Clause 1 - Duties of the Secretary of State

Municipal Waste Recycling Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 10th June 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Anne Begg Anne Begg Labour, Aberdeen South

With this we may consider the following: Clauses 2 to 4 stand part.

New clause 1—Collections of recyclable waste—

'(1) The Environmental Protection Act 1990 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 45 (collection of controlled waste) after subsection (1) there is inserted,

''(1A) In arranging for the collection of household waste under subsection (1)(a) above, each waste collection authority shall ensure that, subject to subsections (1B) and (1C) below, by 2010 every household in their area has a separate collection of at least four types of recyclable waste.

(1B) If by 2010, a local authority has provided facilities or services that enable a household to compost biodegradable kitchen and garden waste either at home or through collections of waste which are processed in a central composting facility they may reduce the types of recyclable waste collected from that household to three.

(1C) If in the opinion of the Secretary of State it is reasonable to do so, he may by order specify that a waste collection authority may have additional time to meet the duty required by subsection (1B) above, and different times may be specified for different waste collection authorities, provided that any additional time specified is no more than five years and that reasons for any such specification are published in a report that is laid before Parliament.

(1D) In this section, ''types of recyclable'' waste shall be defined as follows:

paper waste

metal food or drinks containers

glass food or drinks containers, and other such glass as defined appropriate by the local authority


textiles, fabrics or clothes

unused household paints and varnishes used engine oils and lubricants

household furniture

electric batteries.''.

(3) In section 46(1) (receptacles for household waste), after ''section 45(1)(a)'' there is inserted ''or sections 45(1A), or 45(1B)''.

(4) In section 48(2) (duties of waste collection authorities as respects disposal of waste collected), after ''respects'', there is inserted ''the recyclable household waste or any biodegradable household waste collected subject to sections 45(1A), or 45(1B) or for other''.

(5) In section 51(1) after (b) there is inserted—

''(c) for the recycling and composting of waste collected by waste collection authorities subject to sections 45(1A), or 45(1B)''.

In section 51(1) for ''either case'' there is substituted ''all cases''.'.

Government new clause 2—Arrangements for separate collection of recyclable waste.

Government new clause 3—Recycling and composting: duty to report to Parliament.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford

I welcome you to the Chair, Miss Begg, as I am delighted to serve under your direction for the first time.

It may help the Committee if I explain a little of the background to the new clauses. The Bill began as a draft doorstep recycling Bill, promoted by Friends of the Earth, to introduce legislation that would dramatically increase the Government's national percentage recycling target. Clause 1 would increase that target to 10 per cent. by 2010. The only way that such a high target could be reached was to place a duty on local authorities to adopt a waste strategy that enabled all householders to dispose of waste sustainably, with special reference to the provision of services at or near the home—that is, doorstep recycling—and clause 2 covers that.

Despite my best endeavours to persuade my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment that he was being presented with a Bill to his liking, I received little thanks. He helpfully introduced waste strategies and the power of direction for waste disposal authorities in the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill, but left me with a Bill that needed radical amendment.

I begin, therefore, with a proposal to remove clauses 1, 2, 3 and 4—I wonder whether that is a record. There is great merit in the proposals because they will simplify the Bill and makes its purpose even more explicit. New clause 1, which I tabled with the support of hon. Friends and other Committee members, to whom I am most grateful, seeks to amend the Environmental Protection Act 1990. That Act already imposes a duty to collect household waste, and the new clause provides for the collection of four separated waste streams—or three and composting—for the purposes of recycling. The types of waste are defined.

Since publishing the new clause and the amendments, I have had the opportunity to explore their implications in full with my right hon. Friend and his advisers and it may help the Committee if I say that I am minded to withdraw new clause 1 in favour of Government new clauses 2 and 3. However, I shall seek certain assurances and explanations from the Minister. His new clauses do not offer the Rolls-Royce service established in new clause 1, but they would undoubtedly boost household recycling and go some way further to meeting the aspirations of the many thousands of our constituents who have been campaigning on the issue.

My concerns are as follows. First, why is new clause 2(2)(a) necessary? The Environmental Protection Act 1990 includes a provision for exempting local authorities from collections from properties when the cost is unreasonably high. What guarantees can the Minister give that that will not offer local authorities an easy opt-out?

Secondly, under new clause 2(2)(b), how will ''comparable alternative arrangements'' be defined?

Will there be a collection system delivering a similar percentage yield to what would be expected from a doorstep scheme and will a similar quality of materials be recovered? Some forms of recycling would be completely unacceptable as alternatives. The dirty MRF—materials recovering facility—which accepts mixed recyclables and residual waste together is not the way forward, and I hope that the Minister can satisfy me that such a process would not count as a comparable arrangement. He might also like to comment on home composting, which is not easy. Simply giving away a load of bins without follow-up would also not amount to a comparable alternative arrangement.

There are other issues on which I may seek further clarification, but I seek the greatest assurance on the opt-out provisions and look forward to hearing what my right hon. Friend has to say.

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

Will the hon. Lady add to her list of requests one relating to organisations such as the civic environmental technology organisation, which claims in its leaflet that its municipal solid waste processing and materials recovery plant will recycle 80 to 90 per cent. of the waste input? However, when that claim is analysed, it seems that the compost produced is suitable only for

''restoration of derelict land, closed landfill sites etc''.

Furthermore, when the organisation says that it will extract plastics, it means that it will recycle them as fuel—that is, incinerate them. Its offer to local authorities, which sounds grand, is no more than a con trick perpetrated on local authorities. Does the hon. Lady agree that that cannot be considered comparable to proper recycling and that the Minister should ensure that such greenwash is expunged from any form of recycling?

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman because he makes some valuable points and illustrates the main thrust of what I have said. It is on those points that we as a Committee will seek clarification and assurances from the Minister. We have had a positive dialogue, and I am delighted that we may find ourselves in broad agreement about a Bill that can deliver the purposes for which it was originally designed: to provide an increase in the proportion of materials recycled and the convenience to householders that they can have those materials collected from their homes.

The Minister's proposals offer just two waste streams, but mine offers four. I contend that any local authority that devises schemes for the collection of two waste streams might just as well collect four, if not more. Although the Minister's proposal is less than I would have wished, I believe that it offers a way forward for local authorities consistent with the objectives with which I began to draft the Bill.

I shall not speak at length now because many hon. Members want to make specific points. Amendments that were tabled at the last moment and that have been starred will not be called today. However, I want the Committee to have the opportunity to consider those points, so I am content now to listen to the

contributions of other hon. Members. However, I hope to intervene on the Minister later.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

May I say how delighted I am to welcome you to the Chair, Miss Begg, particularly as I find myself speaking from the Front Bench on behalf of the official Opposition on this one-off occasion. It is what is called in show business a one gig only. There has not been a pre-emptive reshuffle, but my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray), who would normally speak on such matters, is in Iraq with the armed forces parliamentary scheme, hence this opportunity for me.

I particularly pleased to be called into service on this Bill and I congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) on what I hope will be a real coup in putting on to the statute book a measure that many people throughout the House have hoped for and urged for many years. It is a great credit to her and to the support that she has received from Friends of the Earth that we now have a glimmer of hope of putting the Bill on to the statute book.

I am pleased that, during my debut on the Opposition Front Bench, I have the opportunity to appear opposite the Minister for the Environment as I have great respect for him. I am pleased that he has managed to secure a more comfortable fate for this Bill than the Home Energy Conservation Bill on which I spoke last year. We must all cross our fingers and hope that the Bill before us has a safer passage through the House than that other environmentally friendly measure.

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

On resuming—

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle 2:26 pm, 10th June 2003

Before the Committee was interrupted by the Division bell, I was endeavouring to conceal my pleasure at speaking from the Front Bench, particularly on this excellent measure. It is not quite all the Bill for which we hoped, and we would like it to go further. However, universal doorstep recycling was an important manifesto pledge for the Conservatives at the last general election so, although we are in opposition, it is a matter of great satisfaction that this measure is before us with a realistic chance of passing into law.

