Schedule 5

Climate Change Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 8th July 2008.

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Waste reduction schemes

Amendment proposed [3 July]: No. 108, in schedule 5, page 69, line 3, at the end to insert the words—

‘(d) the authority proposes to collect residual domestic waste at least once in every seven days, and

(e) the authority proposes to collect all recyclable material, including tetrapak materials, polystyrene and all plastics.’.—[Gregory Barker.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Photo of Peter Atkinson Peter Atkinson Conservative, Hexham

I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following: amendment No. 109, in schedule 5, page 69, line 32, at end insert

‘but no charges for residual domestic waste can be imposed unless the authority has made provision to collect all other materials not less than once every 14 days, including, (i) all plastics of whatever type, (ii) polystyrene, (iii) paper and card of all descriptions including tetrapak, (iv) glass and (v) metal and aluminium.’.

Amendment No. 110, in clause 70, page 33, line 9, leave out subsection (2).

Amendment No. 107, in clause 70, page 33, line 19, at end insert—

‘(c) does not include a power to create a criminal penalty on any householder for non-compliance with any aspect of a waste reduction scheme.’.

New clause 18—Waste authority’s power to reduce amount of council tax payable

‘After section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (c. 14) there is inserted—

“13B Power to reduce amount of tax payable in relation to household waste

(1) Where a person is liable to pay council tax in respect of any chargeable dwelling and any day, any waste collection authority or waste disposal authority may require the billing authority for the area in which the dwelling is situated to reduce the amount which he is liable to pay as respects the dwelling and the day to such extent as it thinks fit.

(2) The power under subsection (1) may only be exercised in connection with measures to reduce the amount of residual domestic waste produced in the authority’s area.

(3) The power under subsection (1) may be exercised in relation to particular cases or by determining a class of case in which liability is to be reduced to an extent provided by the determination.

(4) Where an authority exercises the power under subsection (1) the authority must pay or allow to the billing authority if requested an amount equivalent to the total reduction in the amount of tax payable each year as a result together with the reasonable administration costs of making such reductions.”’.

New clause 22—Waste reduction incentives

‘(1) A waste collection authority whose area is in England may make a waste reduction scheme, the objective of which is to provide an incentive to recycle more domestic waste and accordingly to reduce the amount of residual domestic waste.

(2) A waste reduction scheme—

(a) must provide for the incentive to be a payment of monies worth an amount which the authority considers will be effective to achieve the purposes of the scheme, and

(b) may, in particular, permit a person to be supplied with a voucher which may be exchanged for goods or services.

(3) A waste collection authority may make a waste reduction scheme only if arrangements for the collection of recyclable domestic waste from premises separately from other waste are available to the occupiers of premises to which the scheme applies.

(4) A waste reduction scheme—

(a) may cover the whole or any part of the area of a waste collection authority, and

(b) may apply to all domestic premises, to domestic premises other than those of a specified description or to specified descriptions of domestic premises.

(5) An authority that has made a waste reduction scheme—

(a) must publish the scheme in such manner as it considers appropriate, and

(b) may amend or revoke the scheme.

(6) Where a waste collection authority that operates a waste reduction scheme is not also the waste disposal authority—

(a) the waste disposal authority may pay to the collection authority contributions of such amounts as the disposal authority may determine towards expenditure of the collection authority attributable to the scheme, and

(b) the collection authority must supply to the disposal authority such information as the disposal authority may reasonably require for the purpose of determining amounts under this section.

(7) In this section—

“domestic premises” means—

(a) a building or self-contained part of a building which is used wholly for the purposes of living accommodation,

(b) a caravan (as defined in section 29(1) of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 (c. 2)) that usually and for the time being is situated on a caravan site (within the meaning of that Act), or

(c) a moored vessel used wholly for the purposes of living accommodation;

“domestic waste” means household waste from domestic premises;

“recyclable domestic waste” means domestic waste that is capable of being recycled;

“recycling” means recycling, re-using or composting.’

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I look forward to hearing what the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border has to say about the amendments that he tabled, when he has had chance to work it out. This group of amendments is different from that which we debated previously because, since our sitting on Thursday,  two more measures have been added: amendment No. 110, which we tabled, and new clause 22. For the benefit of members of the Committee who might not have had chance to look at amendment No. 110, it questions the decision to restrict the number of pilots under clause 70(2).

Our approach is to allow 1,000 flowers to bloom, not five. There are big variations among local authorities. Urban, rural, and multi-tier authorities have different waste streams and structures for dealing with waste. In light of that, there is a huge amount of learning to be done. While I would not dream of accusing the Department of doing this, the present Prime Minister has a tendency to want to control things. Although, in one sense, the provision is enabling and saying, “Let there be pilots,” there must always be a “but” at the end, which is that we can have only five pilots. That is unnecessary.

The Bill refers to five pilots, so if the Government invited proposals for pilots and received 10 good ideas, they would be obliged to throw away five of them because, under statute, they will not be allowed to have more than five pilots. If the Government think that five pilots are all they can cope with, they are perfectly at liberty to decide to do that after receiving submissions, but to pre-empt looking at the pilots before they have even seen them is wrong, which is why my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham and I want to remove the stipulation.

Amendment No. 108 would exclude from participation in the pilots authorities that do not undertake weekly collections. As we said on Thursday, some schemes could be pure incentive schemes; in other words, some pilots need not be penal. Given that, at worst, they must be revenue-neutral, they could be net beneficial. Authorities, for whatever reason, that do not have weekly collections—that might be popular or accepted locally—should not be precluded from taking part in pilots whereby they could offer incentives to their residents to improve recycling. There is a valid debate to be had on weekly or fortnightly collections and whatever is appropriate in a particular area, but to preclude whole categories of authorities from running pilots because they opted in their particular circumstances not to have weekly collections seems unduly restrictive. We do not therefore support amendment No. 108.

We have a lot of sympathy with what amendment No. 109 is trying to do, but it is over-prescriptive. It refers to polystyrene and Tetrapak, for example, but we could find ourselves constantly amending legislation to cover new materials. We could certainly have central Government guidance and initiatives, but if we list specific individual materials—“metal and aluminium” itself is an interesting phrase—we would start to see some of the problems in identification. At the moment, we think that amendment No. 109 is somewhat over-specific.

New clause 18, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle on Thursday, relates to giving authorities the opportunity to cut council tax by means of an incentive mechanism. In principle, we have no problem with that. We are perfectly happy for local authorities to have that freedom. It was not apparent to us that they could not do that anyway under the Bill. If it is necessary to be explicit, we do not have a problem with that. However, we would probably need further legislation to make it happen. For example, imagine a council tenant on benefit who is on 100 per cent. council tax benefit. My understanding is that they do not pay the council tax and get the money back from  the Government—they just never pay it. Therefore, if we wanted to incentivise people who do not pay council tax at all to cut their waste, it would be odd if their council tax was reduced and they got council tax benefit in excess of the council tax that they were paying. That would probably be illegal. Such an amendment would have knock-on effects, but, in principle, we do not have a problem with it.

Finally, we would be interested to hear what is meant by new clause 22, which has not yet been spoken to. It would probably be unhelpful for me to start guessing what it means, so I will draw my remarks to a close, but I might comment on that new clause once we have heard what it is meant to achieve.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle, who leads from the Front Bench, for moving the amendment that I tabled last Thursday. I apologise for not being able to be here, but I was on the Floor of the House dealing with an equally important question as saving the planet: MPs’ pay and allowances.

Where am I coming from with the amendments? I would not seek to press them to a vote or to delete the relevant measures, unless the Government volunteered to do so. However, over the past few weeks we have had important discussions about saving the planet. We have had discussions on global warming, carbon emissions, the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of the rain forest. We have been seeking to do incredibly noble things with reporting targets for 2050. I am not sure that any Committee, dealing with any legislation, has attempted to be so far-sighted or far-reaching. Now, near the end of the Bill, we have five clauses that are, literally, on garbage—on allowing councils to come up with what, in some cases, are hare-brained garbage-collection schemes or innovative recycling schemes. This could discredit the main purposes of the Bill.

We have already seen in the newspapers over the past few months stories about some of the imaginative ideas that councils have had. We have seen how some of the public have become cynical and disillusioned, because they believe that the rubbish that they put out is being recorded by spies or by cameras and microchips in their dustbins. I believe that there is scope for recycling initiatives. I believe that the Government should be running pilot schemes under fairly tight control. However, I do not believe that such measures should be in the Bill because that takes away from the glorious merits of the legislation before us.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

I know that the right hon. Gentleman was not present when we began the debate in our previous sitting, but there is a direct connection with the amount of waste that we householders throw away every year, the majority of which goes to landfill, producing methane, which is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. He might not think that it is entirely tidy to have the clauses in the Bill, but there is an important connection.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

The hon. Lady is right that there is a connection, but why do we not have clauses on the amount of motoring that we do, the cars that we buy and the contribution that transport makes? Why do we not have clauses on peat-land bogs and upland forests?

