HL Deb 18 December 2002 vol 642 cc61-118GC

(Second Day)

Wednesday, 18th December 2002.

The Committee met at half-past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Skelmersdale) in the Chair.]

Clause 8 [Duty not to exceed allowances]:

Lord Hanningfield moved Amendment No. 48: Page 7, line 12, at end insert— ( ) All monies in respect to financial penalties collected as set out under section 8(2) and (3) will be hypothecated directly to waste disposal authorities as directed by the allocating authority.

The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 48. We have spoken several times during debate on previous amendments about the financial problems of the Bill and the money that it will cost local authorities. Here, of course, if the Bill is enacted, there will be some income from the fines that will be paid. Rather than that the fines end up in the Chancellor's pocket or in some other area, we believe it is important that the money should be used to compensate for some of the other costs associated with the Bill. In fact, it should go hack to the waste area, either to help recycling or to help in another area associated with this legislation.

We are suggesting that the fines should be hypothecated back. We would obviously have to find a mechanism for doing that and we are not suggesting how such a mechanism should work. It could be done through DEFRA or through the Environment Agency. The money could go to the Environment Agency and to local authorities to help in this area. Obviously something has to be done with the money from the fines. I hope that the Government will take on board the amendment as a way of easing some of the other financial problems that we talked about during debate on earlier amendments to the Bill. I beg to move.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty)

As the noble Lord explained, the amendment would require that the penalties imposed on waste disposal authorities go back to the allocating authority so that the money raised could be used to support waste disposal. One can understand) the attractions of that proposition as it would keep the money in the system to be used to best effect.

However, the suggestion cuts across a number of normal principles of public financing. Not only is it hypothecation, which, by and large, our colleagues in Great George Street are not keen on, but it also cuts across the general view that the tined income should not be set against expenditure in the same field be cause that would provide a perverse incentive and sanctions money normally goes hack into the Exchequer. The proposition in the amendment would also relate to other parts of the United Kingdom, as well as to England, and our devolved colleagues require flexibility in that respect.

Having said that, and having put down serious caveats from the point of view of overall government finance, all the Strategy Unit report proposals, which have funding implications in general, are currently under consideration inter-departmentally. Any proposition which relates to this area is therefore being considered in that context. In that sense, I should not like to rule out the proposition put forward by the noble Lord. However, the issue may not be resolved during the course of the Bill's proceedings within this House, although it may before the Bill completes its course through Parliament.

Therefore, I cannot give any indication that I shall return with a proposition that would go some way to meeting the objectives of the amendment. I understand the motivation behind it, but the issue needs to be seen in the wider context. We shall need to be clearer on that point at a significantly later stage in the Bill but, at present, I cannot accept the amendment.

Lord Hanningfield

I am grateful for the Minister's comments. Obviously, there are other cases where, for example, parking fines are hypothecated and the funds go back to local authorities. Increasingly, discussions are held about other examples of money being returned for the use of the service from which it is raised. I can understand the original idea but I do not believe that that would be that much of an exception. That said, the Minister made sonic encouraging comments that the money might be returned to the waste system, which is so short of money. It would be a shame if it was not. I was encouraged by those comments and hope that the Government will reflect further upon the matter so that we can hear more about it when we reach Report. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 49 to 51 not moved.]

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Monitoring authorities]:

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 52: Page 7, line 30, at end insert "and monitor the measures used for handling the remaining biodegradable municipal waste which is not sent to landfill

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 57. Amendment No. 52 imposes a requirement for the overall monitoring of the destinations of biological and municipal waste. I have written that down here as "BMW", which somehow does not seem a very appropriate acronym, but I may continue to use it. It states that the Secretary of State must: monitor the measures used for handling the remaining biodegradable municipal waste which is not sent to landfill"— in other words, it covers that part of the BMW which does not go to landfill. Amendment No. 57, which is grouped with it, imposes a requirement upon the waste disposal authorities to: produce evidence as to amounts of waste, or of waste of any description, which is handled by measures other than being sent to landfill".

The amendments are intended to help prevent fly-tipping of those biodegradable wastes which are not landfilled. As we all know, fly-tipping is a significant, continuing and growing problem, both for farmers and owners of land and for the general community in both the town and the countryside. In relation to farmers and growers, in August 2000, the National Farmers Union conducted a telephone survey of 300 producers in which 25 per cent of them identified a significant increase in the incidence of fly-tipping on their land in the preceding year. Although the problems reported included all the things one would expect—abandoned cars, tyres, construction and building waste and so on—it also included a significant amount of household waste.

More recently, it surveyed 2,000 farmers and growers in the urban fringe, of whom 67 per cent reported that they suffer from fly-tipping. Probably the only thing that would surprise some of us about that is that the proportion is only 67 per cent. We are all aware of the extent of fly-tipping and anecdotal evidence and personal observation suggests that it is increasing not decreasing.

Fly-tipping is not merely unsightly. It is also a health hazard wherever it takes place. On farmland, it is a danger to grazing livestock; it is also a source of pollution. Often the owners of the land on which the material is tipped end up having to deal with the problem and being responsible for removing it. If they will not remove it, eventually the council will serve a notice on them to do so. The whole system is, therefore, worsening from an already bad position.

There is also increasing concern about fly-tipping from commercial establishments involved in operations, particularly catering, which involve biodegradable waste. We are all familiar with the increasing problem of people getting a takeaway and eating about a third of it before chucking it away. Whether it goes in the bottle bank, the waste paper bank, somebody's front garden or into a hedgerow, it is just as bad.

I am not suggesting that measures in the Bill will have a direct effect on the motivation of people who chuck away their uneaten curries, chicken chow meins, fish and chips or whatever it happens to be. There is, however, a concern that on the broader scale, the measures in the Bill may result in greater fly-tipping—greater unauthorised disposal of all kinds—of biodegradable waste that is not sent to landfill.

The purpose of the amendments is to place a duty upon the authorities at all levels in the system to monitor and provide information about—to keep a check on—not just the biodegradable waste that goes to landfill under the Bill but that which does not. Unless we know what is happening to that which does not, we do not know what problem it poses. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am bound to support the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in these amendments because the problem of fly-tipping is universally offensive. Unfortunately, by definition it is impossible to measure it because it is unofficial and we do not know that fly-tipping has happened until it is too late. Even if it is reported, all too often—certainly in my part of the world—nothing happens and the poor old landowner is left facing a problem.

Many years ago, I even recall a dead sheep being dumped in one of my ditches in the middle of a major disease outbreak among livestock. When I reported that to the relevant authorities—both the Ministry of Agriculture and the local authority—they were not interested in the slightest. There is a problem with fly-tipping and out in open country people will get rid of lawn mowings, rose prunings—you name it.

To encourage the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, we have tabled amendments relating to clauses towards the end of the Bill that we hope might relieve the pressure for fly-tipping, but we will deal with them when we reach them. I make that point, but I support the principle of anything that will help to get hold of that dreadful problem. Knowing about waste that does not go to landfill is just as important as knowing about waste which does.

Lord Whitty

The noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Dixon-Smith, have now elucidated the objective of the amendments: it is primarily to deal with fly-tipping. I am not sure that this is the appropriate way to deal with fly-tipping. Later, the Committee will discuss Amendment No. 86, and I recognise a lot of what both noble Lords have said about the problem of fly-tipping. But we are here dealing with the tracing of municipal waste. Although some municipal waste may, regrettably, end up in fly-tipping, the bulk of flytipping—as the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, implied—comes from commercial or private sources, which are much more difficult to deal with.

The amendment may contribute towards controlling the problem, but it would not deal with the main problem of fly-tipping. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, that it is important that we monitor what is happening to all sorts of material—not simply biodegradable municipal waste but all waste, whether or not it is going to landfill. Whether we need to monitor everything is another matter. Surveys are carried out to produce the wider picture; local authority efforts at improving recycling and composting performance continue to be upgraded, and that requires monitoring aspects. However, this way of amending the Bill is not the appropriate way to put that effort onto a more systematic basis and statutory footing.

Indeed, in order to change the behaviour of local authorities in dealing with their waste, it would seem to us better to reshape the best value indicators for waste authorities. The indicators for each coming year are clear and transparent and are subject to public consultation. They can enable the creation of statutory targets, should we so wish—like the current targets for recycling and composting—and the returns made by the authorities will judge their performance against that target, rather than simply monitoring the information. That information would then be available for auditors—both the district auditor and the Audit Commission.

The amendments would require the complete separation of biodegradable waste. However desirable separation is, biodegradable waste does not usually come in separate waste streams; it is usually mixed with other materials. So a statutory requirement to track all municipal biodegradable waste could of itself present significant difficulties and resource implications for local authorities. We should not simply write that into the statute book, as would the amendment, without considering those implications. There may be a better way to ensure that local authorities meet the objectives, which we all share. For those reasons I resist the amendment.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Greaves

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply and interested by his comments on how he believes that he can better tackle the problem in future. We shall read what he has to say in Hansard with great interest, as usual. Meanwhile I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 53 not moved.]

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Scheme regulations]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 54: Page 8. line 10, leave out -make provision about what amounts to" and insert "define

The noble Lord said: This is a probing amendment. Clause 10(2) contains a number of paragraphs that start with a general "make provision" but then go on to make provision about specific items. Paragraph (c) caused me some difficulty because I do not understand the terminology. It states: make provision about what amounts to the utilisation of landfill allowances".

Does that mean, "make provision defining the utilisation of landfill allowances" or "make provision about amounts of material may be used in landfill allowances"? Or what? If it really is to make provision defining the utilisation of landfill allowances, it would be much better if the Bill said so. I beg to move.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

I support the amendment in the interests of plain English. It means something far clearer than the words in the Bill and comes to the point, which is a desirable effect.