What is more, given the less than enthusiastic comments about the Bill uttered by the Minister in the Committee considering the WETs Bill and the distinctly unimpressed comments uttered by the Secretary of State when she appeared before the Environmental Audit Committee, I am delighted that the effective lobbying by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford and the Minister's private wrestling with the issue have yielded results, even if it is not the complete Bill that we wanted. Opposition Members welcome the measure wholeheartedly as far it goes, as will the 50 per cent. of the population who are not currently served by a doorstep recycling service. Those millions of people will be keen to embrace the new service, but there are real issues to address.

At this point, I shall deal with the various points in the new clauses that were tabled and those that were dropped. In particular, my colleagues and I are concerned by the unambitious figure for separables that is proposed—just two. As the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford said, that is very unambitious. Surely it must be easy for any council that is obliged to put such a service in place to add to it at minimal additional cost. In fact, it may make the service more economically viable if a larger amount of waste is separated at source, rather than the job being left for the collector of the waste. I hope that, even if the Minister is not bold enough to frame provision for that in legislation, the market and common sense will drive better practice to where we want it to go. We want to see not two, three or four types of separation, but the level that the best authorities are achieving, which is up to seven. Then the process will really take off and consumers will be engaged in it from the outset.

Recycling is an environmental good not just because it minimises the amount of waste that goes to landfill and incineration. It is a good in itself, because, by forcing consumers to separate their waste, it places a greater responsibility on them to be aware of the amount of waste that they generate. Regardless of the recycling that is put in place, the amount of waste produced continues to climb year on year under this Government. We must address not simply what we do with the waste but how we can reduce the amount that we produce.

My second point relates to the frequency and regularity of collections. Collections must be regular. Irregular collections or collections that take place more than two weeks apart are not good enough. They are rather like the farmers' markets in my constituency, which appear on the third weekend of every month or on the second Thursday. They are interesting, innovative and welcome projects, but they do not occur with sufficient regularity to become a habit. If recycling is to make a massive dent in our waste mountain, it must become an ingrained habit in households in England and, I hope, Wales. Therefore, I seek assurances from the Minister about the frequency and the regularity of collections.

I also seek significant assurances from the Minister about the resources that will be allocated to this target. It is not good enough to place another burden on local government if it is not to be resourced fairly and equitably. Unfortunately, local government has seen a shift of resources away from the south-east to other parts of the country. That has produced widespread resentment and scepticism about the Government's motives when introducing new functions for local government. They are simply a way of offloading a central Government financing requirement. Therefore, we shall want to ensure that the resources are not only there to enable the scheme to operate efficiently, sensibly and on the best possible basis, but that they are spread equitably and fairly across the country.

I also question why we need a derogation to 2015, when 2010 is still a long way away and does not constitute a particularly stretching target. I hope that the derogation is not simply a get-out clause for the worst offending authorities, because those in the tricky and difficult areas are the ones that we must focus on. Perhaps we should target them first, instead of constantly pushing them to the back of the queue, knowing that the Bill contains a get-out clause that will allow them yet another five years. A 2015 deadline is not a call to action. It simply buys laggard authorities more time before they have to address the issue seriously.

What does the Minister mean by ''unreasonably high'' costs? Many authorities that do not yet have a good—or any—kerbside collection for recyclables invariably cite the high cost. It is the biggest stumbling block for local authorities and the reason why more of them do not embrace the recycling that we all want. The Minister must link his answer to my earlier questions about how the scheme will be resourced, how it will be financed and how we can share the burden of collecting waste, which varies in different parts of the country depending on population density, household habits and whether areas are rural or urban. We must ensure that the cost of collection falls fairly across the population and that particular communities are not penalised by being excluded from participating in recycling regimes because of the perception that recycling is too expensive.

I am conscious that a private Member's' Bill can be talked off the statute book rather than on to it, so I shall conclude my opening remarks. I reiterate that we welcome the Bill, which we want to see go further, and will do nothing to jeopardise it in Committee. Any Bill that takes us closer to meeting the target of universal kerbside collection is extremely welcome. When the Bill is on the statute book or when it goes back to the Floor of the House, we can examine ways to improve it to reach the target more quickly. We will certainly not stand in the way of the measure being introduced quickly.

Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Liberal Democrat, Guildford 2:30 pm, 10th June 2003

I am pleased to be on Committee considering this Bill and to be serving under your chairmanship, Miss Begg. I look forward to exploring the problem. I congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford on her hard work, which has been supported by Friends of the Earth. At one stage, many of us thought that the Bill might fail and be chopped off at the knees, in which case all would have been lost. The work done by not only the hon. Lady but by the Minister is welcome. I am delighted to serve on the Committee.

The line that the Minister took is particularly pleasing. He has searched for areas in which we can find common agreement, and that is welcome. Many of us have considered other environmental Bills and we have expressed concerns about what might have been and what was never going to be. We have wondered whether we were just enacting European legislation or whether we could do more. This Bill certainly does more.

As the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) said, although the Bill does not

contain everything that we would like, it does not mean that we cannot support it. We would like more to happen in certain areas. The new clause that called for waste to be separated into four types would have been useful, but the most important thing is that separation is happening. Councils must invest in infrastructure to collect waste in divided lorries. Once two sorts of waste are being collected, most councils will collect three or four types. Trying to conform to other environmental laws—for example, the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill, by which they must remove waste from landfill—will present an excellent opportunity not only to incinerate waste but to recycle.

There is a problem with sorting, and the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) raised his concern about the statistics. We must ensure that waste is separated when it is collected and that it continues to be separated during recycling. Many of us have fears about the blandishments about dirty multiple recycling facilities, which do very little to recover the materials in recycling. Recycling is not only about taking the waste away from landfill and not building another incinerator, but about reusing the resources. The cleaner the source of recyclate, the more it can be reused and the better the deal that the council should be able to strike. As the Bill passes through the House, it is important for us to look at how we can ensure that the waste does not go to dirty MRFs or possibly somewhere other than a recycling facility.

As was said earlier, we must ensure that resources are available to councils to help them. Landfill tax is being treated differently, and I hope that some of the income from it will go to councils to support their work. Councils carry a huge burden, and those of us who represent constituencies in the south-east currently spend a lot of our time watching them try, and fail, to make the pennies add up. No matter how passionate we are about the environment, we must always ask where the money is coming from and recognise that provision must be made for the councils.

I am also concerned about the derogation possibilities in 2015. Liberal Democrats have consistently asked for kerbside and doorstep recycling, and 2015 seems a long time away. When most councils get the bit between their teeth and decide to go for recycling, they do not seem to need 10 years to introduce schemes—they get on within a year or two. The nature of councils, which run on a four-year cycle, means that it is unlikely that a council will say that it will do something in 10 years' time. Most councils want to pick up the credit for their work rather than take the risk of being deposed at the next election without their plans being implemented. The 2015 target seems strange.

I was surprised that the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle did not mention his amendment (d), which is a particularly good amendment that recognises the problems that we have with building. We have problems about where we collect waste from, and one difficulty is with high-rise flats. The hon. Gentleman suggested that people should be able to

dispose of materials within 100m of their homes. Given the need for denser and more imaginative building and for incorporating sustainability into designs, it is better for people to have a shared bring-area within a development than tubs and boxes in their own houses, especially if they are small dwellings. People should be able just to pop down the corridor and dispose of everything safely in a common place where they know it will be looked after. It surprises me that he did not mention his amendment, but I am sure that he would have done so if time had not been so short.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

The way that the debate is structured means that we have not come on to that point, but I thank the hon. Lady for making my points for me. That may save me taking too much time later.

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that point.

There are also issues about what are reasonable and unreasonable costs. One problem is ensuring that councils do not hide behind the fact that existing places, such as high-rise flats, are not easy to collect from. However, rubbish is currently collected from high-rise flats, so there is no reason why we cannot collect sorted recyclates from them. After all, it is just as easy for a split lorry to collect waste as a normal waste collection lorry. A provision must be introduced on Report to enshrine that point in the Bill. The last thing that we want is for councils to say that they will not go for 100 per cent. coverage because it is too hard. It is not too hard. There are remote places where even rubbish in black bin bags is not collected. However, the difficulties in such areas will exist whether black bin bags or recycling bags are being collected. That problem is easy to understand, but the excuses made about collection from high-rise flats are not acceptable.

