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New Clause 1 — Strategies for Waste Minimisation: England

Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 28th October 2003.

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'(1) The Secretary of State must have a strategy for waste prevention and minimisation, containing quantitative targets for overall waste reduction and for specific waste streams.

(2) The Secretary of State will set out in regulations requirements for local authorities and business relating to waste prevention and minimisation including—

(a) taking a lifecycle approach;

(b) reducing packaging.

(3) Before formulating policy for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), the Secretary of State must—

(a) consult the Scottish Ministers, the National Assembly for Wales, the Department of the Environment, the Secretary of State for the Home Office, the Environment Agency and the Mayor of London,

(b) consult such bodies or persons appearing to him to be representative of the interests of local government as he considers appropriate, and

(c) consult such bodies or persons appearing to him to be representative of the interests of industry as he considers appropriate, and

(d) carry out such public consultation as he considers appropriate.

(4) The Secretary of State must set out in a statement any policy formulated for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2).

(5) The Secretary of State must, as soon as a statement is prepared for the purposes of subsection (4), send a copy of it to—

(a) the Scottish Ministers,

(b) the National Assembly for Wales, and

(c) the Department of the Environment.'.—[Norman Baker.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 2—Strategies for waste minimisation: Scotland—

'(1) The Scottish Ministers must develop a strategy for waste prevention and minimisation containing quantitative targets for overall waste reduction and for specific waste streams.

(2) The Scottish Ministers will set out in regulations requirements for local authorities and business relating to waste prevention and minimisation, including—

(a) taking a lifecycle approach;

(b) reducing packaging.

(3) Before formulating policy for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), the Scottish Ministers must—

(a) consult the Secretary of State, the National Assembly for Wales, the Department of the Environment and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency,

(b) consult such bodies or persons appearing to them to be representative of the interests of local government as they consider appropriate,

(c) consult such bodies or persons appearing to them to be representative of the interests of industry as they consider appropriate, and

(d) carry out such public consultation as they consider appropriate.

(4) The Scottish Ministers must set out in a statement any policy formulated for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2).

(5) The Scottish Ministers must, as soon as a statement is prepared for the purposes of subsection (4), send a copy of it to—

(a) the Secretary of State,

(b) the National Assembly for Wales, and

(c) the Department of the Environment.'.

New clause 3—Strategies for waste minimisation: Wales—

'(1) The National Assembly for Wales must develop a strategy for waste prevention and minimisation containing quantitative targets for overall waste reduction and for specific waste streams.

(2) The National Assembly for Wales will set out in regulations requirements for local authorities and business relating to waste prevention and minimisation, including—

(a) taking a lifecycle approach;

(b) reducing packaging.

(3) Before formulating policy for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), the Assembly must—

(a) consult the Secretary of State, the Scottish Ministers, the Department of the Environment and the Environment Agency,

(b) consult such bodies or persons appearing to it to be representative of the interests of local government as it considers appropriate,

(c) consult such bodies or persons appearing to it to be representative of the interests of industry as it considers appropriate, and

(d) carry out such public consultation as it considers appropriate.

(4) The Assembly must set out in a statement any policy formulated for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2).

(5) The Assembly must, as soon as a statement is prepared for the purposes of subsection (4), send a copy of it to—

(a) the Secretary of State,

(b) the Scottish Ministers, and

(c) the Department of the Environment.'.

New clause 4—Strategies for waste minimisation: Northern Ireland

'(1) The Department of the Environment must develop a strategy for waste prevention and minimisation containing quantitative targets for overall waste reduction and for specific waste streams.

(2) The Department of the Environment will set out in regulations requirements for local government and business relating to waste prevention and minimisation, including—

(a) taking a lifecycle approach;

(b) reducing packaging.

(3) Before formulating policy for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), the Department must—

(a) consult the Secretary of State, the Scottish Ministers and the National Assembly for Wales,

(b) consult such bodies or persons appearing to it to be representative of the interests of local government as it considers appropriate,

(c) consult such bodies or persons appearing to it to be representative of the interests of industry as it considers appropriate, and

(d) carry out such public consultation as it considers appropriate.

(3) The Department must set out in a statement any policy formulated for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2).

(4) The Department must, as soon as a statement is prepared for the purposes of subsection (4), send a copy of it to—

(a) the Secretary of State,

(b) the Scottish Ministers, and

(c) the National Assembly for Wales.'.

New clause 8—Minimising Arisings from Nuclear Waste

'(1) The Secretary of State must develop a strategy for—

(a) minimising the arisings of nuclear waste;

(b) minimising the discharge of liquid radioactive waste into the marine environment;

(c) ending the production of plutonium;

(d) implementing best available techniques for the management of spent nuclear fuel.

(2) Before formulating policy for the purposes of subsection (1), the Secretary of State must—

(a) consult the governments of all neighbouring countries around the North East Atlantic, including those countries bordering the Irish and North Seas;

(b) consult Scottish Ministers, the National Assembly for Wales, the Department of the Environment;

(c) consult such bodies or persons appearing to it to be representative of the interests of local government as he considers appropriate;

(d) consult such bodies or persons appearing to him to be representative of the interests of industry as it considers appropriate; and

(e) carry out such public consultation as he considers appropriate.'.

New clause 9—Strategies for meeting the Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment Directive: England—

'(1) The Secretary of State must have a strategy to meet Directive 2002/96/EC on Waste Electric And Electronic Equipment.

(2) The Secretary of State will establish by regulation that the original electrical equipment manufacturers, distributors and importers are held responsible for the cost of recycling the electrical equipment at the end of its life.