Lord Whitty

I am of course always in favour of plain English—and rarely achieve it. I am not sure that the amendment would provide what the noble Lord seeks. At present, the Bill is an attempt to make clear that regulations make provision for what amounts to the utilisation, rather than including a definition of utilisation. That may be seen as somewhat obscure. The power is included to allow an allocating authority to determine whether utilisation of an allowance occurs until the end of the year—when the allowance occurs and allowances are reconciled with the waste sent to landfill—or whether utilisation occurs piecemeal, as and when waste is sent to landfill; and, if later, as soon as the allowances are acquired to cover waste already sent to landfill. So there are three different situations, all of which this reference attempts to cover. However, we shall define utilisation. I take the points made and I shall take the amendment away to consider whether the clarity of the English can be tidied up.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his reply. When I heard him read from his sheet that described what the provision actually did I thought that we were adding chaos to confusion. The Bill should be sufficiently clear and precise in its meaning that even an idiot such as me can understand it. I am grateful to the Minister for his reassurance that he will look at the wording at this point to see whether it could be improved. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Skelmersdale)

Before I call Amendment No. 55 I have to tell the Committee that if it is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 56 or 57 because of pre-emption.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 55: Page 8, line 14, leave out paragraph (e).

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 55 is a slightly different problem. Again, this paragraph is not particularly clear. The reason we thought it best perhaps to leave it out comes back to the question of definitions. This is a probing amendment to find out what lies behind the provision. The problem in this case is not quite so flagrant as in the previous amendment. In this paragraph, we are into the business of, requirements on waste disposal authorities in the area to produce evidence as to amounts of waste, or of waste of any descript on".

I have some difficulty—waste is waste. What is this distinction between waste and "waste of any description"? I can understand the distinction between biodegradable waste and inert waste, but not a distinction between, amounts of waste, or waste of any description, sent to landfills in pursuance of arrangements made by them".

We are back to the issue of plain English. I wonder whether our Bill draftsmen occasionally have what I would call worditis and stick words in for amusement, or perhaps just to provoke me, though I am sure they would not do that. I beg to move.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

This is quite a tricky one. I have a written a note that says, "paragraph reads like gobbledegook". However, it is important to quantify amounts of waste and I am worried that if the whole paragraph is removed an important aspect of the Bill will not appear. There is a case for rewriting this paragraph with the essentials in it, but perhaps not in the way that is presented, which is quite difficult to understand. It is desirable that anyone who is acting on the objectives of the Bill can understand precisely what it encapsulates.

Lord Whitty

As I understand it, these two amendments are options. The first option in Amendment No. 55 would delete the whole of paragraph (e). As the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, has said, that would remove the requirement to provide evidence on the amounts of waste sent to landfills. Therefore, we would be in difficulty in meeting the targets, or at least having a robust evidence base to see whether we had met them.

There is an apparent problem of understanding the reference to "waste of any description", which Amendment No. 56 would remove. I am informed that the "amounts of waste" reference relates to waste as defined in the Bill from the framework directive, whereas allowing also for other waste to be monitored and evidence provided means that there will be some waste on which we would want evidence, which would be outside the terms of the directive. That is why the provision is included. Some explanation of the reasons for that will be needed, but we must include a provision that allows us to require evidence of how we dispose of waste other than that which is defined in the directive. We would need some provision. Again, we could always look at the language, but the intent will need to be on the face of the Bill.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I always understood the need for the intention to be on the face of the Bill. That is why I prefaced my words with the fact that this was a probing amendment seeking information. I am now even more confused because apparently we have three types of waste: biodegradable waste; waste of any description; and, of course, a vast quantity of inert waste which also goes to landfill but which, if I understood the Minister's words correctly, is not to be recorded.

We need to consider this matter a little more carefully. It is essential to have information on what is happening because the capacity of any landfill site is finite. Up to a point, one can say when it is full but it always useful to know exactly. Certainly, historically, it is important to know what has been placed in the site. Ultimately, there is also the question of its future use. If the intention is not only to keep records of biodegradable waste but to deal with all other waste that goes to landfill, including inert waste, that is fine, but the Bill should state "and of all other waste". It is the words "any description" which cause confusion. I could not distinguish between that and inert waste. Once again, I ask the Minister to consider this matter in his response.

I have probably said enough. From what he said, the Minister realises there may be a problem. If he will nod his head strongly, I shall be happy to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Whitty

In order to prepare for that objective, I also want to say that this is a complex issue. It may be helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and to other Members of the Committee if I write down what was intended. On Report, we can then judge whether that is properly represented by these words or by some other proposition.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am most grateful to the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 56 and 57 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 58: Page 8, line 18, leave out "make provision requiring" and insert "require

The noble Lord said: I am sorry, but with this amendment we again return to the business of language. In this case, where the Bill states at page 8, line 18, "make provision requiring", why does it not simply say "require"? That would be one word instead of three. It would be far simpler but would have precisely the same effect and would still be good English. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

As usual, I was deeply suspicious as to what lay behind the amendment and I therefore had difficulty in finding a substantial reply. If the good intent of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is simply to tidy up our English, then let us take the matter away to see whether it makes any difference. I shall undertake to return to him at a later stage.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I count that as quite a triumph. I am most grateful to the Minister for that response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4 p.m.

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 59: Page 8, line 23, at end insert— ( ) Before formulating policy for the purposes of subsection (2)(d), the Secretary of State must—

  1. (a) consult such bodies or persons appearing to him to be representative of the interests of local government as he considers appropriate;
  2. (b) consult such bodies or persons appearing to him to be representatives of industry as he considers appropriate; and
  3. (c) carry out such public consultation as he considers appropriate."

The noble Lord said: The amendment concerns the need, when making regulations, to consult the interests of local government, representatives of industry, and the public in general. When I looked at the amendment in detail, I could not understand why it referred only to subsection (2)(d) rather than to the whole of subsection (2). These things happen when one compiles amendments. When they are being compiled, one thinks they are the most intelligent and important thing in the world. Then sometimes, when you read them afterwards, you wonder what on earth that means.

I have two questions about subsection (2)(d). The first relates to the whole subsection, which is about scheme regulations and the whole area in which regulations may be made. Noble Lords will remember that the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform, in its first report 2002–03, had some interesting things to say about the number and extent of the regulations that are set out in this legislation. Paragraph 26 said: The Bill is, effectively, almost a 'skeleton bill'".

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, read out a good deal of the comments on Second Reading. I will read a little of them again because they vital in the context of the regulations, both in relation to consultation and in relation to what kind of orders they should be—a matter to which we will come later.

The committee said: The bill is, effectively, almost a 'skeleton bill'. We have previously reported unfavourably on such bills, which leave many important matters to ministerial discretion. Even where the powers in the Bill are subject to affirmative procedure, Parliament can only Accept or reject what is proposed. It cannot amend it. Had this Bill applied only to England"— this is the crucial bit— we would have considered seriously whether to recommend that some of what is proposed to be done by regulations should appear on the face of the bill.

The committee went on to explain why that situation had come about. We all understand that the Bill refers not just to England, where the powers are vested in the Secretary of State, but also to the devolved administrations, where the powers are quite rightly vested in the devolved authorities.

We shall deal later with whether the affirmative procedure should be used, so I will not pursue that further. However, I would like a general assurance about the consultation that will take place on all these regulations. Given that some of them would almost certainly have appeared on the face of the Bill, and if they had not, we would have been discussing a clear recommendation from the Delegated Powers Committee that they should, then it is doubly important that the consultation that takes place is as strong as it possibly can be.

Secondly, what does subsection(2)(d) mean? The more I read it, the less I understand it. It may be absolutely clear if you understand what the words mean. However, if you do not understand what the words mean, as in the previous amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, it does not mean anything. It says that regulations may, in particular, make provision for determining the amount of biodegradable municipal waste in an amount of waste", but for the life of me I cannot work out what that means. I would be grateful if the Minister could increase my general level of education by telling me. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I support the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in this amendment, particularly on the issue of consultation. It is essential that those who will be affected by these regulations are able to make their views known before the regulations are drafted. There is an obligation for consultation about the totality of a Bill but consultation comes into this Bill pretty rarely. I am not sure that the references that there are to it cover this specific point where we are really getting down to the nitty-gritty.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, I too have a problem in that the Bill is designed for the United Kingdom, which unfortunately leaves England in a handicapped position vis-a-vis the regulations. Scotland can devise its own legislation in detail on the subject, if it so chooses. The Welsh Assembly has an absolute power, because of its function, to discuss the possibility of regulation in detail. The Northern Irish set up, where there is a hiatus at the moment, has such a power built into it. In this country, we have this clause and in due course, the Minister can write the regulations and Parliament can say yes or no. It would serve the Government right if one day someone said no, on principle, to all such regulations when they come forward because there has not been proper consultation. That has not happened yet but the more Bills of this kind that appear before us, the more likely that becomes. I therefore support the noble Lord.

Lord Hanningfield

I support that. Being involved in a Local Government Association, I take a particular interest. However, the Minister said, during some of his responses yesterday, that bodies would be consulted. Therefore, perhaps the fact that the wording of the amendment is not in the Bill is an oversight. The Minister may be able to confirm that such bodies will be consulted.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I have a couple of points to make on this matter. It is absolutely essential that those who are deemed to carry out the duties should be consulted, and they should have been consulted a long time ago. What happened, for example, when the directive was discussed in the European Council or in the Parliament or wherever? Were local authorities involved in that? Were they consulted by those who were negotiating? I do not know how the Government makes arrangements for directives with the European Union. Were the local authorities consulted before the process began? That is a stage at which local authorities can have the greatest effect.

Secondly, were local authorities consulted and did they help with the construction of the Bill? They will have to put the Bill into practice, they may be penalised and they will have to find the money to cope with the Bill, possibly from their council tax payers, if the Government do not give them enough money to cope with the provisions in the Bill. I am extremely interested in the matter of consultation. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, can help.

Lord Hanningfield

I want to add something from the local authority point of view. The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, was involved in the Committee of the Regions for some time, as I have been. Unfortunately, until recently, the Committee of the Regions, the body that would be consulted, had not been consulted much on such matters. We are being given increasing responsibility and involvement in European legislation but for much of the earlier legislation, and in regard to this piece of legislation, local authorities had not been consulted or involved, although the European parliament is involved. Perhaps increasingly, with the new convention about the future of Europe, local authorities may become involved in such matters. At the moment, we often end up with legislation that is passed without local authorities having been involved.