I am so pleased about the Bill because colleagues in this Room have recycling close to their heart. However, we also know that, whenever we go somewhere, someone will always come up to us and say, ''I recycle all the time, but my neighbours do not—they are terrible.'' Other things must happen, and we have talked about them in Committee on other Bills. For example, education is important, but an element of enforcement should also be considered. We must get people to think about what they are doing with materials. When the Bill becomes law, we will have an excellent opportunity to explain to people why we must stop using the quantity of the earth's resources that we use and why we must stop dumping them in landfill sites. Getting a sense of personal responsibility into the heads of people who at present do not take the same view as us is very important. Every household is significant.

I reiterate my congratulations to the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford on this tremendous piece of legislation. I support the work that she has done.

Photo of Mr Simon Thomas Mr Simon Thomas Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion 2:45 pm, 10th June 2003

I apologise to you, Miss Begg, to the promoter of the Bill and to the Committee for not being here for the first few minutes of the sitting. One of the drawbacks of belonging to a

small party is that one still has to whip for forthcoming votes, and I was busily trying to find out where my Members were and ensuring that they took part in the Division.

I very much welcome the Bill. The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford has rightly been congratulated by members of the Committee from all parties on the work that she has done and on trying her very best to hold the line as the knives and various other sharp instruments were taken to the content of the Bill. She is to be thanked for the work that she has done on behalf of many of us in the House who want to see such legislation on the statute book.

Others have already mentioned the overall framework of the Bill, so I shall concentrate my remarks on a particular omission, the nature of which will not surprise members of the Committee. As the hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) mentioned earlier, we tried to prevent the Bill's being chopped off at the head, knees and so on. The Bill has been ritually disembowelled and stuffed full of something else—something new. Quite what it has been stuffed with we shall have to wait to find out when we see which new clauses and so on will be supported and added. However, a bit has fallen out in the disembowelling, and that bit is called Wales—a major bit that is a bit to the west of the rest.

I support the Bill. As a Welsh nationalist and a Plaid Cymru Member, it is always a joy to vote on England-only legislation, particularly if it improves the environment and quality of services for people in England. Nevertheless, I have a sneaking suspicion that I would like to do the same for Wales at the same time, so I should like to take this opportunity to discuss matters that are pertinent to the Bill, which is currently drafted as a Bill for England and Wales. I hope that the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford and the Minister will respond to some of my points and perhaps give an indication of how matters can be handled in the future.

The amendments on the amendment paper are of a probing nature and would not actually restore the heart of the Bill. However, a couple of matters must be borne in mind. First, the National Assembly is already engaged in recycling targets that are, in fact, more ambitious than those in England, but it cannot take statutory action until primary legislation is passed in this House. The loss of such provisions from the Bill, if that is the way in which things are going, would be somewhat unfortunate.

The second thing that needs to be said is that we need a lot more action in Wales. Ours is the country or nation within the United Kingdom that is most dependent on landfill sites, and we have a great number of old landfill sites that we have to deal with. Part of the National Assembly's strategy, which I welcome, is not simply to meet the EU directive and UK requirements, but to go further. The Assembly has set recycling and composting targets—for example, to achieve 15 per cent. recycling and composting of municipal waste by 2003–04, with at least 5 per cent. composting and 5 per cent. recycling, and to achieve

40 per cent. recycling and composting of municipal waste by 2009–10, with at least 15 per cent. composting and 15 per cent. recycling. Those are important recycling targets.

It is interesting that the Assembly also has a target that by 2010, waste per household should be no greater than in 1997–98. That is a waste minimisation target, a very important concept for us to bear in mind. The Bill is a recycling Bill, not a waste minimisation Bill, and I accept that a waste minimisation Bill would have been a different kettle of fish altogether—and even more difficult to take through as a private Member's Bill. However, if we genuinely care about waste, sustainable waste management and the environment in the UK, we should all be working towards such objectives and targets. We should ask ourselves in what ways the Bill helps us to achieve waste minimisation in the UK. It is all very well to keep on increasing our recycling rates, but if the waste stream gets bigger and bigger, our ability to cope with it will get smaller and smaller, and we will still have landfill and—more frightening to many of us—incineration as ways of dealing with that waste.

It is possible to conceive of a future in the next 10 or 15 years in which we have, as the National Assembly foresees, significant recycling of about 40 to 50 per cent. of waste, significant reuse of the larger items that go into the waste stream and a much more sustainable way of dealing with the waste that has to be disposed of, but we will not be able to achieve that unless we also set ourselves the objective of minimising waste in the first place. That is why the influence and example of what is being done in Wales is important to the Bill and to our considerations in Committee.

As aspects of the Bill have emerged, I have seen and heard on the grapevine a concern that it has not been sufficiently discussed with the National Assembly Government, and I accept that it has not had a plenary airing in the National Assembly in any shape or form. That concern is that it would be wrong of us, in this post-devolution world, to insist in this House on putting targets and statutory obligations on the National Assembly without discussing that with National Assembly.

I have two responses to that concern. One is that the Government do that all the time. They did it in the Animal Health Act 2002—but I shall not go into all the details. It is unfortunate to put in to a private Member's Bill obligations that the Government themselves do not meet, but there we are. The principle is reasonable and important. Secondly, the National Assembly has a strategy of urging local authorities to avoid long-term contracts—for example, for incineration—in order to have flexibility in waste strategies, and to draw up plans to deal with waste, which are to be submitted to the National Assembly for approval, or at least a box-ticking process. The curious thing is that I am told that the National Assembly has asked the Government to put those plans on a mandatory, statutory footing: the National Assembly has already suggested that it would like statutory action to be taken in that way.

It may well be that this Bill is not the right vehicle for the National Assembly's ambitions of putting

waste minimisation and sustainable waste strategies on a statutory footing, but if not this Bill, what Bill? If we leave Wales out of the Bill, what then for Wales? A clear gap is emerging. We will have UK obligations under the EU directive. We will have different targets for England, Wales and Scotland, which is perfectly right because the devolution settlements allow for that and mean that policies can be shaped according to the different natures of the countries. Wales—even in the valleys of south Wales—has a more dispersed population than England and some of the problems relating to collection from more remote locations come up a little more frequently than they do in many parts of England.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman. Does he not agree that the problems with Wales are just another facet of the Government not having an overarching legislative strategy for dealing with waste? There is no really forceful commitment to implement an absolute strategy. Instead we have a whole tier of piecemeal measures. The intentions may be good, but coherence and an holistic approach are lacking. The Secretary of State told the Environmental Audit Committee in February:

''We will have to give the Government's response when the Bill comes forward, but I would have said that if we thought this was an essential step, we would have made it ourselves''.

By their own admission, the Government are on the back foot. The fact that they now support the Bill is to be welcomed, but it shows yet again that they are not taking the initiative when they should be. That point is sorely evident in relation to Wales.

Photo of Mr Simon Thomas Mr Simon Thomas Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making those points. No doubt the Minister will want to respond to them in his own way. The fact that we are dealing with the matter by means of a private Member's Bill underlines the hon. Gentleman's point.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

I wonder whether I should be drawn in to the argument, but I find the comments about this fundamental point a little difficult to take. The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle was an active and thoughtful member of the Committee that considered the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill. He knows that I repeatedly said in the course of discussions of that Bill that there is an holistic strategy: it is called the waste strategy 2000 and it embraces waste minimisation at the head of the hierarchy. The idea that all the measures have to be in one composite Bill, or in a private Member's Bill several years later, is completely flawed. The hon. Gentleman is thoughtful and intelligent, and I wish that he would listen and take what I have said on board.

Photo of Mr Simon Thomas Mr Simon Thomas Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion

I am intruding on private griefs. I will stay away from some of those issues.

The intervention from the Minister underlines the point that I was making earlier. The waste strategy that he mentioned is for England. We are back to the point that we have different ways of approaching our UK obligations and we are working through different devolved mechanisms to achieve those aims. I am concerned that if the Bill as it is likely to be amended is

passed, we will miss the opportunity to legislate for Wales.

