HC Deb 30 April 1990 vol 171 cc787-809

'.—(1) This section has effect for the purposes of the transition from the provisions of Part I of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 ("the 1974 Act") to the corresponding provisions of this Part of this Act and in this section— existing disposal authority" has the same meaning as in section 27 above; existing disposal licence" means a disposal licence under section 5 of the 1974 Act subsisting on the day appointed under section 133(3) below for the repeal of sections 3 to 10 of the 1974 Act; the relevant appointed day" means that day; relevant part of its undertaking", in relation to an existing disposal authority, has the same meaning as in section 27 above; and the vesting date"; in relation to an existing disposal authority and its waste disposal contractors, means the vesting date under Schedule 2 to this Act.

(2) An existing disposal licence shall, on and after the relevant appointed day, be treated as a site licence until ht expires or otherwise ceases to have effect; and accordingly it shall be variable and subject to revocation or suspension under this Part of this Act and may not be surrendered or transferred except under this Part of this Act.

(3) As respects any relevant existing disposal authority—

  1. (a) the restriction imposed by section 45(1) of this Act on the means whereby the authority arranges for the disposal of controlled waste shall not apply to the authority—
    1. (i) in the case of an authority which transfers the relevant part of its undertaking in accordance with a scheme under Schedule 2 to this Act, until the date which is the vesting date for that authority; and
    2. (ii) in any other case, until the date on which (to the satisfaction of the Secretary of State for the purposes of section 27(3) and (4) above) the authority transfers, or ceases itself to carry on, the relevant part of its undertaking or ceases to provide places at which or plant and equipment by means of which controlled waste can be disposed of or deposited for the purposes of disposal; and
  2. (b) on and after that date, section 14(4) of the 1974 Act shall not authorise the authority to arrange for the disposal of controlled waste except by means cif arrangements made (in accordance with Part II of Schedule 2 to this Act) with waste disposal contractors.

(4) In section 14(4) of the 1974 Act, after the words "this subsection", there shall be inserted the words "but subject to subsection (3) of section (Transition from Control of Pollution Act 1974 to this Act) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as respects any time after the date applicable to the authority under paragraph (a) or (b) of that subsection".'.—[ Mr. Trippier.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

7.15 pm
Mr. Trippier

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

With this it will be convenient to take the following: Government new clause 18—Application of Part II to the Isles of Scilly

New clause 20—Minimisation of waste'( )—(1) The Secretary of State shall, in making regulations under sections 3(2) or 3(4) below in relation to pollution from prescribed processes or particular substances have regard to the need to promote the reduction of the volume of waste. (2) The authorities designated as waste regulation authorities under section 26(1) shall in the exercise of their functions have regard to the consideration specified in subsection (1) above. (3) The Secretary of State shall within one year of the implementation of Part II below, and after consultation with the authorities specified in section 26 below, publish a national plan for the minimisation of waste, including such proposals, whether or not falling within existing enactments, as he considers desirable. (4) For the purposes of facilitating the exercise by the Secretary of State of his duties under this section, the authorities specified in section 26 may submit advice to him on the promotion of waste minimisation and the Secretary of State shall have regard to any such submissions.'.

New clause 26—Incentives for waste recycling'( )—(1) This section has effect for the purpose of facilitating the proper exercise of the powers conferred on waste disposal and waste collection authorities by section 48, and on waste disposal authorities by section 49 below in respect of the development of waste recycling. (2) The Secretary of State shall publish and from time to time revise a scheme drawn up after examination of the plans produced by waste collection authorities under section 43 below for the purpose of securing adequate financial incentives to the development of the use of recycled materials, including the establishment of guaranteed prices for such materials as he considers appropriate. (3) The Secretary of State shall satisfy himself that the resources available to waste collection and disposal authorities, whether in terms of revenue expenditure or of the cost of, or total in any financial year available of, credit approvals are adequate in each case to secure the proper use of the powers conferred by this Act for the promotion of recycling.'.

New clause 28—Reserve powers to protect environment in respect of waste disposal'( )—(1) A waste disposal authority falling within the description specified in section 27(1) below may form a date twelve months after the date of any transfer of functions under or in accordance with section 27 below transfer to itself from a company formed in accordance with section 27(2) or 27(3)(a) below such of its undertakings as it considers necessary to secure the effective disposal, or keeping, treatment or collection of waste, or the improvement thereof, in the interests of the environment. (2) In circumstances where a waste regulation authority exercises its powers under 33(4) below to revoke entirely a waste management licence on environmental grounds; the authority may either—

  1. (a) undertake itself the waste management operation concerned; or
  2. (b) direct that no similar activity shall be undertaken in respect of the relevant site or, as the case may be, by means of the relevant process where it considers that the continuation of such activities would cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health or would be seriously detrimental to the amenities of the locality affected,
and in such circumstances as are specified in paragraph (b) above the authority may, in acordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State in respect of periods of notice and inspection arrangements, revoke any other licence applying within its area which it reasonably considers is having, or may have, a similar effect.'.

New clause 58—Joint discharge functions— '(1) If it appears to the Secretary of State that any group of waste regulation authorities could with advantage make joint arrangements for the discharge of their functions under this Part, or if any group of waste regulation authorities so request, the Secretary of State shall by order establish for the areas covered by the group a single authority to discharge all such functions of such of them as are specified in the order. (2) No person shall be a member of an authority established by an order under subsection (1) above unless he is a member of one of the councils for whose areas the authority is established. (3) An order under this section may contain such supplementary and transitional provisions as the Secretary of State thinks necessary or expedient, including provisions for the transfer of property, staff, rights and liabilities.'.

Amendment No. 241, in clause 26, page 24, line 22, leave out from 'namely' to end of line 39 and insert—

  1. '(a) for Greater London, the authority constituted as the London Waste Regulation Authority;
  2. (b) in Scotland, an islands or district council;
  3. 790
  4. (c) for any metropolitan or non-metropolitan county in England, and for any district in Wales, the authority constituted as the Waste Regulation Authority, pursuant to an order made by the Secretary of State;
and in making any such order the Secretary of State shall have regard to the boundaries of the existing water and sewerage undertakers within the meaning of the Water Act 1989 and existing patterns of waste arisings and disposals.'.

Amendment No. 242, in clause 26, page 24, line 39, at end insert— 'The Secretary of State shall give directions to waste regulation authorities mentioned in paragraph (e) above to form or participate in forming joint waste regulation units within the metropolitan counties, to determine the budget of the units so formed, and to delegate waste regulatory functions to such units; and the budgets of those units shall be met by the constituent authorities in proportion to their populations.'.

Government amendments Nos. 64, 93, 65, 109, 66 to 68,151, 113, 114, 69, 115 and 116.

