|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Thirdly, our approach of using a power would also offer more flexibility and autonomy to local and regional government. We do not seek to micromanage local services and place new unnecessary burdens on local authorities. We should let the experts on the ground who understand their areas and their risks have a chance to take responsibility for action. This approach is broadly shared by the Local Government Association, whose views we discussed in Committee. I want to take this opportunity to thank Councillor Paul Bettison, chairman of the Local Government Association Environment Board, for his letter clarifying the position of the Local Government Association and the LGAs climate change commission on this issue. His letter states:
The LGA believes that the imposition of a specific statutory duty on councils to report on adaptation before the new performance indicators or comprehensive area assessments have been given a chance to bed in represents a disappointing step back towards centralism.
We believe that the proposals in Amendments Nos. 205 to 208 and 210 are not targeted at all the right bodies and do not take account of the changes in priorities which may take place between now and 2050. We also believe that they are burdensome and disproportionate and that they run counter to the expressed wishes of local government representatives for a more flexible approach which devolves more responsibility to them. For these reasons, we cannot accept the amendments and we think that the Governments amendments offer a better package.
I will make a couple of points in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. He asked how successful the local government performance indicator is. It started only this year so we cannot answer that yet. The success will be reviewed through the existing local government performance management process. He asked how the power would be used and who will apply it. In a way, that is the point of the strategy. It will outline who needs to act, why and when. Any decision by the Secretary of State or Welsh Ministers to require a report will be made primarily in the light of, first, the level of progress being made on adaptation by that reporting authority and, secondly, how important that organisation is to the UKs ability to adapt. These factors will of course be underpinned by scientific knowledge, evidence from specific eventsfor example, the hot summer of 2003the risk assessment in Clause 48 or the adaptation programme in Clause 49. We will not, and indeed should not, wait for the national risk assessments to be completed to use the power. There is already some evidence to say broadly which types of organisation need to be factoring in climate change to their plans.
The new report required by government Amendment No. 209 will require us to set out our strategy for using the power within 12 months of Royal Assent. To do this, we will supplement our existing knowledge with a survey of our capability to deal with climate impacts and look at the mechanisms which already exist to ensure key organisations consider and manage their risks; for example, the new local authority performance indicator on adaptation to ensure local authorities are taking action, or a duty on energy suppliers to ensure the continuity of supply. The power is designed to mesh with, and not duplicate, other activities to mainstream adaptation into ongoing work; for example, the new local government performance framework and the water strategy, Future Water, which was published in February. In future, the regular Clause 48 risk assessment will give us a more informed understanding of the risk faced and who needs to act.
I apologise to noble Lords for the length of the reply. I hope I am not asked to read out all the other bodies that might be affected. One can look them up. By rule of thumb, England alone probably has 20,000 primary schools and 4,000 secondary schools but they do not all necessarily have to report. That is why the number of bodies is much greater than the number covered by the Civil Contingencies Act. I hope I have satisfied noble Lords. I have not received any further and better particulars to answer the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, but I may have answered him in the further points I came to in my speech.
Lord Teverson: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I still think our amendment has the best of both worlds in that it allows for organisations to be specifically targeted by the Secretary of State but demands, in terms of long-term national security, that certain organisations have a duty to bring plans. From that point of view, this amendment is far superior to the Governments amendment. I recognise that the Government have a timescale for the process. I should be delighted if the Minister could withdraw his amendment and think about it again but I am sure that will not happen. I find it very difficult to know where to go from here.
In terms of the devolution of power, even as a Liberal Democrat I think there are certain areas where the Government have responsibilities. The drawing up of adaptation plans will be naturally devolved. They will be local plans or plans by individual national bodies under categories 1 and 2. I am sorry I cannot convince the Minister. There is a real issue here which I would certainly wish to think about further. I say to the Minister that the solution he has at the moment is genuinely not the best one. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(1) It is the duty of the Secretary of State to lay reports before Parliament setting out how the Secretary of State intends to exercise the power under section 52 to give directions to reporting authorities.