We have only one legislative opportunity in each Session for a Welsh Bill. That was made clear in the arrangements between the Wales Office and the National Assembly for Wales. There is some frustration about that, although I suspect that this matter would not be a priority for the National Assembly Government. They are likely to come back next year with legislation that they want on education, health or wherever the big spending is in the National Assembly.

I am concerned that we are missing an opportunity. I accept that it is not reasonable to expect the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford to have launched into six months of intergovernmental discussions with the National Assembly and civil servants about how things were developing, but I hoped that the Government amendments would reflect some of that and would ensure that Wales could be included in the Bill. We saw the amendments only on Friday, so it has not been possible for me to consult in detail with Assembly colleagues about how that inclusion might be achieved. I will have to reserve my position. There are possibilities in primary legislation to enable and to give powers to the National Assembly so that it can decide whether two, three or four recycling routes would be best for doorstep recycling in Wales.

On the issues that the two Front-Bench spokespeople have mentioned during the debate, all those things can and should be a focus of our strategy in Wales, as they are in England, which will ensure that Wales plays its part in meeting the UK's responsibilities to the new targets. I therefore hope that the promoter of the Bill and the Minister will respond to some of those points and explain the thinking of the present shape envisaged under new clause 2.

I hope that we shall have a better understanding by the end of the debate of Wales's goals and what the people of Wales can expect. Are they going to be left without doorstep recycling as a result of the Bill, or are they going to get the same expansion of doorstep recycling as the people of England? I do not mind how it is achieved, as long as it is as possible for me to recycle on the doorstep as it is for the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford.

Photo of Julie Morgan Julie Morgan Labour, Cardiff North 3:00 pm, 10th June 2003

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford on her perseverance and determination, and congratulate her on getting us to where we are today.

Many of the points that I wanted to make have been made by the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas). It is very important that we consider what happens in Wales. As the hon. Gentleman has said, there is a separate strategy in Wales called ''Wise about Waste'' and some of those targets are more ambitious than the English ones, particularly the one on recycling 40 per cent. of municipal waste by 2010. There are five beacon authorities that will reach 50 per cent. in a shorter time scale. There is a strategy in Wales, but the key issue is whether the Welsh

Assembly is requesting those powers to enforce its strategy. I do not know whether the Minister will be able to tell us whether he has actually had any discussion with the Assembly about the issue.

Like the hon. Member for Ceredigion, I have to reserve my position on the issue until I know the precise views of the Assembly. I know that the view of my colleague Sue Essex, who was the Welsh Minister for the Environment before the recent election, was that we had to work in partnerships, and she was not keen on the idea of targets. I do not know the Assembly's views on the Bill. I strongly support the Bill, and am pleased to vote for it even knowing that it does not include Wales, but I wonder if there is some way of finding out before the end of the consideration of the Bill whether the Assembly would welcome its inclusion in the Bill so it would not be long before we could enforce the statutory provisions.

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

Thank you, Miss Begg, and welcome to the Chair. I offer particular congratulations to the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford on introducing what I would call a ''two cheers'' Bill. It is a useful measure that takes us a bit further along the path that we want to go down, but there are a series of lacunae and areas that are inadequately dealt with. For the sake of brevity, and recognising the Minister's travel plans, I intend to highlight my concerns in the hope that he will be able to deal with them when he speaks.

My first concern echoes the point made by the hon. Members for Ceredigion and for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan), who questioned why Wales was left out of the Bill. As the Welsh Assembly has no primary law-making powers, it cannot place a duty on local authorities to provide for a separated collection and recycling of waste, which the Bill would impose on English authorities.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to imply that the Bill does not make provision for Wales. Of course it does. We are discussing amendments that could change that. It might be helpful to the Committee and to the Minister if I remind him that the original clause 1, which we are still debating here today, provides for 50 per cent. recycling for the United Kingdom. That was necessary because we were dealing with an overall target, which had to be a UK target, and that pulled Wales into the Bill as it stands. However, we are now proposing something else, which is why I have not been able to put the current proposals to the Welsh Assembly, although I would very much like to do so.

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

I thank the hon. Lady, who has pre-empted my next remarks. I was going to acknowledge that her original intention was for the Bill to apply to Wales, but that that was forestalled by the Government's other intentions. However, it would not have been not beyond the wit of man—nor even the wit of this Government—to ensure that arrangements were made, perhaps through secondary legislation, to allow the Bill to encompass Wales and yet permit the necessary discussions. I think that the Welsh Assembly is due to finalise the actual arrangements that would apply to Wales. I shall

leave my remarks on that point there, and hope that the Minister will respond to it.

My next headline point is the funding of local authorities. The Minister has stated on several occasions that if central Government impose duties on local authorities, they must provide the resources. The Minister might tell us that that will be dealt with by some other Bill or in some other manner, but the fact is that this Bill intends to put extra costs on local authorities, at least to begin with. I should like him to explain how local authorities will be assisted.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford

May I put it to the hon. Gentleman that I, as the promoter of the Bill, do not believe that there is an immediate need for new moneys? The Government have already introduced a whole raft of measures that provide sufficient finance to cover the initial improvements in service that local authorities would be bound to make, albeit that additional moneys would be needed to fund the progression of local authorities towards the target of every household having two waste streams by 2010.

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

I understand the hon. Lady's point, but I am less sanguine. The analyses of funding that I have made in the past suggest that there will have to be a degree of pump priming for local authorities. Central Government will have provide those resources if local authorities are to be able to afford to do what we need them to do.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

The hon. Lady rightly referred to a raft of measures already in place. I beg to suggest that that is part of the problem. The complexity and variable nature of the funding means that some authorities have a better grasp of what is on offer than others. Some are better placed to milk the system and some are more financially savvy. We need a return to totally transparent, very obvious, properly resourced funding. Now that we have this clear target, perhaps that will prompt the Minister to re-examine, simplify and clarify the funding arrangements, thereby ensuring that there is no excuse for any authority not to take up and use the resource properly.

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

My hon. Friend makes an interesting intervention. All I would say is that I hope that the Minister does not go down that somewhat philosophic line, but that he concentrates on deciding whether he believes that local authorities will require extra funding and, if so, how that will be provided. Personally, in my simple way of looking at things, I should find that rather more helpful.

I turn to my third headline point: unreasonable cost. I hope that the Government will state what they would consider to be a useful definition if any local authority pleaded unreasonable costs. We need comparators to determine what is an unreasonable cost. For instance, what would be the cost of a higher landfill tax or additional incinerator resources? What would be the loss of income through the sale of recyclates, and are they collected in a way that maximises their value? If the Bill is to contain a get-out clause on the ground of unreasonable cost that enables authorities that plead poverty to escape doing what the Government want them to do, the

Government must provide a clear definition of what they mean by ''unreasonable''.

A clear definition is also required of ''economic''. The way in which recyclables are collected is either economic or not economic. It is easy to say that it is not economic to recycle glass if it is collected as mixed coloured. On the other hand, if it is collected as different coloured bottles, that has a considerable value, particularly if it is clear glass. Therefore, the get-out clause of what is uneconomic must be clarified again and determined by central Government, who must impose a standard definition on local authorities. In that way, when a local authority tries to evade what we believe to be an important responsibility, we will all know why it is doing it and we can accept that the criteria on which action is based are fair.

Will the Minister also deal with the definition of ''type''? Would two types be green bottles and clear bottles, or is that one type of waste? The Minister is looking puzzled. The Bill contains a requirement to collect a certain number of different recyclates; the number has changed during our discussion on the clause. People who collect only bottles must not be allowed tell the Minister that they are collecting three types of recyclates when they are collecting only one. Therefore, it must be laid down that the same type of product cannot count as more than one recyclate.

Were we not constrained by time, I would have dealt with a number of other items—frequency of collection, in particular. However, I have tried to outline a variety of concerns that I hope the Minister will be able to deal with adequately in his response to this useful first measure.

