Clause 17 - Strategy for England

Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 8th April 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 55, in

clause 17, page 11, line 20, insert 'reducing' before 'the amount'.

No. 56, in

clause 17, page 11, line 22, insert 'reducing' before 'the amount'.

No. 57, in

clause 17, page 11, line 23, at end add—

'( ) reducing the quantity of waste arisings, including waste arisings from households, by 2010 from 2002 levels,

( ) providing every household with a separate collection for the recycling of dry recyclable waste, and

( ) providing every household with either a home composter or a separate collection of biodegradable waste.'.

No. 58, in

clause 17, page 11, line 27, after 'by', insert

'waste minimisation, reuse of waste products,'.

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

On a point of order, Mr. Amess. There seems to be an inconsistency with the Government's amendments in a later group. I say that now to give the Minister enough time to consult his officials to see whether my reading is correct. The Government intend to strike out subsection (5), which would give waste disposal authorities extra powers to include requirements about the separation of waste by the waste collection authority. Reference also appears to be made to subsection (4), which would be struck out under amendment No. 61. If I have understood that correctly, I am slightly confused as to what the Minister is trying to do. If I have misunderstood, there is enough time for him to correct my misunderstanding.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment) 4:15 pm, 8th April 2003

Further to that point of order, Mr. Amess, I am not sure whether this is a matter for you or me. If it is for me, the hon. Gentleman is referring to the third group of amendments to the clause. With characteristic generosity he has given me time to gather my thoughts on the matter, which I appreciate, so that when we come to it I shall be able to give him an informed answer. Perhaps I can take note of those points and we can move to the first set of amendments.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Here we go, once again, on the widening of the Bill. That will appeal to the Minister's better nature.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I hope he has.

The amendments will change somewhat the nature of the Bill because they will include the waste hierarchy, which we can all agree is extremely important. By taking out the word ''reducing'' in subsection (1) and putting it before

''the amount of biodegradable waste from England that goes to landfills''

and

''the amount of biodegradable waste from outside England that goes to landfills in England'',

we can add the proposed new paragraphs detailed in amendment No. 57. I hope that that will widen the Bill and improve its quality. We want to include as much as possible the desire that waste be recycled or reused rather than incinerated. That is important because although the Secretary of State's strategy does not deal with reducing landfill alone, it does not include the upper echelons: waste minimisation, recycling and composting at home. By including those we can accelerate towards the targets, rather than trigger an increase in incineration, which is my worry. Later amendments will touch on the issue. All the time we are trying to increase what is done before reaching the landfill conundrum. If every household had a home composter or a separate collection of biodegradable waste, we could perhaps do more, better and faster. That would help us achieve the targets better.

There are other amendments in the group, to which hon. Members want to speak, so I shall not take too much time. However, the amendment is constructive. Friends of the Earth has studied the amendments and I am grateful for its help.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

My hon. Friend has put his finger on a good point, which is about the Bill's lack of an holistic, national strategy for recycling, composting, reuse and minimisation. Does he think the Government are reluctant to articulate a really bold national strategy in this or any other Bill because they probably know full well that such a strategy will, rightly, prompt questions about national funding, and that they will not be able to dodge the resourcing issue that we have seen them attempting to dodge all the way through the debates on this legislation?

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention; I agree with him. I do not wish to detain the Committee. Unless I have misunderstood the Minister's intention, we should accept the

amendments quickly and without a great deal of debate. That would be helpful, and I look forward to his greeting them with open arms.

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

I offer my hon. Friend my support. The amendments require a much broader and more comprehensive waste strategy than that outlined in the Bill. I also urge that similar requirements be placed on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through equivalent amendments to clauses 18, 19 and 20. It is crucial that the Bill, in persuading councils to turn away from landfill, does not drive them towards incineration rather than encouraging them towards minimisation, reuse and recycling.

Although I accept that the Minister often talks about and believes in the waste hierarchy, there is nothing in the Bill that promotes recycling over and above the burning of waste. The amendments would add to the duty to produce a strategy for reducing biodegradable waste, duties to put into effect waste minimisation and to provide all homes with doorstep recycling and composting. The duty for doorstep recycling is particularly important. It encourages higher participation and results in higher quality materials that are less contaminated. It allows all households to do their bit and to become part of a waste-minimising, waste-recycling, greener society.

Relying on bring banks makes it difficult for elderly people, those without cars and those who find it difficult to take things a long distance in order to get them recycled to participate. Doorstep recycling is important because it is more convenient and encourages greater participation. That point was endorsed by the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee in March 2001, when it said:

''It may seem rather obvious but if householders are to recycle their waste, they must be given the opportunity to do so relatively easily. In practice, this means that kerbside collections of recyclable materials are required . . . Kerbside collections are much more convenient for householders than taking separated materials for recycling to 'banks' around the locality. For many years, such 'banks' or 'bring sites' have been the main method of collection . . . but they suffer from many limitations. They require collection, sorting and a journey for the householder, the banks themselves often become full or soiled and this acts as a disincentive to further efforts to recycle. The simplest argument against 'bring sites' being the main future route of collection is a logistical one: while there continues to be a kerbside collection of the 'black bag' of waste materials from every household, it makes sense to try and include the collection of recyclables in that system.''