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

The right hon. Gentleman knows that all such matters are considered in other forms of legislation. We can do—we are doing—many things to try and move towards having a low-carbon economy. However, we need the specific legislation, because we are the only country in the EU15 that does not allow charges to be applied for waste collection.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

This Bill is a convenient vehicle for the garbage clauses to be tacked on to. I am not suggesting that they are out of order because the long title of the Bill permits their inclusion. It is not just a matter of tidiness, although I do like tidy legislation—and tidy everything, to be honest. The schedule is inappropriate because it could disillusion the public with regard to our main purpose. People in the pilot areas and in other areas will struggle to put the right sort of material in the right boxes on whatever day of the week the council deigns to turn up to collect that sort of recycling material. When they get it wrong and are given penalties, I am afraid that they will say, “Well, it’s all this climate change nonsense and saving the planet,” and they could become disillusioned about our main purposes. I will not labour the point; I want to get on to the technical details.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Will my right hon. Friend press that point a little more before he gives it up? The Minister is just wrong. The schedule will distort the Bill in a way that will do damage. Already, local councils that tried to do what is proposed for a pilot scheme have found it much more difficult than they thought. At the moment, they—Tory as well as Labour councils—are being blamed. The Bill is about too big a matter for us to add to it this sectional interest, which the Government could have put in the Finance Bill or a whole range of other legislation. This shows that the Government have not yet realised what a huge undertaking they have taken on. In a sense, they have not built up the importance of the Bill.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

I agree with my right hon. Friend. I also agree with the Minister that it is important that recycling is increased. We need to educate the public to do that better.

I would have liked to have seen the Government’s “good” recycling scheme before going ahead with the measure. I am appalled at how some things have slipped in the House since the old days. When I was in government 10 years ago, we could never have come along to a Committee and said, “Pass this legislation. We will at some point in the future produce a good recycling service, and we will produce guidance and standards on what that is.” The Committee would have said, “Look, Minister, we are not going to go ahead with that until you produce the regulations and the guidance.”

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test

May I help the right hon. Gentleman with an interesting quote? It states:

“Add to that, the impact of methane leaching from the decomposition of organic material which releases approximately 22 per cent of the UK’s methane emissions and it is obvious why no serious policy to combat climate change can avoid the problem of the way we use and discard material resources.”

That is a brief quote from the introduction to the Conservative quality of life commission report, which was authored by the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

Yes, of course it is terribly important. I do not want to go back to the discussion that we had two weeks ago but, as everyone admits, the rain forests are worth more than all the transport emissions in the world and we do not have a big section in the Bill on rain forests—the Government said, “Oh, it’s covered, we don’t want to deal with that.” Biodiversity is vitally important to saving the planet and it is not in the Bill. Yes, garbage and recycling make a contribution, but they have a huge part in the Bill, and it stands out like a sore thumb. It stands out like a piece of plastic in the newspaper recycling box because it is not appropriate to the Bill.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I hope that my right hon. Friend would agree that it is important to remember that the domestic waste stream is 8 per cent. of the waste stream as a whole, so even though the hon. Member for Southampton, Test is right about those figures, we are dealing with not the 92 per cent. but 8 per cent., and we ought to put that in context.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. If the proposal was for a waste reduction scheme or a garbage collection scheme relating to all the garbage in the country, including the vast amounts that the commercial vehicles pick up each morning in the giant Biffa bins, or however else they collect it, I could understand it. My right hon. Friend is right: we have a Bill on carbon emissions, setting magnificent targets for 2050—which we can argue about ad nauseam—yet we have a few clauses on trying to create five pilot areas for a bit of domestic recycling containing weird and wonderful ideas and penalties. The pilots concern five of the authorities dealing with 8 per cent. of the waste in the country, so that is perhaps 0.1 per cent. of waste.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

There are measures to deal with all the other waste streams. I repeat that it is a specific necessity to deal with household waste streams. The recycling rates of commerce and industry, for example, are far ahead of household recycling rates. Regarding the right hon. Gentleman’s comment about what makes a “good” recycling scheme, on 19 June we issued the draft scheme for consultation.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee) 10:45 am, 8th July 2008

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that latter point and I stand corrected. I hope the draft scheme will be circulated to members of the Committee. It is a pity that it is not in the room for us to study as we go along.

If industry and business are further ahead, let us have a specific Bill to lay out all the proposals for dealing with household waste in separate legislation, so that we can deal with it in detail. I do not want to get bogged down on that point—it was an aside at the start of the Committee. It is a pity that five or six clauses on garbage are stuck in such a major Bill.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Will my right hon. Friend note what the Minister said? The Government have done nothing whatever about the 20 per cent. of the waste stream that is construction waste. They have not insisted upon consolidation, they have not insisted that building  companies behave properly, and they have no arrangement to help the links between local authorities and the building industry. We have the worst record in Europe, and the Government have done nothing. They have not even bothered to deal with the matter in the Bill.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for those detailed observations, which I will leave for the Minister to respond to. We could do much more to use construction waste in recycling, whether in concrete blocks or road building and so on.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

No, I do not wish to go down that route now, I wish to consider the amendment and explain what it is about.

Amendment No. 108 states that

“the authority proposes to collect residual domestic waste at least once in every seven days,”.

I suggest inserting that requirement into proposed new paragraph 2(2), so that a waste authority could create a waste reduction scheme. It would be allowed to do that, providing that it satisfied qualifications (a), (b) and (c), and that it collected waste every seven days. It would also be able to collect all recyclable material.

I then propose an alternative amendment, suggesting that authorities should collect every 14 days. An authority might not want to collect every seven days, as it believes that it has a good scheme collecting every 14 days. I personally think that that is too long and I am disturbed that some schemes collect garbage only every 14 days. However, in recycling garbage collection pilot schemes, collection up to 14 days is legitimate, so the option exists.

With my dodgy legs, I find it difficult, staggering with different boxes to the recycling bins, but I do my best to recycle. However, I am appalled to see the many rules that exist in district councils in different parts of the country—even in my area of Cumbria between Carlisle and Eden. There are different collections on different days. Some take paper but not cardboard, others allow paper and cardboard in the same box. There are numerous definitions of plastics. God help a person with a carrier bag full of plastic bottles that they are stuffing into the holes. If they stuff the carrier bag in with the bottles, they are in deep trouble. That will be a criminal offence, so they must go to another bin to dispose of the plastic bag.

There are different kinds of cans. I can tell the difference between a tin can and a Coca-Cola aluminium can, but the hassle involved in separating all that stuff in some ways prejudices me against recycling. It would be easier to put everything in a big bag and dump it at the tip. I do not do that, but at times, one is tempted. I can see that many others have been similarly tempted because of the sheer hassle of trying to separate things into too many different categories.

When I come to London—many of us have homes in the Westminster area—it seems to be all-in-one recycling. What is Westminster council doing? Is it doing it correctly, or wrongly? I assume that it is doing it legally. In the Westminster area, provided there are no food scraps, garbage or bits of cling film from food, all plastics, glass  bottles, tin cans, containers, newspapers and card of whatever description—glossy Sunday colour supplements and ordinary newspapers—go into one recycling plant. I do not know how the council sorts it. I do not know if the council sorts it. Much of it may go for power generation, or incineration to create power. It is so convenient for householders that it is much easier to do and we are not prejudiced against doing it.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Perhaps I can help my right hon. Friend. I followed the rubbish from Westminster to its ultimate destination, which is SELCHPSouth East London Combined Heat and Power. I challenged the Minister about what is, in my view, a missed opportunity in the legislation, and about the need to educate people about what such schemes do. My right hon. Friend may not know that despite its name, SELCHP does not at present have a combined heat and power facility, or it may have just got it.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that elucidation. The next time she is following the garbage truck, I would be grateful if she could call by my flat, because I have a huge bit of polystyrene wrapping from my last printer that needs to be taken to the tip.

Photo of Karen Buck Karen Buck Labour, Regent's Park and Kensington North

As a Member of Parliament whose constituency covers Westminster, may I inform the right hon. Gentleman that Westminster council has one of the worst recycling records of any local authority in the country? Whether waste is combined or separated, let us not be deluded into thinking that that in itself is the solution to the problem.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

The point is that Westminster council seems to be able to collect combined material from householders and do some separation. Presumably, it does not burn the glass or the metal in the power plant. It is able to separate that, I presume, and then burn the plastics and the paper. It has made it simple for householders by encouraging householders to use it. I see an awful lot of commercial waste lying around the streets from shops, pubs and cafÃ(c)s, which is presumably much more difficult to separate.

My amendments make it clear that any waste authority that intends to set rules for recycling must accept all possible plastics, paper and recyclable material. The hon. Member for Northavon is right. Once one starts specifying Tetrapak or the type of plastic, one gets into difficulties. I do not want to do that. I tabled the amendments in this form so that I could provoke a debate. I want at least one of the schemes to suggest that it will collect the residual domestic waste, as the Government have termed it—that is, the garbage, the food scraps, or what has not gone into compost—and take everything else in a limited number of containers.

My worry is that if an authority designs a scheme whereby it charges for the bulk of the garbage left—the residual domestic waste—or the weight of it, that may be legitimate, in order to minimise residual domestic waste either in bulk or in weight. However, if the authority then says, “Aha! We’re going to take only little plastic bottles, and we are not going to take polystyrene. We will not take cardboard or Tetrapak. We will take only the following materials, separated into three or four types”, it automatically forces householders to have a lot more residual domestic waste.

Householders will have to stick the polystyrene, the Tetrapak, the unacceptable cardboard or the mixed bit of plastic and paper into the residual domestic waste. I bought a new printer yesterday and I could not get the plastic off the cardboard. It is difficult to separate some of these things, and one ends up throwing them into the residual domestic waste because one cannot take the risk of putting them into the cardboard or into the plastic.

By being ruthlessly discriminatory as to what they will accept as recycling material, local authorities could design recycling schemes that force people inadvertently to increase the amount of residual domestic waste. Local authorities could then put a charge or tariff on that, which is unfair on householders. My amendments seek to tell local authorities that they cannot do that. If a local authority intends to be ruthlessly tight on the amount of garbage—I apologise for using the American word, but it is easier than “residual domestic waste”—on the food scraps and the bits that have to go into garbage, and if it proposes to penalise or charge householders who produce more than one little bag of garbage, there is a duty on the local authority to say, “However, we will take all the plastics, glass, bottles and cans in three simple boxes, or one multi-recycling container.”

