My Lords, the Bill makes provision for the trading and transfer of landfill allowances for the disposal of biodegradable municipal waste. At earlier stages of the Bill we had a number of discussions and serious debates around the problems created by the transport of waste. It is very often waste that is transported long distance—quite often along roads that are less than suitable for the heavy transport involved. It arrives at a disposal facility, which we hope, in part as a result of this Bill, might soon be doing rather less business.
If there is a purpose in this Bill, it is supposed to reduce waste that goes to tipping, and to reduce the transport of waste from one location to another. I have a relative who is, so to speak, in the business—so I have no business to declare, but he is a relative, which has caused me problems in the past. He says that in this modern era there is no reason any longer for a waste disposal authority to be required to transport its biodegradable waste for treatment outside its boundaries, provided that the technology is put in place.
The transport of waste is a serious issue that is offensive to many people. In the long term, the Bill can be of great benefit. However, in the short term it could cause problems, particularly if we start trading the allocations. The amendment simply seeks to say that trade should not take place if it leads to increased journeys conveying waste.
We have had this debate on transport on many occasions. I think everyone agrees and accepts the principle. The difficulty has always been to find words in a suitable form to achieve a reduction in transport without disrupting the business from the day the Bill comes into force. As this is the Third Reading, it is our last attempt to try and get something about transport into the Bill. The debates in the past have been worth it. They have not been a waste of time, because, at the very least, they draw the significance of that issue to the attention of everyone who takes note of what is said in this place. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon Smith, has raised this important issue on a number of occasions during the passage of the Bill. We do not want the Bill to result in more transport of waste than there is at the moment. He is right to say that he has struggled to find a satisfactory way of putting that into the Bill. With all due respect to him, I do not think that he has achieved it in this amendment. He has rightly raised the issue again, but we cannot support the present wording because we do not believe that the amendment is either practicable or enforceable.
People can wrestle with ways to reduce the transport of goods on this country's roads. But any proposal has to apply to all transport of goods. There is no reason for simply bringing out in a bureaucratic way a remedy in respect of the transport of waste. With regret, we cannot support this amendment.
My Lords, I agree with both noble Lords that transport is an important part of waste strategy, although it also fits into the wider transport issue. However I do not think that this amendment would achieve what the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, seeks. We have to bear in mind that it is the allowances that are traded and not the waste. In aggregate, there will be no more allowances than the finite number on a zero sum basis. In other words, the point of the trading system is to provide flexibility to overcome difficulties in meeting the target—and to allow trading between authorities which are doing better than the trend and those which, for one reason or another, are unable to meet that trend. In total, there is a finite number. Therefore, an authority that increased its number of journeys by purchasing extra allowance would be balanced by the fact that the authority trading with it had foregone that extra allowance. In aggregate, therefore, such provision cannot be necessary.
I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that even if such provision were desirable, it would be unenforceable. For example, if an authority were faced with a catastrophe requiring the closure of a landfill site or incinerator and had to trade to meet its target, the exact location of the alternative disposal provision would determine the aggregate length of journeys. It would be difficult in such circumstances to tell the authority that it should incur an additional penalty because it was unable to use the best means of disposal. As I said, therefore, in aggregate, this provision is not necessary and would in any case be unenforceable. While I recognise the importance of transportation in this matter, I do not think that this amendment would improve the Bill.
My Lords, I hear what the Minister says and I have to accept his comments. I shall perhaps return to the issue in later amendments. Nevertheless, I am unrepentant for raising the issue again today. As I said, and as the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, have acknowledged, the issue is significant. I accept that it is difficult, and probably exceedingly dangerous, to deal with transport matters by statute. With that in mind, I think that the time we have spent has been worth while. My father used to say that the only pleasant thing about knocking your head against the wall was that it was actually rather good when you stopped. I think it is time that I stopped. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, this is a short amendment to leave out paragraph (f) on page 5, line 46, which provides for the intervention of what I would call third party brokers in the business of trading waste disposal allowances. We think that such intervention is wrong. We do not think that third parties should be involved in this business at all. We would prefer to have our wording in the Bill, to make provision,
"for all trading to be carried out by direct transfer or sale between waste disposal authorities".
The "waste disposal market" is not a conventional market. It is not a market that anyone can enter. The only parties that will be allowed to trade waste disposal allowances are waste disposal authorities, and there is a limited number of those bodies. The waste disposal authorities are currently composed of most if not all of the shire counties—I am not quite sure of the position of Rutland, which is unique—the unitary authorities and the London boroughs. I agree that the number is not finite. I suppose that if the Government were to have their way over the creation of elected regional assemblies, and under those only unitary authorities, the number of waste disposal allowances could conceivably increase. However, we cannot anticipate future numbers and the consequences of legislation that is only beginning its passage through Parliament. The Bill is currently in this House, and it will in any event take a long time to implement.
Given that it is a closed market, that all local authorities know and work with each other as waste disposal authorities in a national local government organisation and that they are familiar with arrangements across boundaries and across the country, it is an odd proposition that someone will be able to create a profitable profession by trading the allowances—which, if the system works, will not be required by 2020. I think that that would be a very hazardous job for anyone to undertake.
However, we do not think that that will happen. We think that the normal meetings and lines of communication between local authorities and waste disposal authorities will very quickly enable those with surplus capacity to locate and do business over the telephone with those deficient in capacity. Our amendment says that that is what should happen—whereas the present, rather odd paragraph provides for third party intervention in the trade. The present paragraph also provides for the necessity of regulation to define how that person should behave in his trading practices. We think that the current provision is unnecessary and that Amendment No. 2 would be much better. I beg to move.
My Lords, in Grand Committee we asked why the Government considered that this new profession of biodegradable municipal waste allowance brokers might be necessary. We were not given satisfactory answers. As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, the world of local government, certainly the world of local government waste disposal, is fairly small. Those involved in it know one another. If people have allowances to sell or to transfer, it is not clear why they cannot just telephone those whom they believe might be interested in them, or, indeed put advertisements in the appropriate publications. It is not clear why the measure in the Bill that we are discussing is required. Indeed, the regulations we are discussing may be implemented by the Government. Do the Government intend to implement these regulations? Do they think that they will be necessary? If not, are they just included in the Bill in case they might be necessary at some point in the future, or do the Government have the firm intention of implementing them to create a new and rather strange profession?
My Lords, I should like to support the previous two speakers. I do not have much to add but I have a question. When the legislation was framed, were any figures provided? For example, what profit are brokers likely to make if in fact they come into being? How much profit a year will they make? What will be the cost to local authorities? Somehow or other the cost will be placed on waste disposal authorities and eventually, one way or another, on the consumer. Presumably, figures must be available. Is it possible for the Minister to provide those figures now?
My Lords, at earlier stages we debated this matter at length. It is clear that I have not quite got my case across. The measure is intended to achieve what both Opposition Front Benches normally demand; that is, to give local authorities flexibility with regard to how they operate the scheme while at the same time safeguarding the public interest in relation to propriety and so on. Waste disposal authorities may well for the most part involve their own staff and trade directly with one another. Indeed, given the presence of certain noble Lords today, it would be eminently sensible for such a deal to be concluded between Essex and Lancashire. However, local authorities can choose to contract out many of their operations or to buy in professional advice. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, that presumably they will do so only if that is more cost-effective than to carry out the relevant operation in-house. There is no question of additional cost here. We simply recognise that local authorities may wish to employ professional brokers in this matter rather than deal with it in-house. If they do so, we need to ensure that that is regulated to safeguard the public interest. That is all that the provision achieves.