That report was supported by Government—at least my reading of the Government's response to it was that they supported the proposition. My question is, therefore, why is it not included in the Bill? We clearly need a degree of flexibility for local authorities in different areas with different circumstances. In some densely populated urban areas, bring banks may be more feasible. I think in particular of those in high-rise flats, although it is a problem that has been overcome in places like Germany. The Government need to think more imaginatively and more comprehensively about how we deal with waste.

I hope that the Government will not seek to water down the provisions of the private Member's Bill on municipal waste recycling introduced by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan

Ruddock). It was supported by the Government on Second Reading. The Minister entered a series of caveats about what he could or could not support. It will be regrettable if we end up with piecemeal legislation that does not deal with the fundamental problem. The problem with this Bill at the moment is that there is no disincentive to incineration. There is no encouragement for recycling. As a consequence we may move from one bad way of dealing with waste to another.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

I am happy to concur with all the comments of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire. I return to a point that I and others in the Committee made at an earlier stage: the Bill is about implementing the European Union landfill directive, not about implementing the Government's waste hierarchy and waste strategy. It is one element. The Minister put up a brave case to refute that accusation, but the first line of the clause states:

''The Secretary of State must have a strategy''.

Here we have a strategy. What does it do? According to the Bill it simply seeks to remove the amount of biodegradable waste that goes to landfills. In other words, it is about controlling the landfill problem brought about by the EU landfill directive.

It is impossible to have a strategy to deal with just one aspect of the waste hierarchy or the waste chain, if I can call it that. Everything is connected to everything else, as Lenin once said. Labour Members might have some dim and distant recollection of him. The signals that the Government send out on recycling or landfill will affect what happens with incineration, waste minimisation and reuse of materials. If the Secretary of State is to have a strategy—I hope that he will and I fully endorse that concept—he needs to look at the waste hierarchy in its entirety. The Minister cannot get away from that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) and I have tabled new clauses 13 to 16 precisely to give the Secretary of State such a strategy. I am a bit surprised that they are not grouped with this set of amendments. I hope, Mr. Amess, that you will be patient with me when I refer to them. New clause 13 asks the Secretary of State to have a strategy for

''setting of statutory targets for the recycling of waste streams from (i) households; (ii) construction and demolition waste; (iii) business . . . developing a mandatory doorstep recycling scheme in all local authorities within a period of 5 years . . . developing the market for recycled materials and goods in parallel with the increase in collected materials''.

We also refer to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in subsequent new clauses. We must deal with this problem on a UK-wide basis.

I do not dissent from the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Leominster at all. This is perhaps a slightly different means of achieving the same ends. I will not be as churlish as the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings and suggest that one is preferable to the other: I simply say that there are two different routes. I would be happy if our route or that proposed by the hon. Member for Leominster were chosen. I would not be happy if we ended up with the strategy set out in the Bill, which does not seem to

achieve what the majority of the Committee wishes to see.

We want the Government's waste hierarchy to be achieved. They want to see minimisation. There is no dispute about that. They then want to see reuse and recycling. They do not particularly want to see incineration and they put it only marginally above landfill. That is where the critical mass of opinion is in this House and in the country. We will have the debate on incineration shortly, but the signals sent out by the clause seem to encourage incineration not on a par with recycling, but, for reasons that other Members and I shall give, above recycling. The signals in the Bill are wrong to that effect.

We know that people want to recycle more. When they are given the opportunity to do so, they take it. If they are asked to take their recyclables to an inconvenient site some distance from their home, they will do so, even though it is inconvenient. They have an appetite for recycling, and when they are given the opportunity for doorstep or kerbside recycling, they take it and the amount of waste collected rises enormously. We know that that happens from schemes that have been introduced by different local authorities throughout the country—whether Labour, Liberal Democrat or Conservative. The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) will know of a very good example from Wealden district council, which covers part of my constituency. It has introduced a good scheme in Polegate and elsewhere, which has enormously increased the amount of waste collected and recycled. From a slow start, schemes have grown quickly, which proves what can be done.

An appetite exists for recycling. The Minister has said that he is prepared to agree with the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford, but that there are several caveats. That is acceptable because he has to clear the Bill with other people in Government, not least the Treasury. However, if that Bill is not passed or is filleted beyond recognition, the Government will pay a heavy price. They will have been seen to stop a measure that commands support across the House and throughout the country. I hope that the Minister will relay that point to his colleagues and bear it in mind. There is no question but that there is support for that Bill in the House.