(3) Before formulating policy for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), the Secretary of State must—

(a) consult with the relevant EU bodies, the Scottish Ministers, the National Assembly for Wales, the Department of the Environment, the Secretary of State for the Home Office, the Environment Agency and the Mayor of London,

(b) consult such bodies or persons appearing to him to be representative of the interests of local government as he considers appropriate,

(c) consult such bodies or persons appearing to him to be representative of the interests of industry as he considers appropriate, and

(d) carry out such public consultation as he considers appropriate.

(4) The Secretary of State must set out in a statement any policy formulated for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2).

(5) The Secretary of State must, as soon as a statement is prepared for the purposes of subsection (4), send a copy of it to—

(a) the Scottish Ministers,

(b) the National Assembly for Wales, and

(c) the Department of the Environment.'.

New clause 10—Strategies for meeting the Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment Directive: Scotland—

'(1) The Scottish Ministers must have a strategy to meet Directive 2002/96/EC on Waste Electric And Electronic Equipment.

(2) The Scottish Ministers will establish by regulation that the electrical equipment manufacturers, distributors and importers are held responsible for the cost of recycling the electrical equipment at the end of its life.

(3) Before formulating policy for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), the Scottish Ministers must—

(a) consult with the relevant EU bodies, the Secretary of State, the National Assembly for Wales, the Department of the Environment and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency,

(b) consult such bodies or persons appearing to them to be representative of the interests of local government as they consider appropriate,

(c) consult such bodies or persons appearing to them to be representative of the interests of industry as they consider appropriate, and

(d) carry out such public consultation as they consider appropriate.

(4) The Scottish Ministers must set out in a statement any policy formulated for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2).

(5) The Scottish Ministers must, as soon as a statement is prepared for the purposes of subsection (4), send a copy of it to—

(a) the Secretary of State,

(b) the National Assembly for Wales, and

(c) the Department of the Environment.'.

New clause 11—Strategies for meeting the Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment Directive: Wales—

'(1) The National Assembly for Wales must have a strategy to meet Directive 2002/96/EC on Waste Electric And Electronic Equipment.

(2) The National Assembly for Wales will establish by regulation that the electrical equipment manufacturers, distributors and importers are held responsible for the cost of recycling the electrical equipment at the end of its life.

(3) Before formulating policy for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), the Assembly must—

(a) consult with the relevant EU bodies, the Secretary of State, the Scottish Ministers, the Department of the Environment and the Environment Agency,

(b) consult such bodies or persons appearing to it to be representative of the interests of local government as it considers appropriate,

(c) consult such bodies or persons appearing to it to be representative of the interests of industry as it considers appropriate, and

(d) carry out such public consultation as it considers appropriate.

(4) The Assembly must set out in a statement any policy formulated for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2).

(5) The Assembly must, as soon as a statement is prepared for the purposes of subsection (4), send a copy of it to—

(a) the Secretary of State,

(b) the Scottish Ministers, and

(c) the Department of the Environment.'.

New clause 12—Strategies for meeting the Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment Directive: Northern Ireland—

'(1) The Department of the Environment must have a strategy to meet Directive 2002/96/EC on Waste Electric And Electronic Equipment.

(2) The Department of the Environment will establish by regulation that the electrical equipment manufacturers, distributors and importers are held responsible for the cost of recycling the electrical equipment at the end of its life.

(3) Before formulating policy for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), the Department must—

(a) consult with the relevant EU bodies, the Secretary of State, the Scottish Ministers and the National Assembly for Wales,

(b) consult such bodies or persons appearing to it to be representative of the interests of local government as it considers appropriate,

(c) consult such bodies or persons appearing to it to be representative of the interests of industry as it considers appropriate, and

(d) carry out such public consultation as it considers appropriate.

(4) The Department must set out in a statement any policy formulated for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2).

(5) The Department must, as soon as a statement is prepared for the purposes of subsection (4), send a copy of it to—

(a) the Secretary of State,

(b) the Scottish Ministers, and

(c) the National Assembly for Wales.'.

New clause 13—Strategies for meeting the Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste: England—

'(1) The Secretary of State must have a strategy to meet Directive 94/62/EC on Packaging and Packaging Waste.

(2) The Secretary of State will establish by regulation that the original producers have mechanisms in place to facilitate the recovery and reuse of their packaging, and the recycling and recovery of packaging waste.

(3) Before formulating policy for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), the Secretary of State must—

(a) consult with the relevant EU bodies, the Scottish Ministers, the National Assembly for Wales, the Department of the Environment, the Secretary of State for the Home Office, the Environment Agency and the Mayor of London,

(b) consult such bodies or persons appearing to him to be representative of the interests of local government as he considers appropriate,

(c) consult such bodies or persons appearing to him to be representative of the interests of industry as he considers appropriate, and

(d) carry out such public consultation as he considers appropriate.

(4) The Secretary of State must set out in a statement any policy formulated for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2).

(5) The Secretary of State must, as soon as a statement is prepared for the purposes of subsection (4), send a copy of it to—

(a) the Scottish Ministers,

(b) the National Assembly for Wales, and

(c) the Department of the Environment.'.

New clause 14—Strategies for meeting the Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste: Scotland—

'(1) The Scottish Ministers must have a strategy to meet Directive 94/62/EC on Packaging and Packaging Waste.

(2) The Scottish Ministers will establish by regulation that the original producers have mechanisms in place to facilitate the recovery and reuse of their packaging, and the recycling and recovery of packaging waste.