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

I think I need to help the right hon. Gentleman. The sort of scheme that he envisages would not happen. That is not the purpose. There is no absolute level of residual waste that a local authority would deem to be the basis of the scheme. A scheme must be based on the total residual waste produced within the pilot area. An average of that would be taken, and the range calculated. There is no absolute, as he describes. When I speak later, I may be able to elucidate further, but the sort of proposal that he makes would not be approved by the Secretary of State.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

I am delighted to hear that from the hon. Lady, and I admire her faith in the ability of all our local councils to come up with schemes that have such integrity. That seems to fly in the face of some of the stories in the newspapers over the past few months—not necessarily in the Daily Mail, but perhaps in The Daily Telegraph. Those stories may have been totally untrue, but if the stories about some of the schemes that local councils are imposing are untrue, I would love to hear so. Experience suggests that some of the stories about local authority prescription of the type of containers and receptacles that can be used are, unfortunately, correct.

If the dustbin man—I am not sure of the politically correct term; perhaps refuse-recycling collector-person—comes along to a household and there are 20 different sorts of bins, boxes and collection receptacles outside, that is not acceptable. My amendment says that if local authorities prescribe a type of bin, they should not prescribe a designer-style one, which can be bought only from them, at exorbitant cost. If it is nicked, blown away in the wind or ends up being used in the allotment for more convenient purposes, a replacement has to be bought from the authority, again at exorbitant cost.

Authorities should have a more standard-shape receptacle that the elderly can carry when it is full of bottles and that we cripples can carry when our legs do not work  properly. I would like to see schemes that are more helpful—I declare an interest—for the disabled staggering to the garden gate than schemes with all the different sorts of boxes that we must have these days, because it seems that our garbage collection people will no longer come up the garden path to get them. I want to make sure that the local authorities do not build into their schemes conditions that are convenient for them, but are dashed near impossible for the householder in respect of the size, type or cost of the receptacles that may be used.

Another part of my amendment proposes that there ought to be no more than three different types of receptacle. This is not a gross exaggeration by The Daily Telegraph or others. Across local authority areas there seem to be totally different rules about what may go into a box. I agree with the hon. Member for Northavon that the Bill cannot prescribe the details such as thin or thick cardboard, Tetrapak and plastic. I do not want our district councils to do so either, as they are doing at present. There are vast differences in the definition of cardboard and newspaper between Carlisle city council and Eden district council. God help us if we put the wrong sort of cardboard in the cardboard box. It does not get collected and we might get a penalty.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The right hon. Gentleman is over-egging the case. Unlike ourselves, most people do not live in two local authority areas. Although we might represent areas that cover different schemes, provided that local authorities are consistent and clear, before long, people will know exactly what they are meant to do. Different local authorities will have different schemes, because they have entered into different contracts on different dates and so on. As long as residents are told and it is consistent, why does it matter if different authorities have different schemes?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

It matters because there is incredible mobility around an area. They are all our constituents. If we are all trying to come up with a proper recycling initiative, let us get as much standardisation as possible.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

Because we are trying to move the public and ourselves on to do more and more recycling, it is incumbent upon us to make it as simple as possible. The huge difference in the how local authorities are operating and in their definitions results in the sort of stories that appear in the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph and cynicism about all the recycling initiatives. Let us follow the old military term, KISS—keep it simple, stupid. That applies to me, especially.

Several hon. Membersrose

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal 11:00 am, 8th July 2008

As one who does not read either The Daily Telegraph or the Daily Mail, may I suggest to my right hon. Friend that there is a much more domestic reason for this? Often, people go and help their old  relations who happen to live in the next-door area. I represent the Suffolk coastal area, and many people in mid-Suffolk come and help their aunts or uncles, or people who need their help, and they find it confusing that the two places have totally different arrangements. That is all right for the intelligentsia of the Liberal Democrat party, but there are many people for whom waste is not the most important thing in life. To have to go into the kitchen and read through a list that is totally different from that in another area is just confusing and off-putting.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in a second, I just want to elaborate on this point. I accept that different councils can have different coloured bins, different coloured receptacles and different days for collection. That is okay, that is the great diversity of Britain, but it should not be the case that one authority says, “Ah ha, that cardboard orange juice packet is acceptable because we deem it to be cardboard,” and another one says, “You have committed a criminal offence, you’ve put your orange juice packet from Marks and Spencer into the wrong box.” It is incumbent on us to make the legislation straightforward and simple. Given the difficulties of interpretation that the Committee is finding and the fact that the hon. Gentleman says we cannot put this into law because we cannot start defining what is a Tetrapak or polystyrene because it is too difficult and changes all the time, we will end up in this country with 300 authorities having 300 different definitions of what is acceptable newspaper or card.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

I promise I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, but please give me a minute to finish this point. As I was saying, it is acceptable to have differences around the country, but those differences should be within certain parameters. It should not be within the parameters for local authorities to so narrowly define newspaper, card, or material that they will not accept, and to do so not because it is not recyclable or they cannot do anything with it, but because they have just entered into a contract with Mr. Snoggins, who will take only—[Interruption.]. Well in that case the council should enter into a contract with Mr. Y, who will take the thicker cardboard or the newspaper.

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The right hon. Gentleman is clearly enjoying himself. At the risk of encouraging him to go on to a further diversion, does he accept that the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government—or the Committee on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister as it may have been called when it produced its  report on recycling—clearly endorsed the approach that each council should be able to make up its own approach to recycling because the physical environments differ so much? It is one thing to recycle in a rural area, where people may have four wheelie bins, but that is not possible in a suburban area, which may have a box-based system, but even that is not possible in a place that is dominated by flats or multi-occupancy, where people have to do the recycling within their own household or share facilities. That is why we need a diversity of approaches. As my hon. Friend the Member for Northavon said from a sedentary position, different contracts are negotiated with suppliers, which have to be done at best value for local councils and therefore involve different qualities of paper or qualities of recycling. That is why the approaches have to vary. The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal said that people might be confused by different districts having different approaches. The last time I looked, most households were residing in one district. That may not be true of Conservative Members, who have such huge gardens that they cover three districts, but most people do not seem to move.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

In essence, what the hon. Gentleman is saying is that the most convenient way for the local authorities and the councils to recycle will be the way that it is done and sod the constituents, sod the residents, who will be left with the residual burden. I accept that local councils may have a different contract to take cardboard or paper, or the most lucrative recycling contract. That is fair enough, but we should be making these pilots based around what is most convenient and best for our constituents, for our householders. What collects the most material for recycling? What breaks the polystyrene problem? Some bins now take polystyrene, but the attitude of the councils has been appalling. They will take the easy stuff: “Bring us your glass bottles and we will recycle them; put them into brown, green, yellow containers. Bring us your easy paper, we will recycle it. Do not bring us your polystyrene as it is too difficult. You are stuck with that and must sort it out. If it is too big, do not put it in a big bag as we won’t take it.”

There is the problem of old mattresses and sofas, which will now pollute the countryside. If the rules are too tight or it is too difficult for householders to get rid of the chunks of polystyrene that come with a new TV or printer, we know where those chunks will end up—in the fields and hedgerows of my constituency. If people cannot get to the recycling tip in the cosy hour that it is available, those materials will be dumped in the countryside.

One of the amendments suggests that recycling centres in the pilot areas should be open more—not 24/7, but perhaps 7-11. If someone finishes unpacking their kit at the weekend after a trip to Ikea or wherever, by 5 o’clock when they are ready to load the car with big chunks of card, the tip or recycling centre has already closed. That is outrageous. If we want innovative ideas, we should build in rules so that local authorities keep recycling centres open later in the evening and accept all plastics and materials.

If we have five innovative recycling pilots, and none take polystyrene and Tetrapak, what is the point? We cannot get rid of those things at the moment. I know nothing about the subject, but any fool can recycle plastic bottles or glass; that is easy. I accept what the hon. Gentleman says and that we might need different  rules for the countryside and towns. I am happy with that—we might need different types of boxes and receptacles in the country and the towns, and in blocks of flats. However, householders must be able to get rid of all their recyclable material in those pilot schemes, and not be told that only the easy stuff will be taken as the rest of the plastics, glass, Tetrapak, polystyrene and so on cannot be coped with. That means that people are stuck with it and if they put it into the garbage, the residual waste, it is too bulky and big and they will be clobbered.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Will my right hon. Friend explain to the Liberal Democrats the very simple distinction between a different method of collection due to the nature of the household, which is for the benefit of the public, and the inability of councils to recognise that unless there are standard assertions about which materials are collected, we cannot get the proper value for that material? We get very little value from many materials because no single council collects enough of that material to make it worth while. That costs the council, as it will not deal with its neighbours and make a joint decision as to what the value and nature of the material should be.

David Macleanrose—

Photo of Peter Atkinson Peter Atkinson Conservative, Hexham

Order. Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, I remind the Committee that we had an extensive debate on these amendments on Thursday, and we are in danger of falling behind. I ask hon. Members to bear that in mind.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

I am grateful for that advice. If the Government agreed to withdraw these clauses, we could make very rapid progress.