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson Labour, Hampstead and Highgate

I begin by saying how happy I am to serve yet again under your chairmanship, Miss Begg. I add my voice to those who have congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock), and indeed the Minister, for presenting us with a Bill that to date everyone whom I know on the Committee and outside the House welcomes. I was raised to believe that half a loaf was better than none, and that is my attitude to what we are debating today.

I rose specifically to respond to the contribution by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire. He was particularly diplomatic in tap-dancing around the idea that some local authorities may lack the imagination to pursue the possibilities offered by the Bill. I imagine that cost will be the primary bar to the introduction of the Bill's provisions. I am in the fortunate position of living in a borough that introduced recycling a long time ago, and my constituency covers half of another borough where recycling was also introduced some time ago. Those recycling schemes are extremely successful. Although I am perfectly aware that one coat will not fit every local authority and every area of the country, effective, efficient, cost-effective schemes are already up and running.

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that one local authority, or a composite of local authorities that have been at the forefront of introducing recycling and other environmentally friendly measures, can provide

experience to those local authorities that may for a variety of reasons be less than enthusiastic about what they may regard in the first instance as an additional burden, the value of which they cannot perceive. Such local authorities will inevitably complain that the cost will be prohibitive, but I understand that the cost need not necessarily be prohibitive. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford has already pointed out that money is available, although it may be difficult to grasp its precise purpose because the money that the Government have put on the table is covered by a variety of titles.

The issue is of vital national importance. We have discussed the costs of setting up recycling schemes, but we all know—particularly those of us who live in densely populated urban areas—the enormous costs of not ensuring that waste and recyclables are regularly collected. If we examine the amount of litter that pollutes so much of our inner cities, it is clear that the Bill's benefits are not only environmental but civic, as the hon. Member for Guildford said, because it will change our attitudes as citizens of this country towards our responsibilities. Improving the visual aspects of our communities is as important as maintaining a properly balanced environment.

My central point is that some local authorities have effectively introduced such schemes, which work extremely well. I hope that the Minister ensures that we do not go down the tedious old route of reinventing the wheel when effective schemes are up and running and the knowledge can be shared.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I welcome you to the Chair, Miss Begg. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford on her work on the Bill. It has become a cliché, which is no less true for it, that we do not own the environment in which we live but merely hold it in trust for future generations. We will be judged by the decisions that we make, the actions that we take and whether we leave the environment not only as we found it but improve it given the impact that we, and previous generations, have had on it. Recycling is about making the most of the resources available to us and is an essential element of our strategy.

It is important that we stress that several issues must be clarified in the Government amendments. There is an issue about types of waste because the Bill requires the collection of two types of recycled material. It would be utterly ridiculous if that were reduced to just clear glass and green glass, with other materials ignored as a consequence. If that cannot be dealt with by the Minister today, it should be clarified in future.

Issues arise from the sorting of recyclables. We have at times focused too much on sorting at the point of collection rather than at a central sorting point. Local authorities could be encouraged to think more innovatively about that. For example, my local authority has just introduced a sorting centre for recyclables to maximise the amount and range of materials that can be collected at the doorstep.

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

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is endorsing a system that is very damaging. Local

authority sorting centres result in recyclate that is contaminated and, as a consequence, has a lower value, which makes it easier to evade responsibility for effective recycling.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's intervention, because he has pre-empted my next statement, which takes us on to the following step. Green waste can be contaminated to the point that it can be sent only to landfill, and other recyclables can also be affected in that way.

It is necessary to consider what is done with the end product. It is no good labelling something as recycled at the point of collection if the end product is not recycled or reused but must be disposed of because it is contaminated. Local authorities must pay attention to how they brand their product. I agree with the intervention of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire.

There is also the issue of costs. What are unreasonable costs? If local authorities consider the matter in a creative way, they will find that considerable financial savings can be made. During my earlier life as a councillor on Greenwich council, I was in charge of waste recycling. Among many other things, I discovered that it would be much cheaper to dispose of paper through someone who has a use for the product than to pay for it by weight to be disposed through the waste mainstream. That is where key savings came in for our local authority, and it was an incentive to us to maximise the amount of material that we recycled.

In fact, that potential source of revenue can be recycled to benefit the environment, the local authority and the local community. We can encourage local authorities through the mechanism of the Bill, to take steps to maximise the amount of resources that they recycle and to look more creatively at the way that they use their finances to ensure that they make the most of resources and do not landfill or incinerate waste unnecessarily.

However, it is essential to consider what costs are included when we work out what is to be considered unreasonable. We must take in the cost of collection at the doorstep, the cost of disposal through landfill or some other means, and the cost of recycling goods. Unless that entire equation is taken into consideration when working out what is considered unreasonable, it is possible that people could argue that it is unreasonable to expect them to do a doorstep collection, and avoid complying with what is intended in the Bill. I welcome the Government amendments. We are taking a major step forward. There is more that we can do, but we are moving in the right direction. Again, I commend my hon. Friend for the work that she has done to bring us to this point.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

I, too, welcome you to the Chair to oversee this Committee, Miss Begg. I hope that you will agree that this is Parliament at its best, having an excellent debate. I notice that there is a remarkable consensus. When I read the amendments, I find myself linked with Opposition. Members. That is unusual,

and long may it continue—depending on the context. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford, who has piloted the Bill. She has a conciliatory, co-operative, persuasive and thoughtful manner so, given that hon. Members understand that it has not been an easy Bill but rather a roller-coaster, if one had to find somebody to take it through the byzantine channels by which private Members' Bills are steered in this place, she is well placed to do it. I hope that the result will be something of real value; I think that it will be.

I explained on Second Reading why we cannot support the Bill in its current form and why we support the deletion of clauses 1 to 3. To recap briefly, we do not consider that the provision for the Secretary of State to produce an additional strategy fits well with the rather more comprehensive waste strategy 2000, to which I referred earlier. That involves the whole waste stream, not just municipal waste. Let us not forget that municipal waste is only a very small part—about 7 or 8 per cent.—of the total waste stream.

Waste strategy 2000 also addresses the entire waste hierarchy, not just recycling. We considered the issues further in light of the strategy unit report ''Waste not, Want not'', and we are now putting in place comprehensive action plans to enable the UK to meet both its statutory recycling targets and its landfill diversion targets, which, under the landfill directive, are very testing. We do not consider the further strategy helpful in that process. We have a strategy, I cannot repeat that often enough, and it is now a matter of delivering it.

We have already announced that provision will be made in the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill for statutory municipal waste management strategies. Clause 2 is therefore no longer needed. Equally, the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill provides a power of direction for waste disposal authorities, so that they can direct the waste collection authorities as to how they must deliver their separated waste. That, too, does not need to be repeated here. However, I have to say that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford and the Government have seen the Bill as a challenge, not as a blockage, and we have come to Committee to discuss ideas that will make the measure effective and workable.

New clause 1 is the heart of the reconstructed Bill. It requires that by 2010, when local authorities collect waste they will also have to collect four recyclates. It is a simple clause, but what it is trying to achieve is radical. I am not against things being radical. Indeed, I applaud my hon. Friend for her ambition because that is no small target, even with the reduction to three that is allowed where composting provision is in place and the possibility of a five-year extension in special circumstances.

We have considered the proposals seriously to ascertain how far they are deliverable and practical. We all share the aim of managing waste in a more sustainable way. I spoke at length about that on Second Reading. Sustainable waste management is about increasing our resource productivity so that we gain more value from the resources that we use.

Recycling our waste so that the resources contained in it can be reused is an important part of the aim.

We have problems, however, with the provision as drafted, which requires absolutely every household to have separate collections with no exceptions at all. That is even more stringent than the current requirement to collect waste. I have discussed circumstances in which it would be difficult for local authorities to provide doorstep collections. Examples obviously include remote areas in the countryside, high-rise properties in inner urban areas, and properties with little storage space.