These are drafting amendments designed to improve the quality and consistency of the drafting. The two amendments, in combination, move the definition of specified in paragraph 1(3) from the main body of provisions in Schedule 5 to the interpretation section. This interpretation section contains all the other definitions of terms used in that schedule and is therefore a more logical home for the definition of specified. I assure the House that the amendments have no further effect beyond improving the quality of the drafting. I beg to move.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, when we discussed the waste provisions in Committee a few weeks ago, I mentioned that, as set out in the consultation paper, we would give local authorities powers to be able to charge according to how often residents have their waste collected and in relation to tags or other identifiers which residents must attach to their waste receptacles. I said then that we might bring forward amendments to clarify that these charging methods are available as well as those already provided for in paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 2AA, which is to be inserted into the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
These types of schemes are straightforward and have operated successfully overseas. For example, Shell Harbour in the United States introduced a frequency-based scheme which led to a 45 per cent reduction in waste sent to landfill. Meanwhile, a combined frequency and volume-based scheme in LudwigshafenI should have considered how to pronounce that name before I said itin Germany reduced waste levels by around 15 per cent. If an authority thinks it is appropriate for its area, it is right that such a model should also be tested in England.
A frequency-based scheme could work by residents choosing how often they wish to have their waste collected. Those opting for a more frequent collection than the standard service offered by the local authority would pay extra. Rebates could then be redistributed to those whose waste is collected less frequently. Alternatively, residents could decide from week to week whether to leave their bin out and then be charged or rebated according to how many times their waste had, in fact, been collected.
Under a tag-based scheme, residents would pay for identifying tags or stickers which they must place on their waste receptacles each time their waste is collected. Rebates would then be paid back to residents on a flat-rate basis, with the effect that some households make a net gainin other words, pay lessand others end up paying more overall. Again, such schemes are already operating successfully overseas. For example, tag-based schemes in other towns in Germany have led to reductions in waste of around 37 per cent. I am now bringing forward government Amendment
18 Mar 2008 : Column 191
The other amendments in this group, government Amendments Nos. 212, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218 and 222, are all consequential on government Amendment No. 213. Government Amendment No. 215 is a drafting improvement. It makes it clear that a failure to pay a waste charge under paragraph 4 would not affect the authoritys duty to arrange for waste to be collected. It confirms that powers to run waste reduction schemes are consistent with existing powers relating to a local authoritys duty to collect waste.
Finally, to enable tag-based schemes to operate, it is important that the existing powers for local authorities to make sure that residents put their waste in the specified receptacles are extended to these types of scheme. So that this can happen, government Amendment No. 222 builds slightly on Section 46 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. In the same way that an authority can specify whether waste should be collected in bins or bags, this amendment now allows authorities, if necessary, to require residents to attach a specified identifiera tag or sticker, sayto their waste receptacles.
We are also considering proposing a further amendment to make it clearer that once a local authority has asked residents to place their waste in a particular receptacle, normally a bin, the authority need not collect any waste lying outside that binso-called side waste. These side waste policies have been successfully operated by a significant number of authorities, with the support of their community, using powers given by the Environmental Protection Act 1990, so this is not new. As part of a good overall service, they have helped householders to reduce the waste they throw away and to increase the amount they recycle. We think that it would be beneficial for local authorities, and for residents, to have a single clear point of reference in legislation. That is why we will be considering bringing forward an amendment at a later stage. I cannot say whether that will be at Third Reading or when the Bill reaches the other place.
I should also mention here that we plan to bring forward an amendment at a later stage which will enable the Secretary of State to require certain large retailers to apply a minimum charge when distributing single-use carrier bags. This requirement to charge will come into force next year, unless retailers have by that time already managed to achieve a significant reduction in the number of bags in circulation. The Government are keen to see these measures extend across the whole of the United Kingdom. We will work with the devolved Administrations to establish the most appropriate way to achieve this.
Amendments Nos. 213A, 213B and 213C relate to the administration of charges under a waste reduction scheme. I shall take each in turn. Amendment No. 213A would remove local authorities ability to ask residents to pay in advance their waste charge for
18 Mar 2008 : Column 192
Moreover, it is only fair to give people an idea from the outset of roughly what they can expect to pay or earn under a waste incentive scheme. The existing provisions allow us to do that. Local authorities would be able to issue people with a provisional charge or rebate for the period ahead and make any necessary tweaks or adjustments in the next period. This is a standard approach and people are familiar with it as it is how most utility payments work. For those reasons, we do not think that Amendment No. 213A is a good idea.