(3) Before formulating policy for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), the Scottish Ministers must—

(a) consult with the relevant EU bodies, the Secretary of State, the National Assembly for Wales, the Department of the Environment and Scottish Environment Protection Agency,

(b) consult such bodies or persons appearing to them to be representative of the interests of local government as they consider appropriate,

(c) consult such bodies or persons appearing to them to be representative of the interests of industry as they consider appropriate, and

(d) carry out such public consultation as they consider appropriate.

(4) The Scottish Ministers must set out in a statement any policy formulated for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2).

(5) The Scottish Ministers must, as soon as a statement is prepared for the purposes of subsection (4), send a copy of it to—

(a) the Secretary of State,

(b) the National Assembly for Wales, and

(c) the Department of the Environment.'.

New clause 15—Strategies for meeting the Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste: Wales—

'(1) The National Assembly for Wales must have a strategy to meet Directive 94/62/EC on Packaging and Packaging Waste.

(2) The National Assembly for Wales will establish by regulation that the original producers have mechanisms in place to facilitate the recovery and reuse of their packaging, and the recycling and recovery of packaging waste.

(3) Before formulating policy for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), the Assembly must—

(a) consult with the relevant EU bodies, the Secretary of State, the Scottish Ministers, the Department of the Environment and the Environment Agency,

(b) consult such bodies or persons appearing to it to be representative of the interests of local government as it considers appropriate,

(c) consult such bodies or persons appearing to it to be representative of the interests of industry as it considers appropriate, and

(d) carry out such public consultation as it considers appropriate.

(4) The Assembly must set out in a statement any policy formulated for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2).

(5) The Assembly must, as soon as a statement is prepared for the purposes of subsection (4), send a copy of it to—

(a) the Secretary of State,

(b) the Scottish Ministers, and

(c) the Department of the Environment.'.

New clause 16—Strategies for meeting the Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste: Northern Ireland—

'(1) The Department of the Environment must have a strategy to meet Directive 94/62/EC on Packaging and Packaging Waste.

(2) The Department of the Environment will establish by regulation that the original producers have mechanisms in place to facilitate the recovery and reuse of their packaging, and the recycling and recovery of packaging waste.

(3) Before formulating policy for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2), the Department must—

(a) consult with the relevant EU bodies, the Secretary of State, the Scottish Ministers and the National Assembly for Wales,

(b) consult such bodies or persons appearing to it to be representative of the interests of local government as it considers appropriate,

(c) consult such bodies or persons appearing to it to be representative of the interests of industry as it considers appropriate, and

(d) carry out such public consultation as it considers appropriate.

(4) The Department must set out in a statement any policy formulated for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2).

(5) The Department must, as soon as a statement is prepared for the purposes of subsection (4), send a copy of it to—

(a) the Secretary of State,

(b) the Scottish Ministers, and

(c) the National Assembly for Wales.'.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

We have had a broad run around the houses and we have mentioned waste minimisation. I have no wish to distract the Minister further and wander off the point, so I shall stick to waste minimisation as far as I can.

The Minister referred to the waste hierarchy. One of the points of agreement between hon. Members on both sides of the House and the population at large is that the waste hierarchy is right—the order of process is right. However, incineration is further down the hierarchy than landfill. It has been reclassified as a disposal technique rather than a recovery technique following a recent Luxembourg judgment, which I hope the Government are aware of and will now take account of in their strategy. However, the hierarchy is right and at the top, as the Minister says, is waste minimisation. Yet that is the least developed part of the hierarchy: we know least about it, and have discussed it the fewest times. I suggest that there are fewer measures in the Bill to deliver waste minimisation than there are for other elements of the hierarchy.

In fact, delivery of the hierarchy is almost like an upside-down pyramid in reverse. Landfill remains the most attractive option in many ways, even though the EU landfill directive will no doubt have an effect. The landfill tax has not increased to the optimum level. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has proposed a rate of £35 a tonne, but getting there is taking a long time and we are not there yet. After landfill, incineration is the next most attractive option, followed by recycling, re-use and waste minimisation. In terms of incentives, that is the waste hierarchy in reverse. It contrasts with Government statements about what should be happening in theory.

Our intention with the new clause is to help the Government and the Minister, by encouraging waste minimisation. I want to help the Minister to deliver his strategy, as he is not doing so at the moment.

Waste is not being reduced but is growing by 3 per cent. a year. That is the key measure of the Government's success in protecting the environment, which is what we are talking about, not EU directives or avoiding fines. The best way to help the environment is to minimise the creation of waste in the first place.

Waste minimisation is not happening, for a number of reasons. One is that the levers to pull in respect of waste minimisation are more difficult to find. I am happy to accept that that is the case. Another reason is that EU measures cannot, by their nature, be fiscal measures, as countries have not agreed unanimously to introduce such measures. The packaging directive, for example, requires that a certain amount of waste is recycled but does not reduce the amount of packaging used in the first place. The directive helps recycling, therefore, but not waste reduction and minimisation.

Another factor is that the Government's waste minimisation strategy, to the extent that it exists, is not communicated effectively to local authorities, which do not consider that they have a waste minimisation function. They see themselves as having a waste recycling, incineration or disposal function.

I recently gave evidence at the public inquiry into the East Sussex waste local plan, covering Brighton and Hove. I attempted to suggest that we should broaden the waste minimisation plan, but the barrister representing the county council told me that I had no business to try to introduce waste minimisation into the local plan. He said that that was inappropriate because waste minimisation was a national measure. The clear message from the councils is that waste minimisation is a matter for Government, but the Minister has said that it should be delivered by local councils. The reality is that no one is doing it properly, which is why nothing is happening and why waste is continuing to grow.