That is not to say that such things cannot be overcome but, in terms of practicality and cost, we have to consider whether that is necessarily the best way forward. For some materials and neighbourhoods, bring-sites return far better yields and are more convenient for residents. There are circumstances in which the yields of materials and the problems of collecting from the kerbside make that an illogical and unhelpful way forward.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford 3:30 pm, 10th June 2003

I want to be absolutely clear on this point. The existing legislation for the collection of waste, the Environmental Protection Act 1990, provides for exceptions when houses are too remote or difficult to get to. The Minister suggests that bring-sites could be more convenient for the collection of recyclates. I wonder whether he means the bring-sites that are at the base of a number of tower blocks. They are clearly as convenient for residents, who have to bring their other waste down to that site. If he is suggesting that such people must have a car and drive some distance to find a municipal bring-site, I fail to see how that could possibly be more convenient.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

I was referring to the former, not the latter. I entirely accept that having a site at the base of a tower block may be a much more sensible way of collecting.

Gregory Barker rose—

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

Let me answer the first point before I give way.

Bring-sites may be a much more convenient way of collecting than insisting that there is a separate collection point on every floor of the tower block. I accept that we need a degree of flexibility, rather than rigidity, and that we need common sense and practicality to prevail.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

I draw attention to my amendment, which the hon. Member for Guildford mentioned earlier. It states:

''that would enable a person to dispose of materials that can be recycled within 100 metres of their home.''

Is such an amendment acceptable to the Minister? If it is, and if we cannot add that phrase in Committee, will he undertake to consider it later?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

I can happily say that we will consider the amendment. We will consider all the amendments. We want to put in place the best arrangements. In relation to a bring-site, 100 m is quite a long way—perhaps it should be rather closer

than that. That is one sensible way of addressing the problem. I am not suggesting for one moment that high-rise blocks are incompatible with kerbside or doorstep collections. They are not. However, there are cases in which, because of the layout of the building, there is no obvious or easy access to storage space, or there is a problem because one is deep in the countryside and houses are at infrequent intervals. The question is how to address that. The problems are not insuperable. The issue is whether we have a formula to which we rigidly adhere.

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

My point echoes the suggestion of the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson). The Minister said that we needed to be flexible, and I agree with him; one size does not fit all. However, would he accept that a local authority that said it could not achieve recycling would not have an adequate excuse if there were a clear example of another local authority being able to recycle economically, using best practice?

I shall give two examples. One is Daventry, which, as the Minister will be well aware, is one of the best recycling local authorities in England, and yet it is spread over 250 square miles—a large area. It managed to recycle about 43 per cent. in 2001–02. The other is Wealden, which has many high-rise blocks. By having bring-containers close to the tower blocks, it manages to source separate some seven types of waste. Would the Minister accept that if a local authority can produce a good recycling scheme that is economic, there is no adequate excuse for another local authority that is not able to do as well?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

I entirely agree. I think that the hon. Gentleman is really saying that best practice ought to be promulgated. Indeed, one of the more forceful weapons—or, rather, instruments—in the hands of the Government is for them to say, just as the hon. Gentleman has done, that something can be done, because it is being done by some local authorities. I entirely agree that that is a pressure on local authorities, and there can be no question of being able to get away with not doing something that someone else manages to do.

I also have problems with the blanket requirement to collect four materials—and we shall come to the number question later—or three where provision is made for composting. I agree that, as we need to get higher overall yields and tackle the more difficult streams such as plastics, local authorities will need to move to multi-material collections. Again, however, it is the lack of flexibility and the stringent nature of this demand, which does not take into account the differing needs of the potential markets, that concerns me. It is for these reasons that the Government have come up with new clauses that seek to find a way of achieving what it seems, from listening to the debate, that all Committee members want to achieve, but in a way that is acceptable.

We realised that some caution would be needed when seeking to amend the Bill; it is not surprising to hear a Minister say that. We must ensure that, in aiming at doorstep collection, we do not lose sight of the main point of increasing overall recycling rates. We have already set in place targets for what we are trying

to achieve, which is an overall increase in recycling. I am sure that every Member here knows what I am referring to—the statutory targets for recycling rates for local authorities are to double by 2003–04 from the baseline date of 1999–2000, and to treble by 2005–06, which would get us to a national average recycling rate of 25 per cent. by 2005–06. That is the objective and outcome. We have set the recycling targets for each local authority around that output. If an authority is well below the national average, it will have to do slightly more. Those such as Daventry, and there are several others who already have good recycling rates, are required to do slightly less, but the requirements are broadly the same for everyone.

That means that progress can be measured however the recyclate is obtained, whether through doorstep collection, bring-sites or even post-collection segregation, although I take the point about contamination from dirty MRFs, which I will come on to later. That is because it is the final recycling rate that matters, in terms of resource productivity. We also want to ensure that local authorities can be responsive to the markets, and we do not want collection systems to outstrip markets, as is currently the case in some areas. Otherwise, the result is what has happened in some of the green countries in Europe, which have a very good record, with recycling rates of 30 or 40 per cent. Then they find that there is no market for the recycled product, and it all ends up in landfill anyway.

It is important to see a steady, continuing and progressive rise in recycling. We have tried to do that through the Waste and Resources Action Programme, which has £40 million of Government money at arm's length from Government. It is an organisation that is designed to find innovative ways of using recyclates and to increase markets so that we close the loop by making the waste product from one process the input into another. That is the right way to proceed. We must not get out of step by producing recyclates without being able to find proper markets for them.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford

May I put it to my right hon. Friend that he is looking to the past? There is no doubt that there have been collections that could not find sustainable markets and were dumped in landfill, which is to be deplored. However, I have had many discussions with industry, particularly the Environmental Services Association, which has said categorically that there is £1 billion to be invested tomorrow if the quantity and quality of recyclates provision can be guaranteed. A paper mill owner who I have spoken to specifically said that if only there were greater guaranteed paper deliveries for recycling he would immediately invest in another paper mill. I know that there has been a poor history, but I do believe that things have changed.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

That is a perfectly fair comment; things have changed, and we are in the lower reaches of a rising curve that is steadily gathering momentum. The Bill will be part of generating that momentum. I would only add that it is not only a question of the assured production of the recyclate and its adequate

quality, but there must also be an assurance of the market. Government have a role in trying to give preference to recycled products in order to underpin that growing market.

Photo of Mr Simon Thomas Mr Simon Thomas Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion

I would like to press the Minister on the issues. He has just set out that the Bill and the waste strategy are moving towards a reduction in the amount of materials going into landfill, and the creation of sustainable industries around recyclates. He will be aware that new clause 1, which was moved by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford, includes the obligation to collect four different types of recyclate. It sets out the list from which those four can be chosen. One can choose three if an authority has already composted.

The Minister's new clause 2 includes composting as a recyclable, but only requires two categories to be collected. It is quite easy to envisage a local authority composting and then collecting only glass. From the point of view of landfill minimisation, that is perfectly right and proper. Composting is the number one target because that makes the biggest difference to landfill. From the point of view of the markets that the Minister has talked about creating and assisting, that would be quite onerous and difficult.

I hope that the Minister will consider two issues in relation to his new clause. First, he should specify what the types of recyclables are, and secondly, he should look again at the relationship between recycling and composting. We have a situation where councils could concentrate on composting and develop only one recyclable. There could be over-provision in the recyclable market and not the sustainable industries that he and I want to see.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

I take that point. The hon. Gentleman is right that it is not acceptable that one of the recyclates should be composting. We want to encourage home composting because it is a good way for households to deal with a lot of household waste, but it would be wrong to export that compost out of the home and then count it as one of the two recyclates. I accept that we must issue guidance that makes it clear that that is not acceptable.

Having detailed my reservations, I want to be more positive. We recognise the benefits of doorstep collection as a source of recyclate, and I should go further to say that it is already happening and must happen more if local authorities are going to meet their targets. The Bill is pushing at an open door. It is important to get householders to participate because, as I have often said, we have a huge waste problem because of the throwaway culture in society in both industry and households. Getting people to change and to realise that obsolescence is not built into our lives is important, and the Bill is a good lever in effecting that change of culture, getting householders to participate even when they are not mobile and engaging the local community in sustainable waste management.

As I said, we recognise that doorstep collection is increasing. It may surprise some hon. Members to know that 58 per cent. of homes already have some

sort of doorstep collection and, off the top of my head, I think that that figure increased last year by about 7 per cent. It is increasing quickly and will need to continue to do so for the local authorities to meet the statutory targets. I accept the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford that it is unacceptable to leave the provision for only one recyclate, because that would allow councils merely to recycle paper, the rates for which are already above 90 per cent. and almost up to 100 per cent., and leave aside other waste streams. I want to emphasise not just two but at least two types of recyclate.