Amendment No. 243, in clause 29, page 30, line 19, leave out subsection (8) and insert— '(8) A draft code prepared under subsection (6) above shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament and shall not be issued until after the end of the period of 40 days beginning with the day on which the code was so laid, or if the draft is laid on different days, the later of the days. (9) If, within the period mentioned in subsection (8) above, either House resolves that the code the draft of which was laid before it should not be issued, the Secretary of State shall not issue that code. (10) No account shall be taken in reckoning any period of 40 days for the purposes of this section of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.'.

Government amendments Nos. 70, 110 and 71 to 73.

Amendment No. 141, in clause 39, page 41, line 12, at end insert— '(2A) In respect of the functions of a waste collection authority with regard to chemical waste, the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a report setting out the details of any inquiry into the disposal of such waste extant at the date of Royal Assent.'

Government amendments Nos. 234, 74 to 76, 111, 63 and 112.

Amendment No. 316, in clause 64, page 69, line 49, at end add— `(8) Where a waste regulation authority has determined whether a person is a fit and proper person to hold a waste management licence, that fact shall be a material consideration in any other application for a waste regulation authority.'.

Government amendments Nos. 95, 122 and 96 to 99.

Mr. Trippier

New clause 30 and Government amendment No. 63 contain transitional provisions to allow for a smooth transfer from the provisions of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 to the provisions of the Bill. In particular, they provide that an existing waste disposal licence will be treated as a site licence and be subject to the new stricter regime when the relevant licensing clauses of the Bill are implemented.

Government new clause 18 allows for some flexibility in applying the Bill's provisions to the Isles of Scilly.

New clause 20 requires the Secretary of State and waste regulation authorities to have regard to the need to promote waste minimisation when issuing regulations and discharging their functions. There is no locus in the functions of waste regulation authorities or the Secretary of State under part II which is relevant to waste minimisation. The functions of waste regulation authorities are to license the disposal or other management of waste once it has been created. They have no functions regarding the production of waste. I therefore do not believe that the new clause is relevant to part II.

New clause 20 also requires the Secretary of State to produce a national plan for waste minimisation. I am disappointed, although not entirely surprised, that the Opposition still press for the reintroduction of national plans. A number of my hon. Friends who are members of the Select Committee on the Environment have sympathy for the idea of adopting some kind of strategy. I have already said that there should be some national strategy. I should prefer to see it in the White Paper which is to be published in the autumn. I told members of the Standing Committee that discussions have already taken place with representatives from the local authority associations and I am comforted by their reaction in moving in the direction sought by members of the Select Committee, especially in terms of regions becoming self-sufficient in waste minimisation.

New clause 26 proposes that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should draw up a scheme based on recycling plans incorporating financial incentives and guaranteed prices for recycling materials. I entirely agree that there should be incentives for those who recycle. That is why I am pleased to announce that we are consulting on a new scheme of recycling credits which will strengthen the existing rebates system provided for in clause 45(5). We intend to introduce an amendment to achieve that at a later stage.

On the subject of recycling, Government amendment No. 74 builds on the amendment tabled in Committee by the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), for which I thank him. It ensures that once a plan has been completed, all those who had a hand in its preparation and anyone else with an interest will have a right to see and buy a copy of the plan. I am sure that the House will agree that that is only fair and reasonable.

On Government amendment No. 234, it seems right that we should have an opportunity to look at the plans before they have been completed to ensure that they cover all the areas that are relevant. Government amendment No. 111 achieves the same effect for waste disposal plans, and both measures are reasonable and desirable. I trust that the House will agree.

I have some difficulty with new clause 28 and regard it as rather a puzzle. If I understand the intention correctly, it would allow an authority that had transferred its disposal operations to an arm's-length company to transfer them back again within a year if it felt like it. That seems bizarre. Why should it be necessary for an authority that has set up a disposal company to get involved directly in disposal again? Each disposal authority will let a contract, taking account of environmental factors, either with its arm's-length company or with another disposal company, and that authority's waste will be disposed of under the terms of the contract. If any improvements are needed in the interests of the environment once the contract has been let, it is up to the relevant regulation authority to impose them by modifying waste management licences if necessary or simply by enforcing the existing licences.

Subsection (2) is more worrying. The idea of local authorities taking back powers to run disposal sites is linked to regulation authorities, completely undermining the separation of poacher and gamekeeper that has been achieved. If an authority decides to revoke a waste management licence, that authority will be able to take over the running of the site. We have heard many accusations of back-door privatisation, but now we have as an alternative the back-door nationalisation not just of current local authority sites but of any site.

The last part of the new clause adds a wholly unnecessary power.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

The proposal does not sound so unreasonable. What happens if, for example, the company that is running the recycling plant area suddenly goes bankrupt or fails to discharge its responsibilities? In many cases, local authorities have been forced to move back in, to take over from a private sect or company that has gone bust or failed to discharge its responsibilities adequately.

Mr. Trippier

I suggest that that eventuality could not arise. The bids made by those arm's-length local authority companies—concerned not only with recycling, which is only one aspect, albeit an important one, but with the disposal of the waste—will be made to the local authority. In the main they will be made to county councils and, in the case of the metropolitan counties, the existing mechanism will be used. They will either bid by themselves, as local authority companies, or in conjunction with a private sector company. If they are not successful in winning or securing a particular contract, they will not exist as local authority companies under the definition in the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.

All parties have tabled new clauses. One appears on the amendment paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh), although I understand that that is a mistake and that the new clause was in fact tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham), who has joined forces with the Chairman of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi). The proposals in new clause 58 would either require or enable my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to set up regional waste regulation authorities. I touched on that subject earlier. Perhaps we shall be able to set up informal groups of those responsible for waste regulation. I met that point on several occasions in Committee, and I do not demur from what I said then. I simply add that the matter will have to be addressed in the forthcoming White Paper. I hope that that will meet the principal concerns outlined by the members of the. Select Committee.

Let there be no doubt that the Government are committed to strengthening the present framework for waste regulation and securing effective arrangements for regional co-ordination. We want to consider with the local authority associations how best to do that. What we do not want to do is to undermine the existing waste disposal authority structure or remove the responsibility for waste disposal from the existing authorities—the planning authorities with responsibility for considering planning applications for the new disposal facilities. It would be unhelpful to divorce those responsibilities.

The Government do not have a closed mind on the question of reserve powers for the Secretary of State to establish regional groupings where voluntary co-operation is not forthcoming. We shall be considering the matter further in the light of our discussions with the local authority associations and I believe that it will be best dealt with in the White Paper.

Ms. Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

I listened with interest to the Minister's remarks. I welcomed the Government's concessions on contaminated land, and I had hoped that the Minister would make slightly more concessions on the matters dealt with in this group of proposals.

