Clause 47 - Abolition of requirement to contract out waste disposal functions

Part of Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 25th January 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2:45 pm, 25th January 2005

On the face of it, the explanation is simple: we want local authorities to have flexibility and choice in their arrangements. That is in no way a criticism of the services provided by the private sector. I have seen a range of excellent examples of innovation and investment by private contractors working with local authorities. On my regular visits to look at rubbish tips the length and breadth of this country I have been more than satisfied with much of the work that has been done. The issue is one of dogma. My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green) is absolutely right: dogma is when one takes a decision and is not prepared to consider any alternatives. The original assumption was that local authorities would not have options.

Clause 47 repeals section 32 and schedule two of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Local authorities will now be able to carry out their functions by choosing from a wider range of partnerships with other local authorities and the private sector. We are not seeking to exclude the private sector from that. I can assure the hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) that authorities will no longer be obliged to follow the prescriptive contract letting procedures in schedule 2 which add cost. We want to keep the costs and bureaucracy associated with tenders at a minimum.

In answer to the question asked by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley), I can say that the LGA has pressed strongly for this change. We had extensive consultation on it in 2001, and it was clear that this is what local authorities wanted. The whole landscape of waste management has changed through private sector involvement. It is much more sophisticated now, and rightly so. It is part of the Government's strategy, and it requires a great deal of investment. There is an element of risk which many local authorities are more than happy to share with the private sector. Many local authorities have entered into 25-year contracts with private sector companies. Part of the rationale for that is because the companies are making a large capital investment and they require a reasonable period to get a return on it. I understand that. The detail of the contracts is a matter for local authorities.

We have spoken to the Environmental Services Association about the measure, and we sought to reassure it that we are not seeking to exclude the private sector in any way. I have a great deal of respect for the ESA, and we have a good relationship with it.   We have a good dialogue about dealing with waste issues. I am pleased to see the investment that has been made to deal with waste issues in line with the policies and strategies that we have driven forward as a Government I would not wish that to end.

The clause would allow waste disposal authorities to go into partnership with each other and possibly with the private sector. There could be private sector partnerships with private waste disposal authorities. Indeed, many local authorities may decide that it is in their interests to have private sector companies managing all their waste disposal. That is fine with us as a Government. All we seek to do here is allow local authorities to choose what is best for them. We can provide support to them on the details of the PFI through the waste implementation programme.

I am keen to see common templates and to reduce the number of issues arising from the PFI programme, but many local authorities design their PFI structures to meet their local requirements. That is also part of the objective because authorities vary And there are different solutions available to them. They may choose energy for waste, in-vessel composting or one of a whole range of technologies. They may want to boost general composting, recycling or doorstep collection. That is fine. The considerable PFI funds that we make available also demonstrate that we are keen to work with and encourage both the private and the local government sector.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 47 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 48 ordered to stand part of the Bill.