We think that the right answer is balance between my hon. Friend's new clause, which for reasons I have explained we think goes too far, and the current position of no prescription of collections, which hon. Members do not believe will give enough opportunity for householders to participate in recycling.

The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle asked about resources, which I was rather surprised to hear. I have repeatedly stated that the Government have a good record. First, in the current five-year period, which is covered by two spending reviews of which the third year of the first is the first year of the second, we have increased the environmental protection and cultural services element of the revenue support grant by £1.8 billion. That is a very large increase in a five-year period. It is not all for waste management, but I expect that a substantial portion will be spent on that.

Secondly, we have provided the £140 million ring-fenced challenge fund to promote recycling, which we believe is increasing local authority recycling rates by about 4 per cent. across the country. Thirdly, we have just increased the private finance initiative moneys by 60 per cent. to £355 million for infrastructure projects. By any standards, those are sizeable sums of money, and I do not think that we can be accused of not providing adequate resources.

Given the consensus in the Committee, I do not want to play party politics, but the hon. Gentleman is skating on thin ice on this topic. Hon. Members will remember that the last Conservative Government added many new burdens for local authorities, but told them to pay for them out of efficiency savings. We are not doing that, as we are providing extra money for the new responsibilities. That is the right way to do it.

Mr. Sayeed rose—

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment) 3:45 pm, 10th June 2003

The hon. Gentleman wants to come back on that. I am not sure that he is wise to do so, but I shall give way.

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

I concede the point that the Minister made. He said that when new responsibilities are imposed on local authorities, the Government will fund them. Will he confirm that he believes that the demands of the Bill will be, or have been, adequately funded by Government?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

As I said, I believe that the demands are adequately funded for two reasons. First, we have set statutory recycling targets. The only way to achieve those targets, thereby taking many authorities that

were at 5 per cent. up to between 18 per cent. and 20 per cent., is through kerbside collection. The provisions merely make de jure what is already de facto. Secondly, we have provided substantial sums of money, although I shall not list them again. The amount of extra money for the purposes contained in the Bill is miniscule compared with the money to which I have referred.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

On this point, is the Minister aware of the report on waste and audit that the Environmental Audit Committee published in April, which concluded:

''Projections based on the current rates of performance improvement indicate that we will not come close to meeting any of the national targets set for recycling or recovery. Under the current set of policies, the targets set for 2015 and 2020 in particular will be missed by a wide margin''.

The seventh point that the Committee made in its list of recommendations and conclusions was:

''Inadequate funding and a lack of clear Government guidance have made it harder for local authorities to reach the targets they have been set. We are extremely concerned that the measures taken to date do not reflect the urgency of the need for improvement''.

That is not the picture that the Minister has painted.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

I am aware of those words and I have great respect for the Environmental Audit Committee. However, those conclusions are wide of the mark in almost all respects. We have provided the resources and we have also provided the guidance—there is no question about that. We have published the Waste Strategy 2000, which may not be bedtime reading, but if Members can bear to read that document, they will find that it is pretty comprehensive, detailed and, in my view, compelling.

As to missing the targets, it is risky to make predictions as far forward as 2015 or 2020. No one can possibly know now where we shall be then. The important point is that we are changing direction, and we are in the early stages of a rising curve. How far we shall ensure that the 400 odd local authorities all meet their 2003–04 targets remains to be seen. We shall know that by the end of the year, and there will no doubt be plenty of questions about that. I do not suppose that every local authority will do so—it would be amazing if they did—but we are working hard to get as many of them as possible past that line. There will be a lot of pressure on authorities that do not manage, but even if there are some casualties in 2003–04, the chances of reaching the 2005–06 targets are high.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Labour, Stoke-on-Trent North

The questioning in which we are engaged should be related to what is relative to this debate. I am absolutely convinced that the Government have done a great deal by making more money available to achieve recycling targets. Once one starts to do something, there are always 1,000 more things that need to be done. With that in mind, does my right hon. Friend the Minister see a way forward by getting the Treasury to agree that even more needs to be done with local authorities on waste under the invest to save schemes?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

I am happy to take that on board. I often speak to colleagues in the Treasury, although not

always with great expectations. Having received the extra money to follow the strategy in the report ''Waste not, Want not'', it would be difficult at this stage to extract more without proof of the inadequacy of current funding. However, I am always happy to listen to my hon. Friend and to use every channel that is available.

I was talking about the issues that I think are known in the parlance as dirty MRFs—materials recycling facilities. Recyclates must be separate from the residual waste; there is no question about that. Therefore, it will not be acceptable to collect all the waste together and separate out the recyclates at dirty MRFs. It will be possible for recyclates to be collected together, so long as they are separate from the residual waste—that is what happens in the borough where I live.

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

On resuming—

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment) 12:00 pm, 10th June 2003

I was discussing some of the matters raised during the debate, and I had dealt with quality and not allowing contamination to occur in collection.

I have said that home composting is not for doorstep collection. We encourage it, but it is not part of these provisions. Guidance will be produced on quality, as on a number of other matters, because detailed questions have been asked and we need to provide detailed advice to local authorities. Again, I can certainly say at this stage that recovery to burn, which has been mentioned, is not recycling.

The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle, who is otherwise detained, mentioned the frequency of collection, which is a relevant point. That is a matter for local authorities—if we are to have freedom and flexibility, we do not want over-prescription by central Government—and depends on markets and local needs and circumstances. We lay down a duty to collect waste but, for the reasons that I have given, that does not include frequency.

I think that I have dealt with new burdens. We will monitor progress carefully, along with the other levers that we have, such as landfill allowances and waste implementation programme work with local authorities, but our aim is not to impose new burdens on local authorities without funding. I am glad that the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle heard me say that.

The five-year derogation, which the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Guildford mentioned, is the Secretary of State's power to give a waste collection authority that requests it up to five more years to comply with the requirement to collect recyclate separately. Obviously, that is not intended to be a loophole and to push an eminently desirable programme further into the future. We will cover in guidance circumstances in which that extension might be given. For example, current systems may deliver very good recycling rates without high coverage of

doorstep collection, so changing to doorstep collection would not be helpful in the short term.

I turn to the issues on Wales that the hon. Member for Ceredigion and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North raised, which have had quite an airing today. The hon. Gentleman wishes to extend the Bill's provisions to Wales, and I know that others wish to extend them to Northern Ireland. However, that would not be appropriate. Waste is a devolved matter and it is for devolved Administrations to decide and put in place their own waste policies. We can discuss that further with colleagues in the National Assembly for Wales, and I think that that would be helpful, but it is not for us to override or in any way interfere with their discretion. The changes that I am making to the Bill will amend the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which covers England and Wales, but this text applies to England only. We can certainly discuss that further with the Welsh, as I have said. Clause 29 of the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill will require statutory municipal waste management strategies in two-tier areas in England and in all authorities in Wales, so Wales is covered by that Bill.

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

If the Welsh Assembly does not have primary law-making powers, how can it require local authorities to undertake the provisions, which we want to see happen, and which in this Bill are for England?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

It is for the National Assembly for Wales to decide whether to have these measures. That is a matter for its discretion. If it decides that it wishes to have them, in the manner proposed in the Bill—I very much hope that it does—it can take the powers to do that.

Photo of Mr Simon Thomas Mr Simon Thomas Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion

I shall not delay the Committee too much because we want the Bill to go through, but the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire raised an important point when he said that the National Assembly does not have primary legislative powers. This Bill does not empower it to put the same statutory duty on local authorities, and it could not do that itself. As the hon. Member for Cardiff, North said, it can only work in partnership. So far partnerships have been doing well, but there may come a time when the Assembly sees the need to act. I am concerned that there is such legislative progress in this House that the Assembly does not get much of a bite at the cherry. Will the Minister consider whether an enabling clause could be included to allow such legislation to be introduced later by order?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

Perhaps I should have made it clearer that the constitutional position is that the Welsh Assembly would have to ask us for the provision to be included. That is how it would gain powers. As I have already said, we shall certainly ask the Assembly. We would be very pleased if it were included, but that has to be with its agreement. If there is agreement, there is provision for the Assembly to be included under the powers of the Bill.