A number of measures could help, and I shall set them out later. First, however, we should remind ourselves of the scale of the problem and of the amounts disposed of last year in this country: they include 24 million car tyres, 972 million plastic water bottles, and 94,000 fridges. There were 226,000 old cars abandoned, as opposed to their being disposed of. In addition, 2 million mobile phones and 32 million printer cartridges were thrown away.

Printer cartridges provide a good example of where the waste minimisation strategy proposed in new clause 1 could be helpful. Twenty per cent. of the printer cartridge market is taken up by re-usable products that can be refilled and reclaimed. That minimises the throw-away culture and the amount of landfill taken up by printer cartridges.

I am sure that the Minister will agree that re-using printer cartridges is a better solution in environmental terms than buying new cartridges and throwing them away at the end of their useful lives. However, the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive discussions were led by the Department of Trade and Industry, and not by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as I think should have been the case. Britain has taken the lead in resisting the inclusion in the WEEE directive of printer cartridges. The DTI does not want cartridges to be classified as electrical wastes. Under pressure from Hewlett Packard and other manufacturers, the DTI wants the disposable culture to continue. That is an example of how the Government are simply not implementing their waste minimisation strategy.

Photo of Robert Syms Robert Syms Shadow Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister)

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. A number of companies in this country want to get into the business of recycling printer cartridges and other items, but they feel that they will be at a disadvantage if such cartridges are not included in the WEEE directive. Does he agree, therefore, that it is also a matter of allowing small businesses to grow in this sector?

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

No, Mr. Syms is not quite right on that matter. It is true that printer cartridges and other such items are not included in the WEEE directive, but there is nothing to preclude their re-use and refilling. Mr. Baker was right to say that the DTI took the lead in the negotiations, but the basis of the directive is that the electrical equipment that it covers should go back to the original manufacturers. The same logic would apply to printer cartridges: if covered by WEEE, they would go back to the manufacturers, even though many are refilled and reused. That will not be affected by the WEEE directive.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

The Minister is either being slightly disingenuous, or ill informed. The point is that we think that the WEEE directive should cover printer cartridges. The requirement should be that they are dealt with on a comprehensive, life-cycle basis, but the Government are resisting that.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Does not the hon. Gentleman think it extraordinary that the Minister did not say in his intervention that the real problem with printer cartridges is that they are being put in landfill? By including them in the WEEE directive, we would achieve what the whole Bill seeks to achieve.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

That is exactly right. In respect of the Minister's intervention, I should point out that many small businesses would benefit from the inclusion of printer cartridges and such items in the WEEE directive. All printer cartridges used in this country are imported, and some are recycled and re-used by British companies. So every time the Government stand up in Brussels—or sit down in smoke-filled rooms—and say that they cannot allow the WEEE directive to include printer cartridges, they are disarming small businesses in this country, and damaging the environment.

That is what the DTI is doing. It has created the mess, and DEFRA is left to pick up the pieces afterwards. That is how the Government are constructed. We need more effort on waste minimisation, and I have given the Minister one concrete example of something that he could do to help.

The Minister also needs to clarify the Government's position on variable charging. My party believes that the proposition has considerable merit, and that it at least deserves to be tried in pilot projects around the country.

The Minister referred to the strategy unit report entitled "Waste not, Want not", which grasped that nettle. However, I do not know the Government's intentions in the matter. I think that they have concluded that variable charging is too difficult in political terms, and that they will sweep it under the carpet, at least until after the next election. Will the Minister say what he intends to do in connection with variable charging for local authorities? Perhaps another system could be used, but there has to be some incentive for householders in particular to reduce the amount of waste that they create, and thereby to ensure that waste minimisation strategies work. So far, I have seen no evidence that that is happening.

Where are the Government strategies to encourage businesses to minimise waste? I used to be chair of economic development in East Sussex county council, before it adopted antediluvian incineration policies. We looked at a business estate in Newhaven and discovered that some businesses were paying to dispose of stuff that other companies on the same estate needed as virgin products. We not only saved some businesses' disposal costs, which was good for them, but produced virgin material—or, at least, ersatz virgin material—for other companies to use, in place of what they would have had to buy on the open market. Waste minimisation can therefore help business as well as the environment, but there is no evidence that the Government are helping British businesses in that regard.

Why do the Government not sign up to the concept of zero waste? No one pretends that it can be delivered overnight, or even in 20 years, but it must remain the ultimate aim. A zero-waste culture would not consider waste as something to be disposed of, but rather as something whose creation should be avoided. If waste were created, it would be regarded as a material with a potential use, rather than as a problem to be got rid of. That may not always be possible, but we should move in that direction. I have heard no encouragement from the Government for the concept of zero waste, although the Liberal Democrat party conference in Brighton this year officially adopted the zero-waste policy.

A number of councils around the country—Liberal Democrat councils and others—have adopted the zero-waste strategy. They include Lewes district council and Bath and North East Somerset unitary authority. Other councils of different political persuasions have also adopted the concept. Why are the Government not doing so? They pay lip service to the concept of waste minimisation but do nothing about it.

We have heard one or two examples of what the Government were, theoretically, doing but I have seen no evidence of it. The key point is that the waste stream is growing. It is rather like the Government's road traffic reduction policy. In 1997, the Deputy Prime Minister promised that there would be fewer vehicles on our roads and said that we should hold the Government to that promise. However, there are far more vehicles on our roads and road transport is increasing. We are told that the Government want waste minimisation, but a growing amount of waste is being produced. They cannot deliver their own rhetoric. That is part of the problem that we face.

We need a zero-waste strategy and key to that is the extension of producer responsibility. Yet again, the lead is coming from the EU, which is introducing measures such as the end of life vehicles directive. Such initiatives will ensure producer responsibility, which we all want, but they are not coming from the Government, who plan to implement the directive in such a slipshod manner that its effects will, in the short term, be the opposite of what is intended. The polluter must pay, but currently that is not happening.

