Waste Incineration Facilities — [Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:41 am on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 10:41 am, 11th February 2020

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I congratulate Mrs Hodgson on securing the debate. She raised particular concerns around the proposed incinerator at Hillthorn Park in her constituency. The debate has sparked heated interest; one might say it is something of a red-hot topic. I thank everyone who has taken part.

I make clear at the outset that waste and air quality are devolved matters, and stress, as I did on 28 January, that the Government’s intention is focused purely on reducing, reusing and recycling waste and on the whole idea of moving to a circular economy to achieve greater resource efficiency, as many hon. Friends and hon. Members have referred to. Measures that we are introducing will help us to do just that.

Evidence of the Government’s commitment to that aim can be seen in our landmark Environment Bill, introduced on 30 January, which, among other things, contains broad powers to establish deposit return schemes, such as those for drinks containers; provides for consistency in the materials collected from households, including food waste; and sets out services that businesses must take part in. I am pleased that the devolved Administrations joined us in the extended producer responsibility scheme, resource measures and eco-labelling. Jim Shannon mentioned some of those.

I am pleased that my right hon. Friend Caroline Nokes was clear that businesses making products such as plastic bottles want consistent waste recycling collections —as a Back Bencher, I met Coca-Cola, which reiterated that. People want more consistent collections. The Bill will help us drive towards an ambitious 65% municipal waste recycling rate by 2035 and a minimum 70% recycling rate for packaging waste by 2030.

I point out that it is a Labour-run council in Sunderland, where the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West comes from, and has been since 1974. In 2018-19, its household waste recycling rate was just 27.1%, compared with the national average for England of 43.5%, and its total waste incinerated was 71% of collected waste. It is telling that the hon. Member herself calls for a great deal more recycling and consistent collecting, rather than incineration, which is the direction her council has gone down.

Many other hon. Friends and hon. Members stressed that they would like to move in the direction that the Government are trying to move us, including my hon. Friends the Members for Loughborough (Jane Hunt), whom I welcome to her place, and for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn). Interestingly on that note, while Wera Hobhouse was strong in her case against incinerators, it was actually the Lib Dem-led Sutton Council that approved the Beddington incinerator that my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington talked about, and a Lib Dem councillor who publicly campaigned against it was expelled from his own Lib Dem group. We need to get our messaging right about what we are calling for.