Clause 17 - Strategy for England

Part of Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 8th April 2003.

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Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment) 4:45 pm, 8th April 2003

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.