Clause 54 - Site waste management plans
Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill
3:00 pm

Photo of Mr Matthew Green

Mr Matthew Green (Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions, Young People, Non-Departmental & Cross-Departmental Responsibilities; Ludlow, Liberal Democrat)

I beg to move amendment No. 97, in clause 54, page 49, line 20, at end insert

';

(i) targets for diversion of site waste to landfill'.

This quick amendment is designed to test whether the Government intend to do what it proposes anyway. If so, perhaps the Minister will tell us. The issue is whether the site waste management plans will contain targets for the diversion of site waste to   landfill. It is a serious issue, especially in relation to the construction of houses, given that for every 15 new houses built, an entire house goes to landfill because of the waste that results. We want a considerable reduction in the amount going to landfill, and it would be helpful to set targets for such a reduction. I am sure that the Minister will say that it is not appropriate for that to be in the Bill, and I have sympathy with that view, but the amendment gives him an opportunity to say how the Government intend to drive down the percentage of site waste that goes to landfill, and what targets they intend to set.

Photo of Mr Elliot Morley

Mr Elliot Morley (Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Scunthorpe, Labour)

I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's position. He will be aware that the framework of waste management has already brought about a big change and that there is now a financial incentive—with the regulatory framework and the fiscal incentives in relation to landfill tax—for developers to recycle building waste. A value is beginning to be attached to it. I have noticed that many waste companies have invested in grading machinery for separating the different categories of construction waste so that it can be re-used.

I think that there is a role for targets. The hon. Gentleman pre-empted what I was going to say: I am not sure that it is appropriate to put that role in primary legislation. We are working on the sustainable buildings code, for example, within which there is a target for homes built under the code to contain 10 per cent. of recycled materials. It is not quite relevant to what he was saying, but that is one way in which targets can be used.

Further details about the preparation and content of plans will be a matter for regulations, which will be brought before the House in due course. They will cover such matters as the application of the provision, what matters plans should cover, and how they should be constructed. I am not altogether sure that it would be appropriate to include targets in that material either, but I am willing to give some thought to it in preparing the regulations.

Photo of Mr Matthew Green

Mr Matthew Green (Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions, Young People, Non-Departmental & Cross-Departmental Responsibilities; Ludlow, Liberal Democrat)

I suspected that the Minister would not want targets included in the Bill, and I accept his reasons, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mr David Ruffley

Mr David Ruffley (Assistant Chief Whip, Whips; Bury St Edmunds, Conservative)

I have one question about red tape, about which I hope all hon. Members on either side of the party divide are concerned. I am mindful of the fact that one would not normally want too much detail about the length and type of regulations that will dictate how site waste management plans should be produced. I do not expect the issue to be dealt with in the Bill, but it would nevertheless be useful if the Minister could share some of his thinking about paragraphs 171 and 172 of the explanatory notes.

Small businesses play a large role in the vibrancy of wealth creation, certainly in my constituency. People running small businesses—and, incidentally, there are a lot of building and contracting small businesses in my area—consistently tell me that the amount of time that they spend on paperwork and form-filling that they consider unnecessary is time not spent on creating jobs, employing people and growing their business.

A phrase in paragraph 172 of the explanatory notes really does require explanation by way of an example. It states that the regulations that will arise from the clause

''may be restricted to projects over a specified value''.

That is music to my ears, because it prefigures some caveat or exemption for small businesses. Will the Minister suggest the specified value below which the regulations would not apply?

The regulations seem rather detailed, because they may specify when the plans must be prepared, the contents of such plans, the enforcement regulations, the offences and penalties that may apply and the possibility for discharge of liability for an offence by payment of a fixed penalty. Alarm bells ring when one sees a description of what may be included in a site management plan, because of the tendency of officials at local and national level to gold-plate regulations.

We should have a better understanding as to whether small businesses will be protected and what specified value officials have in mind. They must have something in mind, otherwise they would not have used the phrase ''over a specified value'' in the explanatory notes. Will the Minister assure me that the reference will, in due course, protect small businesses, and if so, what size of small business?

As the departmental Minister, will he also assure us that he will do what he can to ensure that the regulations, which will bring into life site waste management plans, will not be another example of useless red tape and will be only as long as is absolutely necessary? They should not be so long as to incommode small business men and women who want nothing more than to run and expand their businesses in Britain and employ more people?

3:15 am
Photo of Mr Elliot Morley

Mr Elliot Morley (Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Scunthorpe, Labour)

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the intention of the provisions is not to tangle up small projects in a great deal of red tape or bureaucracy. We will not expect people who are building extensions to their homes or garages to produce a site plan, because that would be excessive. He is right that we need to think about the arrangements to deal with the ''specified value'' to which reference was made. That   requires consideration, which is why that is best done through regulations. Values of land will vary in different parts of the country, and the type of land will vary, for example contaminated land will require particular management plans. That variation can be covered by the powers in the Bill to set the arrangements for managing and disposing of waste created in the course of a project.

It is true that there is an element of regulation, and no companies like regulation. However, companies often point out to me—they made a powerful case and I have a great deal of sympathy with it—that good companies take regulations seriously. There is a cost involved in applying standards, whether they be health and safety, environmental or these new standards. Other companies undercut good companies because they bend the rules, cut corners and do not apply standards. We should not tolerate that, because it is bad not only for environmental standards, but for fair competition.

We understand the perfectly reasonable points that the hon. Gentleman makes. That is why the regulations will follow and will be scrutinised. We will consult with those to whom the regulations are relevant. The regulations will also be subject to a regulatory impact assessment, so that people can see clearly who is involved, who they apply to and what the implications are. I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman's points, but I assure him that they will be dealt with in the regulations that will follow.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 54 ordered to stand part of the Bill.