We have little evidence that the Government take these matters seriously. I refer the Minister to the comments of the Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs. It stated:

"Measures to encourage waste minimisation in the UK remain very weak."

If the Minister does not like that, he could try looking at the report of the Select Committee on Environmental Audit, which stated:

"No target has been set for waste minimisation. The resources available under the National Waste Minimisation and Recycling Fund have been largely directed at recycling projects rather than waste minimisation efforts. Few other levers to stimulate waste minimisation exist to compensate for this."

The Committee further noted that it agreed with the assessment of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that UK measures to encourage waste minimisation were very weak.

That is interesting. Two Select Committees both used the phrase "very weak" to describe waste minimisation measures. Two cross-party Committees, specialists in their field, heavily criticised the Government—[Interruption.] The Minister mutters "Out of date". In that case, ""Waste Strategy 2000"" is out of date. He cannot claim that some documents are state of the art just because he happens to like them and dismiss others as out of date. Those Select Committee reports postdate "Waste Strategy 2000", so they are less out of date than the Government's strategy.

The Government have done nothing seriously to address the need to minimise waste, but have instead allowed it to grow. They recognised the need to deal with landfill, with consequences for incineration that we have already discussed. To be fair, they have also recognised the need to increase recycling and have introduced measures to encourage it. However, they have not dealt with the first two items in the waste hierarchy: waste minimisation and re-use. Until they do so, their waste strategy will not be worth the paper it is written on.

Will the Minister set out what the Government plan to do to minimise waste? A sensible way forward would be to accept new clauses 1 to 4.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Health)

I have a problem with the hon. Gentleman's proposals, as would my hon. Friends in the Scottish National party and his hon. Friends with Welsh constituencies. The proposals state that the devolved Administrations must develop strategies and describe the regulations that should be included, but is not that inconsistent with the whole idea of devolution?

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

That is a far better point than any of those made by the Minister[Interruption.] I am sorry; that was a bit harsh. The Minister is a very nice chap and I apologise for being unduly rude to him—but it is still true.

Our new clauses are an attempt to deal with the Bill as it has been constructed by the Government. We have tried to be consistent with the existing terms of the Bill. The measure applies to the whole United Kingdom, so that is how we tried to deal with our proposals. If Hywel Williams is suggesting that there should be more devolution to Scotland and Wales, I should not oppose that—[Interruption.] I have tried to explain that it is a UK Bill and that is why we took that approach.

Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Liberal Democrat, Guildford

Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend on that point. The measures are based on the European directive, which would penalise the UK as a whole, so the legislation has to deal with that fact. Where a European directive applies to the whole of the United Kingdom, we need a mechanism so that the problem can be divided up between the various UK nations. That is why we drew up our proposals as we did, but it would be up to the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament to make such representations as they can. The matter was considered in the Standing Committee, as we were concerned about the devolved aspects of the Bill.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making the argument more eloquently than I did in my response to the intervention.

New clause 8 would minimise arisings from nuclear waste. We have not really touched on that subject during the passage of the Bill, but it is a serious environmental issue that relates to the waste stream. I do not entirely understand why successive Governments treat nuclear waste as something other than waste. I realise that it has to be dealt with differently, but why is it subject to separate consideration and not included in the waste strategy? It should not be put to one side; it can be dealt with under waste minimisation programmes and we should have a strategy for doing so.

Our new clause encourages the Secretary of State to develop a strategy for

"minimising the arisings of nuclear waste . . . minimising the discharge of liquid radioactive waste into the marine environment . . . ending the production of plutonium— and— implementing best . . . techniques for the management of spent . . . fuel".

The Minister is extremely well informed so I am sure that he is aware that the amount of radioactive waste stored in Britain has more than doubled over the past 15 years. The Government have released figures showing that stocks of nuclear waste, including high-level waste, which will, in some cases, remain hazardous for tens of thousands of years, increased to 92,000 cu m last year. The Minister will also be aware that, according to his predecessor, there is no information about the amount of waste stored before 1984, so there is uncertainty about what happened then.

I do not want to take up too much time on this matter, but a waste strategy that fails to recognise the doubling of nuclear waste—with all the implications of that—can hardly be complete. I encourage the Government to find a way of including nuclear waste in their strategy.

That should not be a DTI-DEFRA issue. I do not want a situation to arise in which the Department of Trade and Industry lets the nuclear industry off the hook, as it may do in relation to the nuclear liabilities Bill, and then asks DEFRA to clear up the mess. I am trying to help DEFRA by encouraging the Minister and his colleagues to be rather more vocal about the nuclear industry than they sometimes are.

I endorse new clause 1 and unless the Minister gives us a good response I shall divide the House on it.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Norman Baker made an extremely good and accurate speech about the state of the Government's approach to waste. I thoroughly agree with him and if he puts the new clause to a vote I shall support him in the Lobby. Similarly, I hope that he will support me when I move new clauses 9 and 13.

The Bill treats landfill in complete isolation, whereas we need a comprehensive approach to waste policy. The waste electrical and electronic equipment and the packaging directive must be incorporated in the Bill. We need a strategy to reach those targets. The Government have missed the opportunity of using the Bill to connect the targets in a single, co-ordinated strategy.

The WEEE directive applies to the European concept of producer responsibility, whereby the producer or supplier must carry the cost of the overall environmental impact of the product when it becomes waste, through recycling and recovery rather than landfill disposal of all electronic and electrical equipment. Targets are required for collection and recovery to be met by the end of 2005, and a strategy to meet those targets is vital. The WEEE directive was published on 13 February and the UK now has 18 months to transpose it into national law. It states that systems for separate collection of waste must be set up, and it places obligations on producers and consumers, but not on local authorities.