Lord Whitty

On the last point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, it may be true that the Committee of the Regions was not consulted. Indeed, the role of that committee, as the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, indicates, is subject to some discussion now in relation to the legislative process. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that the local authorities' domestic people are consulted. In fact, between them, DTLR and DEFRA were consulted four times on the implementation of the Landfill Directive and were informed while the directive was being drawn up. Two of those consultation documents, Limiting Landfill and Tradable Landfill Permits, solely concerned how to implement Articles 5.1 and 5.2 of the directive—the articles with which this chapter deals. They were heavily involved in consultation about how to translate that into legislation here—consultation that is partly reflected in what we now propose. So I do not think that the domestic consultation was at fault. When we come to make regulations, they require consultation and we shall engage in that consultation in the normal way.

I understood the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, to imply that he wanted to withdraw the exact terms of the amendment because it was limited to subsection (2)(d), to which he did not wish to limit it—except insofar as he did not understand subsection (2)(d)—he wanted it to relate to all the regulations. He also referred to the Delegated Powers Committee. On the question of whether it is acceptable for the Bill to leave so much to delegated regulation for England, the Committee concluded: the extent of delegation is acceptable in the light of the position under this bill elsewhere in the United Kingdom. It then went on to comment on how those regulations should be made, which we will be moving onto when we discuss a later group of amendments. One cannot cite the Delegated Powers Committee as criticising the manner of these clauses.

The clause relates to all allocating authorities. I can give the assurance that I think that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, seeks, that as concerns England, there will be a consultation on the regulations. I should be surprised if that is not paralleled elsewhere, but it is a matter for the relevant authorities, not a matter for the Bill to lay down how that consultation should be carried out. We intend to consult on the regulations under the clause. I hope that that clarifies the issue.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

The Minister says that he will consult. Can he tell us exactly whom he will consult?

Lord Whitty

The consultation will certainly include all the waste disposal authorities and others involved with waste collection. I shall not give a definitive list because the private sector must also be involved. I suspect that we have a list that I could provide to those interested before Report, but it will include all those who are affected by this clause.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am sorry to intervene once again, but can the Minister tell us whether, when a consultation of this sort is undertaken, the proposition is posted on a website to which everyone has access and can respond should they feel so inclined?

Lord Whitty

That is now a normal procedure and I have just been informed that that will occur on this occasion. I withdraw the reference to the normal list because those on it will no doubt receive hard copies, but anyone will be able to respond to that consultation.

Lord Greaves

I am grateful to the Minister for the assurances he gave about consultation in England, at least, which were helpful. It would be helpful if we could read the list of organisations and persons covered by what he said. I am not sure that he explained to me what the subsection means.

Lord Whitty

I apologise. I intended to return to that but forgot. The intention is to ensure that there is within the regulations a way of defining how much of any given mixed waste is likely to be biodegradable. There will be separated biodegradable waste but there will also be unseparated waste which has to enter into the calculations. If that is the case and biodegradable is only part of the waste stream and only part of that stream is municipal, the calculation based on the 1995 figures is that 63 per cent of the municipal stream is biodegradable. It is that fraction on which we shall be regulating and that is what this clause is about. My apologies for not responding to that immediately. I hope the Committee will forgive me if I leave matters in the capable hands of my noble friend Lady Farrington.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Greaves

I am grateful for that explanation and think I now understand what the provision means. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Hanningfield moved Amendment No. 60: Page 8, line 24, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Lord said: The amendment is designed to deal with the situation of one authority having to be fined or having problems because of difficulties caused by another authority. We raised this issue yesterday. We wish to remove the subsection to stop this anomaly.

We went through this in considerable detail yesterday. I mentioned Essex, where there are 12 collecting authorities and one disposal authority. The disposal authority could be fined, through no fault of its own, because one of the collecting authorities, for political reasons or some other reasons, had not met its targets. There ought to be a mechanism to cater for disposal authorities that have problems through no fault of their own. Amendment No. 147, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, tackles this problem, which needs to be addressed. We discussed it at the earlier stage but I am afraid that this one will not go away. An authority should not be fined or get into particular problems on this through no fault of its own. Some mechanism must be found to prevent that. I beg to move.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

I have a great deal of sympathy with the position that the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, finds himself in in Essex. These problems may also arise in other parts of England. It is a little concerning that, as I understand it, the amendment would remove the means of penalising a waste disposal authority. That is an important principle. None the less, as the noble Lord has said, there must be some way of dealing with the particular circumstances that obtain in his area and others. I ask the Minister to consider this situation most carefully. We may need to put something additional into the Bill. I am sure that advice will be forthcoming.

Lord Dixon-Smith

Amendments Nos. 142 and 146 are grouped with the amendment of my noble friend. Amendment No. 142 comes in a clause on penalties generally. We find it somewhat strange that, having created a scheme of penalties, the allocating authority calculates the amount of penalty and then has the power to defer payment of the penalty and could also defer the payment of interest on the penalty. Therefore, the allocating authority, having penalised somebody, also has the power to go a long way towards obviating the effect of the penalty. One really wonders quite what the point of the whole exercise is. Presumably, if the penalties are to have any impact—and we have heard of many failures—they will have to be substantial. If they are to be substantial and supposedly have effect, why is there a power to obviate the complete effect by deferring payment and deferring interest? We found a bit of confused thinking in Clause 25 and we felt that if the penalties were paid it would be quite nice if, since the penalties were for people causing some sort of problem with a tip, that money was used to benefit the environment of the immediate vicinity. Amendment No. 146 is designed to give effect to that. They are not irrational amendments; they are quite sensible.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Amendment No. 146 deals with the recurring issue of hypothecation. I hope that noble Lords will accept that we intend to deal with that in the way that my noble friend the Minister mentioned earlier. This is quite a convenient time to clarify the difference and the distinction between civil penalties and penalties for criminal offences. The Bill makes provision for civil financial penalties if waste disposal authorities exceed their allocation of allowances. It also makes provision for a waste disposal authority to be liable to a penalty where it fails to comply with a requirement imposed by regulations under Clause 11, such as the requirement to maintain records. Clauses 6(3), 7(3) and 10(3) also enable regulations to provide for waste disposal authorities to be liable to a penalty. Clause 25 provides for the amount of such penalties or a formula for calculating them to be set by regulation.

These are clearly distinguishable from the penalties for offences. Clauses 6 and 7 permit allocating authorities to create offences for breaches of regulation. An example of an offence that may be created is knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information to the monitoring authority. The Bill sets out maximum penalties for such offences, which we discussed yesterday.

Clause 12 provides for a landfill operator to be guilty of an offence—for example, failing to supply information or obstructing an inspector—and sets out the penalties.

These are all civil penalties. Amendment No. 60 would take away the provision for a penalty for breaches of the rules at the scene such as a failure to provide evidence on how much biodegradable waste has been sent to landfill. Such evidence is clearly vital to the ability of the monitoring authority in each area of the UK to ensure compliance with the scheme and therefore to enable us to meet our international obligations. Most of the commentators during consultation have made it clear that any system of landfill allowances will also need to have attached to it significant penalties for failure to comply with the limits imposed within the system. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, recognised that the absence of such penalties could mean that there is no real incentive for waste disposal authorities to meet their limits. Any sanction must be sufficient to incentivise the investments implied, either in traded allowances or infrastructure, by meeting those limits.

For this reason we cannot accept Amendments Nos. 60 or 145 as those sanctions are a key to the success of the scheme. At the same time, referring to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, we do not wish to take money out of the local authorities when it would be best used for the investment required for the UK to meet its international obligations. We therefore believe it is important to give the allocating authority in each area of the UK the ability to waive part or all of the penalty or the interest that may be payable on it where circumstances make that the appropriate course of action. An example is where the landfill allowance is exceeded by only a very small amount, and where there are clear plans for improvement. Therefore, it may not be appropriate for the whole penalty to be applied. There may be other such cases where we believe that it is important for that authority to have such a power and the ability to take into account the particular circumstances facing the authority.

While there are good reasons to be able to keep track of the amount paid in penalties, the Government could not accept hypothecation which would take resources out of the waste disposal section in those circumstances. Perversely, for once the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, would be arguing against retention of resources within the sector. We cannot accept those amendments. I hope that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw them. I apologise for speaking at length.

Lord Hanningfield

Perhaps the noble Baroness will clarify one point. Originally my amendment was devised because of the problem in virtually 60 per cent of England where there are two-tier authorities. Essex has 12 districts. At the moment, none of them meets its recycling targets despite the pressure that we are placing on them. They are not investing enough money.

What the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, said is important. If the Environment Agency is to be the allocating authority and if it were not the county council's fault, the Environment Agency could say that there would be no penalty to Essex County Council until the districts have been sorted out because it would be the districts' fault. Is the noble Baroness saying that? If the disposal authority were not at fault, but for some reason, due to the fault of others, the targets were being breached, the Environment Agency would have the power to waive the penalty. Is that what is being said?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I clearly said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, that where there was a minor variation, that would be logical particularly if steps were being taken. I am sure that he would understand that, if I placed on record the fact that if the districts were failing to do anything to improve the future pattern, there would be no sanction, that would be an unwise and counterproductive statement. The allocating authority, which is the Secretary of State, would have the power to relieve penalties and not the Environment Agency.

I have listened carefully. The noble Lords, Lord Greaves, Lord Hanningfield and Lord Dixon-Smith, know that I have listened with knowledge and with understanding to the points that have been made about those parts of England that have two-tier authorities with separate collection and disposal authorities. We are giving consideration to the points that they have raised. I understand the point that is being made, and I have no doubt that it will be referred to later today. We do not believe that the amendments would help that situation. Perversely, they could work against it.

Lord Hanningfield

The reply of the noble Baroness is helpful. We hope to hear more about that later today, and if not, certainly at the next stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 61: Page 8, line 26, at end insert— ( ) Regulations under this section shall not be made unless a draft of the statutory instrument containing them has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.