As regards whether we shall need to implement the relevant regulations, we are committed to consult on the whole of the clause, including the paragraph we are discussing. If the overwhelming view expressed in the consultation is that waste disposal authorities cannot conceive of any circumstances in which they would involve professional brokers, the relevant regulations will not need to be triggered. If, however, professional brokers do become involved in the process, the Government will need to regulate their involvement. Therefore, we have covered that eventuality in the Bill. Some waste disposal authorities may consider that it is more cost effective and more professional to carry out the operation in-house rather than outsourcing it. We recognise that flexibility is needed in this matter. However, as I say, the public interest needs to be safeguarded in relation to the propriety of brokers' involvement. That is the reason for the inclusion of the provision in the Bill; namely, to enable the Government to regulate that profession. I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that we should provide for that eventuality and will not press the amendment.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I apologise to the House that illness prevented my attendance in Committee and at Report stage. Do I understand from the Minister that at the moment the Government are consulting on the issue? Or, is he suggesting that in future they may consult if an interest is shown? Surely, if the Government are consulting now, it seems odd to have included the relevant regulations in the Bill. But if consultation has taken place, I can understand why the relevant regulations are in the Bill. I seek clarification.
My Lords, there are several parts of the Bill on which consultation will be required before we bring forward regulations. That includes the measure that we are discussing. We are not consulting currently but we shall do so before we implement regulations under the measure we are discussing.
My Lords, I hope that I may press the Minister further. I assure him that this is the last occasion on which I shall do so. Further to what the Minister said, any alterations or recommendations that emerge during consultation will be implemented in statutory instruments or orders. If that is the case, the House will not have the opportunity to debate them in the way that we are debating matters today. That is one of my big concerns.
My Lords, the regulations we are discussing are no different from regulations in general, including regulations right across legislation relating to various trading schemes. If local authorities wish to outsource their activities, that process should be subject to certain standards. We have covered that eventuality in the Bill. It is sensible to do so. That does not mean that a local authority must employ a broker. It may well be that no local authority employs a broker. However, the measure in the Bill enables us to implement the relevant regulations should local authorities employ brokers and indicate in the consultation that they wish to do so. I welcome the noble Baroness back to the debate.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response although I am bound to say that it sounds to me rather like someone who is buying unnecessary insurance. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, for his helpful remarks and to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for his comments. Although it was suggested that a deal between Essex and Lancashire might be possible, we have a little difficulty in that we both have plenty of words but for a deal to be done someone needs to have a deficiency. The debate has been worth while. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 6, line 7, leave out from "for" to end of line 9 and insert "the allocating authority to make available to each waste disposal authority full financial resources for it to comply with any requirement imposed on it by or under provision of the kind mentioned in paragraph (h) together with all regulations as set out under sections 11 and 12"
My Lords, I tabled this amendment at both Committee and Report. I am trying to make noble Lords realise how much the measure that we are discussing will cost. Since Report I have done some more work and consulted colleagues about the likely cost. The Minister mentioned Essex and Lancashire. As leader of Essex County Council, I have consulted the LGA as regards the likely costs of implementing the legislation. I am certain that my findings are also relevant to Lancashire.
At Report stage I believe that the Minister disputed my suggestion that the implementation of the legislation might cost Essex £100,000. However, having carried out further work, we believe that it will cost Essex £100,000 to implement the legislation. The total cost for all the waste disposal authorities in the United Kingdom is about £15 million. I do not wish to give noble Lords a lecture on council tax, but they are all well aware of the current problems with regard to council tax levels. Local government is expected to pay for the provisions included in Bills such as the one we are discussing out of its existing funding. Given the demands imposed by education and social services, it is impossible for local government to find even the relatively small sum of £15 million.
As I say, I am the leader of Essex County Council, one of the largest local authorities in the country. We have nowhere near enough money in what is now called the FSS—our grant from government—to fund the current expenditure on waste disposal. Most of that has to be funded by Essex council taxpayers.
I do not want to give a lecture on council tax today but, when councils do not get grants from government, for every £1 million that we have to raise we have to ask the public for £4 million, because of the gearing effect. That is why council tax bills are so high this year, because of the gearing effect of extra money for which local authorities have to ask. If the Bill is going to cost £15 million, it could well cost the public £60 million in council tax with a gearing of four. That could add a considerable amount to council tax bills around the country in future.
I want noble Lords and the Government to acknowledge that the expenditure must be recognised as an additional expenditure to local government. Therefore, some way must be found to fund it, perhaps through government grant. There must be some acknowledgement of that. I am concerned that the Government do not seem to recognise that the Bill will cost local authorities money, and that that money has to be provided. I hope that the Minister will give us a reasonable response, and that the Government will take account of the subject before they finalise the legislation. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have every sympathy with the amendment. My Amendment No. 21 is grouped with it and is directed towards a similar purpose, which is to get proper recognition from the Government of the increased costs imposed dribble by dribble in little ways, but which mount up for individual local authorities into quite large sums. They rarely seem to be taken account of properly when it comes to the annual national calculation of what the costs of local government truly are.
I need say no more at this stage, as the case has been well made by my noble friend. Anything I say will be repetitious, but I support the principle that he set out.
My Lords, the issue has been discussed during the passage of the Bill, and it is relevant. We should welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, back to our discussions on the Bill. Her colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has performed valiantly in her absence. I should also apologise for the fact that I could not be present on Report, for reasons of illness. I was very grateful to my noble friend Lord Livsey for standing in.
The principle behind the amendment is important. The details of the amendment do not actually match the need in the legislation, but in a sense that is not important. What is important is that we want a commitment from the Government that the extra work and costs will be funded.
It is no secret that there is a great crisis in local government at the moment, certainly in England. Now is not the time to discuss in detail the present problems of council tax levels throughout the country. The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, nods her head in agreement, although she may not agree with me on anything else today. Why the crisis is taking place at the moment—why council tax for the new year is at the levels proposed—is a huge mystery. I do not think that anyone quite understands it.
Local government has got to a stage where it is bursting through a barrier. It cannot go on providing the services that it provides at the moment without substantially more money. The Government will say that more money is being provided, and it is. However, it is clearly not enough to do the job. It is fairly clear that one of the fundamental reasons why the crisis is happening is that the Government are putting more and more responsibilities on local government and simply not funding those extra responsibilities. That is where the Bill has relevance to the crisis.
The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, explained quite clearly that, unless the Government are prepared to fund adequately each and every additional responsibility that they give to local government, the crisis will get worse. Individual extra responsibilities such as that under discussion do not of themselves involve a large amount of money, but when they are added together there is a serious problem.
We cannot support the exact wording of the amendment because it is technically deficient. I hope that the noble Lord does not mind me saying so. Nevertheless, the principle that he raises is one that we have mentioned throughout our debates on the Bill, and we need a satisfactory answer from the Government.
My Lords, previous speakers have showed us what difficulties local authorities will be in because the Government keep piling jobs on to them but, at the same time, do not make the resources available. To a large extent, local government has been robbed of the ability to raise its own resources. In my book, we should get back to real democratic local government—independent local government—raising the resources that it needs through council tax or new sources of revenue.
In addition to legislation piled on local government by central government, we now have legislation piled on it by the European Union. Without any additional resources, it therefore has to raise even more money to satisfy the legislation imposed by not only our own Government, but a government sitting in Brussels outside this country. Local government is, so to speak, in double jeopardy.
Those are much wider issues, but there is no doubt about the figures that we have seen this week of increased rates. The average rate on band D has gone over £1,000. It is becoming very burdensome on local people to have to deal with the extra services imposed on them without having the resources. The longer-term solution is to give local government freedom to raise more of its own money, but the short-term answer is for the Government to assure us that they will allocate to the local authorities sufficient funds for them to carry out the duty imposed on them by the Bill.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and to some extent the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, strayed somewhat wide of the amendment, although we could debate matters that they raised. The amendment proposes a very specific hypothecation. Even if I were to accept the estimated costs given by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, we are talking about only a small part in the total area of waste management.
