lord Greaves: I am grateful to the Minister for that full reply. On the last issue, she has almost convinced me that she may be right. The real concern is that the powers might be used in future, if there is a roll-out, to make things less flexible for local authorities and impose more uniformity on the basis of pilots that are flawed because they have not tested all the areas. However, I hear what she says about that.
On packaging, I was disappointed that she said that the Government did not think local campaigns had much of a role to play. The whole movement in this country against use-once bags, as they are now called, has come from grass-roots campaigns, and there is evidence that that campaign is continuing to build momentum throughout the country. Targeting local supermarkets, particularly if local authorities had powers to do so, could make a huge difference to the amount of packaging waste that people have to throw away. That is one of the main components.
The question of kitchen waste caused a lot of debate. An increasing number of authoritiesthe Minister said it was 10 per centare collecting kitchen waste. The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, asked what kitchen waste was: basically, it is food waste that, I hope, cannot be composted in someones back yard or garden, such as chicken carcases, meat bones, the remains of take-aways that contain gravy and so on. It may be that noble Lords have impeccable recycling and refuse disposal habits and do not chuck away vast amounts of food, but many people do. Earlier the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, referred to the Waste and Resources Action Programme, WRAP, and its campaign called Love Food, Hate Waste. I have a great press release about it hereI will not treat the Committee to it because it is actually from the Liberal Democrats, not WRAP itselfthat says that 6.7 million tonnes of unused food are thrown away each year, about half of which is still edible at the time of disposal. Half of it can be prevented from being thrown away simply by people not wasting food.
Noble Lords have talked about going back to old habits, such as making soup from left-overs, which some of us do a bit but perhaps not as much as we ought to. Those habits have to return, there is no doubt about that, but then there is still all the residual
30 Jan 2008 : Column 690
One noble Lord talked about garbage disposal units. That reminded me that, when I was a kid in our back street in Bradford, we had things called pig bins that stank to high heaven. All the food went in them; then it was taken away and fed to pigs. Nowadays, quite rightly, you could not do that.
( ) Each waste collection authority which makes a waste reduction scheme shall issue a statement with the annual council tax bills setting out the quantities and proportions of the different recyclable materials that have been collected, the means by which they have been re-used and recycled, and the locations in which they have been re-used and recycled.
The noble Lord said: I will be very brief on this one. The amendment proposes that each waste collection authority which makes a waste reduction scheme shall issue an annual statement with the council tax billsit does not really matter when they are issuedto say where the recycled material ends up. We talked earlier about the fact that some of it goes to China, which may be a good or a bad thing; then again, it may not be, because it is going in the empty containers that bring toys from China. Whatever the arguments are, there is a real interest from the people who make the effort to recycle in their area to know where the recycling ends up and whether it is somewhere sensible and practical. This is a matter of good practice that all local authorities should carry out, and I move the amendment merely to highlight that. I beg to move.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: This is a very interesting amendment. I shall try to be quick in responding. As I have said three times, we have placed a small number
30 Jan 2008 : Column 691
Amendment No. 183M would require authorities that run a waste reduction scheme to send out a statement on what recyclables are being collected and in what quantities, and how and where the material is reused or recycled. While we agree that this information may be of interest to local residents, it should ultimately be a matter for the local authority to decide whether, when and how to publish it. There are many creative ways in which local authorities could, if they wanted to, go about communicating that information. They could perhaps do it through their websites, which would not create the need to recycle more paper and provide an opportunity for much information to be made available. However, as I have said, we in any case intend to cover effective communications in our guidance to local authorities. We will consult formally on guidance. It is not appropriate to put a requirement in the Bill. I hope that, having heard those undertakings, the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
Lord Greaves: I am grateful for those comments. It was a kite-flying amendment. The answer to the question of the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, is that local authorities all know where their waste goes. If they do not, they are failing in their duties to make sure that it goes somewhere useful. Some authorities are not too happy to publicise that information because they are not proud of where some of it may go. The more this is out in the open, the better, but the Minister is right: it should not be in the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 183P, 183Q and 183S, which are in the same group. We move on to charges and issues relating to them. Amendment No. 183NA is a probing amendment. The Bill states:
The charges under paragraphs 4 and 5 are fairly clear and straightforward. They involve providing containers. One charges £1 a bag, or whatever it happens to be, or one charges more if they have a larger quantity of wasteI presume that they would be sent a bill for that. However, if one is talking about rebates from council tax, one is opening a can of worms. I presume that the rebate would have to be calculated over a period and then be rebated from council tax at some
30 Jan 2008 : Column 692
Providing incentives via the council tax seems to require substantial additional bureaucratic systems, which will require money to be set up in the first place. It is not clear from where that will come if it does not come from the Governments £4.5 million, and it is not clear how it will work. I look forward to what the Government say. I suspect that such schemes will turn out to be far too complex, and that any council which wants to go in for the pilots will go for the much easier option of charging per bin or bag. It is a probing amendment.