As I mentioned, there is an appetite for recycling—nine out of 10 people would recycle more if it were made easier, according to the Environment Agency survey released on 23 May 2002. Almost 80 per cent. of household waste could be recycled or composted, reducing the need for landfill. The average household produces 1 tonne of waste each year, and that figure is increasing by 3 per cent. a year.

The Minister is an honest man, and he has been good enough to recognise on several occasions that the problem is a major one, that targets are tough and that strong action must be taken. However, if we try to deal with the problem in the narrow way set out in the clause—simply focusing on what can be diverted from landfill without addressing the waste hierarchy or

waste minimisation points and reuse opportunities—we will fail.

Where are the measures in the Government's strategy to minimise waste? The Minister may say that they are working on the packaging directive and bits and pieces here, there and everywhere, but their work must be tied in. Everything is connected to everything else, and it is impossible to have the strategy on only one narrow focus. The Government have had the strategy since 2000, and there has also been the Cabinet Office report, to which a response is due shortly. They are doing many sensible things, but those things must be brought together. The Bill, and the strategy that it sets out, provides an opportunity for doing that.

The Government are seeking, almost desperately, to divert the waste stream from landfill. That is the Bill's purpose in the minds of those who drafted it. I agree with that aim as far as it goes, but they have taken it no further. We need a strategy for best practice, which means implementing the Government's waste hierarchy, and I do not believe that the clause as drafted will do that. It will simply shove off the problem somewhere else and lead to incineration up and down the country, for the reasons given by the hon. Members for Mid-Bedfordshire and for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead) and by me in several contributions. We will come to that debate shortly, but it is necessary that the Government's work should be widened. I hope that the Minister will examine that point seriously and look sympathetically at the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Leominster or at new clauses 13 to 16, which we tabled. It is not sufficient to leave things as they are.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:30 pm, 8th April 2003

I am grateful for the opportunity to add my voice to this important debate on an important clause. The hon. Member for Lewes mentioned Lenin, and I was reminded that it was Lenin—rather typically, a feckless intellectual among reckless bourgeois liberals—who caused the devastating Russian revolution. We must constantly beware of bourgeois liberals.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I will not go on with that, Mr. Amess, because you would not let me. I shall continue with the thrust of the argument that is emerging, which is that the problem is not what is in the Bill, but what has been left out. Most of what is in it is fairly agreeable. We have established that the Bill's objectives command the support of the official Opposition and the minor parties. The problem is that the Bill might be seen purely as legislative cover. That was the Minister's devastating slip of the tongue early in our proceedings: that we need the Bill to provide legislative cover.

If the Bill were solely legislative cover, it would not be good enough. If it is part of a bigger picture, an holistic approach to a national waste management plan or strategy, it is a useful and valuable tool. I suspect that that slip of the tongue does not betray the Minister's real feelings, but that he believes that the

Bill is an important part of a strategy and he is determined to see that through. However, we have no evidence of that. We have the Minister's word and reputation, which I value and trust, but we see no sign that the Bill fits into a bigger picture and forms part of a jigsaw.

The amendments give us an opportunity to explore that possibility. It is inappropriate to consider waste disposal and a proper attack on landfill out of the context of reuse, recovery and recycling. I accept that it would be inappropriate for the Bill to do everything. This is not a huge piece of legislation covering those important and complicated issues, but it must at least refer to them and signal that it is part of a bigger picture. The Bill must suggest that the Government see it as one element in the national waste strategy that I believe the Minister desires and that Conservative Members and, in fairness, the hon. Members for Lewes and for Guildford desire. The obligations, duties and responsibilities that are necessary parts of developing that strategy must be signalled in the Bill.

Amendment No. 57 deals with waste arising from households; providing households with a separate collection for the recycling of dry recyclable waste; and an increase in composting through the provision of a home composter or separate collection of biodegradable waste. Those are important small steps towards the national strategy that we strongly recommend. It would therefore be unthinkable not to include those matters.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

I very much support my hon. Friend's excellent points, but is he aware that, last year, the Environment Agency commissioned research that showed that people were very positive about recycling? According to its research, nine out of 10 people surveyed on household waste claimed that they would be very likely to sort rubbish for recycling if the local council provided containers. The strategy unit commissioned MORI to inform its report. It found that the demand for kerbside collection services was high. Three in four people say that they would recycle more if such services were available to them.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My hon. Friend makes an important point: half the battle on recycling concerns the quality of collection. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire said many times during his time on the Front Bench, half the battle is separating collections effectively and communicating that to the public, so that they know how to present their waste in a form that can easily be recycled and can be confident that recycling will take place. As was said earlier in Committee, there is concern that once rubbish has been collected, it all ends up in the same bin and not even the majority of it is properly recycled. Public confidence is important. Effective provision, in which the public can believe, must be available. In those circumstances, people will, undoubtedly, buy into the principle of recycling, which, along with the reduction of landfill, must be regarded as a key part of the strategy. The importance of the amendments is that they signal that link and that connection clear. Further legislation will be required, but they facilitate the opportunity for us to legislate in other areas to make that desired end a reality.

