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My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Whitty.
Your Lordships have before you today changes that the Government propose to make to packing regulations. These changes complete the review of the regulations, although we are keeping under review the recovery and recycling targets for 2001 so that we can assess what these should be in the light of returns for 1999.
The regulations set target levels of recovery and recycling of packaging waste designed to help the UK to meet the mandatory targets in the EC directive on packaging and packaging waste--that is 50 per cent recovery, 25 per cent recycling--to be met by 2001. The Government want to see as simple a regulatory system as is compatible with delivering the directive targets, but this system must also be fair and equitable and place a minimum burden on business. We therefore want to avoid introducing unnecessary regulation provisions and take whatever decisions are necessary to create a system which will be capable of delivering the UK targets.
The changes under discussion today stem from a review of the regulations and their operation carried out by the Advisory Committee on Packaging. They have been consulted on extensively and reflect the wishes of business. They are intended to simplify and improve the original regulations and ensure that they are as equitable as possible.
Most of the changes reflect specific requests from business as well as seeking to ensure that the packaging regime is as equitable as possible. A strong deregulatory theme runs through these proposals: that is, the removal of wholesaler obligation, of the data forming the regulations to allow greater flexibility and more detailed guidance and of the special competition scrutiny regime for compliance schemes; and the exclusion from the regulations of approximately 9,000 businesses as a result of the proposed change in the turnover threshold from £1 million to £2 million in the year 2000.
The increased agency registration fee in 2000 is designed to ensure that the problem of free riding is addressed. In addition, businesses with a turnover of over £5 million will be required to provide a compliance plan to the Environment Agency or SEPA in Scotland showing that they have a convincing plan for discharging their legal obligations. It is also proposed that the agencies should publish their monitoring programmes and have greater power to monitor possible free riders.
We are proposing to reduce the percentage activity obligation used by converters to calculate their recovery and recycling obligations and increase by one point each the obligation of packfillers and sellers. We believe that the proposals before the House will ensure maximum recycling, provide a fair and equitable system which minimises the burden on businesses and simplify the regulations. We believe that this framework should provide the greatest chance that the UK can meet its mandatory directive targets in 2001.
My Lords, we welcome the regulations and the placing of more responsibility on producers to move further towards recycling and waste minimisation. There seems to be a move from landfill to incinerators rather than improved waste minimisation. Therefore in general we welcome the regulations and the exemption of smaller businesses from too onerous a burden.
We have one concern as regards the infrastructure in place to help businesses fulfil that requirement. I have some experience of the infrastructure required to implement higher household waste recycling targets. We are concerned that the infrastructure might not be in place in industry to implement such increased targets. With that reservation, we welcome the regulations.
My Lords, the only specific question following from the knowledgeable comments of the noble Baroness related to the concern to ensure that the infrastructure is in place. I can assure her that we shall continue to work closely with industry and with local government to ensure that our targets which are mandatory can be met.