We are concerned about the wider environmental issues. At no point in our debates on the Bill have we dealt with the problem of how to minimise the creation of waste at the point of production rather than dealing with cleaning up and disposal after the event. The concept of waste disposal has entered our language, whereas Governments have not grasped the concept of waste reduction. Despite the Minister's references to waste reduction, it has still not been taken into account to the extent that we should like. The Minister should tell us how much importance he attaches to waste reduction at source.

If we can get the Government to deal with the problem at source, we shall have gone some way towards adopting a precautionary approach. If we can do that, we shall be able to deal more efficiently and effectively with the waste that is produced. The House has debated waste incineration plants in the north-east. If more emphasis were placed on waste reduction, we should not need to increase the capacity of those waste incineration plants.

New clause 26 tightens the provisions that deal with recycling. I welcome the support that the Minister has given to the concept of waste recycling, but he has not gone far enough. I know that time is limited in this debate, but I should like to put down a marker and say that I hope that the recycling debate can continue elsewhere before the Bill is passed.

Equally important to the Opposition is new clause 28. We accept the principle of separating waste regulation and waste disposal functions but we do not believe that the setting up of local authority waste disposal companies chosen by the Government is the right way of achieving that aim. The Minister said that he found the new clause puzzling. There is no doubt, however, that LAWDCs will be subject to financial constraints imposed by the Treasury and by central Government. The Government seem to have overlooked the extent of the investment that will be needed by local waste disposal companies if they are to deal with recycling, source separation, recovery and all the other operations related to waste disposal and environmental protection. We feel that the safeguards outlined in new clause 28 are sensible and we should like them to be debated more fully.

Reference has been made to amendments that seek to mitigate the fiasco that we have had since the abolition of the Greater London council and the metropolitan counties, as a result of the Government's inability at the time to understand that waste disposal was an important function of those authorities. It is important that that issue should be resolved, either this evening or in another place and certainly before the publication of the White Paper. Voluntary arrangements at regional level or the type of arrangements that already exist in the London area may be introduced, but if we wait until the White Paper is published and any legislation resulting from it is introduced, the likelihood is that the good practice that has been built up by the replacement of the Greater London council and metropolitan counties will be lost. It will be too late to use the framework that has already been established.

It is important that we reduce the amount of waste produced and that the waste regulation authorities take decisions about waste reduction. I am sorry that the Minister felt that waste reduction was outside the terms of reference of the Bill. A national plan for waste minimisation is essential. Perhaps if we talked about a national strategy rather than a national plan, the Minister would be more likely to take our suggestions on board. If it is possible to compile a national register of contaminated land, it is possible to consider a national plan for waste minimisation.

7.30 pm

It is important that the Secretary of State should obtain advice from the waste authorities. We should not want new clause 20 to apply only to processes that come under integrated pollution control. The Minister must tell the House who is responsible for waste reduction and waste minimisation. Is his Department responsible? What discussions is he holding with other Secretaries of State and has the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry considered these issues? How will those operating waste disposal facilities advise on the most environmentally sound way of dealing with the waste chain when it is in their economic interest to make profit from disposal?

Before we debate waste reduction, we must take account of the principles laid down by the European Commission. The first principle is that the quantities of waste generated should be minimised, and that wherever possible we give priority to recycling waste that we cannot avoid producing. Any remaining waste must be safely and appropriately disposed of in a manner that minimises the effect on the environment. Those matters are key to the debate.

In considering new clause 26 we must ask ourselves whether the Government have given real priority to recycling or whether they are simply paying lip service to it. We must examine carefully and closely the discussions that the Minister says are taking place or that are about to take place with the local authority associations. The outcome of those discussions and the proposals that the Minister brings forward later will enable us to distinguish whether the measures in the Bill genuinely encourage recycling rather than simply enthusing people about collecting things. Many of us can give examples where local authorities have gone full speed ahead with recycling but, because of the Government's failure to intervene and their insistence on leaving recycling to market forces, even Conservative-controlled councils have ended up throwing carefully collected waste into landfill sites simply because there was no other place to dispose of it. That, too, is an important issue. The Government should set targets for recycling. We look forward to hearing further details of specific proposals.

While we agree with separating regulation and operation of waste disposal, the local authority waste disposal companies are not the right way to go about it. Our proposal is one way of introducing a safeguard. If it is found that LAWDCs are not going about their business properly and if their failure to deal with the operations in hand causes environmental problems, the Secretary of State should have a reserve power to deal with them.

The Minister said that he was puzzled about our proposal. I refer him to other legislation. Despite all the powers provided under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 to prevent rubbish from being fly-tipped or dumped in our boroughs, it was necessary to introduce the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Act 1989. The powers to stop fly-tipping and to stop operators from damaging the environment were insufficient. Once the Minister has laid regulations before Parliament and they have been enacted, the Act will provide that those who cannot operate properly will have their livelihood taken away and their vehicles confiscated. There is no difference between that principle in the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Act 1989 and the principle of our new clause, which would give the Secretary of State powers to make sure that the LAWDCs operated in the interests of the environment. It would ensure that the functions of the LAWDCs were carried out in an environmentally sound way.

We may not be able to resolve some issues in the debate tonight, but I hope that we shall return to them before the Bill is put on the statute book and before the White Paper is presented, presumably at the Tory party conference later this year.

Mr. Robert B. Jones (Hertfordshire, West)

I wish to speak to amendment No. 241 and new clause 58 tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham). Although amendment No. 241 appears on the amendment paper in the name of Conservative Members on the Select Committee on the Environment, it is an all-party amendment. It has the support of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike), one of the Labour Members on the Select Committee. It reflects the Select Committee report on the important subject of hazardous and toxic waste.

In Standing Committee we had a lengthy debate on regional authorities. I shall not make a lengthy speech on that subject tonight. I am rather cynical about the Report stage of Bills. Often when one looks around the Chamber one sees that exactly the same hon. Members who served on the Committee have come along to air their views once more. However, what my hon. Friend the Minister has said today requires some response. I welcome the fact that he is considering both voluntary arrangements and reserve powers, though it is a little much to be asked to wait until the publication of the White Paper in the autumn.

Those matters commanded the support of both Conservative and Opposition Back-Bench Members of the Committee. I cannot recall any other Committee stage of a Bill in which every Conservative Back Bencher and every Opposition Member spoke in favour of an amendment but there was no movement by the Government on Report. I hope that later in this short debate my hon. Friend the Minister will put some flesh on the bones of what precisely he means by taking reserve powers and considering voluntary arrangements.

The faults in the present system are parochialism and a lack of professionalism. They will continue unabated in the new system if we do not do something to improve the legislation. Even if it is not improved in this House, I hope that in the other place when the Bill is considered in detail the comments made by everyone who supported my amendment in Committee will be read carefully.