The second important issue thrown up by this brief discussion is incineration. I do not want to spend long on that subject now because we shall debate it in a few moments, but if we are to be serious about the waste hierarchy and to create distance between good and poor practice, we must not simply transfer our priority from landfill to incineration. However, there are legitimate concerns that that may happen unless we firm up our priorities at this stage. That was well articulated on Second Reading by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test, who made an excellent contribution and has expertise in the field—considerably more expertise, I suspect, than I have. That important point should be signalled now. If it is not, the wrong message will be broadcast and the Bill will be seen merely as a legislative cover.

The Minister described the Conservative party earlier, in an unwise remark, as a party of rugged individualism. How could he possibly call the party of Burke, Wilberforce and Shaftesbury a party of rugged individualism? The amendments suggest that we believe in obligation and responsibility. Our approach to waste is to reinforce responsibility and a sense of continuum—it appears that we are about to hear an intervention on Conservative philosophy.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test

I was just going to ask the hon. Gentleman whether the party of rugged individualism favours centralised planning. I also wanted to reflect on the lesson of the new economic policy and the final path to communism, which, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, was articulated by Lenin in 1921 to Sovnarkom, and developed the idea of the partiality of certain moves in that direction, as opposed to the whole picture. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is merely saying that the Bill does not deal with everything and, therefore, is not the best Bill that could be proposed, when it is actually a Bill about waste and emissions trading.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am rather better read on Marx than on Lenin, so I should be delighted to debate Marxism at some stage in Committee, although I suspect that that might be pushing your indulgence to its absolute limits, Mr. Amess, and I would never do that.

On a serious point, we believe that waste policy must be part of a continuum and part of a long-term plan that is broad and holistic. The amendments would go some way towards achieving that, so they are entirely consistent with the true nature of Conservatism and are extremely helpful.

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

I support the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes and the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings. It is an important point, to which the Committee has returned again and again, that we are not here to gold-plate European regulations—I am sure that the Conservatives would not want to do that—but to come up with good legislation that meets Europe's reasonable expectations and to move towards a more appropriate waste strategy. That is the point of the amendments and of later clauses.

The new clauses proposed by the hon. Member for Leominster, none of which I object to in principle,

mention reducing the quantity of waste but do not say by how much. They should be more specific. That is integral to reducing the amount of biodegradable municipal waste that goes to landfill.

We would support the separate collection of dry recyclable wastes. Like many hon. Members, we favour doorstep recycling and support the Bill proposed by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford. It is important for doorstep recycling to be available to everyone. Many councils have tried to achieve that, but we are still working towards it in many areas. That would help in relation to the amount of waste that goes to landfill.

We have heard about every household having a composter or making a separate collection of biodegradable waste. There are composters and green cones. Composters are appropriate for normal garden waste, peelings and uncooked waste, and I support the idea of every household having them if, by households, we mean houses with gardens. There is no point in those living in flats having composters, but that distinction is not made here. I should like the Bill to say by when such measures should be taken and to propose practical steps to move towards that.

Green cones are not mentioned. They are small devices that gobble up cooked waste—the sort of waste that would not be suitable for the composter—and are particularly useful for those with gardens. There is additional waste that cannot be disposed of by either of those methods. We need only look at the statistics: August is the high point of the season for councils that collect green waste; it is when we prune the overabundant greenery that we should have pruned in spring. Spring is the other time when the waste is woody and cannot be composted down.

Councils have tried to deal with woody waste in many ways, because it is the sort of thing that, in a landfill, produces a lot of methane. It is amazing how much methane wood produces. My constituency contains a contaminated site that is the subject of a planning application. It has a large volume of wood chippings on it and is leaching methane and causing huge problems. Councils assist in a variety of ways, including providing a ''nippy chippy'': a householder pays £10, and a man shreds the waste and gives it back in bags. That is a virtuous circle. We have considered taking green waste away in bags for nothing if it encourages people to get rid of it ready sorted—then it can go to the most appropriate sort of disposal and not into landfill.

On my local council, there are three parties that divide in various ways according to the topic. The Labour environment chair would like to charge 20p for a green bag. I suspect that the cost of doing that is higher than that of giving the bags away for nothing. Although many good methods of reducing the amount of green waste are already employed, we can do more. We can ensure that we put out green bags and that woody waste that will not degenerate quickly in a compost heap is taken away.

