Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 22nd February 2007.

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Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Shadow Minister (Health) 10:30 am, 22nd February 2007

If he will make a statement on the role of his Department in implementing the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive.

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Mr. Speaker, in 10 years of answering questions at this Dispatch Box, this is one that I did not want ever to have to answer. You will see why.

The Department of Trade and Industry has lead responsibility for the regulations that implement the majority of the provisions of the WEEE directive in the United Kingdom. These were laid before Parliament on 12 December 2006 and come fully into force on 1 July 2007. The DTI will shortly be issuing detailed guidance on the regulations and will continue to work with industry, local authorities and other parties to ensure the establishment of—wait for it—an effective WEEE system in the United Kingdom.

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Shadow Minister (Health)

I thank the Minister for that response. A recent survey showed that 43 per cent. of large firms were unsure about how to implement the electrical waste directive, and that 70 per cent. of small firms did not even know that it existed. In the light of that, and of the sheer lack of recycling industries in the UK, is not an electronic waste mountain now inevitable? Do we not now need strong cost departments and urgent action?

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

It is true to say that this is one of the most complex pieces of legislation to come out of Europe. It is not true, however, to say that the Government and industry are not working together on it. All the proposals that have been implemented at local government level and at national and regional level have been implemented after full consultation with the British Retail Consortium. The arrangements and financial resources that have been put in place in local government and the industry itself reflect their requests about the operation of the scheme. Unless we put the scheme in place by July 2007, companies will increasingly be liable to dispose of those electrical goods themselves. That cannot be right. We have to have a comprehensive and effective system. We are taking our time over this matter to ensure that producers, distributors and local authorities are at one and that the scheme will be managed effectively.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

I do not think that the Government could have got a more appropriate Minister to answer on the WEEE directive. Some of the electrical items may have been bought from Tiny in the past, but we will not go there. Will the Minister praise local authorities—including Ribble Valley—that have places in their recycling depots where people can bring their electrical waste items? In the implementation of the directive, will he ensure that enough thought is given to the unintended consequences, thinking not only of fridge mountains, which we saw in the past, but fly-tipping, which will take place in a number of areas throughout the country?

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I was going to ask Mr. Speaker to stop people taking the Michael out of me on this subject. This is a serious issue. The hon. Gentleman is right in this sense: I will congratulate local authorities. Local authorities and the British Retail Consortium have taken a leadership role on the issue. That is why there is something like an additional £10 million, from the retail sector itself, for local authorities to upgrade their civil amenities sites in advance. Alongside of that, we have changed legislation to give greater powers to local authorities to deal with fly-tipping, which is a serious social problem, as it always has been. The difference between this scheme and the fridges scheme is that this scheme has been well thought out and, from the beginning, there was a buy-in from local authorities and the industry. I believe that we have an effective scheme in place to start operating from July 2007.