The issue of hypothecation raises a number of problems. Although I—
In any case, I shall go back to Amendment No. 3, which deals with the totality of resources. Although I can understand local authorities always saying that they do not have enough, it is instructive that through the block EPCS grant there have been very significant increases in recent years. Certainly, the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, will be familiar with the overall figures. There have also been benefits in this field from PFI projects, and so forth.
A substantial amount of resources are allocated by Government to the totality of waste management. It is unusual and I believe unprecedented to specify within the Bill that particular resources will be provided for as part of the block grant. We are requiring a number of administrative responsibilities to be undertaken by local authorities: the keeping of information, enforcement of regulations and so forth. The additional burden of that can be exaggerated. I believe that to some extent the estimates probably do exaggerate it. To a large extent, waste disposal authorities have to provide that information to the Environment Agency in any case. Therefore, I would still argue about the degree of financial burden. Nevertheless, there is a financial implication in the Bill.
However, it would be very unusual indeed to put on the face of the Bill that that specifically should be a feature of the block grant either through the formula or by hypothecation and not to allow that to be dealt with in the normal way between government and local authorities. The administrative costs of this part of the Bill would normally be dealt with through the block grant system and reflected in the local amount for EPCS within that block grant. To start to unravel that system would lead us into significant difficulties and would be unprecedented. It is important that adequate resources are provided, but not in the way specified in the Bill.
My Lords, perhaps I may press the Minister again on that point. It is imperative that such resources are included in a block grant if the amendment is not accepted. As I have said, we are already spending much more on waste disposal than is provided for in the block grant. As leader of Essex County Council I know that we put in considerably more money than is allowed for by government figures, and we should like to put in more. Can the Minister assure the House that this will be included in the block grant and that he will make certain, when he talks to his colleagues, that this is part of a block grant for future local government settlements?
My Lords, as regards the calculations for the block grant, I cannot give a quantum commitment otherwise I would be committing the Chancellor of the Exchequer to future expenditure well beyond the current term of this Parliament and possibly even of this Government. I am not in a position to do that. However, clearly, in the calculation of the EPCS element of the block grant one has to take account of the additional burdens that might be implied by additional legislation. I think that is as far as I can go.
My Lords, in tabling Amendment No. 4 I am attempting to ensure that local government get back at least some money to help to implement this legislation and to help to fund the complicated and detailed work we are trying to do in recycling waste and in waste disposal, which costs local government a lot of money. As we have said in a previous debate, there is not enough money. We do not want to debate levels of council tax today but we want to find enough money for local government to carry on its work to assist the implementation of the Bill.
The amendment contains a way to do that. Money will be taken from local government in fines. I am sure that noble Lords would agree that it would be fair for that money to be recycled back into local government to help with waste disposal. In Committee the Minister stated that probably it would not be right to reimburse fines. It is to be hoped that only a few local authorities will be fined. The money could then be apportioned back to local government to help with the recycling issues I have just described. That would play only a small part in helping with the cost, but it could be a useful part. The money would then be diverted directly into paying for the waste system.
The Government have announced that they will thoroughly review local government finance and consider different suggestions for ways of raising money locally. I have been involved in discussions about that. This kind of provision might be a way of giving extra money locally. Can the Minister tell the House what will happen to the money? I did not pursue the previous amendment, but I hope that the Minister at least will say that the money can be "recycled" to help recycling. I beg to move.
My Lords, we are now directly on the issue of hypothecation. Amendment No. 21 is grouped with this amendment and I shall therefore take as read what was said earlier by the noble Lord.
The issue of hypothecation is important and raises serious principles. Hypothecation of fines or penalties in general also raises rather wider issues than simply in relation to waste management. Nevertheless, as I indicated earlier, I have sympathy with the comments of the noble Lord. It is not the intention of the Government that the raising of fines should lead to a drain on the waste management system. So, in a sense some kind of hypothecation is implied by my saying that.
However, we are not in a position to have a mechanistic form of hypothecation, as proposed by the amendment. We are discussing how best we can ensure that those resources are not lost to the waste management system. It is important that the framework for transferring resources from penalties back into the waste management system is soundly based. Discussions on that issue are still continuing. Therefore, I am not in a position at this stage to indicate anything which could turn itself into a provision within the Bill.
It has been accepted that any increase, for example, in the landfill tax over and above the present escalator increase would be recycled back into local authorities and businesses in that area. We are currently working on the options for achieving that. In that context and in view of the options for recycling revenues raised from penalties under these provisions, that could also be tackled. I am not in a position today to give the House any further commitment to that. However, noble Lords can take from what I have said that the Government have some sympathy with that.
Even if the timetable was correct or appropriate, it is not entirely clear that we would want to achieve that by an amendment to the Bill. There will be further stages of the Bill in another place, and it may be that we shall return to this matter. However, it is not at all clear that this is necessarily the best way to achieve what we both want in this respect.
I turn to Amendment No. 21. There is a slight problem in that Amendments Nos. 21 and 4 are mutually exclusive. Amendment No. 21, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, would hypothecate penalties specifically to forestry. As the Minister responsible for forestry, that holds some attraction. It would be a nice idea in certain circumstances. However, to provide in the Bill for 95 per cent of the penalty income to go that way is probably going too far.
Obviously, it is preferable that any money taken out of the system is in some way put back into the system. However, I believe that both the amendments are over-specific as to how that should be done. I am not in a position to offer an alternative to the House at this stage. However, with that indication of the Government's overall intent I hope that the noble Lord does not pursue his amendment today.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for those comments. I think they were fairly helpful. I wish he had been a little more specific. However, I understand from his comments that the Government intend to find some mechanism by which this money can be kept in the system in order to help with waste disposal and recycling and not go into the Chancellor's or some other pocket. Therefore, we shall look at the matter in future stages when the Bill continues in another place. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 5, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 7. These are small and trivial amendments but they enable me to make a worthwhile point. Both amendments are designed to improve the language on the face of the Bill. Clause 11(2)(c) states:
"Regulations under subsection (1) may (in particular)— . . .
(c) make provision about what amounts to the utilisation of landfill allowances". The words,
"make provision about what amounts to", are both inelegant and inefficient. They are bad use of language. The word "define" fulfils the same function as those five words.
Amendment No. 7 deals with Clause 11(2)(f), which states that the regulations may in particular, "make provision requiring". One word—require—achieves exactly the same purpose and would be more efficient and elegant. In both cases I suspect that my teachers at school would have failed me in my exams if I had used such English. Our Bills, as far as possible, should be written in efficient, elegant and comprehensible English.
I have tabled further amendments. However, because time is pressing I shall probably not move them. They are directed towards the same purpose. I think the point is worth making and that these two examples are quite stark. I beg to move.
My Lords, on the face of the matter, one might be tempted to agree both with the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and his teacher. However, I must point out that there are legal difficulties, in particular with the second amendment. Clause 11(2) gives examples of the types of provision, and therefore we have to refer to "provision".
Clause 10(2)(c) would permit regulations to make clear what utilisation of landfill allowances occurs. Those regulations may well need to set out a sizeable list of circumstances where an allowance will be taken to be utilised. Although that could be presented as a definition, the current reference to "provision" covers exactly that type of utilisation.
As regards the words "make provision", mentioned in Amendment No. 7, I am advised that that wording is necessary from a legal viewpoint in order to cover the subsequently referred to provisions.