The noble Lord said: On this amendment I return to the nature of orders and regulations made under the Bill and whether they should be negative instruments or affirmative instruments. When I moved Amendment No. 59, I referred to the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, on which there was debate. I shall not go over that ground again. The other amendments in this group, particularly those tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, seem on reflection to be better ones to tag this debate on to. That does not matter; we can debate it as a whole.

It seems that, but for devolution to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, some of the regulations that will be made under this Bill would be dealt with in primary legislation. If this were simply an English Bill, the issues would be dealt in primary legislation. Those of us who want to move amendments at later stages have to get our minds round which provisions that applies to. There is a prima facie case for saying that any regulation that in different circumstances would have been contained in primary legislation should be an affirmative instrument and not a negative instrument. Does the Committee understand the point I am making?

Some of the regulations in this Bill are clearly ordinary regulations that would normally be negative instruments. However, some need to be considered as possible affirmative instruments because of the nature of them. The argument procedure at least provides slightly more scrutiny when the order comes to Parliament. It is still not satisfactory because it is still on the "take it or leave it" basis, whereas primary legislation is subject to scrutiny in Committee.

If the Government have their mind round this, it would be helpful to know which of the regulations set out in this Bill would have been in the Bill itself in the circumstances I have talked about. If the Government are able to tell us that in an honest way, it would at least inform the debate and narrow it down to more than just all the regulations in the Bill which we are talking about at the moment. In the hope that the Minister will be able to give us helpful information on this, I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith

My amendments are Amendments Nos. 148, 150 and 151, grouped with this. Their impact is designed to make all regulations under Part 1, Chapter 1 of this Bill subject to positive resolution because, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has already said—which I will repeat only once, like the man in "'Allo, 'Allo"—it guarantees greater parliamentary scrutiny. I readily accept that some of the regulating powers in this part of the Bill might not have that applying to them normally. Because of the way the Bill is constructed, however, we have to do it this way. I support the noble Lord.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

These amendments address the concerns of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Select Committee, who recommend that there should be provision in the Bill to debate the way in which the wide powers of the Bill will be used. The Committee recommended that the first use of the powers in England should be subject to affirmative resolution. These are matters for the Scottish Ministers on amendments relating to Scotland and we wish to discuss them further with those ministers. We will look more closely at the recommendations of the Select Committee on regulations that relate wholly to England and give further views on Report. I hope that in the light of these comments, noble Lords will feel able to withdraw their amendments.

Lord Greaves

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, which was as helpful as I was hoping it might be. It would help if we could have advance information of what the Government's intention may be on Report, so that we can react accordingly. We do not want to go over the top if what we are doing is similar to what the Government would like to do. The sooner we can have clear information on what the Government propose to do, the easier it will be for us to respond and the better the House will proceed with its business.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I can give that undertaking, because quite patently it is in everyone's interests that all Members receive the earliest possible information.

Lord Greaves

I am grateful to the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 10 to 12 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 62 not moved.]

Clause 13 [Disclosure of information by monitoring and allocating authorities]:

Lord Livsey of Talgarth moved Amendment No. 63: Page 10, line 4, leave out "may" and insert "shall

The noble Lord said: This is a simple amendment which leaves out the word "may" and inserts the word "shall". It is important that there is a duty for that provision to be carried out. We wish to enforce the matter. The amendment refers to Clause 13(1) which states: A monitoring authority may disclose any of its monitoring information to any other monitoring authority".

We seek to change the wording to: A monitoring authority shall disclose any of its monitoring information to any other monitoring authority".

That would enable the information to be much more widely spread, which is important.

Amendment No. 64 removes reference to "any allocating authority". I interpret that as meaning that monitoring information will become freely available—that is a matter of freedom of information—so that the public know what is happening. Amendment No. 65 seeks to replace "may" with "shall", and I make the same points as I did when speaking to Amendment No. 63.

Lord Dixon-Smith

Amendments Nos. 64 and 66 are in the group. Their purpose is simple: to try to retain what I would call normal lines of communication between the different levels of government within the United Kingdom. It seems to me entirely appropriate for one allocating authority to talk to another allocating authority; in other words, England should talk to Scotland or England should talk to Wales. It is also entirely appropriate that the allocating authority in England should talk to the monitoring authority in England, and it is entirely appropriate that the allocating authority in Scotland should talk to the monitoring authority in Scotland.

However, the Bill appears to imply that the allocating authority in England can cross-examine or obtain information from the monitoring authority in Scotland and the monitoring authority in Scotland can cross-examine the monitoring authority in England. I believe that that cuts across what I would regard as the normal lines of communication and creates some diagonals which may be unfortunate. I would have thought that if English waste were to be disposed of in Scotland, recorded by the Scottish monitoring authority, the proper line of communication would be for the English allocating authority to ask the Scottish allocating authority what information it was receiving from its monitoring authority. I am sure that the information would be made available and, in that way, the normal etiquette, as I understand it, would be preserved.

The problem arises when there are diagonal lines of communication. Perhaps the diagonal lines of communication already exist and we have a confused pattern of communication. It is not necessary for the Scottish Parliament to go to an English government department if it wants to question someone who, in a sense, is doing something in England on behalf of Scotland. Perhaps I have a confused state of mind—it is not unknown.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

In reply, perhaps the noble Baroness could clarify for me the difference between "may" and "shall". When I have been involved in other Bills and there has been a move to substitute "may" with "shall", I have usually been told that "may" means "shall" anyway. There really is a difference and it could well be that it is not in the interests of one monitoring authority to disclose information to another. There may be a good reason for that. If we insert the word "shall", then the authorities will have to disclose information, whether they like it or not and whether or not there are good operational or policy reasons why they should not. Perhaps the noble Baroness can clear up my confusion.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Perhaps I can deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and the meaning of the words "may" and "shall". It is my understanding that the meaning of a word can vary according to the way in which it is used.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I am more confused than ever.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

However, on this occasion, "may" would permit allocating authorities and monitoring authorities to disclose, while "shall" would require them to do it. I shall come back in a moment to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart made, with which I agree.

I also hope to return to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, on the question of diagonal lines of communication between different authorities within different countries within the United Kingdom. It may be more logical for me to write to him and to other Members of the Committee about lines of communication and organisation. I shall see whether that is the case when I have finished replying to the other points.

Amendments Nos. 63 and 65 would make it a requirement for the monitoring authority to disclose information to other monitoring authorities and to allocating authorities and for allocating authorities to disclose information to other allocating authorities. Amendments Nos. 64 and 66 would remove the power to disclose any information to any other allocating authority. I have the sense here that this group of amendments is going in both directions and that the Government are being reasonable and balanced, taking a middle course between the two lines that the different amendments advocate.

For England, it is important that the information available to the monitoring authority is made available to the allocating authority so that a check can be made on whether the requirements of the Bill are being kept. This point relates to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, who said that it was particularly important for information to be shared between monitoring and allocating authorities in countries of the UK which took part in the trading scheme. Clearly, it should also take place here. The trading scheme can work only if such an exchange takes place. In that way, all trades can be monitored and the owners of allowances can be ascertained.

However, this power has been made permissive as not all allocating authorities will make regulations permitting the trading of allowances.

We have returned to the whole issue of devolution. Where trading is not permitted—this is an answer to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart—it will not be necessary for an allocating authority to disclose information to other monitoring authorities and allocating authorities. We do not believe that they should be forced to do that. I hope that with that explanation the noble Lords will feel able to withdraw the amendments. I undertake to write to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, on the complex issue of diagonal lines of communication between different countries within the UK.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Greaves

In view of that explanation, can the Minister say why it would not be simpler, clearer and altogether better to state in the Bill that the information shall be disclosed in the circumstances that she outlined, rather than to say that it may be disclosed? People might not know what "may" means.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

That may be a logical point. Without any commitment whatever, I shall undertake to look at that. If what the noble Lord says is correct I shall wish to return to the matter.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

This debate has been useful. Before the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, spoke, I had not understood that the circumstances which he described were a possibility. I can understand that that could be the case. I believe it would be better if the matter were in the public domain. On the other hand, we are looking at trading and there are aspects that perhaps should be confidential. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 64 to 66 not moved.]

Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 [Registers: public access]:

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 67: Page 10, line 35, leave out "may" and insert "shall

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 67 is grouped with Amendment No. 68 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, which I also support. This is also a may/shall issue. Clause 15 relates to the matter of public access to registers. I have read this carefully in the light of the discussion that we have had. It states: An allocating authority may, in relation to a register that a person is required to maintain by regulations under this Chapter made by the authority, by regulations— (a) make provision for public inspection".

It seems to me that the word "shall" is appropriate here because in some circumstances it may not be necessary for a person to require to maintain, and so on, so the position would not arise. The word "shall" would apply if and when such registers are maintained.

This matter concerns making provision for public inspection of the register or such of the information contained in the register as is of a description specified by the regulations, or making provision for members of the public to obtain copies of information in the register. It seems to us that the case for making that information publicly available is incontrovertible. I do not believe that the Government can say that there are circumstances in which such registers will exist but to which the public should not have access to the information. Perhaps they will clarify that. Do they say that if the registers exist the public must have access to them? If that is so, I believe that they agree with the amendment.

The aim of the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is to make provision for public inspection of the register rather than of that part of the register that the Government believe they should see. The fundamental question is whether any parts of those registers should not be open to public access, and if so which parts. We want clear answers from the Government on this. If we do not receive satisfactory answers. we shall return to the issue later. For the moment, I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I support the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and shall also speak to my amendment in the group. The Bill appears to imply that there are two registers: a register of information that may be available to the public and a register of information that should not be made available to the public. The Bill does not put it like that, of course: it puts it all in one register and then, by regulation, the Minister has power to differentiate the information. That means that if the public want to see the register they have to get the extracts that they are allowed to see out of it, which is a lot of trouble for somebody.