There has been a catalogue of failure by local authorities throughout the land. The Select Commit tee found considerable evidence of that failure in the form of adverse consequences for the environment. Only one local authority in the country—Staffordshire county council—has a waste disposal officer of principal officer grade. In many other local authorities this responsibility has actually been downgraded over the years, despite its importance—

Mr. Henry Bellingham (Norfolk, North-West)

Run by one man and a dog.

Mr. Jones

Indeed—almost literally so, although I am never quite sure what function the dog had.

Low staffing, low pay, low morale and a lack of consideration by authorities have been responsible for failures in policy and in complying with legislation. It is extraordinary that, all these years after the requirement for waste disposal plans, there are still local authorities that have not produced them. I know that the Minister has been keen to pursue that point, but I understand that some local authorities have still not submitted plans, and the plans of some of those that have are weak to say the least.

I still believe that the only way in which the Government can produce a framework that will lead to high-quality officers with specialisation and resources will be to concentrate them in a scheme that is parallel to that of the water authorities, the water plcs, and the regional branches of the National Rivers Authority. Ground water and waste are indissolubly linked because of the effects of hazardous and toxic wastes on ground water. It would be sensible to follow the lines that were unanimously agreed by the Select Committee and to create regional waste disposal authorities.

The amendments relate to a reserve power on which my hon. Friend the Minister touched in his opening remarks, and amendment No. 241 mentions a specific set of proposals. I am not wedded to either idea. I have said several times during consideration of this subject that I am prepared to be open minded and flexible about the answer to this problem—but of two things I am certain: the present arrangements leave far too much to local authorities that are not sufficiently staffed for the task, and, even given the strengthening of controls under this excellent Bill, they will still suffer from many disadvantages. I hope that my hon. Friend will expand on what he has already said and will reassure me and my hon. Friends.

7.45 pm
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

At the beginning of the year people in Manchester, together with the Manchester Evening News, ran an impressive campaign against litter. The Minister starred in it, on at least one occasion chastising one of the local authorities for its failure to pick up litter. I approve of the Minister's campaign on litter, but I suggest to him and to the Manchester Evening News that there are two approaches to the problem. One is to stop people dropping litter; the other is to reduce the amount of litter that people are likely to have.

I was disappointed in Committee not to hear more enthusiasm from the Minister for minimal packaging. In this country products are wrapped up far too much and there is a great deal of scope for reducing the amount of packaging and hence the amount of rubbish that ends up having to be disposed of, whether properly—through the dustbin and refuse collection system—or dropped about.

I shall not, as I did in Committee, use visual aids and unwrap a shirt, but all hon. Members will be aware of how much packaging there is around a man's shirt, some of which I find infuriating when I am trying to remove the plastic and pins in a hurry to put the shirt on. Most of it is wholly unnecessary, and there are many other examples.

The other day I was amazed when I collected a set of photographs that I had had printed in a local shop. I was given them back in a little wallet, as is traditional—the negatives in one side, the prints in the other. However, the wallet was placed in a self-sealing envelope on which my name was written and that in turn was placed in a small envelope provided by the shop. Finally, the whole thing was put in a natty little carrier bag which bore an advertisement for the shop. Almost all that packaging was unnecessary.

Such examples when shopping are common. In Committee hon. Members gave examples of fast and convenience foods in fancy cardboard boxes that try to convince us that the food inside is edible. The Minister has said that a great deal is being done to reduce packaging, but a great deal of lobbying from the industry has failed to convince me that attempts to reduce packaging are having any impact. I hope that the Minister will tell us what progress will be made in this area, and that he will not say that this, too, will be left to the White Paper which can then be presented to the Tory party conference. It should be dealt with properly in the House.

Next, I refer to a booklet entitled A Load of Old Rubbish! A guide to recycling in Tameside", which is put out by the Ashton Council of Churches. I congratulate that council on producing such a good guide to recycling. We all know of examples of voluntary groups, local authorities and others producing guidance on recycling, but the Ashton Council of Churches has taken a lot of trouble to examine issues that people do not usually talk about. We all talk about paper, plastic and bottles, but this document goes into great detail about ways in which other items can be recycled—sewing machines, tools, wool, and a vast number of other products.

There is a great deal of scope for that sort of recycling and I pay tribute to all voluntary groups and local councillors who are involved in it, particularly to groups that manage to keep projects going for a long time. The worst aspect of paper collections, for instance, is that groups embark on them for a few months; then prices fall and they give up. The local group to which I hand my paper—St Thomas's Heaton Chapel school parents' association—has kept the project going for many years and I pay tribute to its efforts to maintain continuity. But I am worried about appeals such as the Blue Peter appeal for aluminium cans, which briefly distort the market and then disappear.

I ask the Minister not only to encourage household recycling of materials, but to put much more Government emphasis on post-collection sorting. People can sort out their bottles and papers, thereby making some contribution, and if they do that in the next few years, well and good; but that will not be a long-term solution. Sorting by the householder will reduce some waste and ensure some recycling, but the most effective way of dealing with the problem is to ensure that waste disposal authorities re-sort all household waste.

I was much impressed, when I went to Greater Manchester waste disposal authority's experimental plant at Radcliffe, to see how far it had gone in being able to sort household rubbish into materials that can be reclaimed. I understand that that has also been done in Birmingham and elsewhere, although almost all the projects are at the experimental stage and are not yet commercial. It will be very good for the environment if we can set up plants that will sort out paper and plastics, sort plastics into various grades, separate glass, aluminium and other tins and produce a residue that will make a good compost.

The Government take the view that they will encourage these recycling initiatives by making landfill sites expensive. The new clause does not deal with that and we could go much further. First, we should make sure that there is a guaranteed price for recycled materials. That would be one of the most helpful things that the Government could do. There is no point in encouraging the collection of paper, whether by individual groups or by a sorting process, unless there is a market for it. That applies to all other waste materials.

We must also ensure that waste disposal plants are reasonably close to the points of collection. Greater Manchester council has been collecting tin cans for some time, but almost half the profit is lost in the cost of transporting them to Hartlepool, which has the only detinning plant in the country. The Government should look carefully at encouraging waste disposal authorities or the new companies that are to be set up to look at ways in which they can put in sorting plants. Such plants are expensive, but they are the best way to ensure that all collected rubbish is recycled. That brings me to the question of the size of unit that is required for waste disposal.

Some areas are far too small and do not benefit from the economies of scale that are available with a large-scale plant and not enough plastic, glass or tin will be produced if the separating plant is too small. I was horrified to find that one of the local authorities in my constituency was talking about going to the Minister to see whether it could be separated from the rest of Greater Manchester to become a disposal authority. We have heard about one man and a dog. Stockport would be far too small to reach the required standards. Greater Manchester is just about big enough to deal with the matter. I support the approach of the Select Committee of looking at regional waste disposal and I am certainly not in favour of having it carried out by individual local authorities.