The case is slightly less strong in relation to Amendment No. 5. It would be possible to exclude the words "make provision". However, given that it is always desirable to have a degree of uniformity of approach, the advice is that this change of terminology would not help. There is something to be said for uniformity when one makes lists in order to make clear that none of the examples is subsidiary to the other. I would therefore prefer to maintain that subsidiarity by retaining the current wording.
My Lords, I listened to the noble Lord with interest and almost amazement. Of course, I have to defer in this instance, as he does, to lawyers. I am afraid that the points made do not impress me because if we can present legislation in a more comprehensible way, we should. This language is inelegant, even if it does not entirely do precisely what I would wish it to do efficiently. None the less, the point is made. I think it is a valid one.
My Lords, we think that Amendment No. 9 is worth pursuing. The directive states:
"At intervals of three years Member States shall send to the Commission a report on the implementation of this Directive, paying particular attention to the national strategies to be set up in pursuance of Article 5".
That is absolutely fine. The report will be on the basis of a questionnaire. We do not know what will be in it because it has not yet been prepared by the Commission. However, we know that the Government will submit precise information on a three-yearly basis. The purpose of the amendment is to require the collection authorities to produce the relevant information and to report it on a three-year basis. Therefore, it will be readily available to the Government. They will not need to make subsequent regulations when they know what precisely is required.
It may be said that I am now buying insurance against the future. I accept that criticism, but the amendment is a genuine attempt to try to save the Government future difficulties in requiring additional information which people are not already preparing. It can easily be done because nowadays everyone keeps a mass of statistics in this area. It is a question of filing them in an appropriate file on a computer so that they are ready for triennial submission. I beg to move.
My Lords, I understand that the noble Lord is trying to be helpful. Nevertheless, I cannot accept the amendment. The Secretary of State will be required to report the UK's progress on the implementation of the landfill directive—including on Articles 5(1) and (2), which the Bill seeks to implement—at three-yearly intervals, as the noble Lord indicates. That will be in response to a questionnaire sent out by the EU Commission. In order to provide the EU with an accurate report, it will be necessary for the Secretary of State—in this case DEFRA—to obtain information from each allocating authority; namely, the devolved administrations as well as our own.
We have a good relationship with the devolved administrations. We have fully consulted with them regarding the terms of the Bill. We are all agreed about the direction in which we wish to go. In that spirit of co-operation following devolution, it is expected that each of the devolved administrations would provide the information necessary to fulfil our reporting obligations. Those obligations are covered by the memorandum of understanding and so-called concordats between the Westminster/Whitehall machine and the devolved administrations.
We have not thought it necessary to put on the face of the Bill the terms of those concordats. If we started doing so in one respect, I think there would be problems in others. Therefore, we do not think it necessary or appropriate to use the Bill to compel—as the amendment would—the devolved administrations to pass information to the Secretary of State. We are content to rely on the memorandum of understanding and the concordats.
I hope that with that explanation, the noble Lord will not pursue the amendment.
My Lords, I hear what the Minister has said—I always listen with care—and am grateful to him for his response. In speaking to this amendment, I acknowledged a weakness in that I was attempting to anticipate the future, which is always slightly dangerous. With that in mind, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 14 to 16. The Government kindly dealt in many ways with the subject in a letter. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, who had the letter prepared and signed. It acknowledges, in particular, that there are remarkable success stories in some aspects of non-municipal biodegradable waste, particularly packaging. The noble Baroness noted that some 80 per cent of the 19 million tonnes of commercial and industrial biodegradable waste in England was recycled. That is a remarkable achievement worth putting on the record.
Earlier in the letter the noble Baroness caused me some confusion, which practically justified my amendment. She said that waste disposal authorities and waste collection authorities picked up around 100,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste every weekday. She added that the amount of biodegradable waste in municipal solid waste varies according to waste management infrastructure and so on. It makes it sound as though we do not know what is happening in that area. It seems that there would be room for slippage. But I acknowledge that a good deal of work is happening. In the circumstances, I shall not move the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 11, line 35, at end insert—
"( ) Within the context of the strategy required by section 16, a duty shall be placed on a waste disposal authority and a waste collection authority within a given area to produce and publish a Joint Municipal Waste Strategy.
( ) Within the context of the Joint Municipal Waste Strategy, a waste disposal authority may exercise a power of direction to a waste collection authority to specify the type of segregated waste to be delivered in support of meeting agreed targets for the recovery and recycling of dry recyclable material and biodegradable waste."
My Lords, this amendment would help to make the legislation more workable. As we discussed in Committee and on Report, the majority of the landmass of England is still covered by two-tier authorities—county councils and district councils. As my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith said, even if we introduced regional government and unitary councils, most changes would probably not happen for 15 or 20 years. Let us hope that, by then, all waste will be recycled, in which case this legislation would be obsolete. In the mean time, we must make the legislation work.
Essex County Council, of which I am the leader, has been trying to make waste management work in the county; therefore, we have also talked to other counties. One of the secrets of making waste management work in two-tier authorities is to have a joint municipal waste strategy, whereby county councils and district councils work together closely. Essex County Council and district councils are working closely to develop a waste strategy as are many counties in England, including Hampshire and, I am almost certain, Lancashire.
But some counties do not take that approach. Much of the UK is not covered by any completed strategy. The amendment would help the Government to make the legislation work by requiring councils to have a joint municipal waste strategy. Nobody could deny that it should be part of the Bill, which is a complicated piece of legislation. As we shall discuss later, some authorities could be fined for problems created by others.
I received some helpful letters from the Minister, who acknowledged that there was a problem that must be resolved. I hope that the Minister and noble Lords can accept the amendment, because it would add a great deal to the Bill. It would help all local authorities to try to make the legislation work. We all want to reach a stage where the maximum amount of waste is recycled and a minimal amount goes into landfill. Co-operation and a strategy are needed to ensure that that happens across the country, particularly in England, where there are two-tier authorities. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment. One of the reasons that I withdrew Amendment No. 8 was that it would become redundant if Amendment No. 13 were accepted. In parts of the country where waste collection authorities are separate from waste disposal authorities, it is important that there is joint ownership of the waste management strategy, particularly in dealing with municipal biodegradable waste.
The Minister has tabled amendments with the same objective as this one. But Amendment No. 13 is worth serious consideration by the Government. I, too, hope that they can accept it. Success in dealing with the problems will depend on immense hard work and co-operation by everyone involved in the business. There have been occasions when two-tier authorities have not always seen their best interests as being identical. Therefore, the development of a joint municipal waste strategy between the two tiers has much to commend it. The EU directive sets out a time limit by which we must produce solutions or else the whole process will become exceedingly expensive. I hope that the Government will treat the amendment sympathetically.
My Lords, this amendment, together with others, including several by the Minister, covers an issue that provoked much debate and concern in earlier stages: the relationship between disposal authorities and collection authorities in areas of two-tier local government. I refer specifically to county council disposal authorities and district council collection authorities.
There are two aspects of the problem. First, without the co-operation and support of collection authorities in separating waste satisfactorily before delivering it for disposal, disposal authorities may be unable to meet their targets. Secondly, what will be the comeback for collection authorities if they fail to separate waste satisfactorily with the result that disposal authorities are subject to penalties under the legislation? In such cases, the disposal authorities would not be at fault. There are, therefore, two considerations: the need for co-operation between the two tiers, and the penalties imposed on district councils that fail to co-operate. The aim is to separate waste so that biodegradable municipal waste can be disposed of appropriately to reduce landfill waste as required by the European directive.
We support the objectives of the various amendments aimed at tackling the problem. We welcome, in particular, the fact that the Government have tabled amendments in response to concerns expressed previously.
Having said that, we have some problems with the amendment. We have no problem with the first paragraph, which refers to joint municipal waste strategies, and would not hesitate to support it. The question of separation and power of direction in the second paragraph is much better dealt with in the later government amendment. We therefore regret that the two paragraphs of the amendment have been moved together .