My right hon. Friend is right. The key point I wish to get from the Government is about those “standardised assertions” of what is recyclable material. If that could be standardised throughout council areas, I would not care whether councils insist that they collect glass on a Saturday morning at 3 o’clock, or that the plastic bin has to go out on a Friday at 2 pm, although I would like to see that standardised as well—it seems to be for the convenience of councils and their operatives rather than householders. We should standardise the definitions of what can be put in the ruddy box. If the Minister goes ahead with the pilot schemes, I beg her to make that the main test. It is not about what size box councils have or what day they collect it; the main test of the pilots should be whether councils can standardise their definitions so that we have three recycling boxes at most that can take most of our recyclable material. We should challenge the councils to find another operator that will take the difficult cardboard, glossy paper or Tetrapak products.

I am fed up of going round the supermarkets, practically with my magnifying glass, looking at juice packets and seeing that even Sainsbury’s puts “Not yet ready for recycling” on them, because it finds them too difficult to recycle. If the supermarkets and the councils are finding it too difficult or too expensive, why should our constituents be left with the residual difficulty of, “We can’t take that, guv, it’s the wrong material” or “it’s the wrong weight”? I ask the Minister to try to design the pilot schemes to make it easy for householders to recycle  and to recycle nearly everything, so that we have the minimal amount of garbage. Do not base the pilots on an area average.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal, who informs me that it was utterly inappropriate to refer to a “garbage collection man” or a “bin man”, they are domestic environmental collection operatives. I hope that all our domestic environmental collection operatives in future will find it easy to do simple recycling and take away the garbage at least every seven days.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I rise to speak in favour of new clause 22, which we placed before the Committee but did not have an opportunity to debate last Thursday. I am mindful of the revenue-neutrality concerns raised by Committee members when we discussed the last group of amendments on Thursday. While council tax reductions have to be paid for, we should remember that a municipality sending less waste to landfill would be paying less to landfill operators, which we discussed last week when Members rightly questioned how incentives would be paid for. The money saved could pay for the reductions in council tax for ambitious recyclers, and there would be significant savings from reductions in landfill tax being paid to Government.

However, in addition to cuts in council tax, there is another way to incentivise householders without threatening them with a penalty, and that is by paying people to recycle by offering vouchers depending on the amount of recycling waste that a family produces. Those vouchers could be redeemed locally, at supermarkets for example, and would thus go towards reducing families’ costs of living by helping them to pay for daily essentials at a time of soaring food costs. Communities could pool the vouchers to pay for equipment for schools or for the upkeep of parks and green spaces. That sort of market incentive is far more exciting and positive than pay-as-you-throw.

The public will not like the message, “We will fine you if you don’t go green.” “We will pay you to do it” is a better and more positive message. The only incentive scheme allowed under existing legislation is offering council tax reductions in exchange for producing less landfill waste, although, we would like that to be more explicit in the Bill. That is why I have tabled new clause 22, which would legislate for the introduction of such voucher schemes across Britain.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Will my hon. Friend assure me that the new clause would enable public-private partnerships in cases in which local organisations of all sorts might like to join the local council? That will be a good way for large stores—department stores and the like—to join the local authority in encouraging such schemes and perhaps put money into them so that the vouchers are worth that much more.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Absolutely. My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. The precedents for this kind of incentive scheme are primarily in north America and those partnerships are exactly what have happened. In effect, there have been top-ups in addition to the incremental savings from the value of the recyclates. Other organisations that wish to help to encourage recycling, particularly supermarkets and large retailers, have joined in to help recycle as part of their corporate social responsibility policies and to help drive the creation of viable new markets for recyclates.

A voucher system operator in north America, where a similar scheme operates, claims that recycling rates rise from single figures to, on average, 40 per cent. of household waste in the communities where it has been trialled. Participation in voucher schemes is entirely voluntary, but in north America it averages at 90 per cent. in areas where it has been introduced.

To give a specific example, an initial pilot in two neighbourhoods in Philadelphia included 2,500 households where recycling rates were just 7 per cent. and 30 per cent. respectively. They were two very diverse metropolitan areas. Within two months, recycling rates had doubled in both neighbourhoods, and participation rates rose to an incredibly impressive 90 per cent.

Another example is from Wilmington, Delaware. Participation in the voucher scheme is around 90 per cent., and the amount of waste to landfill has dropped by 40 per cent. This saved the city about $800,000 a year in landfill costs and landfill tax savings. That $800,000 was after the costs of rolling out the city-wide scheme.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 11:15 am, 8th July 2008

The hon. Gentleman is citing helpful evidence about what others have done. Where does he stand on the apparent inconsistency between what he is saying and what his right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border argued? His right hon. Friend called for standardisation, no pilots without standardisation and so on, but he is talking about 1,000 flowers blooming. Does he think that such voucher schemes should be bog-standard, fixed and constrained, or should they be varied?

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The hon. Gentleman misconstrues what my right hon. Friend is saying. My right hon. Friend and I speak with one voice. We do not want to clobber the council tax payer with penalties and fines in the way that the Liberal Democrats do. We want to offer incentives. The problem is the incredibly complex array of schemes. The average community charge payer is more likely to incur one of the Liberal Democrat fines or penalties if an array of legislation is allowed in.

The strong difference is not between my right hon. Friend and me, but between the Liberal Democrats and us. We favour rewarding people who do the right thing, looking for ways to incentivise communities, and looking for a positive agenda, rather than the Liberal Democrat hair-shirt, bang-people-up attitude, or at least their preference for giving people a fine or a penalty, because it is so much easier, particularly for lazy-minded councils, just to fix a penalty than to consider innovation and reward. Of course, although we do not intend to impose a scheme from the centre, the more uniform it is, the easier it is to understand, and the more comprehensive, the better. That is common sense.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Will my hon. Friend explain very simply to the Liberal Democrats that it is helpful to people to have standard categories, so they know what to save in the right boxes, and it is helpful then to have as many different ways of encouraging people to do it in as many different places as possible? That is clear, and even if the Liberal Democrats do not get it, most of the public will.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

There is no need to tell the Liberal Democrats. My right hon. Friend has just put it so beautifully that I could not improve upon it.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

Will the hon. Gentleman clarify his account of the incentive schemes? Is he saying that there was an increase of 90 per cent. in the amount of material recycled, or that 90 per cent. of the waste was recycled?

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am saying not that 90 per cent. was recycled, but that there was a 90 per cent. participation in the waste recycling schemes, up from 7 per cent. in one part of the city, and 30 per cent. in another.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am confusing myself. I am saying that participation rates across the city rose to 90 per cent., rather than that 90 per cent. of rubbish was recycled.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Let me get to the logical breakpoint in my argument, then I shall give way. Let us return to the case in point at Wilmington, where the city faced the daunting dilemma of dwindling landfill space. It did not wish to fine anyone to increase recycling, so it used the innovative voucher scheme instead. The head of Wilmington’s public works, the public works commissioner, said:

“We’re not interested in penalties. We’re interested in making it work and getting people involved”.

That is exactly how the Conservatives see the recycling agenda.

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am glad the hon. Gentleman told us that that was the logical breakpoint. He is indulging in some entertaining political slapstick, for which he will receive due reward from the Daily Mail. To bring him back to the facts, is he interested to know that during the Select Committee’s inquiry into recycling to which I referred, I supported incentives, not fines? I agree with his amendment. At the time, that action got me favourable mention in the Daily Mail.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Am I surprised that the Liberal Democrats say one thing in one Committee sitting and say another in a different Committee? No. That is their standard operating procedure. As for the savings for United Kingdom recycling operations that would accrue from not sending household waste to landfill, councils could make significant savings by avoiding landfill costs.

Photo of David Chaytor David Chaytor Labour, Bury North

The hon. Gentleman’s argument about the Wilmington experience is interesting. There are always dangers in trying to import directly into the United Kingdom an experiment that took place in the United States. Does he accept that, if the voucher scheme that he described was linked entirely with the larger retail businesses, it would further concentrate the retail market in the hands of the big five supermarkets in the UK?

The last thing that most towns in Britain want is a further concentration of retail share with the big five because that would continue the hollowing out of our town centres. It would also make individual households more car dependent because, to use their vouchers,  people would have to drive to the out-of-town supermarket. What would be saved in emissions and might be saved through an increase in recycling would be counter-balanced by increased emissions from having to use the car to drive further to the retail outlet.

What is there in the Bill to prevent one of the five local authorities from submitting an innovative bid on exactly those lines? Is anything blocking that?

Mr. Gummerrose—

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

If my right hon. Friend will allow me, I shall explain. We want it made explicit in the Bill that such action would be allowed. I do not accept the absolute logic of the assertion of the hon. Member for Bury, North.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Will my hon. Friend help the Committee by explaining that the Wilmington project was supported not by the local retailers, but a major beverage manufacturer? The manufacturer wanted to take such action. It was a sensible thing to do, and the vouchers could be used at any local shop. That is not the issue. A system can always be organised. We need the opportunity under the Bill for at least one of the tests to be undertaken in that way.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Absolutely. The hon. Member for Bury, North painted an entirely sensible scenario of everything accruing to supermarkets, and that would worry us. However, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal said, food or other manufacturers are equally able to participate in promoting such a scheme. It would enhance the opportunity to recover things like glass bottles from drinks manufacturers and reusable or recyclable packaging products. Although we do not want to get into that level of detail now, I understand his point, but I do not consider it to be a necessary or obvious conclusion that such schemes would put more power into the hands of the supermarkets, to the detriment of local traders.