In 1997–98, the packaging waste directive was implemented in the UK, obliging Britain to increase the recovery and recycling of packaging materials. The Government's packaging recovery target for 2001 was 52 per cent. However, needless to say, it was not met and still only 48 per cent. of packaging is recycled. The European Commission proposes higher targets of 60 to 85 per cent. for recycling and recovery in 2006 to 2008. To meet its targets and avoid heavy fines, the UK must recover an extra 1.2 million to 2.7 million tonnes of packaging from the municipal waste stream. A great increase in separate household waste collections could aid the recovery of packaging if households were focused on it. We need a proper national strategy to reach that target, and new clauses 9 to 16 seek to achieve such a strategy. I recognise that the Government will not wish to accept those new clauses, but if we are to avoid enormous fines, we need a proper co-ordinated policy.

The hon. Member for Lewes told the House that official Liberal Democrat policy is to have zero waste. I recognise the benefit of zero waste. Waste involves resources, and it is a shame that landfill is the Government's preferred choice, followed by incineration. The hon. Gentleman said that achieving zero waste could take 10 or 20 years and that it may never happen. Perhaps he will tell us what is his party's policy on that time scale during the afternoon.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes 3:00 pm, 28th October 2003

It so happens that I have with me the Liberal Democrat policy motion, which was accepted at the Liberal Democrat conference, and I can formally tell the House that the conference agreed that there should be a target of zero for all municipal waste by 2020; 60 per cent. by 2010; and 70 per cent. by 2015.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

That is very helpful.

My hon. Friend Mr. Sayeed talked about supermarkets and the volume of waste packaging generated by people who shop. That is another excellent point and another very important reason why the packaging waste directive needs to be included in the Bill.

I am warned by my Whip that we may only get one vote on this subject, but all hon. Members can see that the Government have been seriously remiss in not including both those European directives, which they have signed up to and which they will be paying fines for if we do not achieve those targets. I should like to see both directives included in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Jonathan Sayeed Mr Jonathan Sayeed Conservative, Mid Bedfordshire

Last November, the Government's own strategy unit produced a very good report entitled "Waste not, Want not", and one of its central recommendations was that all Government thinking on waste should be coherent and holistic. Instead, we have a Bill that is exactly the opposite. Rather than starting at the front line of the battle and dealing with waste minimisation, we are starting at the rearguard and the final disposal of waste—not particularly holistic and certainly not particularly coherent.

The Bill penalises and affects local authorities in their disposal of waste, but it does not help them to minimise waste at source. It fails to provide incentives for individual citizens to act in a more environmentally friendly manner. The Bill is piecemeal, in direct contravention of what "Waste not, Want not" was all about. That is one of the reasons why it will fail.

I will not rehearse the arguments adduced by my hon. Friend Mr. Wiggin about the WEEE directive and the end-of-life vehicle directive, but it is absolutely clear that a Bill that deals with only 30 per cent. of waste misses a very considerable opportunity. The Bill should encompass strategies that deal with the WEEE directive, the packaging waste directive and the end-of-life vehicles directive.

The Bill should also make it clear how local authorities can deal with some of the most pernicious scourges in rural and urban Britain: abandoned cars and fly-tipped waste. The Bill says a lot about penalties on local authorities, but it does not demonstrate, and give clear guidance on, how local authorities can use the law to prosecute and penalise those who cause such antisocial and anti-environmental crime.

This is a bit of a Bill. In Committee, we tried to make it a much better Bill. We tried to shift its emphasis, so that it would do what the Government said that it was meant to do: deal with a waste hierarchy and encourage local authorities to do the most environmentally friendly thing. All it will actually do is penalise local authorities for doing one of the least environmentally friendly things. It is an opportunity missed.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's last comment at all. Hon. Members have spoken as though the Bill is the be-all and end-all of our waste strategy. It most certainly is not, and I shall come to some of the other issues. There is a range of work streams in progress and enormous acceleration in policy formulation, actions taken, changes in delivery, changes in targets and changes in achievements. Those are all important issues.

I am not going to say that we did not start at a low level—it is absolutely true that we did—but we have doubled the rate of recycling in this country since 1997. That is not enough, and we have to do more. I am very glad to say that we are making progress, and I shall refer to the work streams that we have in progress in a moment. Before I do so, I shall deal head on with the point about the variable charging made by Norman Baker.

There may well be a case for variable charging, and we are considering how it could possibly be applied. We are talking to the Local Government Association about how that could be done. However, there are downsides to variable charging, as the hon. Gentleman will be only too aware, and we must address the possible disadvantages as well because, if we introduce variable charging, we want the policy to be successful. My personal concept of variable charging is not to impose additional charges on people who are already paying for waste disposal through their council tax, but there could be discounts for people who change their behaviour. We have to consider how that could be put in place, but we are interested and we are trying to address the issue.

New clauses 1 to 4 would require the Secretary of State and each of the devolved Administrations to develop a strategy for waste prevention and waste minimisation, but that presumes that that is not being done in England and by the devolved Administrations, who are developing their own strategies. That is right and proper, as it is the principle of the devolved approach. We have to put in place more sustainable waste management arrangements. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that waste is still increasing at about 3 per cent. a year—we are well aware of that—but that makes the fact that we have increased recycling and re-use so significantly a greater achievement, although that is no ground for complacency when waste is still increasing.