It is important to reduce the amount of waste through better packaging and the Government should encourage local authorities to go in for close collection sorting to that they can reclaim everything from rubbish and can also make sure that there is a market. In the meantime, we should continue with household sorting, although it is not the long-term solution. The long-term solution is to make sure that the disposal authorities can reclaim virtually everything from the refuse that they collect.

Mr. Paul Marland (Gloucestershire, West)

I want to take part in the debate because I am anxious to discover the extent and overall effectiveness of new clause 30 now and in the future in connection with the emission of harmful gases, whether they are those that we know of now or new ones that will be discovered.

There is enormous concern throughout the British Isles about the release of chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere. Consumer pressure has done much to reduce that emission because one of the major sources of CFC gas was aerosols. Insulated containers and wall insulation in houses and refrigerators are another gigantic source of CFC gas and attempts to reduce CFC emissions from those sources have so far been small and unco-ordinated. Can the clause be used to regulate against the release of CFCs in the future when technology is available to extract them from insulation materials?

I am concerned not only about CFCs but about the gas emissions from the dumping of cadmium and mercury batteries that are used in Walkmans and transistor radios. They currently go to landfill but technology exists to clean them up before they are dumped. It is not now a cost-effective exercise, but perhaps it will be in future. Who knows what other gases and substances we may learn about in the future.

It is beyond doubt that CFCs, halons and related chemicals are causing massive depletion of the ozone layer and giving rise to a substantial increase in the global greenhouse effect. I and other hon. Members attended a briefing meeting on Thursday chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi). We heard first hand from Joe Farman of the British Antarctic survey, who was the leader of the team that first reported on the thinning of the ozone layer, about the damaging effect of the build-up of ozone-depleting gases and the effect that that will have on the planet.

Mr. Farman's presentation was technical but nevertheless chilling about the long-term effects. The ozone layer shields the earth's surface from damaging ultra-violet radiation. A weakened ozone layer could mean millions of extra cases of skin cancer, cataracts and possibly infectious diseases. Enormous damage would also be caused to the natural environment, ranging from substantial losses in crop yields to potential collapse of the marine food chain. Climatic disruption from the greenhouse effect will bring havoc to the world's agriculture, coast lines and forests, and resulting stresses will threaten to fracture the economic, social and political structures that are necessary for global security and development. We in the developed world have a responsibility to do something about that.

My speech deals mainly with CFCs, but in a few years who knows what other gases could be emitted from the earth to deplete the ozone layer. One of the main characteristics of CFC gas is that it is an efficient and inexpensive propellant. Friends of the Earth told us at Thursday's presentation that 62 per cent. of CFC released into the atmosphere comes from aerosols—or it did, because consumer pressure has substantially reduced the amount of CFC that aerosols give out. Obviously, that is of tremendous advantage in saving the ozone layer.

Some 12 per cent. of CFC emissions are from solvents or cleaners, but there, too, consumer pressure is bearing down on the industries producing those materials and doing something to try to solve the problem. The remaining 26 per cent. comes from refrigerators and foam insulation. As the first two sources that I mentioned of CFC emission are reduced, the 26 per cent. emission will become much greater. What is being done about that? Some county councils are milking refrigerators of the coolant which circulates inside the appliance and which is a mixture of lubricating oil and CFC. Gloucestershire county council was one of the first to do that, and all credit to it for that. However, it is a haphazard and piecemeal operation.

It costs Gloucestershire county council about £3.50 per fridge but the council has no idea what happens to the CFC gas when it has been extracted. It does not know whether the contractor takes it around the back of a shed and releases it into the atmosphere. CFC does not smell, cannot be seen and is not harmful to humans. The source of refrigerators for Gloucestershire county council is the county tip to which people bring fridges voluntarily. The council receives only a few of the refrigerators that are destroyed in Gloucestershire out of the many hundreds that are scrapped every month. The frightening aspect is that the coolant in a refrigerator represents only 20 per cent. of the total CFC within the appliance. The remaining 80 per cent. is contained in the insulating foam around the cabinet.

What is being done about the technology for removing the CFC from that foam? The technology is in its infancy, but I hope that help is on the horizon. As hon. Members will know, I am the parliamentary adviser to the British Scrap Federation. Through the federation I have met one of its leading members, the Bird Group, which is working with Lindamanns, a highly respected West German company, and ICI to try to solve this problem. The company has taken the trouble to familiarise the Government with much of its work and a great deal of interest has been shown in the project, not only by my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside, but by other Ministers.

Squeezing CFC gases out of insulation foam is right at the sharp end of metal recycling technology and, because of the nature of the objects handled, and the need to contain the gas at all stages, the operation is expensive. The value of recycled metal from a scrap refrigerator is about £1.60, and the CFC is virtually worthless. On present calculations, the shortfall between the value of the saleable material and the cost of safely processing the fridge and transporting it to the site is about £18 per unit.

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The Gloucestershire county council has demonstrated its willingness to underwrite such a project in a modest way, but the whole project of containing CFC from foam will be put in jeopardy and progress towards widespread CFC recovery will be pitifully slow unless it is made mandatory, or there are financial incentives for industry, or legislation enacting the "polluter pays" principle is strengthened.

I was interested to hear my hon. Friend the Minister say that new clause 26 can provide incentives for those involved in recycling if it will not stand on its own feet, so I hope to see something helpful. Public pressure to encourage such action is building up, and that is backed by many in the industry. In virtually every high street, shops selling new refrigerators urge people to dispose of their old refrigerators properly rather than just dumping them.

The problem is growing and is becoming more embarrassing for the Government. One third of CFCs is in Government-controlled equipment—blood banks, munitions stores, mortuaries and so on. A recent report from the Department of Trade and Industry estimated that our CFC bank—the CFCs in existing working refrigerators and so on—exceeds 100,000 tonnes. The report also said that the disposal of CFC-containing waste will be a problem for the reclamation industry, causing it to reject the waste. The problem will then become transferred to the municipal waste disposal sector, which will similarly be unable to cope.

The technology to squeeze foam dry of CFC is not practised on a large commercial scale anywhere in the world. The development of a United Kingdom plant would be a world first, and the cost of the process would fall as the techniques improved. This technology could then be exported and Great Britain could claim a world first. We would be the first country not only to discover the depletion of the ozone layer but to do something serious about it on a big scale. In answer to a question from me on 26 July 1989, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agreed that this technology must be cracked.

I ask that the Department of Trade and Industry identify itself closely with this important project for reducing CFC released into the atmosphere from foam and insulation material. Secondly, I am anxious to learn whether new clause 30 can be used to implement legislation for the control of emissions of CFC and other noxious gases, odours and substances when the technology is available to control that.

Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)

I am aware that time is short and that we want to move on to other matters, but I should like to place on record some aspects of my party's attitude to new clause 30 in particular and others of the new clauses grouped with it.

New clause 30 incorporates many aspects of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, but a whole host of powers in that Act have yet to be invoked, 16 years after it received Royal Assent. Eleven of its sections, starting at section 6 and ending at section 103, have not yet been used. It is extraordinary that there has not been the will to invoke those sections to protect the environment. One hopes that, if this Bill becomes an Act, there will be a greater will to invoke its sections.

We support new clause 20, which requires the Secretary of State to have regard to the need to promote a reduction in the volume of waste, and new clause 26, which gives incentives for recycling and includes financial incentives and guaranteed prices for recycled products.

I draw the attention of the Minister to a serious incident in my constituency. Some 10 million tyres were dumped near a village called Heyope and then set on fire by an arsonist in the autumn. This released 11 toxic materials into water courses and only the efforts of the National Rivers Authority in stemming the pollution prevented a major pollution incident. Nevertheless, 4 million water consumers downstream in the west midlands would have been affected if the fire had got out of control. The drinking water from the river Teme would have been undrinkable.

This serious incident arose because far too many tyres were dumped. Tyres should be recycled and made into other products such as rubber matting. It is no longer acceptable to dump tyres in the countryside. One hopes that the DTI and the tyre industry will clean up their act. We believe that there should be tax measures to make recycling more attractive. This could improve our balance of payments by reducing our imports of paper pulp and aluminium. Making all bottles and jars reusable or recyclable as soon as possible would also help.

The law should insist that the industries concerned provide recycling facilities, and that is true of the tyre industry. Local authorities should be able to give a rebate for every tonne of waste that is recycled. There should be legislation to encourage the use of packaging designed for recycling. We would welcome any such measures arising out of the Bill.

New clause 28, which deals with waste disposal authorities, is linked closely to amendments Nos. 241 and 242. I agree with much that the Minister said about this. New clause 28 would undermine the establishment of arms-length companies to separate waste disposal and regulation, both of which are performed by the counties in many parts of England.

Amendment No. 68 refers to Scotland and Scottish authorities, but the Welsh Select Committee recently published a report on waste disposal and waste disposal authorities in Wales, which are different from those in England, because the districts in Wales are the waste disposal authorities. We should like to think that we are further down the road in waste disposal because we have three voluntary regional groupings in Wales which are there to advise.

It is significant that the Welsh Select Committee recommended that the three regional groups be given statutory powers that would cover licensing, monitoring and technical expertise. However, it felt that planning should remain the responsibility of district councils in Wales, because that is where democratic control and accountability reside. It is particularly important that it should remain there because if waste disposal sites are imposed there will be a grave undermining of the democratic process and communities will feel powerless to protect their areas.

Amendments Nos. 115 and 116 refer to imports and exports. The House will recall the way in which toxic waste was hawked around half the world by the Karin B, and will thereby appreciate the need for tight controls. It is rather alarming that special waste imports, which are classified in the European Communities as toxic and hazardous wastes, increased from 3,000 tonnes in 1981–82 to 80,000 tonnes in 1987–88. In my party's view, all wastes originating in OECD countries should be disposed of in the country of origin and should not be exported to other countries.

Mr. Robert B. Jones

In many areas in the Netherlands the ground is not suitable for the disposal of hazardous and toxic wastes. Does the hon. Gentleman still think that there is no case for international trade? Secondly, does he agree with the European Community view that such trade, provided that it is properly controlled and professionally dealt with, is valid and acceptable?

Mr. Livsey

I do not agree with the argument that lies behind the hon. Gentleman's second question. We have surely reached the stage at which a stop should be put to the trade in toxic and hazardous wastes. I accept that special provision may have to be made for countries such as the Netherlands where there is a high water table.

My colleagues and I have no wish to see imports of toxic wastes directly to landfill sites in the United Kingdom. Such imports should be stopped immediately. They are certainly not in the interest of the environment of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Bellingham

My remarks will be directed to new clause 58 and amendments Nos. 241 and 242 which, in effect, were tabled by the Select Committee on the Environment. First, I declare my interest as a parliamentary adviser to the National Association of Waste Disposal Contractors and an unremunerated managing director of a recycling company.

I endorse wholeheartedly the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, West (Mr. Jones) on new clause 58. He summed up eloquently and succinctly the arguments that were advanced in Standing Committee and those that were presented by the members of the Select Committee. The Minister will be aware that Select Committees, Standing Committees, and other bodies have strongly favoured the concept of regional groupings.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, West referred to wide variations throughout the country, and we know that with 190 waste disposal authorities there will be a great deal of disparity. There will be tremendous differences in their practices and standards. We know that many of the old WDAs have not filed their waste disposal plans. It is disgraceful that 150 have not done so. When representatives of the Institute of Wastes Management gave evidence to the Select Committee they said that the variation in performance is enormous. They said that in some areas the function of waste disposal has been downgraded to the extent that it has become a Cinderella service that is undertaken by a man and a dog, as it were. In the better authorities the function is taken much more seriously. I shall not rehearse those arguments.

Under the Bill, the Secretary of State will have considerable default powers if it is found that an authority is not doing its job properly. What happens, however, if the entire system starts to go wrong? What happens if what the Select Committee anticipates, and what the Standing Committee anticipated, takes place and there is a wide variation in performance? It would seem that there is a serious regional diversity in performance and professionalism. Surely the Secretary of State should have the reserve powers that are being sought. We are not saying that the Secretary of State must have such powers as a matter of course. We are saying only that there should be reserve powers in future if things do not work out properly and if this excellent Bill, which will shortly become an Act, does not provide a structure for waste disposal of the sort for which we hope.

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Perhaps the reserve powers will not be necessary, but why run the risk of having to introduce another Bill in two, three or four years time, or whatever? I anticipate that the Select Committee will re-examine the matter. If it comes to the conclusion that the Bill should have had fall-back provisions, it will say, "What a wasted opportunity". The new clause is not asking for very much, and it is not enough to say that everything will be included in a White Paper and considered.

Apart from waste disposal, we must consider the regional structure of Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution and the responsibilities of the National Rivers Authority. We must consider also the drinking water directive and how it will interface with and impinge upon various other matters.

We have a golden opportunity to amend the Bill to give the Secretary of State reserve powers. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will recognise that in Committee there was unanimous support for the concept. That position was shared by the all-party Select Committee. When the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs considered the matter only the other day, that was also clearly its view.

I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to use this opportunity to give a firm undertaking that the Government will reconsider the matter and introduce a new clause in the other place that will put things right.

