Producer Responsibility: General

Clause 92 – in the House of Commons at 10:15 pm on 28th June 1995.

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Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien , Normanton 10:15 pm, 28th June 1995

I beg to move amendment No. 19, in page 115, line 44, after 'unless', insert—

  1. '(a) a document containing proposals for the regulations in the form of a draft of the regulations has been laid before Parliament for a period of sixty days during which the Secretary of State shall have regard to any representations made by any Committee of either House; and (b) after those sixty days,'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 49 to 53.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien , Normanton

This matter is relevant to the business before the House, because in Committee we were advised that the Department of the Environment had issued a consultation document about the responsibility of waste packaging, to which the packaging industry should respond. The Department made six suggestions in that document about how the industry could consider the control of waste and the way in which packaging could be recycled so that, collectively, we could reduce the amount of waste from food packaging and other consumer durables.

This is the last opportunity for the House to discuss the Bill's implications. Also, observations on the Government's consultation document are not due to be returned until the middle of August. Given both those facts, the industry's views could be submitted to the Secretary of State and he could make a decision about what he considers to be best for the industry without hon. Members, particularly those who served on the Committee, being able to consider the proposals. Yet under the legislation we are asked to consider the proposals. Against that background I, with the support of my colleagues, tabled the amendment.

When the Secretary of State receives the responses from the industry to the consultation document that he has issued—no one objects or criticises him for issuing it—and wants to introduce a scheme for recycling or for reducing waste, it is only right and proper that he should come to the House and advise and guide us on what he is proposing. We should have the opportunity to say yea or nay to his proposals.

My concern is heightened because the people in the business say that the Secretary of State's six proposals do not conform with what the industry wants to do to minimise waste. They have their own proposals, so we should have the opportunity to consider them. That is another reason why the Minister should accept my amendment, which would be a way of proving that we want to have the best arrangements for minimising waste and ensuring that the polluter pays.

However, where there is a collective group, perhaps it would be better that the payment by the polluter should be made on a collective basis. Is the Minister aware of the views of the Food and Drink Federation? I am sure that he has been made aware of its proposal, which refers to shared producer responsibility for packaging waste. The federation says that collectively—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. We cannot have a wide debate on packaging, the Food and Drink Federation, Inkpen and all the other contributors to that discussion. We are debating the amendment, which is fairly clear and specific, and the hon. Gentleman should stick to that. He can make the other points on Third Reading if he wishes.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien , Normanton

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am referring to the document containing the proposals in the amendment. It was produced by Valpak, which represents the collective response of the industry. I was referring to that document and to the response of the Food and Drink Federation. I was saying that the document entitled "Shared Producer Responsibility For Packaging Waste" is the document in the amendment. I am sure that the Minister is aware of the fact that the Valpak scheme is the alternative to the six proposals of the Department of the Environment.

The document to which I refer in the amendment is that suggested by the Food and Drink Federation and by the Pro Carton association. Those are the people who recommend the document that the amendment suggests.

I can accept Government amendments Nos. 49 to 53. We are talking about registration and I do not object to the Government's proposals for the registration of persons—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. We need clarification here. The amendment refers to "a document". If a document is listed in an amendment, it must be a Government document unless specified otherwise. That is not specified in the amendment. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the document relates to something that the industry has produced, in which case the amendment is completely out of order? Clarification is important.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien , Normanton

For clarification, I suggest again that the six proposals—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. I ask the hon. Gentleman to clarify the position. The amendment refers to "a document". Is that some form of official Government document or is it a private sector document?

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Which?

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien , Normanton

It is a Government document, Mr. Deputy Speaker, which will be produced by the Secretary of State. I suggest that the Secretary of State should bring the document to the House for us to consider after the period that he has set for the industry to consider his proposals in the consultation document. I suggest that the Secretary of State may bring forward a document that is totally different from the six proposals in his consultation document.

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern. He is, however, getting a little bit concerned about something about which he does not need to be concerned. It would certainly be my intention and that of the Secretary of State to ensure that Members of Parliament were consulted on the matter. I agree with the spirit of the amendment, but it would restrict our flexibility in practice. I hope that the hon. Gentleman accepts the assurance, by way of a brief intervention, that what he is asking for is something that we intend to do anyway. In the circumstances, he does not have cause for concern and he may feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien , Normanton

That is the clarification that I sought. I would accept Government amendments Nos. 49 to 53. In view of the Minister's assurances that no decision will be taken by the Department or the Secretary of State without the House being informed of that decision and that the draft will be put before the House, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment. The Minister agrees with the spirit of what I have suggested and I am prepared to accept his assurances.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. I have not yet proposed the Question that the amendment be made. Nevertheless, this has been a worthwhile debate. I call Mr. Clifton-Brown, although there is an administrative difficulty because the Question has not been proposed.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Is it in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for me to speak to Government amendments Nos. 49 and 53?

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Yes.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I will therefore speak to those amendments. I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak to Government amendments Nos. 49 and 53 as they are plagiarised from my amendments in Committee, which were almost identical.

At that stage, I was speaking on behalf of Valpak, which is the industry's group representing no fewer than 50 companies. It was set up by the Secretary of State to look at the implementation of the EC directive on packaging waste and to see how the targets could be met. The group encouraged me to table various amendments in Committee, not least of which was an amendment to encourage people who were not part of registered exemption schemes to be registered nevertheless. It was quite an achievement, in that all sections of industry were united under the organisation and knew how they wished the Government to proceed.

I suspect that, for the sake of convenience, the Government wish to proceed to implementation of the directive by approaching one section of the packaging chain—the packer fillers—rather than the whole packaging chain. I emphasise that all sections of the chain are in agreement. In case my right hon. Friend the Minister should say that the industry is not united, I must point out that, in the retail sector, no less august companies than Marks and Spencer and Boots, which had previously not been on board, are now on board.

While I welcome the amendments, I ask the Government to listen in future to what industry wants. The Bill imposes significant obligations on industry, and I ask the Government to consult on how they will implement clause 93.

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble 10:30 pm, 28th June 1995

I am extremely grateful for my hon. Friend's support, brief as it was. I assure him that we shall of course pay particular attention to what industry has to say. It is, after all, the major player, and no Government would be foolish enough to make decisions without having a pretty clear idea of what industry thought. My hon. Friend spoke on the issue in Committee and, I believe, on other occasions. I am grateful to him for taking the trouble to do so and for supporting the amendments.