The growth in municipal waste has slowed to about 2.4 per cent. a year. Again, that is no cause for doing cartwheels down the street. All I am saying is that we are making a bit of progress. We have an awful long way to go, but we are committed to making progress. Waste prevention cuts across a number of disciplines, and there are several Government programmes that I have not mentioned, such as waste minimisation, which is already covered in "Waste Strategy 2000". Incidentally, that waste strategy approach is very different from what is in the Select Committee reports that have been published. I have the utmost regard for both the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee, which DEFRA takes seriously. If Members look at DEFRA's record, they will find that we try to implement the recommendations that Select Committees make to us, because we respect their views and the detail in their reports.

Photo of Paddy Tipping Paddy Tipping Labour, Sherwood

I am of course grateful for the Minister's comments. He made a point earlier about variable charging and his desire to make progress. One of the ways to make progress is to have pilots. Will he reinforce his efforts to look at experimentation in this area? No one wants a full scheme at present, but there is a need to play around with some of these issues.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

That is a sensible suggestion. When dealing with a new approach, it makes sense to pilot it in several areas, to gain experience and establish what are the advantages and disadvantages. Those are among the issues that we are currently discussing with the Local Government Association. As I said, it is a complex issue, and we need to consider a range of issues, but we are talking those through, and I will certainly take seriously the pilot area approach.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am grateful for the comments of Paddy Tipping who, like me, sits on the Select Committee. In addition to variable charging, will the Minister consider incentives, because I believe that 90 per cent. of people in this country would recycle voluntarily if they were given the opportunity?

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

That is a possibility. My local authority, under the brown bin scheme, which involves composting by the local council—I live in one of the villages that does not benefit from the scheme, so I do not know whether it still goes on—used to give every household that took part in the scheme a bag of compost, which it could use on the garden or do with as it liked. I accept that that is a small incentive, but it is an incentive nevertheless, and it makes people feel that they are part of something meaningful and useful, and I like that idea. A range of incentives is possible, and I do not rule out that kind of approach.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The Minister will appreciate that a bag of compost is not necessarily the sort of incentive that sends out the clearest signal about what exactly he wants to achieve.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman may be surprised about how much enjoyment some people can get from a bag of compost in relation to their pastimes, so I would not rule out that incentive.

We are taking forward the waste resources action programme, which involves promoting waste minimisation and the recommendation of the Prime Minister's strategy unit to consider developing proposals for indicators for local authorities that incorporate success in reducing waste volumes. That will include consideration of the case for setting quantitative targets for waste reduction. The second phase of the 1994 packaging waste directive review will also look at re-use, minimisation and producer responsibility, and I intend to be fully engaged in that process. As a first step, I have already asked the Government's Advisory Committee on Packaging to provide me with advice on the issue to feed into the work of DEFRA, and it is already looking at ways of achieving more minimisation and reuse of packaging. The idea that the whole Government strategy hinges on this one Bill alone is therefore entirely untrue.

It is all very well for the hon. Member for Lewes to talk about zero waste and targets, but those must be delivered. I will watch with interest what Liberal Democrat authorities do in relation to those targets, but a clear strategy is necessary, which involves making decisions, not copping out on incinerators by talking about a moratorium and refusing to give a straight answer as to whether there is a role for them. The whole range of issues must be addressed, and there must be a hierarchy, which I do not believe is upside down. I accept that we have not got the hierarchy right in relation to the percentage of waste streams that we want, but we are addressing those issues. We have strategies in place, which we are pursuing, and I hope that I have addressed that point.

In relation to new clause 8, the hon. Gentleman invites us to develop a strategy for, among other things,

"arisings of nuclear waste . . . the discharge of liquid radioactive waste into the marine environment . . . ending the production of plutonium . . . implementing best available techniques for the management of spent nuclear fuel."

Again, all those policies are currently being put in place. We are currently putting in place the nuclear waste committee and the various strategies that we would apply, such as new strategies in relation to minimising liquid radioactive waste, which I believe have great potential. Those issues need to be addressed differently. The way that the hon. Gentleman was speaking—I am sure that he did not mean to present it in this way—it sounded as though the local council would send a bin lorry round to Sellafield to pick up today's nuclear waste and take it away for composting and recycling. Dealing with those issues is a bit more complicated than that. In that respect, a separate strategy is required, which we are putting in place.

This Government's policy has always been to minimise arisings of radioactive waste. The hon. Gentleman will be aware, however, that a number of power stations are coming to the end of their working life. Those have to be decommissioned, and as a result, there will be an increase in radioactive waste, which is inevitable. Robust strategies will be necessary to deal with that.

Photo of Alan Meale Alan Meale Labour, Mansfield 3:15 pm, 28th October 2003

I am grateful for the answer that the Minister has just given. What he is saying to Norman Baker is that if we go full speed ahead and close our nuclear power plants, what will occur is not minimisation of waste but maximisation of waste. I know that my hon. Friend is aware of UN talks that are going on at the moment, whereby we will try to have a worldwide approach to this enormous problem. For instance, he is aware that only two places on the planet are geographically safe to store nuclear waste underground—Australia and parts of Africa. The reality is that until we have a worldwide strategy, not only in relation to storage but in relation to transportation, we should be very careful about how we handle this whole issue.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The UK is recognised as one of the world leaders in relation to the expertise that we have in nuclear waste handling, but I acknowledge that it is a global issue, which we need to address. In fact, in September 2001, my Department and the devolved Administrations published a consultation document entitled "Managing Radioactive Waste Safely", which was about developing a policy for managing solid radioactive waste in the United Kingdom, and we are currently in the process of appointing the new committee that I mentioned on management of such waste. In July 2002, my Department published a UK strategy for radioactive discharges, which set out proposals for reducing radioactive discharges to the marine environment in the period to 2020. That strategy is in compliance with targets agreed at a ministerial meeting of the OSPAR commission in 1998, which we also addressed this year. We are therefore approaching the issue in relation to best available techniques, we are taking seriously our commitments in international bodies such as OSPAR, and we are addressing the targets that we set ourselves.