The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire raised the issue of Wales, which I have tried to address. He wanted definitions of ''economic''. He will have to wait for the guidance, but I accept his point. As to how we describe two recyclates and whether that means green

bottles and clear glass bottles, the answer is clearly no. However, there could be some dubiety as to what constitutes types of recyclates, so we need to be clear. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford has provided a list, and we will certainly consider whether that is appropriate and could be incorporated.

I take the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate that much good work is done by local authorities, and that the last thing we want to do is override it and, as she put it, reinvent the wheel. We want to build on the good performances of many local authorities. She also raised the issue of laggard authorities. The real pressure on them is from the statutory best value performance indicators; those are statutory recycling targets and the Government have powers to ensure that they are implemented. I can give the assurance, as I have done many times before, that we intend to use those powers. We cannot be let down by a relatively small number of authorities that do not regard this matter as a priority.

New clause 2 requires that by the end of 2010 every waste collection in England, when arranging for the collection of waste from households, must collect at least two types of recyclate waste separate from residual waste. There are two circumstances in which that duty might not apply, which amount to a test of reasonable access: the first is whether the cost is unreasonably high—I entirely accept that I am talking about judgmental terms and we must spell out exactly how they will apply—and the second is whether comparable arrangements are available. We will provide guidance to local authorities on those issues. In addition, the Secretary of State may, at the request of a waste collection authority, defer the duty by no more than five years. That provision could be used in narrow circumstances, and we believe it to be justified, but it is not intended as a main derogation.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

Will the Minister quickly outline what circumstances would justify a derogation of five years?

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

I mentioned the example of an authority that already had high collection rates without the requirements of the Bill, and shifting to doorstep collection could be unreasonably costly. I do not think that that will be common. I repeat that we are trying to prevent at the margin some local authorities being inconvenienced if that is not justified by the purposes of the Bill. It is no more than that.

The clause provides for doorstep collection from the majority of households of at least two recyclates as a legal requirement by the end of 2010. I hope hon. Members agree that the exclusions provided are not unreasonable. In some circumstances it would be very costly to provide a doorstep service. Even the current requirement to collect waste is tempered if it is subject to unreasonably high costs.

Photo of Mr Simon Thomas Mr Simon Thomas Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion

It is important that we clear up one point. The Minister has already said that composting material should not be regarded as a recyclate. We are talking about two recyclable materials. New clause 2 (3) refers to

''the collection of at least two types of recyclable waste''.

However, paragraph (6) says:

''In this section, 'recyclable waste' means household waste which is capable of being recycled or composted.''

It would seem that, as the Minister has drafted it, there is a loophole in the new clause. I hope that he will reconsider it. We do not want local authorities that are ''laggardly'', the word used by the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate, to use the new clause to get round the need to recycle at least two genuine recyclable wastes.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

I have listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman said, but I have not had an immediate opportunity to check that against the text to which he referred. I do not believe that there is any dubiety, but he raises a fair point. Perhaps I can write to him when we have had considered that point further. If there were some uncertainty, we would wish to remove it. I do not believe that that is so, but I will try to give him an explanation.

Similarly, alternative arrangements may be more appropriate. As I said, some housing stock in some locations is better served by bring-sites and there are issues of practicality and reasonable access. However, the residents in a narrow terrace, for example, may prefer collections to be made from the end of the street. In such cases, local authorities should have the discretion to respond to local circumstances. We will provide guidance on those issues.

We have also considered carefully the minimum number of materials that should be required to be collected. Hon. Members, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford, sought four.

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

On resuming—

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment) 4:36 pm, 10th June 2003

The Division bell has properly drawn my remarks to a slightly premature conclusion: they were long enough. I have fully explained the purpose of the Government changes and I commend new clauses 2 and 3 to the Committee.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford

I thank all the Committee members who have made contributions. I will not respond to them, they were all quite properly directed at my right hon. Friend the Minister and sought further clarification on some of the points that I have raised. I also thank my right hon. Friend for his contribution.

I thank all hon. Members for their congratulations to me, and the Minister for his tributes to my assistants and me. I would like to return the compliment by thanking him for his persistence and co-operation in getting the Bill to the point that it has reached today. I am also grateful to him for putting the Bill into the context of the Government's overall waste strategy. I share the Government's aims of enabling us to move to greater sustainable management of waste.

The Minister let out the fact that, when we were in discussions, there was a suggestion that only one waste stream might be recycled under the provisions of the

Bill as a result of a Government amendment. I am delighted that he rejected that suggestion today. He said that it was not just a case of having two waste streams but—and I wrote down what he said—at least two waste streams; he said that with emphasis. All of us are very grateful to the Minister for that assurance and for the many other assurances that he has given in response to our questions.

The Minister also said that the only way that local authorities could reach the statutory targets would be by measures of this kind; I am grateful for that, too. It was important that he clarified that two waste streams could not be green glass and brown glass, that recyclates must be separated from residual waste, that home composting and recovery to burn would not be acceptable, and so forth. As I said, that was all important to me at the outset, and others have said that, too. We could not proceed if we did not have those reassurances. If I did not have them, I would not be in a position not to press new clause 1.

I am now well satisfied. Although we would wish to have other elements of the Government's new clauses explained further, the fact that the Minister has said that he will issue guidance that will take account of what members of the Committee have said again reassures me. It leads me to believe that, although, as other hon. Members have said, the Bill does not give us all that we want, it gives us much that is worth while and that will move local authorities further. I shall not press new clause 1, and I am content to support the Government's new clauses.

I am also pleased that the Minister has said that the Government do not intend to impose these duties without making funding available. We shall rely on that, and I know that local authorities will be glad to have heard that. I am also glad that the Welsh Assembly will be asked whether it also wishes to have the powers. I am sure that we all want that to happen, particularly our Welsh colleagues.

For all those reasons, I am content with the Minister's response. The new clauses that have been tabled are acceptable to me and, I hope, to other members of the Committee.

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

My worries about the Bill related to the escape clauses—the definitions of unreasonable and economic. I am grateful for the Minister's important assurances and for what he said about Wales, as the Bill must encompass as much of the United Kingdom as possible. I was also pleased to have his assurance on the definition of waste types. On that basis, I am happy to support the proposal to accept the changes to the original Bill, as outlined by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

I concur with the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire. I very much hope that the Minister will consider, before the 2010 deadline, giving statutory force to a requirement for there to be more than two types of recyclable material. Bracknell Forest borough council, for example, found that the number of cans collected increased by 53 per cent. when it started to collect

plastic bottles as well. There is firm evidence to show that, if the variety is increased, the volume increases. However, we will have time aplenty to return to the Bill. The important thing is to get it on to the statute book.

I listened carefully to what the Minister said about resources. Local authorities, especially those in the south-east, will be particularly anxious to know that resources will be spread equally and fairly. I am sure that the Minister will be held to his comment that no new duties will be imposed on local authorities without proper funding.

Although it is not the Bill that we had hoped for, I am pleased to be able to support it. I am grateful to the Minister for dragging a less than enthusiastic Secretary of State and Treasury colleagues into supporting the Bill, which has been so ably championed by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford. I am pleased, on behalf of the official Opposition, to support it.

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

I shall speak briefly, as I made the point that I wanted to make earlier. I thank the Minister for his commitment that recycling means recycling and does not mean composting or going to dirty MRFs and for his strong commitment that local authorities will not carry additional burdens, as that would be counter-productive. I also thank him for the contribution that that will make to increasing the amount of recyclates taken from incinerators and landfill and reused as resources. In our deliberations on other Bills, we talked about the need for considering zero waste and the much better use of resources. The Bill is a step in the right direction. I appreciate the work that has been done to place it on to the statute book and to start seeing it deliver.

Question put and negatived.

Clause 1 disagreed to.

Clauses 2 to 5 disagreed to.