Finally, I return to the landfill tax and the cash savings that would accrue from recycling within a year to a council that increased the amount it recycled. The landfill tax stands at £32 a tonne. As was announced in the 2007 Budget, landfill tax will rise by £8 a tonne a year until at least 2011, when it will be £48 a tonne. As we are producing about 28 million tonnes of municipal waste a year, the opportunity to avoid the costs of sending the waste to landfill, plus avoiding the costs of paying up to £48 a tonne on landfill tax represents a significant financial saving for councils. I note that the Treasury expects to receive £1.1 billion from landfill tax in 2008-09.

Avoiding such costs should mean that councils are able to pass those savings directly back to the ratepayers through council tax reductions for ambitious recyclers, on the basis that council tax payers are already paying through their council tax to have their waste collected. Any additional savings that the council make as a result of participating in such schemes and diverting waste from landfill should at least be shared with the council tax payers, consistent with our policy that it is right to reward people for doing the right thing, and to do so without penalising non-participants.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Savings are an important part of the equation. A local authority does not get money; it just does not face an increase in a bill that would otherwise be faced. It is not that local authorities will suddenly have an income stream that they will have to decide what to do with, but that there is a tax with a ratchet effect on it, which they may be able to mitigate, to a greater or lesser extent, by such schemes. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, although it sounds great in principle, that is not a pot of money that local authorities will have? The rate per tonne is going up and up, They can try and offset it, but the odds are against the net effect being less landfill usage. The scheme would have to be extraordinary to deliver that, would it not?

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but any responsible, prudent local authority will have to have a financial plan that anticipates paying that charge. If councils are able to beat the financial plan because of the actions of their local council tax payers, they will achieve a saving on their forecast budget. That saving should at least in part, if not in full, be shared with those who are doing the right thing and recycling.

Unfortunately, I am unable to press new clause 22 to a Division. However, I shall seek to press new clause 18, to which I spoke on Thursday and which gives power to local authorities to reduce the amount of tax payable in relation to household waste.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

Let me begin by addressing some of the comments made in the debate this morning.

The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal accused the Government of not tackling waste other than household waste, but we put in place construction-site waste-management plan requirements earlier this year, which will transform the operation of construction sites. The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform strategy on construction waste was published last month.

The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border spoke of how Westminster deals with its waste, sending it to SELCHP. I cannot comment on the particular processes of that authority, but I can tell him that there are perfectly good mechanical arrangements for separating combined, dry recyclates. Many local authorities across the country satisfactorily separate plastics, paper, metals and glass, collected together, by using plants called MRFs—materials recovery facilities. He said that Westminster sends everything to SELCHP. I cannot comment on the specifics, but it is the Government’s policy that only residual waste remaining after the maximum recycling by a local authority should be sent for incineration. It is true that the SELCHP plant does not currently have heat recovery, but it is looking at whether it can do that in the future. I would support that, SELCHP being in my constituency.

The right hon. Gentleman began by objecting to having these clauses in the Bill at all, but he has made a meal of them.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

I was glad that he took my interventions because they helped, I hope, with the case that he was making, or not making. He spoke about recycling centres and I agree with him that recycling centres, civic amenity sites—whatever the local authority calls them—should offer a service that is relevant and fits contemporary lifestyles. We have encouraged local authorities to consider carefully the hours at which such facilities are open and how they enable people conveniently to deposit materials for re-use, recovery and recycling. I have recently seen a state-of-the art facility at Reading.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

I am sorry to have to tell the right hon. Gentleman, but that is not relevant to these particular clauses. We are considering enabling the local authority to recover more recyclates at the household level. The schemes are to deal with the material that the householder puts in his or her bin, not what they may or may not be taking to the civic amenity site. Taking things to the civic amenity site or the recycling centre is usually done on the basis that what one cannot put in one’s bin is what one takes to the other place. I am giving the right hon. Gentleman that information because he makes a good point, but it is not relevant to these particular clauses or the amendments proposed to them.

The right hon. Gentleman queried what is the point of the pilots if they do not take everything. The point is to increase the participation rate and to increase the quantity of material that is collected. Although he would like, and I would join him in this aspiration, local authorities to collect more and more and more waste streams, none the less it is a fact that not everyone is participating at the moment and not everyone is participating to the degree that they might, so we could collect a great deal more from the doorstep than we do currently.

The right hon. Gentleman said that he would like standard assertions of what is recyclable. The waste resources action programme, which the Government support financially, gives a great deal of advice to local authorities and to manufacturers and retailers, to try to standardise and reduce the number of, for example, plastics that are in use—we do not need the huge range that we have. Virtually everything is recyclable, and that is the direction that the Government seek to follow.

As I have said, local authorities provide many other outlets, if required, for the recyclates that that particular local authority is not collecting, such as the civic amenity site. Retailers are offering more and more big containers on site, so that people are not necessarily using making more car journeys and producing more emissions because they are going to the supermarket anyway, so it can be done all at the same time. Most recently, we have introduced “recycle on the go”, to capture in particular aluminium cans, glass bottles and plastic bottles when people are away from the home. Much is being done.

The clauses are about the collection of household waste where the local authority collects from the doorsteps. The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle referred to the Wilmington experiment. I was concerned to hear that it was a beverage manufacturer—I hope that alcohol was not being offered.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

I am glad to hear that. It might have accounted for a tremendous increase in the recycling rate if it had involved bottles of wine or cans of beer. Nobody would dispute that it was a good result but, as I understand, the rate of material that was recycled as a consequence was 40 per cent. We already have local authorities that are at the 40 per cent. level, so we must do more.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The hon. Lady is right; 40 per cent. is not the summit of our ambitions. However, the point is that this was a difficult metropolitan area. This country has some very poor communities that recycle a fraction of their waste—I think especially of Liverpool where the recycling rate is in low single figures, perhaps as low as 3 per cent. During the experiment, recycling in one area went from 7 per cent. to 40 per cent. in a short space of time. It is not the only solution, but it is an interesting scenario.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

Indeed. We will discuss the hon. Gentleman’s amendment shortly.

Amendment No. 108 requires authorities running waste reduction schemes to collect residual waste at least once a week, and to collect all recyclable materials. Clearly, we cannot accept that. It specifies,

“tetrapak materials, polystyrene and all plastics.”.

As the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border knows, at the moment, such materials are not collected from the doorstep by the vast majority of authorities. Requiring a local authority to operate a weekly collection of residual waste and collect all the recyclables would prohibit the majority of local authorities from coming forward to offer a scheme at all.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady as I initially spoke for much longer than intended. This is about pilot schemes, not amendments to compel every authority in the land to collect all Tetrapak and polystyrene. I am merely trying to build it into the pilot schemes.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

Indeed, but all local authorities are invited to put themselves forward to undertake a pilot scheme. It would completely distort any schemes that might come forward if that involved moving into a different era and collecting 20 streams of recyclables. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman protests too much.

The other important point, which was raised by the hon. Member for Northavon, is that if we specify that residual waste is to be collected every seven days, no authorities that currently operate alternative bin collection schemes will come forward at all. The amendment is unnecessarily prescriptive and limits the options for authorities. What the right hon. Gentleman proposes would effectively prevent any authority in England from piloting one of those schemes.

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

I am concerned about what my hon. Friend says in response to the amendments in view of press reports that I read last week. I know that we should not believe everything that we read in the press—that point was raised just now—but I remember reading that the shadow Secretary  of State for Communities and Local Government was intending to report local authorities for collaborating on some of these pilot schemes. I am a little unsure about the comments coming from the Opposition with regard to the Department for Communities and Local Government. I wonder if there is a difference between the two shadow Front-Bench spokesmen on that matter.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

My hon. Friend is perceptive. The shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has spoken frequently about the schemes and threatened Conservative local authorities, telling them not to collaborate with the Government. I am delighted, however, that that is not the attitude of the shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister who has joined us in the Committee. It is for that party to sort out what on earth its policies on those issues might be. We have certainly not been able to understand them.

Reference was made to Tetrapak cartons, which have historically been difficult to recycle, but industry is working hard to turn that around. We all hope that that will happen, as they are such an important part of our lives. While we encourage local authorities to continue improving the recycling services they offer, we must recognise the complexities and different circumstances they face on the ground. As the hon. Member for Cheltenham indicated in a intervention, that is very much a case of achieving the commercial contract, and local authorities have to do that and gain an outlet, otherwise there is no point in collecting it.

The powers outlined in the Bill require an authority already running one of the pilot waste reduction schemes to operate a good recycling service. As I have said, that means a service that meets the standards specified for the purposes of that definition in the guidance. The Department has also recently published draft guidance on what constitutes a good recycling service. That proposes that an authority must, as a minimum, offer free kerbside collection of dry recyclates and at least two waste streams. We have also said that additional priority in selecting pilots would be given to authorities that collect plastics and food waste or that plan to do so within 12 months. Food waste was not one of the streams that the right hon. Gentleman suggested needed collection, but I am sure that members of the Committee will have noted the enormous amounts of food waste that we are putting out in this country. Indeed, tackling the amount of food waste has become a priority for the Government.

We believe that the proposals represent a good balance between ensuring that householders within a scheme are provided with a good collection service and that the requirements are not so prescriptive as to limit the types of authority that can participate in the scheme. The key issue is to ensure that the pilots provide us with robust evidence about the impact of incentives on behaviour. We have seen that similar schemes work elsewhere, which is why we want to trial them in England. Excluding large numbers of local authorities from coming forward to undertake a pilot by including over-prescriptive requirements, which is what the amendment would do, would hinder us in the task, so we obviously oppose it.