Photo of David Marshall David Marshall Labour, Glasgow Shettleston

The new clauses relate to strategies for the composite parts of the UK. What discussions has the Minister had already, if any, with Ministers in the Scottish Parliament, and what was their attitude to this aspect of the Bill?

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Regular discussions take place between my Department and the devolved Administrations, at ministerial level and at official levels, and facilities at Sellafield serve the whole of the UK, as my hon. Friend will be aware. Nevertheless, there are power stations in each of the devolved areas, which have considerable interest and involvement in the formulation of those strategies.

New clauses 9 to 16 are all concerned with the implementation of EU waste management directives. Again, this Bill is not necessary to implement such strategies as the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive. We are already making progress on that. As with all directives, the UK is required by European law to implement it. The purpose of the directive is to prevent waste electrical and electronic equipment and encourage the re-use and recycling of such waste. It includes a requirement for member states to ensure that producers set up systems to provide for the recovery of WEEE. The requirement in the new clauses for separate regulations is therefore not necessary—it is already being done.

New clauses 13 to 16 deal with packaging and the packaging waste directive. I am pleased to inform the House that the new clauses are unnecessary because the requirements of packaging directive 94/62/EC have already been transposed into UK law, mostly through the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997. We are getting on with implementation and making progress toward meeting the targets.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

If we are not reaching the targets set by the directive, will the Minister explain whether people are breaking the law or whether the system must be reinforced by amendment to the Bill?

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There are separate issues relating to the potential penalties that apply within the directive that was implemented. However, we are making especially good progress on waste from packaging. Since 1998, which is when the obligations took effect, recycling of packaging waste increased from 27 per cent. to 44 per cent. in 2002. The figure is now beyond that. When the higher recycling targets in the next directive are put in place, I expect that there will be even greater reductions in waste.

I apologise for my somewhat lengthy explanation, but the idea that the Government's waste strategy is restricted only to the Bill is not fair, justified or correct. I have outlined to the House that a whole range of policies, strategies and work schemes are in place. We are making good progress on domestic, commercial and packaging waste and we intend to do more. I appreciate hon. Members' comments, understand their concerns and share their desire for progress. We are committed to continuing to make progress, so I hope that the House will reject the new clause.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

I am grateful to the Minister for his comments, although they were a broad sweep over the waste hierarchy and did not tell us much about waste minimisation, which is the subject of new clause 1.

On new clause 8, which relates to the nuclear industry, it is quite true, to pick up the point made by Mr. Meale, that closing nuclear power stations would increase the amount of nuclear waste in the short term. However, my answer to that is that not closing the stations would produce even more waste in the long term because they produce waste as they continue to operate. The Government might say that they are producing strategies and doing this and that to minimise nuclear waste, but it is not long since they resisted attempts by the Irish, Norwegian and other Governments to stop the discharge of T99 from Sellafield, so their record is not especially good.

Photo of Alan Meale Alan Meale Labour, Mansfield

I am not really against many of the hon. Gentleman's arguments. However, I have difficulty with new clause 8. My area receives electricity from the Normandy coastline in France, which is interconnected with a series of power stations. The problem cannot be considered as purely a British response to nuclear spent fuel—there must be a global approach.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

I have some sympathy with that point. Of course, the problem must be dealt with internationally as much as possible and international agreements on energy and nuclear power exist. Such matters are often best dealt with at a European level, which is why environmental improvements that have occurred during the past 20 or 30 years have largely been a result of EU directives rather than individual action by successive British Governments. However, that is not to say that this country cannot do something. We should consider what can be done because we are creating nuclear waste and we should try to deal with it responsibly—I am not convinced that we always do.

Let me deal with the central issue of waste minimisation. I am grateful to Conservative Members for their comments, which show that there is agreement and understanding on this side of the House about the need to promote waste minimisation. We heard a lot from the Minister about recycling—the third bullet point on the waste hierarchy. I am happy to say that the Government are doing work on recycling and that recycling levels are going up. Progress is being made, albeit from a low base, so I give credit where credit is due. However, with respect, that is not the subject of new clause 1, which is about waste minimisation.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving credit where credit is due. Credit is due to the Conservative councils that form eight out of the 10 best councils at recycling and recovery. That has not been due to the Government because they are failing to reach their targets, which explains why we need such provisions in the Bill.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

We do need the provisions in the Bill, so the hon. Gentleman and I agree on that.

On variable charging, I am grateful to the Minister for taking up my point and that made by Paddy Tipping on the need for pilot projects—that is sensible. However, such charges should not represent a stealth tax. The system should be revenue-neutral so that those who help the environment receive a financial gain and those who behave irresponsibly receive a financial penalty. I hope that the Minister will conclude his discussions with the Local Government Association quickly and that a pilot project—or three or four—will be up and running before the next general election so that we can judge its success.

I return to the central point of minimisation. The way in which the waste hierarchy has been delivered is upside down, although the hierarchy is the right way up on paper. There are insufficient measures to address minimisation. The waste stream is increasing by 3 per cent. a year and nothing that I heard from the Minister convinced me that that trend will change. For that reason, I shall press new clause 1 to a Division.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 172, Noes 283.

Division number 340 Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords] — New Clause 1 — Strategies for Waste Minimisation: England

Aye: 171 MPs

No: 283 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Question accordingly negatived.