In local government we were familiar with this problem a long time ago. My noble friends who have local government experience will recognise it immediately: we had to have on agenda papers for local authorities a differentiation between the generality of the business that was entirely appropriate to be made public and the confidential information, which might have been of a commercial nature and therefore should not—although I am not sure that I can see what confidential information there might be on the registers that should not be available to the public. We have tabled a straightforward amendment to try to simplify the situation and give the public full access. However, I shall be interested to hear the Minister's reply because it may be that the distinction that had to be made in local government is envisaged as essential in this area. If that is the case, we ought to make the distinction clear on the face of the Bill rather than leave in the rather exotic words that the Minister can define by regulation what the public are not allowed to see because it would be so frightfully dangerous or offensive and we should not upset them. I have some difficulty with that as a proposition, given the very tolerant nature of the society in which we live today. I would prefer to have straightforward, clear access to a register of information unless there is a good reason why some information should be held back.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

We believe that all relevant information should be in the public domain, except for sensitive financial details, pricing and trading details, which it is not in the public interest to have in the public domain—if I can put it that way. Other than that type of sensitive information, we intend to operate an open and transparent trading system. The scheme will have to operate that way to be successful. We agree on objectives, but the amendments would require an allocating authority to make regulations providing for public inspection of the register that is required to be maintained under Chapter 1 of the Bill. That is the difficulty, because we would be turning a permissive power for an appropriate authority to do that into a mandatory one. There may be circumstances in which the sensitive part—and only that part—would have to be withheld from the public domain. I hope that with those assurances noble Lords will be happy not to press the amendments.

Lord Greaves

I shall withdraw the amendment in a moment, but I am less happy with the Minister's response than I was with her response to the debate on the previous amendment. We shall look very carefully at what she said when it is written down. This is probably an issue to which we shall return in order to find wording which is more satisfactory and which reflects more accurately what she said than what appears to be written down now. With that firing shot across the bows, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 68 not moved.]

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Strategy for England]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 69: Page 11, line 3, leave out "reducing

The noble Lord said: This is a large group of amendments which all have a common purpose. That purpose is to give a slightly greater degree of clarity to the Bill than exists at present. The amendments have an interesting parentage in that originally they come from Friends of the Earth, and I am amused to find myself proposing them.

The strategy for England and those for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all the same. The Secretary of State must have a strategy for reducing the amount of biodegradable waste from England and from outside England. It is simply a question of whether the wording on the face of the Bill is clearer than that in our amendments.

We believe that the wording in our amendments is clearer. Under the wording in the Bill, it would be possible for the Secretary of State to achieve the level of reduction in biodegradable waste going for landfill that he required by adjusting solely the amount that came from, say, England and not adjusting the amounts that came from Wales and Scotland, or vice versa. The same would apply to Wales and Scotland. Therefore, the slightly ridiculous situation could arise whereby we could reduce our national waste and, in a sense, relieve our burden by shoving the stuff over the border into Wales or Scotland and the Welsh and the Scots could do the same. One could set up a wonderful merry-go-round.

It was because the suspicion existed that that might be possible that we simply suggested shifting the position of these words. That would be consistent with amendments relating to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. My advice that these amendments have no effect in substance does not appear to tally with the noble Lord's interpretation. Probably the best thing that I can do is to undertake to look carefully at what the noble Lord said. Either he and his advisers or my advisers have misunderstood the result of this group of amendments. Without any commitment—I do not know what I would be committing the Government to—perhaps I may ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am grateful to the Minister for undertaking to study this particular aspect of the Bill. It is in no one's interest that there should be the least doubt as to precisely what the Bill means. It was only because of the way that this question was raised that I felt it worth troubling the Committee with this problem. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 70 and 71 not moved.]

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 72: Page 11, line 7, at end insert— ( ) the amount of waste sent to incineration

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 72 is the first of a series of amendments tabled to Clause 16, which is invitingly entitled, "Strategy for England". It is not surprising, in those circumstances, that between them, the amendments cover a wide range of issues.

Subsection (1) begins: The Secretary of State must have a strategy for reducing— (a) the amount of biodegradable waste from England that goes to landfills, and (b) the amount of biodegradable waste from outside England".

Amendment No. 72 inserts a new subsection to read the amount of waste sent to incineration".

We tabled the amendment because the whole question of waste going to landfill—particularly biodegradable waste going to landfill—and incineration are closely related. There is a danger that putting pressure on waste disposal authorities to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill will make incineration a more attractive option, which we do not want. I do not want, at this stage, to start a huge debate about the merits or otherwise of incineration. The purpose of the amendment is to discover from the Government what is their policy and approach to the amount of waste that is incinerated.

Amendment No. 105 does not belong in this group and should be in the next group—although it is a technical point which does not matter too much. All the other amendments in this group also relate to incineration and related matters in the different devolved administrations. I shall therefore speak only to Amendment No. 72.

Yesterday, I received a report that set out the number of waste incinerators in England and proposals for new ones. The impression that I gained from that is that incineration is a growing business and that the number of incinerators around the country is increasing. On the back of the amendment, I want to ask the Government: what is their policy in relation to the amount of biodegradable municipal waste, or other incinerable waste, that will go to incineration? Do they believe that the present level should be maintained and not increased; that the present level will be and should be increased; or, do they believe with us, that, wherever possible, it should be reduced? That is the fundamental question behind the amendment and I look forward to the Minister's reply. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, these amendments concern the strategies for each part of the United Kingdom required under Clauses 16 to 19. Each of those clauses requires there to be a strategy to fulfil the requirements of Article 5.1 of the Landfill Directive, which obliges member states to have a national strategy.

Amendment No. 105 seeks to extend the statutory scope of the strategy beyond its main purpose. Amendment No. 105 would add waste other than biodegradable waste, such as construction and industrial waste, for which local authorities do not have responsibility and which therefore lie outside the scope of the relevant provisions of the Landfill Directive to the requirement to create a strategy for Wales. That amendment, and Amendments Nos. 90, 97, 102, 109, 115 and 122 all relate to parts of the UK outside England. The general issue of sustainable waste management is devolved. The wider strategy issues are for the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly and the Department of Environment in Northern Ireland to determine, not for Parliament under the Bill.

As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, the first two amendments in this group require the strategy for England to set out how it will reduce the amount of waste sent to incineration. That is a broad provision as it applies to all waste streams. I presume that it is not, in fact, intended to extend it to, for example, hazardous or clinical waste. However, as the Committee recognised yesterday, the issue of incineration often revolves around the treatment and disposal of that small part of the overall waste stream that is municipal waste.

All commentators and analysts agree that the Landfill Directive targets for the diversion of biodegradable municipal waste away from landfill are already immensely stretching for the authorities concerned. As much as 30 million tonnes of waste per year may have to be diverted from landfill if we cannot arrest the current rate of growth.

In England, we currently landfill around 80 per cent of municipal waste, but we incinerate less than 10 per cent—against the European average of 20 per cent or more. In answer to the specific question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, the Government have no plans for constructing or aiming for a particular number of incinerators, and the choice for waste treatment facilities is up to local authorities.

Our aim is to try to slow down and reverse the growth of waste and recycle as much as we can of the waste that is produced. Whether we shall need more incineration in future will crucially depend on the success of these measures. That cannot be predicted at this stage.

I therefore regret that the Government cannot commit to a requirement in primary legislation to reduce incineration when it may be that at some point in future, the need for some small increase may occur. I am certain that the noble Lord will want to think carefully about what I have said. He may want to return to it in future. However, I hope that he now feels able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Greaves

I am grateful to the Minister for that detailed explanation and reply. I am not sure whether she was inciting me to come back later with further amendments. I am sure she was not, but it sounded a little like that. The Minister knows it will make no difference whether she tries to incite me or not; I will do what I think is right.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Perhaps I can explain to the noble Lord that all I was doing was seeking to prevent him from feeling that he had to explain to me that he would be returning to the amendment.

Lord Greaves

I am not prepared to give that commitment. We can all play the same game. I am grateful to the Minister for rapping me over the knuckles on the question of inappropriately including devolved administrations in this group of amendments, and for pointing out that devolved powers should not be brought back to this Parliament. I entirely agree and thank her for that, and rather hastily withdraw from that set of amendments.

On the lead amendment, I think that the Minister said that the Government have no policy on the number of incinerators, and that it is all down to local government. If that is what the Minister said, that is interesting, but I shall read carefully in Hansard exactly what she said regarding the Government's policy. It is extraordinary if the Government are saying that they have no policy over the number of incinerators that will be required because that is a matter for local authorities to sort out. I am as strongly in favour of local devolution, control and decision-making, as anyone, but something as important as this requires a national strategy. I note that that is no-t the view of the Strategy Unit, in its recently published report, which suggests that there should be an attempt to reduce the amount of waste going to incineration. We will no doubt have many opportunities to discuss the matter in future.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

Before the noble Lord withdraws the amendment, I noticed that the noble Baroness made the comparison between this country and some other countries in Europe. We incinerate 10 per cent and they incinerate 20 per cent, which is an enormous difference. Has the noble Lord made any calculation of how many additional incinerators we would need if we were to meet the European average?

Lord Greaves

I have made no such calculations. I am sure that even the most avid proponent of absolute uniformity across Europe would not suggest that, on matters such as incinerators, we should regard it as a matter of policy to go to the European average. I have always taken the general view that we should be trying to lead the rest of Europe in whatever direction we think is right, and hope that they follow us. I know that the noble Lord does not believe that that is ever possible and that we always have to kow-tow to some mythical gang of bureaucrats, but I am afraid that I cannot provide him with the answer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 73: Page 11, line 7, at end insert— ( ) the amount of construction and demolition waste from England that goes to landfill;

The noble Lord said: This is another collection of items that we should like to include under the strategy. This group of amendments should include Amendment No. 105, which was turfed out of the previous group, and should not include Amendment No. 106, which belongs in the group starting with Amendment No. 77. But those are details and no doubt I shall have my knuckles rapped again for trying to involve matters which are properly the concern of devolved administrations. I accept that before I start.

Amendment No. 73 is misprinted in the Marshalled List and the first two proposed subsections appear twice—it shows a commendable enthusiasm for our amendment to print them twice, but I should point out that it is unnecessary. That leaves six subsections, four of which cover the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive and the matter of end of life vehicles. We discussed that in some detail in relation to the first amendment that we discussed yesterday, so it would be wasting the Committee's time if we discussed them in detail again—save to say that we believe that the Bill really ought to be more over-arching and it ought to include those matters, but we have made that point before.