My other point is that although we would all like to have composters, some people, for one reason or

another, will do very little about composting. We must also ensure that they are getting separated green waste taken away from their doorsteps. We would prefer it to rot in situ, rather than have to be taken away at all. We would also prefer to have lots of time to do the gardening, as I did on Sunday when I shovelled the stuff from my composter and tried to breathe life into the roses with it.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:45 pm, 8th April 2003

I do not want to shorten the hon. Lady's fascinating account of her weekend activities, but is she saying that she does not like the amendments because they do not go far enough, or that she likes them because they are a start? She should be clear, and, we hope, brief, about her view of them.

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

If the hon. Gentleman had not been in the middle of a conversation, he would have heard me say that I agreed with every point that he made, that the amendments did not go far enough and that he identified areas in which they did not go far enough. I am afraid that my gardening enterprise lasted only for two hours this weekend, so my intervention describing it will not be lengthy.

I fully support the objectives, but believe that there is more still to be added.

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

Having listened to the debate, I feel like saying, ''Oh dear, I have a confession to make.'' Three hail Marys are required, as I have obviously absolutely and utterly failed to win acceptance of the fundamental point. I said on Second Reading and reiterated in Committee, and must now do so again, that a Government strategy or plan does not have to be concentrated in a single Bill. The important thing is that the Government have an identifiable strategy with connecting parts that can be properly located and that functions properly. I insist that that is the situation. This is a debate about waste minimisation and reuse. As I say repeatedly, and as we all agree, those are the two most important points of the waste hierarchy: do not create the waste in the first place, or minimise the amount of waste that is created, and reuse or recover what one can.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

I heard what the Minister said, but the Select Committee on Environmental Audit Committee has just come to the end of its investigation into the Government's waste policy. If it is true that the Government have a strategy, as the Minister says, why did almost every witness that we called, bar the Secretary of State, bemoan the lack of a strategy and the singular lack of political leadership on such a strategy?

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

The hon. Gentleman should ask those who formed that judgment. There may have been political considerations, but that is a ridiculous conclusion to draw about the objective and technical assessment of the landscape. We made it clear that we believe in waste minimisation at the top of the hierarchy. This is not necessarily the moment to set out in detail the ways in which we are trying to incentivise it. We are trying to incentivise it, and we are open to any suggestions about how that can be strengthened or indulged further. The cost of

disposal is likely to be the greatest driver in ensuring that waste minimisation is incentivised. We are incentivising it through the landfill tax and will also incentivise it through the Bill by limiting the amount going to landfill. That does mean that alternatives must be produced and paid for.

The second requirement is to recover, reuse and recycle—to compost. We set three requirements to deliver that strategy. One was to set mandatory recycling targets, which I set in 1998–99, for every local authority to double recycling by 2003–04 and to treble it by 2005–06. I have already outlined to the Committee the money that we provided to enable local authorities to do that, which I believe is adequate. We also required recyclates to be marketed: there is no point in collecting them and sending them off to landfill sites. We set up the Waste and Resources Action Programme with a budget of £40 million to find innovative uses for recycled goods. It is doing quite a good job, of which there are many good examples. At the same time, we are trying to ensure through a range of measures that incineration does not become the next cheapest option to landfill. Again, I shall elaborate on that in the next debate.

I insist that there is a clear strategy. It is not perfect. One can always argue about whether the delivery mechanisms are doing as well as they could in every part of the country. One could say—this is the point of the private Member's Bill currently going through the House—that kerbside recycling is not as universal or effective as it should be. I would agree. However, that practice is expanding fast, and although we are still not where we want to be, there is a strategy.

One cannot honestly, fairly and objectively say that there is no strategy. It was set out in ''Waste Strategy 2000''. Nothing will have as massive an impact as a strategy for the whole country, with its 60 million people. The growth rate for the waste that we are discussing is 3 per cent. a year; 400 million tonnes are wasted—enough to fill the Albert hall every hour. Dealing with that is a massive task, but there is a strategy.

As for political leadership, that is for others to judge, but I believe that there is strong political leadership. If people think that it is not as vigorous as it should be, I would like to know in which respects they think so—[Interruption.] I am not inviting detailed comment on that, but the hon. Member for Lewes has been trying to intervene.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Everyone recognises that he has a hierarchy, to which he adheres in his mind, as we do. At issue is whether the economic instruments and other measures will ensure that the hierarchy is implemented in order. I want to return to the point made by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle. I know that the Minister is committed to, and understands, these issues more than almost anyone else in Government, so I hope that he will not take this personally; it is not intended that way. Why does someone as elevated as the chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, Jonathon Porritt, single out the waste policy and transport as

the two areas in which the Government are failing? Why would he do that if things were hunky-dory?

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

They are not hunky-dory, for the reasons that I have given. The waste situation is not only not hunky-dory, but is going seriously and fast in the wrong direction. It must be pulled round dramatically, vigorously and forcibly, which is exactly what the waste strategy is designed to do—[Interruption.] I will not be drawn on transport, but everyone knows that that is another extraordinarily difficult issue. No one in government will say that waste and transport policy is currently producing the results that we all want; it is not.

