HC Deb 13 December 2001 vol 376 cc997-9
10. Mr. John Baron (Billericay)

What plans the Government have financially to assist local councils in meeting their waste recycling targets. [205651

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett)

In the 2000 spending review, the Government found significant extra resources for local authorities. By 2003–04, the environmental protective and cultural services standard spending assessment, which includes waste services, will have risen by £1.1 billion over the provision for the previous year. There is also a private finance initiative provision of £220 million over the spending review period and a ring-fenced pot of £140 million over the next two years, on which we have now published a consultation paper.

Mr. Baron

I thank the Secretary of State for her response, but that money is not enough and it is not forthcoming. Is she aware that, after the recent waste summit, Friends of the Earth and other bodies such as Waste Watch estimated that about £375 million will be required annually if targets are to be met? In addition, the £140 million that she mentioned, which was first identified in the 2000 comprehensive spending review, has still not been paid. My county council in Essex has not received a penny. If the Government—[Interruption.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Secretary of State has enough to go on with.

Margaret Beckett

Of course, it is perfectly understandable and not at all unreasonable that organisations such as Friends of the Earth continually press the Government to increase further the already substantial extra resources that we are prepared to provide. Those issues will be considered in the next spending review. As for the progress of the hon. Gentleman's county council, I know that it has had discussions with our officials about projects that it has in mind but, as far as I am aware, it has not yet made an application.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)

Does my right hon. Friend believe that in parts of the country where one local authority is responsible for the collection of refuse and another is responsible for its disposal, there is adequate co-ordination to ensure that recycling is given sufficient consideration and is high on the agenda?

Margaret Beckett

As my hon. Friend will know, the Government recognise the importance of that. Indeed, one purpose of the recent waste summit was to press for more action to produce the recycling facilities that we need. I accept entirely my hon. Friend's point about co-ordination between different authorities. It is important that authorities try to develop waste management and waste minimisation strategies for their area because that enables the most efficient and cost-effective arrangements to be made.

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle)

Given the Secretary of State's rhetoric about waste, can she tell the House whether over the past five years, the amount of waste generated per person in the United Kingdom has increased or decreased?

Margaret Beckett

The figure is continuing to increase at a rate of about 3 per cent. a year. That is one of the reasons why the Government have made such a priority of waste minimisation, rather than just the handling of waste. Unfortunately, there has not been the investment over the years in adequate facilities to manage and handle waste, or in facilities to minimise it. Those are all issues to which the Government are giving considerable attention.

Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in areas where the local authority is seeking to build an incinerator, there is a fear that that will remove the incentive to recycle, so the incinerator will suck in large quantities of waste that should be recycled?

Margaret Beckett

I am aware of that perfectly reasonable and sensible concern. That is partly why I told my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) that it is extremely important that local authorities have an overall plan for the handling of waste in their locality, and that they engage the public in discussion about such issues, so that there can be a properly considered set of proposals. However, there are occasions when any proposal for any incineration under any circumstances is opposed, on the grounds of the perfectly reasonable fears that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg) mentioned.

The Government do not accept that there is no place for some, perhaps relatively small-scale, extension of incineration facilities. Unfortunately, there is still a quantity of waste that cannot be dealt with by re-use or recycling, and there remains a need for some incineration. I am sorry that some who campaign very well on these issues refuse to accept that.

Forward to