The substantive new point here is the question of the amount of construction and demolition waste from England that goes to landfill. That forms the majority of landfill anyhow. It makes the major claim on the holes in the land and the new hills that people may build—to which the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, referred yesterday. This is a probing amendment to ask the Government: what is their strategy for construction and demolition waste? Do they believe in a strategy that will result in a reduction in the volume of that important waste that goes to landfill—a huge amount of which, with reasonable treatment, can be used again? I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

These amendments concern the strategy for each part of the United Kingdom required under Clauses 16 to 19 to fulfil the Landfill Directive requirement to have a national strategy for the reduction of biodegradable waste going to landfill. I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, about not pursuing issues that have rightfully been devolved to other administrations. That may lead to some amendments possibly not being moved later in the groupings list.

Amendment No. 92—I will delete the reference to Amendment No. 106 in the light of the noble Lord inserting Amendment No. 105—and Amendment No. 106C relate to parts of the UK outside England and therefore can be left on one side.

Amendment No. 73 would extend the statutory scope for the strategy for England well beyond the main purpose. As the noble Lord said, it would add waste other than biodegradable waste, such as construction and industrial waste. The Government agree with the need to reduce in this area. The aggregate levy is used to encourage reuse. Landfill tax at £12 a tonne on this waste is also an incentive to achieve the objective that the noble Lords rightfully identified.

Many of these are matters that the Government would wish to cover in any waste strategy for England. Indeed, the Waste Strategy 2000 does so. We will review that strategy in the light of the recommendations or, as the noble Lords recognise, of the Strategy Unit report. We do not believe there is a need to include in the Bill everything that should be contained in the general waste strategy for England. The main purpose of Clause 16 is to give effect to the Landfill Directive, not to provide for a strategy—as the noble Lord heard us say yesterday—for electrical waste, for example, which is not biodegradable. I hope the noble Lord will feel I have answered the points he raised and feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Greaves

On a similar basis to the previous amendment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 74 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 75: Page 11, line 7, at end insert— ( ) the amount of inert waste that goes to landfill in England

The noble Lord said: I need to make two apologies at the start of my remarks. The first is that I have to confess that I took my eye off the grouping ball on this one, for which I apologise. However, so did the Government Whips Office and so did the department.

My second apology is to the Minister, because what I now say may throw her papers into confusion for a few moments. Amendment No. 75 is parallel with Amendments Nos. 91, 103 and 117, and Amendment No. 76, which is grouped with this one, is parallel with Amendments Nos. 93, 103 and 117, because we are now dealing with the strategies and the legislation that sets them up and backs them. These first two amendments apply to England, the second two apply to Scotland, the third two apply to Wales and the fourth two apply to Northern Ireland. We did not manage to get the amendments grouped correctly, for which I apologise. The answer is perhaps that we debate the issue on these and when we get to the subsequent amendments discretion might be the better part of valour and we should say no more. Even I may miss that as we go through but I will try and stick to that.

The important point that we want to make on Amendment No. 75—and it has to apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—is that although the Bill is concerned with domestic biodegradable waste, that comprises only about 30 or 35 per cent of the amount of material that goes to landfill. There ought to be a strategy for reducing the amount of inert waste that goes to landfill as well. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should have to consider that. That is the rationale behind Amendment No. 75 and its parallel amendments. While under the European regulation we have to have a strategy for domestic biodegradable waste, there is the wider issue of inert wastes, and they need to be considered also.

Amendment No. 76 appears to be reasonable. We need to work very hard to reduce the volume of waste we produce in the first instance, before it becomes waste. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, is a strong advocate of this. We have a throw-away culture and we need to reverse that. Amendment No. 76 has that thought as its prime motivation and again it is parallel through Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I see that the noble Baroness is shuffling her papers. I apologise that we did not get this right but I am surprised that everybody else missed it as well. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My recollection is that the split did not occur until there was some regrouping of amendments. On the issue of strategies beyond the framework within which we are seeking to achieve the reduction of biodegradable waste to meet the European Landfill Directive, many, if not all, of the amendments referring to the devolved administrative countries of the UK refer to matters that are their responsibility within the powers that have been devolved to them. Because the Bill is defined in a particular way, to deal with that directive and what we should be doing, the Government do not wish to extend the statutory scope beyond this main purpose

The amendment, which adds inert waste, is a different area in that a significant proportion of inert waste will be produced by industry, for which local authorities do not have responsibility. That lies outside the relevant provisions of the Landfill Directive. Amendment No. 76, which describes the way in which the strategy should be delivered, is far too prescriptive. I experience this as a householder in my home city of Preston. It is appropriate for that local authority to adopt that strategy, but the noble Lord goes too far in suggesting that one method should be used everywhere.

The Waste Strategy 2000, which is outwith the Bill, is aimed at reducing inert waste. Here we are dealing with a strategy to cope with those elements of waste that either pollute water or release methane. The strategy that we have adopted, in response to the very important issues the noble Lord has raised, is a far wider one. As we explained yesterday, many of these issues will be dealt with in our response to the Strategy Unit report. I note with gratitude that both noble Lords acknowledge the importance of recognising the devolved situation. I therefore hope I will not have to repeat my comments on amendments dealing with Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am grateful to the Minister for her response. In defence of our amendments relating to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, they deal with matters on the face of the Bill. Clause 17 deals with the strategy for Scotland and the wording is virtually identical to that of the strategy for England. Clause 18 deals with the strategy for Wales with virtually identical wording and Clause 19 deals with the strategy for Northern Ireland, again with virtually identical wording. It therefore seemed that if I were going to amend the Bill for England, I would have to amend it for the other countries as well. It did not seem improper in view of the fact that we are already imposing responsibilities on Scottish Ministers, on the Welsh Assembly and on Northern Ireland. It is entirely proper, therefore, to suggest that.

I heard what the Minister said about inert wastes. If there is a strategy for diminishing these elsewhere and the matter is covered satisfactorily—and I shall read what she has said with care—we may not need to pursue this. Furthermore, I agree that telling householders how they should dispose of their waste in order to put pressure on them is somewhat dictatorial. I am not particularly in favour of that. In the end, somehow, we have to go beyond merely the sort of talking that takes place in chambers like this and to exert persuasion on them. This was just one way of looking at that. Again, I shall study what the Minister has said.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

For the record, I would like to make plain that I was not saying that householders should not be required, by the waste collection authority, to comply with the scheme that is most appropriate for that particular neighbourhood. I would not want the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, to misunderstand that.

Lord Dixon-Smith

No, I understood that absolutely. The reply is what I expected, but this is perhaps not appropriate for the face of the Bill. However, we have to ensure that the issue is covered and that it will be dealt with. We hope it will come from the waste collection authorities and waste disposal authorities. We will see. The issue needed raising, so I do not apologise for moving these amendments. I will try to avoid picking them up when we come to them later in the Bill because at the moment, they are not correctly grouped, for which I apologise. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 76 not moved.]

5.30 p.m.

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 77: Page 11, line 7, at end insert—

The noble Lord said: These are more amendments similar in nature to ones that we have recently discussed. I recognise what the Minister said about devolved administrations. She does not need to repeat it. However, I have some sympathy with the view of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, that it is interesting that biodegradable municipal waste is a matter for this Parliament and for the Government of the United Kingdom and all other sorts of waste are not. I understand why that is being said but we find ourselves in an interesting position.

Amendment No. 77 is grouped with Amendments Nos. 78, 94, 95, 106, 107 and 120. The last amendments, Amendment No. 94 onwards, concern devolved matters, so I shall say nothing more about them.

Amendments Nos. 77 and 78 include four matters, two of which are virtually identical to those that have just been raised in Amendments Nos. 75 and 76 by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, so I shall say nothing more about those. They probe what the Government have to say about their policy on those matters. The two new matters raised in these amendments are home composting and the proposal for a mandatory doorstep recycling scheme in all local authorities not later than 31st December 2006. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about those. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, indicated, the amendments concern the strategy for England in Clause 16 of the Bill. That requires the Secretary of State to have a strategy for reducing biodegradable waste to fulfil the requirements of Article 5(1) of the European Landfill Directive, which obliges member states to have such a national strategy. Many of these amendments seek to extend the statutory scope of the strategy beyond its main purpose. Amendments Nos. 77 and 78 seek to prescribe the way in which that strategy should be delivered—for example, through home composting or compulsory kerbside collection of materials—and to set statutory targets other than for the reduction of landfill.

A single system, such as kerbside recycling, will not always be appropriate in every place. Our approach, therefore, has been to specify the outcomes that we need to achieve and not how they are to be delivered, thus leaving councils free to adopt solutions most appropriate to their particular circumstances. One solution may be appropriate for Harlow in Essex but a small, sparsely populated, rural community may require a different solution. Both solutions may be equally valid in terms of meeting the targets that are agreed. Many of the matters raised in the amendments that seek to extend the scope of the Bill will be considered in the context of the developing waste strategy outwith the Bill.

The other amendments in this group cover the position in other countries. I note that the noble Lord recognises that they are not for Parliament to consider under this Bill. We seek to impose a minimum constraint upon the devolved administrations but together the component parts of the United Kingdom make up the country as a whole which is required to meet the directive targets.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

In relation to this group of amendments, which is very ambitious, I simply do not know how we shall incorporate some of these matters mentioned in Amendment No. 78 by December 2006. It is very ambitious and probably over-ambitious. I agree with the Minister that a great deal has to be left to the local authorities, because local authorities have different problems. The configuration of their towns and cities is also very different for which they need different strategies.

One has to realise that this will be an imposition on individuals in households. Many households are so small that they cannot accommodate one dustbin, let alone two. Therefore, one cannot really have a single strategy and think only about the local authority and the waste disposal and waste collection people. One has to think of the people on the ground—the householders—on whom are imposed enormous amounts of unsolicited waste which somehow has to be disposed of. The local authorities are the only bodies to whom they can turn. There has to be a pact between them and the local authorities if the system is to work properly. We must not be too prescriptive from the centre. We should certainly give guidance to local authorities and let them know of the best practices in this country and, indeed, others. However, to impose things from the centre would be to go along the wrong road.