My responsibility is waste, not transport, and I am arguing that we are putting in place measures that will deliver on that. There are delivery mechanisms apart from the higher level targets. Reference has been made to the packaging waste directive and the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive. There are also the end of life vehicles directive and the batteries directive. Much of that is Brussels-driven. I am trying to take firm action on junk mail, which outrages me. Other delivery measures are necessary, and we are contemplating them.

I insist that, although the problem is bad and getting worse, as we bring to bear those forces—I am almost tempted to refer to the overwhelming firepower that we have been hearing about in recent weeks—we will begin to batten the defences and to overcome.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I think that the Minister is being slightly over-sensitive, certainly about my criticisms. I do doubt neither that there is determination, nor his personal knowledge of, and commitment to, the subject. I do not even doubt that a strategy may be in place. ''Waste Not, Want Not'' is a good document from the strategy unit. There is also the Government's ''Waste Strategy 2000'', and a number of other legislative measures have been adopted.

My anxiety is to ensure that those measures knit together consistently, and that that is well known and understood. My particular anxiety about the Bill is that there are not sufficient hooks—sufficient points of contact between it and the other matters to which the amendments refer—to broadcast such a message to the wider public. That may be why Mr. Porritt and others are critical of the strategy. Perhaps the Minister does not sell it well enough. Our job is to ensure that the Bill makes the necessary links and suggests an interlocking programme of measures of the type that he assures us are in place.

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

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that there should be interlocking measures and engagement between the various levers and mechanisms to ensure that the whole machine works in a compatible and effective manner. The only difference between us is that I do not believe that one has to do that all in one Bill. Indeed, it is inappropriate to do so if those measures are set down in other legislative mechanisms, such as EU directives.

The hon. Member for Lewes thought that he had scored the winning point when he said that clause 17(1) begins:

''The Secretary of State must have a strategy''.

However, he did not go on to quote the rest of the sentence, which adds

''for reducing—

(a) the amount of biodegradable waste . . . and

(b) the amount of biodegradable waste from outside England that goes to landfills in England.''

It is not the Bill's purpose to have a strategy that is composite and comprehensive over all waste matters; it has one specific purpose. That is what it says, and that is what it delivers. As one advances a strategy, one does not extract all its ingredients from previous legislation and put it all in one Bill, unless one has a consolidating measure, as the Treasury occasionally does, but which we do not have here.

It is 5 o'clock, so I will turn to the amendment. [Hon. Members: ''Carry on.''] I should carry on.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes 5:00 pm, 8th April 2003

The Minister misunderstands my point. A waste stream is one unified whole, so it is impossible to say that there is a strategy for one bit of it and to pretend that it will not have consequences elsewhere; it will. There will be consequences for incineration, which I believe will be adverse. There will be consequences for waste minimisation, which I hope will be beneficial. The Minister believes that the strategy can be regarded in isolation, but it cannot.

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

I am not suggesting that it should be regarded in isolation. Of course it has implications elsewhere. If any hon. Members think that the impact in other areas is inconsistent, weakening or irrelevant or that it does not go in the right direction, of course it is highly relevant and they should point it out.

One should not take just one particular element. I do not believe that my use of the term ''legislative cover'' was a slip of the tongue. It was accurate because we will have the power to deal with the amounts going to landfill, which we did not have. The Bill will give us legislative cover to enforce a steady reduction in the materials going to landfill, in accordance with the EU landfill directive. That is its purpose.

Of course landfill links in with incineration, recycling and waste minimisation, and that is what we are discussing. All I would say is that those links are perfectly consistent and proper. If that is not the case, we should be debating that, rather than the fact that this Bill is not a compendium.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

This is a real disagreement. We have reached such a point despite the good will that has permeated the Committee and the high regard that all of the Committee members have, I hope, for the proceedings. One cannot argue that this is legislative cover to deal reactively with something that has originated elsewhere—as the Minister rightly says, we need to fulfil our obligations under the EU directive—while claiming that it is part of an ambitious, proactive strategy with long-term vision.

I hope that it is the latter, and at least that it will not impair the latter, but that it will fit in. I hope that there will be significant signals in the Bill—interlocking points, references and arguments, such as those raised by the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster—which broadcast that fact

and facilitate the relationship between this legislation and other measures that might form part of that strategy. That is the simple difference between us.

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

Having listened to the hon. Gentleman, I am immensely relieved that the strong, robust relationship that we have formed during the proceedings is not to be shattered, because I agree that we need interlocking points and points of connection between the Bill and the rest of the strategy.

I believe that we have a strategy that is broadly acceptable. Does the Bill in any way undermine that strategy, weaken it or send it off in the wrong direction? If the answer is yes, that is what we should be talking about in the Committee.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

But does the Minister accept that there is one huge, glaring omission in the Bill? The Bill will not merely add to what has gone before; it will actively displace waste into incineration by introducing fiscal measures that will distort the market and incentivise waste disposal authorities to send waste to incinerators. The Minister has accepted the need for a review, but we see no signs of fiscal measures to redress the balance.