However, we support the general principles advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, and we look forward to hearing the Government's reply. On balance, we are minded to support the amendment.
My Lords, perhaps I may add a coda to what my noble friend said. In Wales, until recently we had two tiers of local government authorities. Because of devolution, we have had single-tier authorities. From personal experience, they have operated waste disposal and collection much more effectively than was previously the case. If there is to be regional government in England—that is clearly at the mercy of the democratic will of both Houses of Parliament—the issue may well be re-examined in future. I assure the House that in our experience of unitary authorities, collection and disposal of municipal waste has been much simplified.
My Lords, all sides of the debate on the Bill recognise the issue of the relationship, in those parts of the country covered by two-tier authorities, between the county and the district, with the district having responsibility for collection. As was said on sanctions, the final group of amendments largely deals with the issue of giving the disposal authority some influence over the collection authority.
Effectively, the amendment requires a joint strategy. I have sympathy with what is proposed. We need an effective partnership between the two tiers so that disposal and collection move in the same direction to meet the landfill directive obligations. It is also true, as the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said, that there are some excellent examples of co-operation and, as he implied without naming names, there are also some examples in which such partnerships have not developed so fruitfully. One can envisage other such examples developing under additional obligations.
However, our approach has not been that of imposing statutory responsibilities. We have encouraged preparation of joint municipal waste strategies. We have issued guidance and given encouragement to develop such strategies and guidance on how to prepare them. The guidance sets out in broad terms what such strategies should cover and the partnerships needed to develop sustainable waste management among the authorities in an area.
As I said, some authorities have clearly risen to that challenge. It is also true that the Strategy Unit document, Waste Not, Want Not, recommends that joint municipal strategies merit further consideration. The Government are indeed considering implementing that part of the report. However, we must also bear in mind that local authorities are drawing to the Government's attention the number of statutory strategies that various pieces of legislation have imposed on them and suggesting that we should be reluctant to impose more. We must consider that dimension when proposing any additional municipal strategy statutorily laid down, especially one that involves a complicated collection of authorities.
We would hope that the extension of the disposal powers of direction included in the final group of amendments headed by Amendment No. 22 would encourage joint working where there may be difficulties and will provide a safeguard, but there should be a degree of voluntarism to how those joint waste management strategies are drawn up—whether the collection of authorities want formally to go down that road. We believe that that is a sensible route and we have encouraged authorities to go down it, but, for those wider reasons, we are not inclined to write it into the Bill. That does not undermine the need for partnership between the two tiers and a clear understanding of what is the strategy and what are the respective responsibilities. I hope that that argument not to write another statutory strategy into the Bill is sufficient.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for those comments. However, the Bill will be enacted and it must work. The Minister has advanced the Government's view as described in Waste Not, Want Not, and we expect further legislation in due course to implement some of its ideas. But the Bill will be enacted shortly. Without the parts of it that will make it work, it will be difficult for local government, as we have said in Committee and on Report. There needs to be a firm relationship between the collection and disposal authorities if the Bill is not to cause chaos.
Requiring a joint municipal waste strategy in the Bill would be the one thing that would make it work. I only repeat that in Essex, Hampshire and Lancashire, big authorities are putting much effort into that. They have done so voluntarily; but many places are not doing so. Enormous difficulties and disputes may be caused in implementing the Bill. The Bill would lose if it did not include the amendment, so I should like to test the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
Clause 18 [Strategy for Scotland]:
[Amendment No. 14 not moved.]
Clause 19 [Strategy for Wales]:
[Amendment No. 15 not moved.]
Clause 20 [Strategy for Northern Ireland]:
[Amendment No. 16 not moved.]
Clause 21 ["Biodegradable waste" and "municipal waste"]:
My Lords, Amendment No. 17 deals with a small but none the less, in its way, significant matter. It would make a distinction between inert waste and biodegradable waste.
Biodegradable waste could be treated in an anaerobic digestion plant to produce useful fuels such as ethanol or even hydrogen; inert waste could not. There is a thesis that plastic bottles will break down eventually, but the timescale is so long—the suggestion is 300 years, although I do not know how that was tested—that it must be regarded as inert waste. Most building products are inert waste. With a substance such as timber, there is a problem. Timber is biodegradable, if treated appropriately. We have suggested that the distinction between types of waste should be made at 25 years.
I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about the amendment. He and I have worked together on the Bill for some time, so I suspect that he will tell me that the amendment is unnecessary. However, I consider the discussion worthwhile. It will help those outside the House if such matters are clarified in Hansard. I beg to move.
My Lords, I understand what the noble Lord is getting at. I shall not even argue that we could have a different definition. The Bill is dependent on the definition in the landfill directive. The amendment would change the definition of "biodegradable waste" in a way which is not the same definition as that in the landfill legislation. It is a narrower definition, although the EU definition does not include plastic bottles. The noble Lord will be happy to hear that. Therefore, it would mean that all the measurements would be different from the measurements required by the landfill directive. For that reason and the potential of doing something different from that which we are required to do under the directive, I am unable to accept the amendment.
My Lords, I should not want to take a particularly Euro-sceptic line, but it is a question of definitions. I must accept that. The whole genesis of the Bill relates to the European directive. I am grateful for the explanation. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, Amendment No. 18 states that,
"'composting' includes a requirement to maintain selected biodegradable waste at 98 degrees celsius for a minimum of two hours before storing".
This is a significant amendment. Many people hope that the composting industry may be able to remove a significant proportion of municipal biodegradable waste from the need to go to landfill.
Be that as it may. The countryside still is recovering from the previous outbreak of foot and mouth disease. It had a direct cost to the Treasury in excess of £4 billion. It probably cost the economy at large in excess of £10 billion. Many people are still suffering as a result.
The exact cause of that foot and mouth outbreak is unknown—or at least it cannot be defined. I believe that the only certainty is that the virus must have been in imported meat or in an imported meat product. There was once a case when the foot and mouth virus succeeded in crossing the Channel. As, in this instance, there was no outbreak of foot and mouth disease on the Continent, I believe that we can rule out that possibility. Therefore, this appalling problem was imported, although we do not know in what or where or how. The dreadful reality is that we do not know how many misses we may have before we receive a hit.
As a consequence of that outbreak, the pigswill industry was closed down at an administrative stroke. The industry was banned. Although the pigswill industry was well regulated and the disease probably caused by inadequate treatment, it was deemed too dangerous to permit the industry to continue its business. As I understand it, the industry was required to treat food residues at 98 degrees celsius or above for a minimum period of two hours.
We now have the Animal Health Act, to which this House devoted a great deal of time, which has the specific intention of increasing the biosecurity of the whole agricultural industry and all related trades through the food chain. The Bill tries to ensure that this dreadful disease is not visited on this country again.
If we treat municipal biodegradable waste less rigorously than was acceptable for pigswill, there are those of us who are very concerned that a coach and horses could be driven through all the work that has been done in the field of biosecurity since the last outbreak of foot and mouth disease. If I understand it correctly, the process of composting will require that the temperature goes up to only 60 degrees celsius, although for a much longer period of 48 hours. However, I understand that the foot and mouth virus is a particularly tough little beast.
There must be the consideration of what is to happen to this compost. We are not discussing simply foot and mouth disease; there are other diseases which could conceivably be spread too. The compost will go to garden centres. One can bet that it will be handled by people not wearing gloves. The compost may be used for pot plants and used in gardens. It may be spread on agricultural land if there is a sufficient quantity, if it is deemed worthwhile, and if it is found to be "beneficial to soil and soil structure". That raises the question of contact with animals, not to mention contact through human use.