I return to what I said at Second Reading. We should try to persuade industry, retailers and commerce to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste that they produce. I refer to the awful 10-pound pile of newspapers that one has at the weekend and the two or three newspapers which are pushed through virtually everyone's letter box. Those are all issues that can be addressed and worked on together. However, we have to work in co-operation with local authorities and not impose too much on them—particularly at a time of financial constraint.

Lord Hanningfield

I cannot resist saying a few words in response to that because, on this occasion. I agree with the Minister rather more than I agree with the sentiment behind the amendments. It would be totally impractical to have the same solution everywhere and, in fact, it would be totally wrong. We always say that we want more local autonomy and, in this case, there are different solutions for different places. As much as I agree with composting and so on being done in the right way, such things will be done differently in different places.

I return to an issue that we talked about yesterday. A report called Waste Not, Want Not has been referred to several times. Is the Minister able to give us a timetable because we need to go along with what the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, has just said. We need, as other countries have, legislation and help in order to reduce waste. Instead of a great deal of prescription, we need encouragement and legislation to help to reduce waste. This matter is obviously tied up with the report, Waste Not, Want Not, and the strategies therein. Can the Minister give us an idea of the timing and an indication of when that will come about?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My recollection is that it will happen in the spring. That was the timing given to the Committee yesterday. I hope that that is of help.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I want to make two observations. First, we need to remember that many people do not live on the ground but above the ground in flats. They certainly would not be able to use some of the things suggested in the amendments.

More importantly, I mentioned yesterday the biosecurity aspects of composting. Those will be difficult enough to deal with if we are talking about composting domestic biodegradable waste at large-scale industrial composting sites. Frankly, we would need to he very hesitant—if we did not actually ban it—about the idea that domestic biodegradable waste, which might include meat waste, might be "composted" in someone's garden. I suspect that if we are concerned about the possible risks of animal disease, it probably should be banned. We shall come to that debate later on.

Lord Greaves

I am grateful to all Members of the Committee for lecturing me on localism. It is an interesting new idea and philosophy, and I shall consider it. In that respect noble Lords are banging at an open door. Noble Lords are quite right; nevertheless it is important to raise such issues when we have the opportunity. In some cases, we shall not raise the issues at further stages of the Bill; we shall raise them in debates that will take place in the future, particularly when the Government have produced their waste strategy which we are all looking forward to reading.

It is important to be ambitious in this wider area. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said that these were ambitious amendments. However, in many ways there is a lack of ambition about the Government's policies in this area. All too often, we have the impression that the Government are reacting and responding to European directives and legislation. That appears; to have happened in relation to fridges. The Government have not reacted or responded effectively or quickly, but they have been dragged into situations. That appears to be happening with end-of-life vehicles and the WEEE Directive. I fear that that will happen when the packaging directive comes in next year. That may not be the case. If not, we welcome that.

The experience so far is that the Government say the right things about waste management, waste minimalisation, recycling and cutting down landfill, but as the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, says, they are not ambitious about doing that. They do what they have to do and no more. We regret that. We believe that we should lead rather than follow the rest of Europe in that area. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, may not worry too much about what the rest of Europe does or says, but he still uses comparisons. It is fair to say that we could be in the lead on such matters.

Apart from anything else, new technologies and industries, which could provide a huge opportunity for this country, are being developed to deal with waste. We run the risk of falling behind and missing out in that area. If the accusation is that I am ambitious, I plead guilty. If the accusation is that I am not localist, I plead not guilty—very strongly.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said that such a provision would be an imposition on different kinds of' households. Different kinds of households need different approaches to separation, recycling, composting and so on. I do not believe that there is any kind of household that cannot play a full part in that.

A big wheelie bin with many different sections is obviously inappropriate for a pensioner on the third floor of a block of flats. However, there are appropriate ways in which that pensioner can separate waste and he or she would probably be very happy to do that. It is a matter of devising systems that are appropriate to fit the local circumstances and to fit the individual circumstances. What is appropriate in one street may be inappropriate in the next. That kind of approach is important. Having pleaded guilty to being ambitious, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 78 not moved.]

5.45 p.m.

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 79: Page 11, line 7, at end insert— ( ) The Secretary of State must develop a national strategy for moving towards zero waste which shall include targets for all waste disposal and collection authorities.

The noble Lord said: This may be my final attempt to be ambitious today. Amendment No. 79 requires the Secretary of State to develop a national strategy for moving towards zero waste with targets for disposal and collection authorities. There is much talk about zero waste but that is not the whole answer. If too much material goes into the system at one end, too much waste comes out at the other. Even if all of it is recycled, the system may well not be ideal, because there is too much through-put in the system and too many resources being used at the beginning. Nevertheless, zero waste is a very useful slogan and concept. At least one local authority, Bath and North-East Somerset Council, has overtly put zero waste at the heart of its waste policy, with a long-term vision of eliminating waste altogether, rather than simply managing it.

The aim of eliminating waste altogether may be utopian and impossible, but it is an objective worth having because it is something that we can always work towards. If we end up with 2 per cent still having to go to landfill, or whatever—still being waste—that is a great deal better than 95 per cent. It may be that eliminating the final 2 per cent or 5 per cent is impossible, but at least we can get somewhere near.

Speaking now on behalf of my party, there should be a full debate on the matter within the European context—I know the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, will not like that, but that is the way things are with us—about how we move towards achieving a totally zero waste strategy, given the environmental costs and benefits. We are doing a lot of work on how that may be possible. I am not talking about next year nor even the next 10; the time period of 40 years has been mentioned and may perhaps be the answer.

However, if we are being ambitious and looking towards a long-term solution to this huge problem, we should decide to make the least amount of waste possible to be processed and process the vast majority of it by putting it back into the system in one way or another. That must be the objective and that ambition is not to be derided.

The remaining amendments in the group are all more or less on the same lines. No doubt I shall be admonished again for including Wales and Scotland in matters that should be matters for Wales and Scotland. I have to say that the Welsh and Scottish Liberal Democrats will be the first to come to rap my fingers over this, along with the Minister. So I put all those on one side, because my fingers have been rapped enough for today. I had better now conclude my party political broadcast on zero waste. I beg to move.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

Perhaps I may say a few words, because the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, mentioned me several times and gave the impression that I was anti-Europe. That is absurd; I am very pro-Europe. I have said before that I love the Italians; I think French cooking is good; and even the Germans have their good points. So I am not anti-Europe at all. I am all in favour of Europe—and, indeed, also in favour of the utmost co-operation with Europe on a voluntary basis.

What I do not want is this country to be governed by Europe, as increasingly we are. That has a lot to do with a lack of ambition—which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, possesses, for which I commend him. Indeed, this country should be a lot more ambitious. Unfortunately, that ambition is often constrained because people say, "Let Europe do it, then we can blame them if anything goes wrong". In fact, getting Europe to do virtually everything is now leading to a lack of ambition by our Government, who get lazier by the day and do not deal with the great problems that we are discussing. I am as ambitious as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, but it must be done in the right way.

I remind the noble Lord that those of us who have been members of local authorities know their background. We should like to return to the days when local authorities led the Government rather than the Government leading local authorities. Some of the greatest advances in education, waste disposal, sewage disposal, the provision of water and the provision of transport—all sorts of services—have not come from the Government; they have come upwards from local authorities.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and I are really on the same side. We love Europe; we are ambitious to get things done in this country; and we recognise that good, democratic, free local authorities with great power can act as the engine of progress. It is all too unfortunate that they are often constrained from doing the right things for their areas by the bureaucratic interference of central government.

The amendments are sensible. We indeed need a no-waste strategy; we need to ensure that everybody is involved. However, regulation often creates the waste that we find in our shops. A good deal of packaging arises from regulation. In this country, we are so law-abiding that we read every regulation, gold-plate it and enforce it. If one goes to France, for example, one sees that largely—certainly in the markets—the regulations are utterly ignored. We should not criticise ourselves too much, but the regulation that we introduce all too often creates problems such as this, which are difficult to deal with.

I have said enough, but I hope that I have put the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, right about my attitude to various matters.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I was waiting for the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, to remind noble Lords that many years ago it was the City of Birmingham that developed a strategy and a manufacturing process for converting sewage into paving stones. I endorse everything that he said about the power of innovation at local authority level. I must tell him that this bit of Government does not feel as though it is getting lazier by the day, but that may be my weakness.

I shall not repeat everything that has been said about the inadvisability of trying to promote a single kerbside system. We believe that the matter is important; that is why we set out proposals in the Waste Strategy 2000 to have targets, programmes and instruments. Those targets, programmes and instruments will be reassessed in the light of the Strategy Unit's report.

Amendment No. 85 would require the Secretary of State to consult various interests before formulating policy. We intend to conduct wide-ranging consultation with all interested stakeholders before finalising a scheme in England. A legal requirement to consult in the Bill is therefore unnecessary. I note the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, about what I would not even call a conversion on the road from devolution, because I know that he has supported devolution all the way through.

Lord Greaves

I remember when some of us were promoting the benefits of devolution to sceptical people such as the noble Baroness and the Labour Party—or many of her colleagues, if not the noble Baroness herself. I am grateful for her further assurance about consultation and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 80 and 81 not moved.]

Lord Livsey of Talgarth moved Amendment No. 82: Page 11. line 12, at end insert "and the safe composting of catering waste, which shall be disposed of safely through a treatment process at pre-determined specific temperatures

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 82 addresses the vexed question of the safe composting of catering waste. There are several ways of achieving our aim. One might include incineration. There has been some agreement in this debate that increased incineration is not necessarily desirable. There are other methods of achieving temperatures, such as considerable heat treatment. We are particularly concerned that composting does not necessarily achieve high enough temperatures to dispose of bugs or viruses that are nefarious not only to animal health, but also to human health. Given the quantity of catering waste that is now being used in various ways, including quite a lot going into landfill, it is vital that we treat this waste in a way that does not encourage the spread of disease.