Amendment No. 109 is nothing but a wrecking amendment, as the right hon. Gentleman must know that no local authority would be able to collect waste  from all of the recycling categories that he has specified. The hon. Member for Northavon, when speaking to amendment No. 112, which he tabled, suggested that we should let 1,000 pilots bloom. I think that he will know that that is a slight exaggeration, even of what he proposed.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

A figure of speech, but I reiterate that what really matters in these pilots is that we should be able to retrieve the evidence systematically and analyse and record it properly. That limits the numbers that we should properly put in place. The hon. Gentleman might have an opinion that there should be more pilots, but we have decided that five is appropriate, and I ask him to accept that we need a robust and useful evidence base for deciding whether to roll out those powers to other waste collection authorities. If he thinks that all authorities ought to have the opportunity to do that, that is for a later stage in the proceedings.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 11:45 am, 8th July 2008

I cannot understand why the Minister needs to tie her hands with legislation. It is almost as though she does not trust herself, as if she has to pass a law to stop herself saying yes to six. Surely she should see what she gets in, and if there are six damned good ideas, she should take six, and if there are four, she should take four. Why does she have to pass a law to ban herself from doing something that she might want to do?

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

I have a great deal of confidence in myself, thank you very much. We wanted to settle on a number, and we put that number in the Bill. That gives clear certainty to local authorities. It is also a case of looking to what financial support will be provided. If we had a completely open-ended number, we would have to have a completely open-ended budget. There will be financial support from the Government. We want to get the evidence. We believe that we can do it. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would agree that it would be impossible anyway to test every conceivable type of scheme in every conceivable type of authority.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

The hon. Gentleman says six, but someone else would say, “Yes, but there are already four types of scheme and 20 types of demography”. The hon. Gentleman should accept that we have decided on five. We certainly will not have an open-ended number, as he proposes in the amendment. That will be resisted.

Amendment No. 107 would prevent the Government from making any regulation that would create a criminal penalty on any householder for non-compliance with any aspect of a waste reduction scheme. Unless I am mistaken, that amendment has not been spoken to. I will not tempt the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border. He might like to be tempted. No, his colleagues say that they would not like him to be tempted.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

I did not speak to that amendment. Similarly, I did not address in detail some of the other amendments. I got so bogged down by interventions on  the principle of the clauses, and on some of the minutiae, that I did not test it. I shall not attempt to speak to it now in a brief intervention, but I support the concept underlying the amendment. I do not believe that householders in a pilot test should get criminal penalties if they make a mistake.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

I am glad the right hon. Gentleman made that point. Iit is appropriate for the record that I deal with the amendment, even though he did not. I am sorry to tell him that he failed to notice that there is no provision in the Bill to use any regulation to create any criminal penalty. I hope that with those few words he will be entirely satisfied. I echo the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North. The right hon. Gentleman has probably been reading too many of those press releases from the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles), who is always saying that people are being made into criminals by the proposals for proper waste collection policies.

Our advice to local authorities is that they should first communicate well with their citizens and explain clearly what is expected in response to waste collection policies, and that they should not need to have to penalise people. However, where people will not accept the advice and will not co-operate, the provision exists for the fixed penalty notice. That is what local authorities can issue. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, a fixed penalty notice does not make a person a criminal. I am sure he has occasionally had a fixed penalty notice himself, not in respect of waste, but perhaps in respect of a vehicle. He would be unusual if he had not.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

I may have picked up many fixed penalty notices for parking offences, and they were richly deserved where the evidence was clear. Who will judge whether a householder has got it wrong with recycling? Will the hon. Lady tell us the type of mistake that could lead to—I am glad that it will not be a criminal record—a fixed penalty? Would those mistakes include putting the wrong sort of card or paper in the wrong box?

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

As I explained to the right hon. Gentleman, communication between local councils and householders is crucial in all these things, leaving aside the pilot schemes authorised by the Bill. If people put materials in the wrong bins, the council should explain what they are supposed to do. I expect councils and those who operate their policies to understand the position of the householder.

We would all expect common sense to prevail. For example, if a blind person made such a mistake, a fixed penalty notice would be inappropriate. We need common sense, courtesy and proper communication. We know perfectly well that some people persistently do the wrong thing after receiving an explanation and having been treated politely. Some people are abusive to the refuse collectors. A line must be drawn at some point. That is how I believe we should proceed.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

We are getting into rather dangerous territory. I am glad that we are pursuing this line of questioning. I take the point that only a crazy local council would penalise a blind person. That is an extreme  example. I am more concerned about the millions of householders who have to deal with something that appears to be a cardboard box and do not realise that it is lined with plastic or foil, as with a Tetrapak.

I come back to the point that I have been making. If we do not have simple, standard definitions that are advertised by the Government in a national campaign, we will catch millions of innocent householders. They might not be blind, they might have perfect sight and they might be reasonably intelligent, but they still might not realise that the material in their hand is the wrong sort of material. They might not realise that their little district council will refuse to collect it and penalise those who put it in the wrong box. That is the mischief.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the general point about waste collection is that we all have to do more and we all have to learn to do it better. In the vast majority of cases, common sense prevails and such difficulties do not occur. If we cannot decide on these things, councils will not be in a better position.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

Well, in general, common sense prevails and these things are dealt with appropriately.

To come back to the Bill, we are talking about only five pilots. Perhaps this is a case in point for the Liberal Democrat amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Northavon. In the pilots, we will work closely with the local councils through the Waste and Resources Action Programme to give advice and ensure that the communications work. We will test some of the hypotheses put forward by the right hon. Gentleman in a proper way.

Under the existing mechanism local councils can issue fixed penalty notices. It is not Government policy to make non-payment of a waste charge a criminal offence. Under the regulation-making powers we cannot create criminal offences for non-payment of a waste charge. On the basis of that reasoning, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to withdraw the amendment, as it is superfluous.

On new clause 18, I agree entirely with much that the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle said. Of course we want to give people incentives, to learn from the practices undertaken elsewhere and to do all we can to incentivise and increase recycling. However, new clause 18 is a puzzle. It would not remove schedule 5, which might have been a logical move. Instead, the new clause would be additional to the powers of the schedule. As the hon. Member for Cheltenham pointed out, what is proposed can already be done under the Bill. We therefore do not believe that the new clause is needed.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

We have been trying throughout, with a certain amount of amusement in between, to reach a consensual answer on the issue. The crucial matter is that there are modern means of encouraging people to do things, which are more attractive to many households than the traditional ways of reducing council tax and all the rest, because they are immediate and fit in with other things that householders do, with television and the like.

I hope the Minister will undertake to ensure that at least one of the pilots would try to use a voucher system or something similar, to see whether that raised the participation of a wider range of families. We should not allow the whole business to become the purview of particular kinds of families from particular backgrounds. In the work that I have been doing, I have found that the most difficult thing is how to increase recycling in, for example, disadvantaged areas. It may be that the mechanism before us would have the effect in this country that it has had in the United States.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. If I may, I shall explain our attitude to the new clause in a logical sequence and then come to his point. It seems to make little sense to allow waste disposal authorities to require billing authorities to reduce council tax, while requiring that the waste disposal authority should reimburse the billing authority for both the lost council tax revenue and the costs of bringing the scheme about, which is what is proposed. It seems unlikely that a waste disposal authority would ever choose to do that.

The provisions for linking rebates and charges made under an incentive scheme to council tax are set out in schedule 5 and already allow authorities to net rebates off council tax bills. The rebates and charges made under a scheme are designed to incentivise sustainable behaviour on waste. There is no need to consider changes to the underlying council tax liability and it is not Government policy that the schemes should do so. I need to set that on the record because it has not been debated. The provisions in the Bill and the framework that we intend to establish in regulations will ensure transparency and fairness for householders, and will ensure that councils may link the administration of their scheme to council tax if they wish. We will consult fully on the detail of the regulations relating to council tax. We do not believe that anything more is required.

I turn to the issues about which the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle spoke. He wants only reward schemes under the Bill. As I said at the outset, such schemes can be established under the proposals in the Bill and, perhaps even more significantly, do not require new legislation. Right hon. and hon. Members may not be aware that DEFRA has already carried out major incentive-only and reward-only schemes involving a significant number of authorities. There were 53 fully reported trials, of which 30 found that they had a positive impact in increasing the tonnages of recyclables collected. I am pretty certain that those reward-only schemes included vouches in some cases. I may need to check whether they were actual vouchers or prizes, as it were, but there was not a council tax reduction or anything of that kind. They did not have a monetary value.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I am sorry to have introduced the matter rather earlier than I ought to have done. I apologise to the Minister. I want her to be very vulgar.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I would like the Minister to be vulgar. The problem with the whole issue is that we forget that most people find it boring, not terribly interesting and  not essential to their lives. We, who are involved, have become much more interested in it. How do we make people keen on it? We should use mechanisms that those selling mass-produced, household goods learned about long ago. Vouchers should be available that are used in the same way as “buy one, get one free” offers. I want to make sure that we go down that line, and that people can take something into a shop and get something cheaper because of it. I do not mind what sort of shop or circumstance, but please can we make sure that that is an element of what we are trying to do? I know about the earlier schemes, but they were tentative and slightly nice. We want a bit of vulgarity, and the Minister to be straight down the line as if she were the marketing boss of a major soap company.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

I am intrigued by the right hon. Gentleman inviting me to be vulgar. I hope that I am not capable of doing that, but I shall obviously try.