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

The hon. Gentleman is simply wrong. I insist point blank that there is nothing in the Bill that incentivises incineration. I hate to impose on your good will, Mr. Amess, because we are about to discuss, no doubt at length, the role of incineration in legislation and how that relates to the Bill. I will give very good reasons for believing that such incentivisation will not happen. There are very powerful levers operating in the other direction, and I will discuss those when we debate the next clause.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

The Minister talks about the hierarchy and the framework, which he says is only an element, rather than the whole, of the strategy. Can he explain why there is no reference to a waste hierarchy in the Bill? In fact, clause 17(3) says that

''recycling, composting, biogas production, materials recovery or energy recovery.''

are to be treated equally.

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

We can debate that part of the Bill, although it is not what we are debating now. I dispute the hon. Gentleman's claim. One does not need to mention the waste hierarchy in every Bill to show that one believes in it. The Government have published their ''Waste Strategy 2000'', and until they publish one that supersedes it, it remains, rightly or wrongly, the Government strategy. It may be open to criticism, but that is the strategy, and we are operating in accordance with it.

I shall try to make some rapid progress on amendments Nos. 54, 55 and 56, which are consequential to amendment No. 57, which is rather more substantial. Amendment No. 57 would require the strategy to reduce, by 2010, waste arisings from households from 2002 levels, and that is a very important driver. The amendment seeks to provide every household with a separate collection of dry recyclables and either a home composter or a separate

collection of biodegradable waste. The hon. Member for Guildford waxed eloquent on all of those.

I agree that those are important issues. However, we are already looking at ways in which we can achieve waste minimisation, which is central to reducing the growth in waste. The strategy unit recommended a package of measures to reduce waste, with a target of cutting waste growth from 3 per cent. to 2 per cent. That might seem modest, and I think that it is, but if we can achieve that we will start, for the first time, to go in the other direction. Waste growth has to come down to nought and to minus 1 or minus 2, but we are a long, long way from achieving that. Let us first get from 3 per cent. to 2 per cent. We will be looking at that extremely seriously.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes

Honestly, to say that we are going to reduce growth from 3 per cent. to 2 per cent. is an admission of failure before we even start. That is like the Government's road traffic reduction targets, which are not about reducing traffic at all but about reducing the growth in traffic. The Minister is saying that growth will continue, whereas we must do something to get into minus figures. I hope that the Minister will not accept the plus figure as a halfway house.

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

I am the first to say that it is a modest target. However, the occupational hazard of activists like the hon. Gentleman, and I respect his enthusiasm and commitment, is that they set very stretching but unrealistic targets. We do not achieve them, and everyone loses heart and thinks that nothing can be done. It is important to set more difficult but relatively modest targets, and then we can cut them further. It would be easy to say that we were aiming for minus 1 per cent. by 2006—that is the sort of easy target that some indulge in—but I would much prefer a more modest target. Even so, it will not be easy to achieve 2 per cent.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I want to wrap the matter up as much as the Minister does, but although he is right about targets, we have to be cautious. Targets should be ambitious but achievable. The Minister needs to be picked up once more on the relationship between the Bill and other legislation. The point is not legitimisation and perhaps not even an incentive—I may even disagree with my hon. Friends about that—but a possible by-product of the Bill is that it would certainly encourage incineration. That will have an impact on waste hierarchy, because people will have nowhere else to go, unless we simultaneously press for reuse, recovery and recycling, as suggested in the amendments. The point about the amendment is that it would give local authorities another method apart from incineration. The Minister must surely agree.

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

Of course I do; I am absolutely and totally at one with the hon. Gentleman. I have done everything possible to set ambitious but achievable targets for recycling. I shall not make a political point—perhaps I will—by saying that we inherited a recycling figure of 6 per cent. The figure is now 13 per cent.—[Interruption.] The hon.

Gentleman is too sensitive. We aim to get to 17 per cent. nationally in 2003–04, and to 25 per cent. by 2005–06—those are really stretching targets, and we have provided the money to strive for them. They are powerful drivers.

I do not want to get involved in a debate on incineration, but one of the guidelines that I laid down in September 2000 was that there should be no approval for proposals for incineration plants that pre-empted or discouraged the maximum performance of recycling. There may be cases in which incineration could be the best practical environmental option, and we shall come to that later. However, I am determined to drive the optimal, if not maximum, increase in recovery, reuse, recycling and composting, in addition to waste minimisation. That is the heart of the strategy.

We discussed in another context provisions similar to the other two subsections. I agree that it is important to give as many householders as possible the opportunity to participate in recycling. That secures good participation rates, especially for those who do not have access to a car or who are elderly or disabled. It also secures a clean and regular source of recyclate for the market. However, we want to look at these issues in the round.

