HC Deb 07 November 2002 vol 392 cc418-9
4. Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test)

What appraisal he has made of the case for the introduction of an incineration levy to encourage future re-use and recycling of waste. [78225]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Healey)

The Government announced in the Budget 2002 that they would consider the case for a tax on incineration in the light of the strategy unit waste project, which is due to be completed later this autumn.

Dr. Whitehead

Will my hon. Friend also appraise the large, long-term contracts being entered into by local authorities that centre on waste incineration? When he considers such a levy, will he address how it might help local authorities move beyond their reliance on such contracts?

John Healey

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend as one of the House's renowned experts on the subject and I thank him for his question. The need to minimise the production of waste and maximise the re-use and recycling of waste is at the heart of our waste policies. Technologies, including incineration, have a role to play in recovering value from waste, whether through recycling, composting or energy from waste, as my hon. Friend's question suggests. We will consider the specific questions he raises, and also the general questions, in light of the waste report that the Prime Minister's strategy unit is currently completing and which we expect to be able to publish shortly.

Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford)

Why is it that whenever the possibility of improving business behaviour arises, the Government's knee-jerk reaction is always to increase the number or rate of taxes? Is not this an opportunity to reduce taxes to encourage behaviour?

John Healey

We have cut corporation tax, capital gains tax and small business tax. On the incineration tax, I made it clear in my original answer that the Government have agreed to consider the case—no more, no less—for a tax on incineration as part of the long-term waste management policies that we need to put in place.

Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe)

Does my hon. Friend agree that important though this issue is, the problem partly arises because of the sheer amount of packaging and unnecessary extra material that is thrust on consumers, whether we want it or not? Will he consider a levy on packaging or other ways to discourage firms from generating unnecessary waste with which consumers have to grapple?

John Healey

We have no plans to introduce or consider such a tax. The specific questions and the wider long-term aims of our waste policies will be considered in the light of the strategy unit's report, which is currently being completed and which we expect to be able to publish shortly.