We cannot afford to take any risks. Therefore, if Amendment No. 18 is not on the face of the Bill, we shall need very specific assurances. First, there should be no possibility of the foot and mouth disease vector being imported to the United Kingdom through any meat or meat products. To achieve that, it would probably be necessary to ban the importation of all meat and meat products. Therefore, that is not a practical option. But, if the Minister could give that assurance, no further assurances would be necessary.
Secondly, as an alternative, could meat or meat products be prevented from being used in biodegradable waste for composting? If that could be achieved, it might be possible to accept the Bill as it stands. Again, that would be very difficult to achieve. Thirdly, bearing in mind that the treatment to remove the virus now is less rigorous than in the past, would it be possible to guarantee that the composting process ensured the complete and total breakdown of the foot and mouth virus so that the transmission of the infection in that way could not arise?
The fourth assurance relates to the possibility of other diseases. Are the Government satisfied that all diseases that might cause problems for either human beings or animals and pets are totally removed in the composting process? Finally, could it be ensured that the compost was used in such a way that it would be impossible for the disease to spread to animals?
I am a countryman. Composting is composting, but I would not like to guarantee that there would be nothing left in the compost to attract animals such as rats. There is a real problem with this development. I have a great deal of sympathy with the composting industry over this matter. If Amendment No. 18 is included in the Bill, the industry's problems will increase dramatically and its costs will also increase. However, in view of the events of the past two or three years, I believe that the proposal should be included in the Bill. I regard it as a matter of extreme significance. I beg to move.
My Lords, we wholeheartedly support the amendment. It is crucial that "composting" should include,
"a requirement to maintain selected biodegradable waste at 98 degrees celsius for a minimum of two hours before storing".
The main points include the impact on agricultural land where in wet weather biodegradable applications can lead to run-off from the farmland into water and water courses. We are also most concerned about the knock-on effect of the run-off into drinking-water supplies.
The second point relates to the disposal of organic waste, especially catering waste, on agricultural land. As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, that includes meat and inadvertently may include bones. A great deal of meat is de-boned, but chicken bones and so forth appear in catering waste. The impact is twofold. The first is on human health. We need only mention BSE and CJD, which has occurred. Furthermore, typhoid and salmonella could be spread.
We are concerned also about the impact on animal health. I refer to scrapie and to BSE in particular. Lambs and calves, for example, can pick up salmonella from the pasture. I know of a farmer who contracted a type of salmonella typhomuirin from calves and nearly died. It is highly infectious.
The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, also mentioned foot and mouth, and heat treatment is a most important factor in dealing with that and with BSE. In fact, one should use higher temperatures than those stated. I had experience, albeit 40 years ago, on a family farm of bones being picked up by dogs on the farm. That resulted in an outbreak of foot and mouth disease from imported Argentinan meat. Fortunately, it was an isolated incident on one farm, but all the stock had to be destroyed as a result.
The heat treatment at high temperatures is most important. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, made an important point about the banning of pigswill. I wholeheartedly agree that it should have been banned. Biosecurity in relation to animal health is also most important. The relaxation of temperatures led in one respect to the initiation of the BSE outbreak in the mid-1980s and we do not want to repeat such problems. The 98 degrees Celsius specified in the amendment is crucial and we wholeheartedly support it.
My Lords, my name is attached to the amendment, which my noble friend has clearly explained. It refers to,
"a requirement to maintain selected biodegradable waste at 98 degrees celsius".
Noble Lords have referred to the closure of the pigswill industry, from where we have obtained the figure. My noble friend rightly spoke about foot and mouth disease and others which we in this country try to guard against and I want to add two further points. The first relates to fallen stock. I understand that from 1st April fallen stock will not be allowed to be buried on farms. What will happen to them thereafter? Even though the majority will not carry disease, it is possible that some may and will have to be disposed of in a proper manner. Furthermore, I understand that blood which accumulates at abattoirs will have to be dealt with differently. Will the Minister explain how the Government are tackling the new requirements being placed on abattoirs?
Finally, as regards catering waste, I would like to believe that the Government's contingency plan—I know they are working on it and that we have not yet received it—and their import control plan will lessen the risk of disease being spread within this country. But we know very well that it is almost impossible to stop disease entering the country. We must therefore take every precaution we can in this country to minimise the possibility and I therefore hope that the Government will accept this worthwhile amendment.
My Lords, I fully support the amendment and the points that have been made. An enormous danger exists—we have seen it happen in the past and may well do so again. I realise that it will be difficult for the Minister to give the assurances for which my noble friend has asked. I wonder how many noble Lords saw on television last night a programme about the illegal import of foods. It was one of the most horrific programmes I have seen on television for a long time. The quantity of food that enters this country is considerable and appears to be increasing. The type of food that is coming in is dangerous. The packages containing foodstuffs were often full of maggots and disease. Sometimes it was not known from where they originated or even what animal they came from.
Consumers are horrified by what they see on such programmes. When producers see the importance of dealing with such food as it comes into this country, they become aware of the difficulties we have in coping with the situation. While we recognise that much of the food will go into compost, while there might appear to be discrimination, who knows what goes into compost from the household or industry?
I fully support the amendment. I hope that the Minister will take note and accept the amendment. It will deal with an enormous problem and stop the import of products which created havoc at an extremely high cost to the taxpayers of this country, as we saw during the foot and mouth outbreak.
My Lords, I agree with the amendment. As I have not taken part in previous debates on the Bill, I am a little puzzled by the word "selected". I understand that catering waste from the home or commercial establishment needs to be treated, but do we need special regulations to decide what is to be selected? Having quickly glanced at the Bill, I see no powers to indicate how it is to be selected. Is that matter covered in a current Act? If not, at a later stage of the Bill in another place regulatory powers must be included in it.
My Lords, the House will recognise that I would not want to put anything on to the statute book which would increase the vulnerability of our livestock industry to foot and mouth disease or our country to other diseases—human and animal—which cause such a degree of devastation. Therefore, our concern is the same as that expressed by Members on the Benches opposite.
Strong concerns have been expressed about the safety aspects of composting certain types of biodegradable waste; namely, catering waste and animal by-products. We take those concerns extremely seriously. However, it is also true that the composting of catering waste inevitably will be vital if local authorities are to achieve the recycling targets to which they will be subjected by this Bill and the Landfill Directive. However, the composting and biogas treatment of catering waste in the way being advocated in the amendment are in effect banned by the Animal By-Products Order 1999, which will come into effect in May. That order prevents the disposal of catering waste that might contain meat in a way that enables livestock or birds to access and move it, thus increasing the risk of transmission of animal diseases. The requirement will also extend to home composting. Spreading such compost on to pastureland will be banned, as was pointed out by one noble Lord. Furthermore, under the regulations, unsorted catering waste containing meat and meat by-products will have to go through additional stages of composting. A number of wider issues were raised relating to blood and fallen stock. Some of those matters are relevant to the order, but they are not relevant to biodegradable waste.
Last year the department commissioned a risk assessment to look at the animal and public health risks posed by the composting and biogas treatment of catering waste, as well as the effect of spreading it on the land. It concluded that, provided satisfactory controls are in place, the treatment can be carried out safely. The controls set out in the by-product regulations, which as I have said will come into force on 1st May this year, will ensure that. For those plants processing only catering waste and not animal by-products, the regulations will allow national standards to be set.
However, when setting national standards we must bear in mind their total effect. I imagine that a number of noble Lords have received a letter from the Composting Association. It indicates that if the bulk of catering waste were subjected to the kind of treatment suggested in the amendment, it could in fact have counter-productive effects on safety. Heating waste to such high temperatures can destroy the beneficial micro-organisms that should be encouraged by the composting process, thus rendering the compost ineffective. In addition, destruction of good microbes through heating can increase the susceptibility of the waste to an increase of pathogenic microbes such as salmonella. It is by no means clear that the proposal would guarantee greater safety than the provisions of the by-products regulations already in place.