Whatever the right hon. Gentleman thinks about the schemes and their being timid or not, there were a lot of them. Local authorities came forward and volunteered to undertake what were a considerable variety of schemes. All I am saying to Conservative Front Benchers is that such a scheme has been tried in this country. We saw a rise in recycling in 30 of the 53 trials. There was a positive impact, but the difficulty was that the magnitude of the increase varied widely. It was hard to separate out the extent to which the particular reward, rather than the education, information and exhortation, increased recycling rates. As the scheme took place some years ago, rates were much lower, so there was greater scope for easy increases.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Apart from exhortation and education, a key role is played by the mechanism for collecting recyclates. If it is overly complex or requires too much effort on the part of the consumer, take-up will suffer. I urge the hon. Lady to look at the pilots in the USA—and perhaps not at the historic examples in which DEFRA has taken part—to see how the combination of vouchers plus effective collection produces such positive results.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

We have looked extensively at north America and its different schemes, such as the rewards-only and the rewards-and-charges schemes, as we have at continental Europe. I shall make a point of looking at the example that the hon. Gentleman gave of Wilmington, how long it has been happening and how sustainable it is. Participation rates can be raised easily and quickly by giving people vouchers, but how is that sustained for years on end? Where do the commercial interests lie in offering the rewards and vouchers? How sustainable is that? Does it raise competition issues in due course? Many factors would have to be considered if a scheme was based entirely on a commercial interest being allied with a public service. We must be sustainable and constantly increase recycling rates, not just have a burst of activity with a good result. We need to do more.

Having considered all the research, I was advised strongly that, if we want to increase recycling rates substantially and in a sustainable way, we need to look to the continental and north American examples that involve both rewards and charges. That is why, informed by all that research, we have brought forward proposals to try out five pilots in this country.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I ask the Minister to remember where her advice is coming from. It is coming from people who are universally unconnected with private industry. She is being advised by civil servants who, charming and able though they are, have specifically chosen not to be part of the private sector. She is being advised by local authority people who are in the same position. The American example is very interesting. In fact, it is sustainable, and is the basis of a now nationwide provision. It is supported by major companies and it really has a result.

I do not suggest that the Minister should take this on alone. I merely say that it would be silly if we produced an exciting idea but did not find a way of testing it ourselves. There is a worry about where our advice comes from. When I was in her position I had no idea, because there was a certain filtering of information, how much was being done commercially in both continental Europe and the United States. I hope that we will be given the opportunity to do this. I do not care two hoots who does it. I want to achieve it. But this line of vulgarity is important because otherwise the expansion of recycling is restricted to particular sections of the community, which is a great sadness.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

I hope that we can satisfy the right hon. Gentleman. We will clearly look at all the schemes that come forward. As he said, we may need to do some additional work ourselves in order to inject some further ideas into the process. I am more than happy to consider that. He would be entirely wrong, however, if he thought that I spent all my time talking to civil servants and people from local government. I have a significant number of meetings with entirely commercial interests. The civil servants involved also have a great deal of dialogue, particularly in these fields, with manufacturers and retailers. There is no ideological reason for us to be opposed to the sort of proposition that the right hon. Gentleman makes.

This is where we are. We believe that we need the possibility of pilots that involve both rewards and charges. That is the provision in the Bill, but it does not mean that we cannot do reward only—I must make that absolutely clear. All moneys raised in charges must be returned to residents as a whole, so that the overall burden on householders will not increase. That is an important point. Using words such as “penalties” and “fines” suggests that it is a new imposition on residents as a whole. It certainly is not. It is a reward-and-charge scheme and a rebate-and-charge scheme, in which no moneys accrue either to the Exchequer or to local government. That is a very important point.

New clause 18 does not introduce any useful new powers. New clause 22 removes the current provisions which allow authorities to issue rebates and charges to householders according to the amount of waste that they throw away, thereby permitting reward-based schemes only. As I have just said in relation to new clause 18, schedule 5 already allows authorities to run such reward-only schemes. Rebates could be netted off council tax bills or paid to householders directly. Indeed, the powers also allow for other types of financial payments, including vouchers, which new clause 22 specifically seeks to allow. As neither new clause 18 nor new clause 22 would replace schedule 5, but would merely add superfluous material, they must both be opposed.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

Before my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle perhaps chooses not to press the amendments in my name, I want to say a few concluding words. The Minister asked whether I would be pleased if we chose not to pursue my amendments, and I am not pleased at all, but that may not prevent me from declining to press them further.

Amendment No. 109 is not a wrecking amendment—none of my amendments on the amendment paper are intended to wreck the Bill. We are talking about a pilot scheme, and I have tabled probing amendments outlining what I thought were genuine pilot schemes. I agree with the hon. Member for Northavon that it is daft to restrict ourselves to just five schemes, when we could have four or six or seven. Yes, there is a cost involved, so we cannot have 200, but why restrict ourselves to five if they are pilot schemes?

I thought that the pilot schemes were intended to test not only the financial charging and penalty mechanisms, but whether councils could do the difficult recycling tasks that the rest of us cannot do. Instead, all that we have heard is that they will test charges, rebates and fixed penalties for householders who do not get things right. Local authorities will therefore not be encouraged to introduce pilots to deal with the huge amount of stuff that we cannot recycle—the Tetra Paks of this world. I am not totally obsessed with Tetra Paks, except in the sense that when I go to recycle them, nobody wants to take them. I cannot put them in the cardboard box, the foil box or the plastic box. If I go to the recycling centre, warnings tell me not to stick them in any of the containers.

Local councils have got me running up and down the stairs sorting out all their rubbish for them, and we the householders are doing their dirty work by putting our recycling into separate boxes, but when it comes to the difficult stuff, they just do not want to know—they do not want to take the things that they find it difficult to recycle. In my ignorance, I had assumed that at least one or two of the pilot schemes would test volunteer councils that came along and said, “We’ve got a system for dealing with the polystyrenes of this world and with the composite materials—the cardboard and the foil together and the plastic and the paper together. Minister, can we have a go at testing it out because we can take the stuff that most other councils aren’t taking? Here’s our charging regime.”

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

A council will be perfectly free to say that it wants to do that in its pilot. Its proposal might be the most successful if it offers much more. Everything is possible.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

I am delighted to hear it, but that was not the message that I got from the Minister earlier. She suggested that our proposals would be rejected because they would compel every council in the country to recycle everything. Of course, I do not want the provisions and the pilot schemes to do that, but we must draft such probing amendments to explore the Minister’s intentions in Committee.

I will happily sit down now if the Minister tells us that the pilot schemes will offer positive encouragement to councils—it may be one or two councils—to come forward with ideas about how to recycle the stuff that most councils do not want to touch because it is too  difficult to handle. We must solve that problem. There is no point in the Minister introducing five schemes if they test only the charging incentives, the penalties and ways of clobbering the local community charge payer. Surely a pilot scheme must test the mechanics to see whether councils can recycle stuff that others cannot.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal is right that there is a danger that the whole recycling issue will get stuck not in a class system, but with the people who are already attuned to it, who are already recycling and who probably already have a lower carbon footprint. The issue should not be the preserve of puritanical liberals—luckily, we do not have too many of them in my constituency. We know what puritanical liberals are like: they put their plastic bottles through the dishwasher to make sure that they are clean, they put their wet newspapers through the tumble-dryer to get them dry, they load everything into their diesel Volvo and they go down to the recycling centre. If that is what turns them on on a Saturday night, good luck to them, but there are more exciting things to do in Hexham and Penrith. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend wanted vulgarity and he has got it.

The serious point—I apologise for that excessive levity—is that we must make things easier for people. I am getting fed up with recycling. I believe in it, but I am getting sick to the back teeth of having to separate everything out and do the council’s dirty work when it will not take the stuff that I find it most difficult to cope with. What is the point of a district council if it cannot deal with those things, even on a pilot study?

The Minister has heard my plea. If the clauses need a slight tweaking on Report, I beg the Government to give her the flexibility and the freedom to have four, six or seven pilots, and to have some pilot schemes that will deal with the rubbish and the recycling materials that no one else wants. She will have my full support. I am happy to go along with my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle if he wishes to withdraw my amendments, on the basis of the firm assurances from the Minister.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 12:15 pm, 8th July 2008

I will not detain the Committee. We feel strongly that there should be a far more explicit statement on the face of the Bill about the power to reduce the amount of tax payable in relation to household waste, so we propose to press new clause 18 to a vote. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Peter Atkinson Peter Atkinson Conservative, Hexham

The Opposition have asked for a vote on new clause 18. That, of course, will come later in our proceedings.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

I beg to move amendment No. 24, in schedule 5, page 74, line 21, leave out paragraph 3 and insert—

‘(1) Section 46 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (c. 43) (receptacles for household waste) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (1) insert—

“(1A) Where—

(a) subsection (1) applies to a waste collection authority, and

(b) a waste reduction scheme under Schedule 2AA to this Act is in operation in the authority’s area, the authority may require the occupier to place the waste for collection in receptacles identified by such means as may be specified.

(1B) A requirement under subsection (1A)—

(a) must be imposed by notice served on the occupier;

(b) may be imposed instead of, or in addition to, any requirement imposed on the occupier under subsection (1).”.

(3) In subsection (10) (interpretation), in the definition of “specified”, after “subsection (1)” insert “or (1A)”.’.

(4) In subsection (6) (penalties for failure to comply with requirements under subsection (1) etc) after “subsection (1),” insert “(1A),”.

Photo of Peter Atkinson Peter Atkinson Conservative, Hexham

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clause 5—Collection of household waste.