In some areas, collection will not be appropriate to the housing type, and dense ''bring'' sites would be better. Which recyclate should be collected—dry or compostable—depends on what market can be secured for the product. I hope that that is agreed. We are requiring output, in terms of reduction in landfill, and in recycling and composting targets, rather than process, in terms of collection. We agree that that will mean a substantial roll-out of doorstep collection, but that is not an aim in itself. We shall return to that subject in a private Member's Bill. The hon. Member for Lewes should allow the Government the opportunity to pursue what I said on Second Reading rather than threatening me with the possible consequences.

Amendment No. 58 would add ''waste minimisation'' and ''reuse of waste products'' to the list of measures to be included in a landfill strategy. The amendment is unnecessary because the national waste strategy is already required to set out policies to encourage the reduction or prevention of waste production. That is the key point; it is already there and we are committed to it. If we fail to deliver, we can be held to account because we have given a very public commitment. The landfill strategy then deals with how to divert waste from landfill once it has arisen.

I agree with what the hon. Member for Leominster seeks to achieve, but the outputs are already covered in ''Waste Strategy 2000''. The White Paper, like Banquo's ghost, hovers over us all even if it receives little mention. I hear what hon. Members have said. I say, not plaintively, but vigorously and robustly, that I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn on the basis of the reassurances that I have given.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:15 pm, 8th April 2003

The Minister should not be surprised because, apart from himself and the Government Whip, none of the Committee members is a member of the Government. Every time that he tells us that the Government have a strategy, we are supposed to take his word for it. Quite honestly, we would not have a Committee stage and there would be no need for Members of Parliament, such as myself and my hon. Friends, if all we needed to do was to take the Government's word for it.

The amendments are reasonable and uncontentious. They do not undermine the spirit of the Bill and do nothing more than add a few very small but important steps to help the Government achieve their target. I am disappointed that the Minister took such a ''heli view'' of what is required. He did not need to be so holistic. Had he wished to, he could have taken a more detailed approach and picked to pieces the details in the amendments. He failed to address amendment No. 58, which covers waste minimisation and reuse of waste products. Such a critical acknowledgement of the waste hierarchy would have been welcome and would have set out the real way to achieve the targets that we all want to see achieved.

The amendments, for which Friends of the Earth deserves a great deal of credit, would have been exceptionally helpful, not only to the Bill and to people who agree about what the Bill stands for, but in reducing the amount of biodegradable municipal waste. We have moved one rung up the ladder by attempting to deal with landfill, but we should be aiming for the top of the ladder. The fact that eight out of 10 people would like to see a great deal more recycling makes it incumbent on all of us to support small but important steps. That is what the people want and we, who are not members of the Government, have the opportunity to bring about a positive step. I hope that hon. Members from all parties will support the amendments. They could be proud of doing so because they do not have to take the Government's word for it that the strategy will be sufficient. The Government strategy may need to be amended at a later date, but we will not have missed our opportunity here today.

I hope that Labour Members will support the amendment. There is no reason why the Minister could not continue with his strategy if the amendment were included in the Bill. It does not undermine his position in any way, and unless there is some secret code of ministerial machismo, which makes it impossible for him to accept at least one amendment—[Interruption.] Yes, I know that the Minister does not appear to be macho, but he could strut his stuff at a later date, suggesting that he did not give in on a single amendment to the Bill. If he is to give in, however, now is the time to do it. That is why I urge him not to oppose the amendment. [Interruption.] He may well be in the minority, and I hope that he will be when I press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 9.

Division number 4 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 17 - Strategy for England

Aye: 7 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West 5:20 pm, 8th April 2003

I now suspend the sitting for half an hour until 10 minutes to 6 o'clock. I understand there will be discussions through the usual channels between the three parties. I suspect that it is intended that when we come back we shall discuss the next set of amendments and then adjourn today's proceedings.

Sitting suspended.

On resuming—

Amendment proposed: No. 58, in

clause 17, page 11, line 27, after 'by', insert

'waste minimisation, reuse of waste products,'.—[Mr. Wiggin.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:–

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 8.

Division number 5 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 17 - Strategy for England

Aye: 6 MPs

No: 8 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Order. I do not think that cups of tea are allowed in the Committee.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I beg to move amendment No. 59, in

clause 17, page 11, line 27, after 'production', insert 'or'.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 4, in

clause 17, page 11, line 28, leave out 'or energy recovery'.

Amendment No. 5, in

clause 18, page 12, line 40, leave out 'or energy recovery'.

Amendment No. 6, in

clause 19, page 13, line 28, leave out 'or energy recovery'.

Amendment No. 7, in

clause 20, page 14, line 16, leave out 'or energy recovery'.

Amendment No. 8, in

clause 22, page 15, line 28, after 'sorting', insert

', but not including incineration'.