Turning to the national standards element, we have just completed a consultation aimed at proposing suitable UK national standards for the treatment of catering waste. The standards are in line with the recommendations of the independent risk assessment, to which industry and users have now replied.
The Government accept that the composting of kitchen and catering waste is an important method of diverting waste away from landfill, but it is vital that it is done safely and with due regard to all the dangers referred to by noble Lords. However, it is not sensible or necessary to put into the Bill a different form of control and requirement from that already covered by the animal by-products regulations. Furthermore, even leaving aside the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, that the amendment is not complete in itself, its effects could be counter-productive.
Given the assurance that the Government have already considered this dimension, but believe that the animal by-products regulations already cover the points, and given the further protections through national standards currently being developed, I hope that noble Lords will not pursue the amendment.
My Lords, I have listened with care to the Minister. Before responding to his remarks, I wish to express my gratitude to all noble Lords who have spoken in support of the amendment, including the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, my noble friends Lady Byford and Lord Plumb, as well as the slightly more hesitant support offered by my noble friend Lord Swinfen, who rightly raised the question of selected waste. However, having listened to what the Minister had to say in response, it is clear why the word "selected" has been introduced.
As I would expect of a government, the Minister has enunciated in the strongest terms his clear intention to try to make the system safe. However, it will depend on the risk assessment. The difficulty is that before the foot and mouth outbreak a risk assessment would have suggested that it could not happen, but it did. That is the nub of this problem.
Catering waste is not to be sent for composting and the use of such compost is to be banned on pasture. That is fine, but if it is used on adjacent arable land and cattle stray on to that land, who can say what will happen? It is not unknown for animals to stray from their areas. There are to be more rigorous forms of treatment where catering waste is involved, but when we consider biodegradable municipal waste, comprising the garbage that we heave into our own dustbins, it obviously includes food residues and residual animal waste products. They may be satisfactorily or unsatisfactorily treated; they may be cooked or uncooked, such as in the disposal of rare steak. We must consider the dangers.
I hear what the Minister says about regulations which are to follow after the completion of the risk assessment and I take his point that heating compost may have certain disadvantages with regard to the final product. I am well aware of the work being done in this area.
If the Bill had reached the end of its parliamentary process today, I would be inclined to take the Minister's words a little more seriously, but today's procedure is not the end of the process. The Bill has yet to be sent to the Commons and thus there will be plenty of opportunities to consider the matter further. At the moment I am not satisfied with the Government's response. I asked for specific assurances, but they have not been given. To be honest, I did not think that the Minister would be able to give those assurances, although I thought that it would be worth asking for them. In the circumstances, I should like to test the opinion of the House.
moved Amendment No. 20:
After Clause 25, insert the following new clause—
(1) Commencing in the financial year 2006–07, the whole of the portion of landfill tax above £15 per tonne in each year will be disbursed to the allocating authority for each area.
(2) The allocating authority for each area will apply the disbursement received under subsection (1) to—
(a) research into ways of reducing the amount of all waste going to landfill,
(b) capital projects designed to treat biodegradable municipal waste to prevent it from going to landfill,
(c) capital projects designed to treat biodegradable waste to reduce the amount of all waste going to landfill, and
(d) schemes designed to benefit the local community where waste treatment projects are sited.
(3) The allocating authority for each area shall ensure that capital projects for treating biodegradable municipal waste are—
(a) sited within the boundaries of the location controlled by each waste disposal authority that is applying for funding, and
(b) supplied with waste mainly collected within the boundaries of the locality controlled by the relevant waste disposal authority.
(4) The allocating authority for each area shall by regulations ensure that private waste disposal companies shall also be entitled to use the facilities resulting from subsection (2)."
My Lords, the amendment relates to the application of the landfill tax escalator. It requires that after 2006–07 the moneys from the landfill tax escalator, which are already committed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, should be dedicated to the research, investment and so on required by the waste disposal industry if we are to meet national targets.
It has been estimated that an annual expenditure of £1.5 billion for the next 10 years will probably be required if we are to meet the directive in the way intended. At the moment the Government are investing in the order of £7 million or £8 million per year in this field. There is, of course, a good deal of private money and investment going in and the total turnover of the waste industry amounts to a large sum of money. But we are talking about new investment and the money has to come from somewhere. If the costs of disposal are being deliberately increased in order to prevent waste going to landfill, there is merit in the revenue generated being reinvested in the new process plant required to meet national targets.
This is a fairly simple principle. It is one which every Chancellor of the Exchequer, and therefore every government Minister, is bound to resist. But it is a case worth arguing. We believe that this should be done. I beg to move.
My Lords, as I understand it, the amendment seeks to hypothecate all the revenue from landfill tax over £15 a tonne to the specific purposes set out in the amendment. This is an entirely new principle as regards landfill tax. At present, 20 per cent of landfill tax goes to worthy schemes; to recycling, and so on. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, wants to take the whole of the increase in landfill tax—the landfill tax escalator—and apply it to specific purposes in relation to the Bill and specifically in relation to municipal biodegradable waste.
This interesting idea is worthy of considerable debate. Third Reading is not technically the best time to hold such a debate. It would have been interesting to explore in Committee the exact intention behind the amendment, and why these specific purposes and not others are set down. We cannot do that at this stage. Therefore, we must take the amendment or leave it.
Over and above capital projects in relation to treating biodegradable waste, the money would be applied to,
"schemes designed to benefit the local community where waste treatment projects are sited".
I am not sure how such a local community would be defined. The question arises: why that local community, and not local communities which have landfill sites, which in many cases are likely to present more difficulty in terms of the effect on the community? The terms of the amendment are very specific. It is difficult to see exactly why it is drafted as it is.
In addition, the amendment seeks to impose conditions relating to capital projects designed to treat biodegradable municipal waste, stating that they have to be,
"sited within the boundaries of the location controlled by each waste disposal authority".
I am not sure what that means; I suspect that it is a misprint for "locality". The amendment also lays down the specific condition that the capital projects funded by this money should only be within,
"the relevant waste disposal authority".
This may be a county view. It may have arisen in counties with lots of land which get upset when much smaller unitary authorities want to locate waste disposal facilities of various kinds in those areas. I suspect that that is how this situation has arisen. It seems to me totally impractical. It seems that joint schemes might be prevented from happening by the precise wording of the amendment. Viewed from Lancashire, which might in future be broken up into unitary authorities, the county will not start locating individual facilities such as this within each of the likely unitary authorities; it will have a certain number of facilities in strategic positions in the county. The unitary authorities they appear in will be arbitrary.
For those reasons, and because we do not have an opportunity to probe the amendment properly and discover its meaning, I shall not be able to advise my colleagues to support it.
My Lords, I have added my name to the amendment. I am disappointed that we did not raise the subject earlier. That said, and accepting the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, that the wording is not perfect, I hope that the Minister will give us some indication that the Government will consider the proposal.
We know very well that the Government do not like hypothecation—all governments are fearful of it. The amendment is designed so that the money that will go to good causes is not taken away. It is certainly not my intention that it should be taken away. The new money raised will be used for the benefit of the community in finding out different ways in which the amount of waste going to landfill can be reduced.
Having accepted that the amendment is slightly wordy and not perfect, if the Minister will give an indication that between now and the Bill's appearance in another place the Government will give the matter additional thought rather than simply turning the amendment down flat, I for one shall be happier.