My amendment No. 316 would enable a waste regulation authority, when it has determined whether someone is a fit and proper person to hold a waste management licence, to say that that fact should be a material consideration in any other application for a waste management licence for any other waste regulation authority. The issue was discussed in Committee and the Minister said, in effect, that he was extremely sympathetic to my argument. We have many national waste disposal companies and each one may operate in many different parts of the country. Obviously they will be operating under the auspices of several different authorities. It is for those authorities to assess whether a company is a fit and proper person.

Waste regulation authorities will be fairly hard pressed on the bureaucratic and administrative fronts. A national company that has been accepted as a fit and proper person by, perhaps, 20 waste regulation authorities may not be accepted by one or two others. The amendment seeks to provide that the waste regulation authorities should take account of the fact that another authority has already carried out the exercise of determining whether a company is a fit and proper person and has reached a positive conclusion. It is a modest amendment.

In Committee, my hon. Friend the Minister asked what would happen if an individual operated a number of different facilities. I recall that he mentioned a mobile plant or incinerator at a landfill site. That consideration can be taken care of—I wish that I had thought of this at the time—by the licence conditions. The facility will have to be operated by someone who is competent to do so. I do not think that the argument that my hon. Friend advanced in Committee holds water. I hope that he will reconsider the matter along the lines of the undertaking that he gave in Committee and accept my modest amendment. I had the devil's own job trying to find my way around the amendment paper because of the number of new clauses and amendments and the way in which they are spaced out. I have been pulling out my hair most of the afternoon—

Mr. Robert B. Jones


Mr. Bellingham

I am not bald yet, although I do not have the same amount of facial hair as my hon. Friend.

Government amendment No. 97 refers to so framing the terms and conditions as to avoid undue discrimination in favour of one description of waste disposal contractor as against other descriptions of waste disposal contractors. Why do we need the word "undue"? Surely there is no need for it. If it is not deleted, that surely means that the Government accept that there will be some discrimination. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to deal with that point. It is a matter of considerable concern that the amendment is faulty. If the word "undue" remains, there will be serious problems.

Mr. Pike

I wish to concentrate on amendment No. 241. Had time permitted, I would have wished to follow the line taken by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland) when he referred to CFCs, a subject in which he has great interest. He will recall that I was in the chair for the latter part of the meeting on the Thursday to which he referred. We were all interested in the presentation. It was clear that, even with the current action, there is still a long way to go in dealing with these issues. It is no use trying to limit the use of CFCs in this country if we continue to manufacture and export them. We must carefuly consider alternatives and also labelling. If there were time, I would expand that debate, because it is of great importance and we should be concerned about it. If CFC production and all emissions into the atmosphere were stopped now, it would be 70 years before there was any positive improvement. That statistic illustrates the scale of the problem.

As the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, West (Mr. Jones) said, amendment No. 241 should have my name on it. I do not know how the error arose. My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) also signed the amendment. The debate in Committee on this issue was the best that I have experienced since I came to the House. Not only should it have persuaded the Government of the problem, but it should have convinced anyone listening to the case that recommendation 23 of the Select Committee in its second report of 1988–89 was most sensible. Indeed, that recommendation followed closely the recommendation that led to the establishment of the National Rivers Authority following the investigation into river and estuary pollution a few years ago. The logic for proposing 10 regulatory authorities is identical to that proposed, and ultimately accepted, during the passage of the Water Act 1989. That is why we find it difficult to understand why the Government are not prepared to accept this recommendation when they accepted the previous recommendation.

The whole issue rests on whether it is possible for a body that is carrying out certain functions, whether disposal or collection, also to be the regulatory body. We are minded to support the proposal because we believe that there is a strong case that if regulation is to be seen to be independent and objective, it is better to separate it from the responsibility of carrying out a function.

As I said in Committee, the Bill divides responsibility for collection, disposal and regulation in different ways throughout the country. I do not intend to waste the time of the House by going into detail, but there is no single system for England and Wales. There is an extremely good case for accepting amendment No. 241. There is a strong link between waste disposal and leachates into the water with areas roughly corresponding with the NRA. We are not prepared to say whether that should go to an environmental protection agency, although there is a good case for that. The Labour party is committed to the principle of an environmental protection agency, as is the Select Committee on the Environment—by unanimous decision on more than one occasion.

If a Labour Government were to introduce such a body following the next election, it could be argued that such a function should go to regional councils. However, it would be wrong for the Minister to divert along that avenue tonight. We should use this opportunity to ensure that there is even-handed regulation throughout the country, with issues being considered objectively and in the best interests of the environment. This is a Bill to protect the environment. When I have referred to it as the Environmental Protection Bill, on more than one occasion the Minister has said that it is not only about protection but about enhancement. Both sides of the House accept that. The amendment is a step in that direction.

If the Minister does not accept the amendment or agree to introduce an amendment in another place, there will have to be further legislation within two or three years. He may not be in government then because, I hope, the Labour party will be in office. However, whoever is in government in two or three years' time will have to accept that the direction recommended by the Select Committee and embodied in amendment No. 241 is the right way to move forward and is in the best environmental interests. The Government should accept the amendment because it is a sensible and constructive proposal. The Minister should respond positively to the debate.

Mr. Trippier

What a pity. I was about to respond to the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike)—my neighbouring Member of Parliament in Costa del Lancashire—by saying that I agreed with most of what he said, but he blew it out of the water by coming out with absolute drivel at the end of his remarks. That devalued the currency of what he had said previously. Neither he nor my hon. Friends the Members for Hertfordshire, West (Mr. Jones) and for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham) can have it both ways.

This is a serious matter. Hon. Members must stop saying that Ministers will address the matter in a White Paper. The truth is that what has been suggested in this interesting debate is extremely radical—the joining together of regulatory agencies that would incorporate not only waste regulation but the National Rivers Authority. That was specifically mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, West. In addition, although no one has mentioned it yet—although it slipped between the cracks—perhaps the drinking water inspectorate and Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution should be included.

If we want to follow that route, the issues need to be carefully considered. It needs to be a strategy for the 1990s. The way in which I am responding to the debate fits closely with what the hon. Member for Burnley wants. I give him the solemn undertaking that we shall consider the issues in that light. I assure my hon. Friends the Members for Hertfordshire, West and for Norfolk, North-West that we shall consider those matters at one and the same time. One cannot strip out from a regulatory agency—whether it is responsible for matters relating to pollution of the land, water or atmosphere—one particular regulatory function from a White Paper dealing with the enhancement of the environment to the end of the century. That would be ludicrous.

I take on board the points made by hon. Members who are members also of the Environment Select Committee and repeat my assurance that we shall examine them. The hon. Member for Burnley is right to say that something must be done. If the way in which we should proceed over the next decade is to be spelt out, legislation must be introduced to bring that policy into being.