Government amendment Nos. 25 and 26

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

The amendments refine an amendment that was made during the Bill’s passage in the other place. Our intention was to enable waste collection authorities to run waste reduction schemes where residents buy tags or stickers to place on their waste receptacles, either waste sacks or bins, when they put them out for collection. Residents would then receive a flat rate rebate. People buying the most tags would pay more overall, whereas others who had bought fewer tags would make a net financial gain. To allow for such schemes, we made an amendment to the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to give authorities the power to specify in a notice to residents under section 46 of that Act how they should identify their waste receptacles—say, with a specific tag or sticker.

That would apply to all waste collection authorities, which was not our intention. The amendment would avoid the unwanted impact and clarify that the power to specify how waste should be identified should be available only to those authorities running a waste collection scheme.

Following the pilots, as the Committee knows, the Government will report back to Parliament and will consider whether to roll out to all authorities in England powers to make a waste reduction scheme available. Should the powers to implement such schemes be rolled out in future, the power to specify how waste should be identified would continue to apply only to those authorities operating a waste reduction scheme.

I turn now to new clause 5. My noble Friend Lord Rooker mentioned during the Bill’s passage in the other place our intention to table an amendment to clarify that once a local authority has informed residents how they should present their waste for collection, such as by putting it in a bin, the authority need not collect any waste left lying outside the bin, for example. In the business, such waste is normally termed “side waste”.

As explained then by my noble Friend, these sorts of policies have been successfully operated by a significant number of authorities, with the support of their communities, using powers conferred by the Environmental Protection Act 1990. As part of a good overall service, they have helped householders to reduce the waste that  they throw away, and to increase the amount that they recycle. We have not made any change to existing policy, but we think it would be helpful for local authorities and for residents to have a single clear point of reference in legislation. That is why we tabled Government new clause 5, which would apply to all waste collection authorities in England and Wales.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Would the provisions permit councils whose current policy it is to allow side waste to continue to do so?

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

The hon. Lady is probably referring to situations where the way in which waste should be collected is specified, but householders put out additional waste and the collection authority willingly takes it away. Authorities would obviously be able to do that. They are not being dictated to, but are being given a power. It is our understanding that the power exists at present.

Local authorities can refuse to take away the side waste because they have made a specific provision under a section 46 notice. However, some local authorities choose to take waste that is additional to the bin or system that they use. That is their choice. There are, however, quite a lot of authorities which say, “We issued a notice. We made it clear what you are required to do. You must not put out more waste.” The Bill will clarify what we believe to be the case already—that they have the power to refuse.

The hon. Lady still frowns, but I hope that what I said is clear. Our reason for tabling the new clause is to make it clear that all waste collection authorities are covered by the relevant provisions. They need not collect waste that is placed for collection in a way that contravenes the collection requirements set out by the local authority in a notice to residents. That may seem unnecessary and complex, but it is intended to make the law absolutely clear.

Government amendment. No. 25 is consequential to Government new clause 5 on the collection of household waste. The amendment adjusts the Bill so that its provisions on the collection of household waste extend to England and Wales only. Similarly Government amendment No. 26 adjusts the long title of the Bill to reflect the inclusion of the new provisions.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I note from the Minister that the amendments seem primarily to be of the tidying-up kind. She answered my hon. Friend’s query, but we need to probe a little into the ostensibly innocuous nature of the provisions and consider their exact intention a little further.

Amendment No. 24 is an amendment to schedule 5, which in turn makes changes to section 46 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. For the benefit of those without the Minister’s mastery of the legislation, can she clarify the significance of the 1990 Act, how it relates to the waste section of the Climate Change Bill, and the effect that the amendment will have on the operation of the Bill and the 1990 Act?

Government new clause 5 would also change section 46 of the 1990 Act. The text to be inserted looks somewhat less innocuous than that in amendment No. 24. It reads:

“A waste collection authority is not obliged to collect household waste that is placed for collection in contravention of a requirement under this section.”

Such phrases can set alarm bells ringing all over the country, particularly where residents have experience of particularly officious waste collection regimes, so can the Minister assure me that the inclusion of the amendment will not mean that people will get out of bed in the morning to find that their rubbish has not been collected, on the grounds that they put the bag 1 m in the wrong direction, it was a few grams too heavy, or for some other pedantic reason?

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

The proposal worries me a great deal. We should be passing legislation for the benefit of the customer, and not of the provider. This sounds like bureaucratitis of the worst kind. It says, “I am the local authority, I am going to decide what is convenient for me. You are going to do it and, if you don’t, I have no duty to collect your waste.” That is precisely the attitude of Government that people are getting tired of. It is an attitude that has become more pervasive over recent years, and this seems to be a prize example. The provision is too tight and I do not like the feel of it at all. I suspect that our constituents will not like it. I know what will happen. Mr. Jobsworth will be around from the local council, saying, “Wrong place, wrong type of product. I’m afraid we can’t take it. And what’s more, they’ve just moved the law so that we can tell you that if you don’t put it out in the right way, we don’t take it.”

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My right hon. Friend has his finger on the pulse of the public, as ever. In my area many elderly people are worried about such regulations. There has been the experience of bins not being collected from time to time by new operators. Particularly when there is a change in operator and a switch from one system to another, people take a while to get used to it. Sometimes waste is not collected, even though the householder has behaved entirely sensibly.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Will my hon. Friend take the opportunity to press the Minister further? I am not entirely satisfied. My right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal has struck on a problem. The amendments make the system much less flexible than the present one. There are people who work away and who are not able to put out their rubbish on the collection day, but have come to an arrangement. There might be pressing security reasons why that cannot be done. Could my hon. Friend press the Minister further about the Government closing down a degree of flexibility and making matters more difficult, which will lead to more fly-tipping?

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Absolutely. That is expressed across the country, where new regimes and new contracts are coming into force, ending the flexibility that many householders used to have with their dustman and the relationship that they used to have with him, which found expression at Christmas. There was often a personal relationship with him. [Laughter.] No, not the milkman. [Laughter.] From a sedentary position, the Minister has broken the habit of a lifetime and been rather vulgar. However, I will rise above it.

All I am saying is that customs have grown up locally where householders were on good terms with their dustmen, ensuring flexibility in the collection of rubbish. I would hate to see such arrangements compromised by tightly worded legislation such as this. I have lost my line of thought.

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

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is about to return to his text, but I would like him to confirm that this is a serious issue.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

We are looking for flexibility and common sense in the interpretation of the law, to make sure that we are not creating a charter for jobsworth officialdom.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

My concern is not just, as my hon. Friend said, the jobsworths coming around and dictating what they cannot take and so on, but what will happen to the stuff that they do not take. We are not referring to people who, when they are supposed to be putting out their garbage or recycling, dump a sofa or mattresses. What will happen to the little bags? What happens if a person puts out extra newspapers in the wrong box—a whisky box or a wine box—instead of the official council plastic box? Such a move will inevitably be fly tipping. I would like to have reassurances that if householders put out extra, legitimate, material on the right day, it will not end up being thrown over a hedge into a farmer’s field in the countryside.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 12:30 pm, 8th July 2008

My right hon. Friend makes another valid point. We want to hear the Minister say that she takes on board such common-sense concerns and that a common-sense regime and culture will not be superseded by an exact charter and a legalistic interpretation of the rules and regulations. We hope that common sense will continue to prevail.

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I do not know what the story will be in tomorrow’s Daily Mail, but I think that I know what it will be in The Sun.

Amendment No. 24 is astonishing, in that we have to produce a piece of legislation to permit a local council to ask someone to put a sticker on a bag in its local authority area. It is a measure of just how ridiculously centralised this country is that the amendment is before us and that 20 Members of Parliament have to discuss special clauses to allow people to put stickers on bags. If the Minister insists that it is necessary, we have to take it at face value.

In all seriousness, I share the concerns of other hon. Members about amendment No. 24. The Minister is right that councils can already refuse to collect waste under certain circumstances. I have had one such experience. Having been told to shred my confidential waste paper, I was then told that I did not have the right to have it collected for recycling. In the brave new world of the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border, I suppose that it would have been collected anyway and that it would have clogged up all the recycling machines.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

If the hon. Gentleman shredded his confidential papers, why did the council refuse to collect that for recycling? Was it in a plastic bag?

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

A paper bag. I gather that the dust generated by shredded paper affects the machinery. There was a technical reason why it could not be done. Such realities have to intrude on the debate occasionally. The alarm that I have is that there is a difference  between shredded paper and what is generally known in the trade as putrescible waste, which is something that I learned about on the Select Committee. That is where the concern of the public starts to get real along with that of environmental health officers and others. I would hate to think that we were compromising any important public health principles in the name of recycling and that we were inadvertently placing people, such as the elderly and those in a confused state, at risk of having their welfare compromised by well intentioned provisions aimed at allowing councils to enforce recycling schemes. I guess that the scenario could be positively Neapolitan if things went badly wrong. I am seeking reassurance from the Minister that even after the measure has been passed, there will still be sufficient protection in other legislation or regulations to protect vulnerable citizens and ensure that public health is protected as strongly as it has been.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

In response to the final remarks of the hon. Member for Cheltenham, I give him every assurance that this is not a new measure—I have been at pains to stress that before. At the moment, local authorities issuing a section 46 notice can specify how waste will be collected from a residence. Once they have done that, if people do not comply, they may refuse to take away the additional waste. As I said in relation to the intervention made by the hon. Member for Vale of York, that does not mean to say that they will refuse, but they may refuse. If there were any risk to public health, they would have to collect. This provision already exists; local authorities may refuse to collect and some do.

There have been some questions about this. We have put clear provisions in the Bill to make it obvious that this is the law and that the power exists. The waste section of the Bill in schedule 5 will insert new schedule 2AA into the Environmental Protection Act 1990. I think that I have answered the points made by Back Benchers.

Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.