Very good progress is being made toward meeting the 2010 target to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste sent to landfill. In 2008, significantly less of this waste was land-filled than the 2010 target requires, and there is every reason to believe that the amount of waste sent to landfill has continued to follow a downward path since.
But when it was drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State's Department that the 2013 target was going to be nowhere near met, his spokesman replied that the
"targets remain challenging and local authorities need to continue their good work to date."
Does the Secretary of State agree that that reflects breathtaking complacency? In the dying days of this Parliament, will he produce a policy that has some zip and coherence and that people can respect?
With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I must say that I profoundly disagree with what he has just said. In 1997, this Government inherited a household recycling rate of 8 per cent., but it is now 37 per cent., and I pay tribute to the work done over the past 13 years by local authorities and others to achieve that improvement. The hon. Gentleman may not have noticed that I recently launched a consultation on how we might make still further improvements, and there is even a suggestion that we should reach a point when, as a nation, we say that certain products will no longer be sent to landfill. I would hope that the hon. Gentleman supports that, if he is keen to get us as close as possible to achieving zero waste, which is my aim and that of the Opposition spokesmen.
We remember Ashok, and we will greatly miss him.
In yesterday's Budget, the Government increased landfill tax, which we welcome because it will improve green disposal of waste, but how does the Secretary of State respond to the damning National Audit Office report and the finding that the Government have failed to set binding targets for business waste? There is six times more business waste than domestic waste, and the Government are failing to deal with it; they are completely missing their target.
I do not agree, because the rate for recycling commercial and industrial waste is higher than for household waste, not lower. When the last comprehensive survey was conducted in 2002, the recycling rate was approaching 50 per cent. There is no doubt in my mind that it is higher now, which is why we will undertake a further survey later this year. The hon. Lady will have seen the paper that we published on commercial and industrial waste. I have just launched a consultation on landfill bans, which are pretty darn ambitious and would apply to commercial and industrial waste, as they would to household waste.