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Mr. Pike

Does not the Minister accept that the Government have already done as I suggest, with the establishment of the National Rivers Authority? We are only asking them to adopt the same approach in respect of this Bill.

Mr. Trippier

That the Government did so is the hon. Gentleman's opinion, not a statement of fact. Such an approach does not fit very neatly between, for example, the Health and Safety Commission and the Health and Safety Executive. It does not fit neatly either with Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution. Should we or should we not move more towards the situation that appertains under the sponsorship of the Department of Employment? It is not as easy as the hon. Gentleman makes it sound.

We are clear that those issues must be addressed, and the hon. Member for Burnley need not tear his hair—to use the phrase of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West—waiting for the White Paper, as he will have to wait only until September.

I assure the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms. Walley) that there is no lack of commitment to recycling on the part of the Government. Perhaps she prepared her speaking notes before hearing my introductory remarks, in which I referred to the new credit system that we shall introduce in respect of recycling. I touched also on waste minimisation.

I did not say—and I do not want the record to remain uncorrected—that we would have a national register of contaminated land. That is nothing like what I said. I said that we are making it compulsory for all district authorities to keep such a register, which is somewhat different from a national register. It would be extremely difficult to keep a national register up to date, and wrong to put local authorities through the wringer in trying to keep up with the dreadful bureaucracy that such a register would demand. However, I think that the hon. Lady shares my concern that there should be increased awareness among potential developers and others who may go near contaminated land that it is contaminated. I am prepared to meet her on that point.

I shall return to the question of a national strategy—let us at least agree on that phrase—for waste disposal in my concluding remarks.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, West asked me to put flesh on the bones of the reserve powers to which I referred in my introductory remarks. Amendment No. 242 makes as good a starting point as any. I share my hon. Friend's view that there is a need to ensure consistent regulation of a high standard in the metropolitan areas. I draw his attention to the powers that were given to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment in the Local Government Act 1985 to give directions to metropolitan borough councils to establish a form of regulation satisfactory to him. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, West will recall that the 1985 Act dealt with the dismemberment of the metropolitan county councils. We are considering the reserve powers that that legislation gives in terms of the new statute. It may be possible to transform or to transpose them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland) referred to CFC disposal. I agree that the disposal and reclamation of CFCs is not something that we should lose sight of when debating ozone-depleting substances. Disposal must be by total destruction of the molecule, through incineration. A better option is recycling, provided that it can be done safely. As my hon. Friend said, we have discussed the matter on several occasions—not only in Committee but at my Department. I am pleased that a British company, the Bird Group, is at the forefront of developing equipment safely to remove CFCs from various types of machinery. My hon. Friend catalogued them. In that technology, the Bird Group is, I believe, a world leader. We hope that its equipment will be of great benefit both environmentally and commercially. The Department of Trade and Industry has commissioned a study on the recovery, recycling and destruction of CFCs, for which the Bill provides ample powers.

The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) asked whether the Government are committed to the minimisation of packaging. We are, and are currently reviewing the recycling of all materials and of packaging in particular. The options are currently being discussed with the Department of Trade and Industry. They include mandatory deposits and raw material levies. My Department participates with the DTI in the recycling forum. Recently, two of the 10 expert groups in that forum reported on glass and paper recycling, and the Government are considering those reports now.

The only aspect of the hon. Gentleman's remarks that unnerved me was his apparent preference for the post-collection sorting mechanism for dealing with waste for recycling. I ask him seriously to consider the Sheffield experiment, which I am pleased to say has the support of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North, using pre-collection sorting. I invite all-party support for that superb initiative, which is backed by the Government, the Post Office and Friends of the Earth, working in partnership to ensure that it is a success. If it is, I should love to see it replicated throughout the United Kingdom. That would mark a dramatic step forward in our objective of recycling 50 per cent. of domestic waste.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

If it is true that Manchester and Birmingham waste disposal authorities can recycle just as much, if not more, by post-collection sorting than by pre-collection sorting of the type used for the Sheffield scheme, that overcomes the problem of householders who find it extremely difficult to sort their waste—such as the handicapped or elderly. The Minister knows that, although the Sheffield experiment is a great success, some people still refuse, sadly, to co-operate by sorting their waste.

Mr. Trippier

There is little difference between the hon. Gentleman and myself. I cannot disagree with his observation. The majority of the people in the Sheffield experiment co-operate, and the signal that should go from the House today is that we very much welcome their support. It is common sense that if waste is sorted before collection—known as kerb collection in Sheffield—the cost will be lower than if someone else has to undertake that chore later at the sorting bay.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West on his precise amendment No. 316, which clearly recognises the argument that a licensee who is perfectly fit to hold a licence for one operation may not be suitable for another. His amendment seeks to make the fact that an applicant has once been judged fit and proper a material consideration in making judgment of his fitness for another licence. Even so, I am not, I regret to say, prepared to accept my hon. Friend's amendment. It is essential that a licensing authority should judge each applicant for a licence on his or her merits in relation to a particular operation. I give my hon. Friend my assurance that detailed guidance to local authorities, which they will statutorily be bound to regard, will cover that aspect, together with all other matters concerning fit and proper persons.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North and several other hon. Members referred to a national strategy on waste. I have already referred to the delight that I felt when senior officials consulted senior officers in the local authority associations that want to move in that direction. It is a problem that can be dealt with only in terms of self-sufficiency on a regional basis and I am the first to accept that. An effective target could be for each region in the United Kingdom to be self-sufficient in waste disposal. Many hon. Members know that that is not the case. Some hon. Members represent constituencies in regions that are massive exporters of waste, which means that other regions have to take more than their fair share. I am reluctant to mention a particular region, but hon. Members know that we have had considerable deliberations about one part of the country that is north of Watford—so I can hardly be accused of being anti-southern—where we need a more rational approach to that incredible problem.

The Opposition remonstrated with me and with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to speed up the programme announced at the North sea conference for the disposal of treated sewage sludge. Will any Opposition Member who was in Committee who wishes us to accelerate the programme—remember that we can dispose of such waste only in landfill or through incineration—nominate a landfill or incinerator site in their constituency? Suddenly everything goes quiet, and no one wishes to participate in the debate any more.

Mr. Bellingham

Has my hon. Friend had the chance to consider my remarks about the word "undue"? Will he delete that word?

Mr. Trippier

I feel that I am under an obligation to consider that. It is clearly a legal point, and if I am able to accommodate my hon. Friend, I shall ensure that the word is changed prior to the Bill going to another place.

Ms. Walley

The Minister clearly has a problem about the extent to which arrangements can be made to organise the proper disposal of waste. In view of what he has said, I do not think that we have had a final answer on how he will deal with amendments tabled by many of his hon. Friends.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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