Amendment No. 183P suggests that rebates and charges apply only to people in the scheme. With the balancing-out system that the Government are proposing, the charges on some people may be balanced out by the benefits to othersin the short run at least, that is not a problem. The real problem arises if it applies only to some people in the local authority district, the costs of administering it are not taken into account in the calculations and everybody pays them. Unless those setting-up and administrative costs are paid for by the Government through the grants, which I presume would not be possible following a rollout, or unless they are being balanced by savings in waste disposal charges and perhaps in the frequency of collection if the system works really wellit is clear that that will not happen initially and will take some time, even if the systems are wonderfully successfulthey must be taken into account. The amendment probes how far people will have a financial imposition made on them for the benefit of others when they are not taking part in the scheme.
Earl Cathcart: There seems to be an acceptance that everyone covered by a scheme will use all of it. It is quite conceivable that there are houses that do not use glass bottles. Tins, too, are not always part of the larder, except for emergencies that rarely occur. Most of all, there are many houses, particularly in the rural areas, where food waste, grass cuttings, fallen leaves and the like are an important ingredient of the compost heap. Are such people to be charged for something which they will not use?
Amendments Nos. 183Q and 183S refer to sub-paragraphs whose explanation, in the Explanatory Notes, is simply a repetition of the wording in the Bill.
30 Jan 2008 : Column 693
Lord Rooker: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for discussing charging. I regret that my reply will be a bit longer than his opening speech but it is important to put the issues on the record. I think that I will be able to satisfy him and it is important that we get the correct message across to those outside.
As he said, paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 of Schedule 5 deal with charges and rebates for households under a waste reduction scheme. The key element of any scheme is that households throwing away the least residual, non-recycled waste will receive a rebate from the local authority, so there is an incentive there. As I said earlier, in some schemes, households throwing away most could pay more. I emphasise the word could. There are different methods for local authorities to implement charges and rebates; they could offer rebates from council tax or by other payments to those producing least waste.
It is worth putting on the record that over last summer there was a large consultation on this whole issue, as I said. During the consultation local government specifically asked the Government to consider linking charges and rebates to council tax as an option because it thought that it could reduce administration costs in certain circumstances. Therefore, the measure could be potentially advantageous for householders. Also local government thought that it might be easier for householders to understand the connection between the two issues. As I say, local government specifically requested the option of linking charges and rebates to council tax. However, it is not our preferred way. We want councils to have more flexibility to suggest systems with the option of linking them to council tax. Under paragraphs 4 or 5, they could charge in relation to numbers of waste sacks, sizes of bin or the amount of wasteI presume this is its weightbeing thrown away, or they could operate,
That is a very important provision at paragraph 3(2)(b), which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, did not read out. He read out only part of the paragraph. Therefore, there is maximum flexibility for local authorities to design a scheme. They will be free to integrate rebates and charges within the council tax system, if they wish to do so. That is the key message.
Amendment No. 183NA would remove a provision which allows local authorities to provide for an incentive by means of charges under paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 5, or by any combination of those means. The power to charge, combined with a duty to pay out an equal amount in rebates, is an essential part of these proposals. As I said, revenue neutrality is very important. People should not think that this is a stealth tax or another impost on the community. The positive effects of charging on waste minimisation and recycling have been demonstrated on occasion abroad. I take the point that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, made earlier. I do not want to make commitments
30 Jan 2008 : Column 694
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|