I am not at all sure that I am against hypothecation. It seems to me that it may be a very good discipline for Chancellors of the Exchequer and that money raised from the taxpayer on the pretext of doing one thing should not be used to do something else.
In past weeks we have had an example of hypothecation which everyone seems to think is working very well. I refer to the London congestion charge. The fines from the charge, as I understand it, are to go towards improving public transport. Who in this Chamber is opposed to that? Hands up, please, those noble Lords who are opposed to the idea of the fines going towards better transport in London. The idea of hypothecation is possibly gaining a great deal of support. We should not, therefore, reject the amendment on that basis. If it is put to the vote, just to establish that principle, I shall vote for it. Then we shall see what happens. At least it will make the Government think.
My Lords, the Government have thought about this proposal and I understand what is behind it. I shall not engage in any knee-jerk ideological defence of the position against hypothecation. Increasing landfill tax beyond its current escalator will be necessary in order to deliver sustainable waste management and it is intended to provide businesses and local authorities with the incentive to use and develop alternatives to landfill. So the issue of recycling this revenue immediately arises.
However, it is not normal for legislation—and not conventional for House of Lords legislation in particular—to pre-empt what might be normal Budget business. We announced in the Pre-Budget Report that revenue from businesses which results from increases in the landfill escalator will be recycled back to businesses. We also said that the increases will be revenue neutral as a whole—in other words, the increase in revenue from the local authorities will also be recycled back to local authorities.
The revenue will, therefore, not be lost to local authorities; it will go back into the system to bring further benefits to local government. That is admittedly in general terms, and does not have the prescriptive nature of this amendment. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, indicated, the restrictions and ambiguities of the prescriptions are in any case not helpful to the noble Lord's cause.
We are discussing ministerially the mechanism for recycling the revenue from municipal waste under a group chaired by a Treasury Minister. I am not, of course, in a position to anticipate the forthcoming Budget or any subsequent Budget, but I have no doubt that there will be announcements by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in due course.
In the meantime, it is not an appropriate use of this legislation to pre-empt such decisions. Therefore, while displaying as a great sympathy as I am in a position to do with the objectives of the amendment, I must resist it.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his sympathy, if nothing else. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is also sympathetic but says that the wording might be too restrictive in the way these funds could be used. I accept some of his criticism, but some of the restrictions were thought through. For instance, most existing landfill sites already have fairly heavy conditions imposed on them to make them more environmentally attractive. Not the least of the big problems in dealing with waste is overcoming local nimbyism. That was why we felt we should put these funds towards the benefit of communities where new facilities are provided.
One would hope that part of the result of these developments over the next 18 years would be that we did not need to open any more landfill sites. Were that to happen, it would be extremely beneficial.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, for his support, particularly on hypothecation. He used the London congestion charge as an argument in favour of it, but that is not necessarily proven yet. We do not know how the congestion charge will work in the long term and until we do, I would not want to take it as an example of anything, although it certainly seems to have had a remarkable effect.
My noble friend Lady Byford asked the Government to consider the ideas behind the amendment, even if they do not accept it. I am grateful for that thought because the Minister gave some hint in his response that the Government are doing that. In the circumstances, therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 22:
Before Clause 31, insert the following new clause—
(2) In section 48 (duties of waste collection authorities as respects collected waste), after subsection (1) (collection authority to deliver collected waste to places directed by disposal authority) there is inserted—
11 (1A) A waste collection authority in England which is not also a waste disposal authority must discharge its duty under subsection (1) above in accordance with any directions about separation of waste given by the waste disposal authority for its area."
(3) In section 51 (functions of waste disposal authorities), after subsection (4) there is inserted—
"(4A) A waste disposal authority in England which is not also a waste collection authority may in directions under subsection (4)(a) above include requirements about separation that relate to waste as delivered, but may do so only if it considers it necessary for assisting it to comply with any obligation imposed on it by or under any enactment.""
My Lords, I shall also speak to the other amendments in my name in this group. We have discussed the need for a good relationship between the waste disposal authorities and the waste collection authorities in areas with two-tier authorities. We all accept that there is a need for that to be clearer.
The amendment would give a power to allow counties to direct districts as to the form in which waste should be delivered. That is in line with the Waste Strategy 2000. The amendment would amend Sections 48 and 51 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to allow for that direction, which is already there for a parallel purpose. The amendment would extend a county's existing powers to give directions to a district by providing that such directions may include requirements about the separation of waste as delivered to the county.
The amendment to Section 48 will place the district under a duty to comply with any directions about the separation of waste. The amendment provides that a county can use that power only if it considers it necessary for assisting it to comply with any obligation imposed on it by or under any enactment. That will include enactments under this Bill, other Bills and the Local Government Act 1999.
The new clause would come into force on a day appointed by the Secretary of State. We therefore need to consider how the timing would fit in with some of the other measures designed to improve co-operation between the county and district in two-tier areas. We see partnership between the two levels as very important in delivering this. The ability to give a direction helps in areas where relations between the two tiers are not always as amicable as we would like and where a joint approach is desirable.
It may be helpful to the House if I mention the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, which deals with passing on penalties. I understand why it has been tabled, but we did not find penalties being passed between counties and districts an attractive prospect. We want to ensure that there is partnership; the question of direction clearly gives some authority to the county but arguing about sanctions and money is unlikely to develop the constructive partnership that we wish to see. We therefore want to leave it clear that the county—the waste disposal authority—is responsible for meeting targets. We do not want to confuse the issue by introducing the ability to pass on any sanction or penalty to another authority.
Of course, the allocating authority has the discretion not to impose part of the penalty that would otherwise arise if it concludes that the county has failed to meet its target because of the district. That is perhaps better than arguing who should pay the fine. There is a mixture of incentives and powers already in the Bill if we accept these government amendments. Whatever the view taken on the amendment on which the Government were just defeated, there is a general desire on all sides for disposal and collection authorities to work together. That would not be enhanced by introducing the shifting of the penalty. However, we accept the logic behind the amendments in my name. I beg to move.
had given notice of his intention to move, as an amendment to Amendment No. 22, Amendment No. 23:
Line 11, at end insert—
""(1B) Where a waste collection authority which is not a waste disposal authority fails to discharge its duty under subsection (4A) of section 51 of this Act, and as a result the waste disposal authority receives a penalty, the Minister shall have a duty to transfer the penalty to the waste collection authority.""
My Lords, Amendment No. 23 was tabled to fulfil a lack which was pointed out to me at an earlier stage in the Bill when I was trying to deal with the problems of reducing transport. I was properly checked by the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, and the Minister because that amendment contained no means of enforcement.
The Minister's amendments are very welcome and of course, if everybody plays the game straight, there will be no problem. However, if somebody slips, there is no mechanism for enforcement. If the allocating authority were minded to impose a penalty, it could do so only on the disposal authority, not on the collection authority that had caused the problem.
I am grateful to the Minister for raising this matter. If the allocating authority were minded to withhold any penalty that was due to the inaction or inappropriate action by a collection authority where the collection authority was not the disposal authority, that would remove the need to transfer the penalty. That is an option—it is not a fact. The Government are proposing that we have in place a system under which the Government—the "allocating authority"—could impose a penalty on a waste disposal authority because of the action or inaction of a third party. That is patently unjust.
This leaves me with a personal dilemma about whether to press the amendment, bearing in mind the time and our practice on a Thursday. Given that we now have a joint waste strategy between the waste disposal and the waste collection authorities, as well as some of the other things that have happened today, perhaps we can let it go. But it may be necessary for someone in another place to return to this issue and make sure that the matter is quite clear. On the whole, it is not particularly nice to leave doors open which are better closed or not to open doors when they are closed. In the circumstances, however, I shall not move the amendment.
My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.
Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Whitty.)
On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.