Amendment No. 213B would prevent local authorities requiring that charges under a waste reduction scheme are paid on account or by instalment. Instead, it would permit residents to pay in these ways, if they wished to do so. We have been clear that there would never be a case of an authority imposing a waste reduction scheme, or any aspect of that scheme, on residents. Instead, they will need to work closely with their communities in developing proposals which are responsive to local needs and wishes. This would include how charges should be paid.
Once a decision has been made on payment methods, though, it is right that local authorities should be able to make that a requirement under the scheme. That authorities can run schemes effectively and efficiently is of the utmost importance. Nobody wants to see a scheme where administration is bureaucratic and costly. Taking away this right to require payment by instalment also potentially undermines the link to council tax, which itself can be paid by instalment. Given the importance of realising efficiencies through linking to council taxsomething authorities themselves have asked forremoving this requirement would be a retrograde step.
It is also important to remember that paying or rebating by instalment does not make anyone worse off. We are talking about people paying or receiving the same rebate regardless of whether it is once a year, once a quarter or once a month. Removing that requirement, therefore, does not achieve anything besides making the link to council tax more difficult. I want to assure noble Lords that there is no attempt to impose waste incentive schemes on local residents. We want to strive for systems that are embraced by the community and work to the benefit of all.
Amendment No. 213C would require, first, that charges under a waste reduction scheme are payable exclusively by occupiers of premises included in the scheme. Secondly, it would require that, where people owe outstanding charges, they still have to pay them, even if they move house. I can understand why, on the first part, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, would consider it logical for only occupiers to pay charges
18 Mar 2008 : Column 193
On sub-paragraph (7)(b) of the amendment, I appreciate the noble Lords concern that people should pay the charges they owe even if they move to a different house and that the outstanding charges should not be transferred to those who move in. That is the situation we would strive to achieve. We would want to encourage local authorities to use their powers to recover outstanding debt regardless of whether people move out of the area. Requiring local authorities to make these precise calculations every time someone moves house is saddling them with an unnecessary burden. Therefore, it should be up to the local authorities, in collaboration with their communities, to decide how they manage people moving in or out. I therefore cannot accept this amendment.
Amendment No. 217A proposes to remove our ability to amend the requirement that all revenue raised by local authorities through charges under a waste reduction scheme be returned to residents through rebates. I understand the noble Lords concerns and should like to reassure him straight away on two points. First, we do not currently envisage needing to amend the requirement. Secondly, if we did want to amend it at some point in the future, the proposal would be subject to the comprehensive parliamentary scrutiny implied by the affirmative procedure. However, we think it makes sense now to have the scope in the provisions to make any necessary changes in the future. This avoids our having to produce new primary legislation to make small changes which may arise in the longer term as waste incentive schemes progress and evolve. That is simply a prudent and sensible approach which we think strikes the right balance.
The Delegated Powers Committee looked at this issue and was content with our proposals. It is the same approach we are taking to other requirements under a waste incentive scheme, including providing a good recycling service and having in place a fly-tipping prevention strategy. All those are prerequisites for being able to have the schemes in the first place. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, will speak to his amendments, but I hope I have given him a positive view of the Governments approach. We can largely see where he is coming from, and we sympathise with some of the approaches. Butthis is the big butwe genuinely want local government to have as much power and flexibility as possible. I think that that is right. I beg to move.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendments Nos. 213A to 213C, which amend government Amendments Nos. 213 and 217A. I think that I thank the Minister for systematically rubbishing my amendments before I got to speak to them. At least I know where he is coming from and what he is going to say.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Davies suggested, and I think he is right, we are uncomfortable doing it this way round. When there is another such group, and there is at least one more, I will not refer to the opposition amendments when moving the government amendment but deal with them in the wind-up. I apologise. I am uncomfortable with this procedure but it is the one we were working with.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|