It has been said that compost will be spread on the land. It has also been estimated that an enormous area will be required on which to spread it. If the compost—particularly kitchen waste—has not been properly treated, we have a dangerous problem. It can seep into water courses, which is very problematical in that it could find its way into human drinking water. It can be spread around by vermin. When I was very close to the 1967 outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Northumberland, I remember the column inches that were written about seagulls spreading the disease. Whether they actually did so was uncertain. None the less, the birds certainly spread the material around and there were many mysterious outbreaks of foot and mouth disease thought to be spread by birds. Vermin such as foxes and rats will undoubtedly consume some of this material. If it has not been treated adequately we will have a considerable risk of spread of disease. Many other animals, such as stray dogs, may be involved in spreading this material around.

As I have said, it is possible that composting temperatures are not hot enough. As I asked on Second Reading, why has it been necessary for animals associated with foot and mouth disease to be rendered when it is possible for imported food that goes into waste, which may contain various diseases, not to be treated similarly? The provisions in the Bill for composting catering waste could be described as "negligent" in terms of what I have just been talking about. I hasten to add immediately, before the Minister admonishes me, that it has been brought to my attention that a risk assessment has been carried out, as the Environment Minister, Michael Meacher, said in answer to a question in another place. However, I do not necessarily accept the veracity of that risk assessment or its conclusions. I would like to know who carried it out and whether veterinary experts and other scientists who would address these matters in considerable detail were involved.

Amendment No. 129 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, refers to very specific temperatures and periods. I am sure that the noble Lord will put his amendment very adequately, so I will leave the detail to him. Amendment No. 129 specifies very accurately what needs to be done—if you like, it is an alternative approach to the same problem. This particularly important issue is a weakness in the Bill affecting animal health and possibly human health. There is a great deal of this stuff about—it is estimated that one third of the food consumed in the UK is consumed in catering establishments, restaurants and other places. Those of us who occasionally pass by these establishments and see the amount of waste that comes from them understand that it is a considerable problem. If such waste is to be separated out from landfill, it needs to be treated properly, for the reasons stated. I beg to move.

6 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith

My Amendment No. 129 is grouped with this amendment and addresses precisely the same subject. I prefer my amendment to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, simply because it is precise—although I have to confess that it is not precise enough. I am told that our typist made an error and "80 degrees" should actually read "98 degrees". I suspect that we were catching up with the science, rather than the typist's fingers, but I apologise to the Committee for that. It would help if the Committee would read "98 degrees" for "80 degrees", rather than having to present the amendment anew another time in precisely the same form in order simply to get the temperature right.

We are talking about a very serious problem of biosecurity. It is almost certain—although it will never be absolutely certain because we will never get down to the detailed analysis—that the foot and mouth outbreak of more than a year ago was started because some infected meat or bone material came into this country, went through a commercial catering establishment of some sort, went into the swill chain, went through the swill chain having been inadequately heated and prepared and came out at the end as a live virus which cost this country billions. That is what we are talking about and that is not the only potential offender. Swine fever is another. It is believed— although this can never be proved—that the swine fever outbreak in East Anglia four or five years ago was started by someone chucking a ham sandwich over a hedge.

Fowl pest is a third disease that could be spread in this way. It has not hit the headlines in recent years, but it may well come back one day. Composted domestic biodegradable waste that was spread on agricultural land—or even in the garden of someone who kept pet goats—could cause a foot and mouth outbreak.

We have an open gate to unpredictable disaster. I am not bothered about official assessments that say there is very little risk. They will never be able to say that there is no risk. As long as there is a risk, we face this dreadful lottery. It may hit us only once every 30 years, as with foot and mouth disease, but, considering the cost, it would be better if it were not possible for it to hit us at all.

The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, coupled this possibility with the possibility of spreading human disease via something that leaks from compost into ground water, coming back via the water supplies. We already have problems in that regard because, as we know, London's water is used at least five times between Teddington weir and the Becton outfall. The water is recycled, recycled and recycled. I would like to think that we are on top of that problem, but once you start to go out of the normal means of dealing with these problems and put the stuff into the natural cycle, you are opening entirely another door. This is very serious and we need to think about it carefully.

My instinct tells me that we should avoid—and continue avoiding to the maximum possible extent—the idea that composting is a partial solution to dealing with domestic biodegradable waste. If this stuff were ever to be used in agriculture or in gardens, we would have a potential for another very expensive disease disaster.

There are other ways of dealing with these wastes. I do not like incineration, but technology is moving on. I mentioned some of the other systems on Second Reading, so I do not intend to go over that ground now. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, and I are after the same principle. We want a secure way of dealing with this problem. The Minister will reveal in a moment whether she is minded to accept what we have suggested. I look forward to her reply but I hope she will accept that it is a problem that we shall have to deal with. The question is not whether we deal with it but how we deal with it.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I shall deal first with the specific questions about risk assessment raised by the noble Lord, Lord Livsey. Yes, vets and scientists were involved and there was a peer review study, the results of which will be available on the DEFRA website in the New Year.

I shall also deal with the related issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. In any process, it is almost impossible to achieve a no-risk result. I believe all Members of the Committee accept that, whatever strategy is adopted to avoid the spread of disease, that is the case. In many ways, the risk assessment showed that the alternative to landfill was even more dangerous than composting because of the heat treatment.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I do not regard landfill as an alternative to composting. We should be absolutely clear about that. Landfill is used at present, and I agree that that is what we are trying to get away from. If one took all domestic biodegradable waste and put it through industrial-type processes, one would end up with an irreducible minimum material that might need to be disposed of in some other way on the land. I do not believe that we should be complacent about landfill. The whole purpose of the Bill is to get rid of it.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

As a government, we recognise that this is a major issue. We believe that composting catering waste has an important role to play in helping local authorities to meet both their recycling and composting targets and the directive targets. As a result, composting waste is already a component of our strategy to achieve a sustainable waste management system. Therefore, it is not a matter of whether or not it should be included as part of the strategy in the Bill. However, in the light of the serious level of concern expressed by Members of the Committee, it is important to recognise that at present composting and biogas treatment of catering waste are effectively banned by the Animal By-Products Order 1999, as amended.

Drawing on the results of the risk assessment Commissioned by the department, a draft amending the Animal By-Products Order went out for consultation on 20th November. The overall objective of this work is to develop a set of rules that will allow the composting of catering waste to take place economically while fully protecting animal and public health. The amended order will lay down the processes that will be permitted, including those relating to time and temperature, because there is obviously a relationship between the time process and the temperature process.

In the light of what both noble Lords have said, perhaps they could help the department to ensure that organisations and individuals who have views on the time/temperature requirements respond to the consultation before the closing date of 12th February 2003. I hope that that helps Members of the Committee. Where people challenge the premises of the proposed revised order, it is important that they act quickly. They also need to ensure that that applies to anyone else who they believe wishes to be consulted. That is outwith the scope of the Bill—it is a separate procedure. In the light of that, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

I thank the Minister for that response, which I regard as a responsible and constructive contribution to our debate. None the less, had we the power in this Committee to vote on the matter, I would have called for a Division. This is an issue about which we need to stop and think very hard.

References were made to disposal authorities meeting composting targets. In my view, given the degree of risk, this is not a good enough reason for achieving sustainable targets, as referred to in the Minister's reply. We are talking about other reasons, not just meeting the targets of disposal authorities and local authorities. I accept that the Minister has shown great concern about that and that he has taken the whole matter on board.

I comment that there must have been a very good reason why, in the draft order concerning by-products of 1999 to which she referred, those substances were specifically excluded. It now appears that legislation will be introduced to include them, albeit by specifying temperatures, as we have requested, and time of exposure to the cleaning up methods.

The consultation to which the Minister has referred is very important. It needs the widest possible publicity. Can she ensure that the department communicates fully with bodies such as the NFU, the Farmers Union of Wales, the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, NFU Scotland and other bodies like the CLA, so that they are all aware of what is happening and so that they can participate in the consultation? I hope that that will provide a comprehensive response that the Government can use. However, I remain uneasy about the process. In this instance we must avoid the horse bolting through the stable door. Does the Minister wish to say anything further?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I want to confirm, so that it is on the record, that the full range of organisations, examples of which the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, gave, are being consulted.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

I thank the Minister for that. I hope that the Members of the Committee will have that information so that they can distribute it. I am sure that they will. I am sure the Minister will take note of what we have discussed. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 83: Page 11, line 22, at end insert— (e) assess the extent to which there is sufficient capacity in measures other than landfill for the handling of biodegradable waste.

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 83 refers to a related matter: the after use of treated biodegradable wastes. It concerns whether there is an adequate market for it and whether the capacity is there, rather than whether or not it is safe. Amendment No. 110, in the same group, refers to Wales in identical terms. I do not know why there is not an amendment relating to Scotland and Northern Ireland but at least it means that I shall have my knuckles rapped only once and not three times.

The amendment relates to Clause 16, "Strategy for England", which states: The Secretary of State must have a strategy for reducing— (a) the amount of biodegradable waste". It also states: Before formulating policy for the purposes"— of the strategy, the Secretary of State must", do various things. The amendment adds that the Secretary of State must assess the extent to which there is sufficient capacity in measures other than landfill for the handling of biodegradable waste.

Although the Bill outlines the requirements for strategies for dealing with biodegradable waste in Clauses 16 to 19, including measures to achieve the targets by, recycling, composting, biogas production, materials recovery or energy recovery", important consideration also needs to be given in the strategy to the potential capacity of end markets and end users to absorb the wastes and products. Principally the concern relates to the extent of the market, particularly in agriculture, to utilise treated, biodegradable wastes, whether they are compost or the digestate which is the result of the processes that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, was waxing lyrical about yesterday, or indeed other processes.

Often, application to agricultural land may be seen as the least additional cost option to land-filling, either as an organic fertiliser or a soil conditioner. We suggest that there is a need for research into current and potential future wastes that might be applied to agricultural land and the capacity of the land to accommodate such waste region by region, area by area. That may be particularly significant given the recent designations and additions of nitrate vulnerable zones, as a result of which farmers are looking hard at their need for a use of soil conditioners and/or organic fertilisers in general.

The question raised is whether the possible end use of treated biodegradable waste on agricultural land is a realistic one, and whether an assessment of the capacity should be on the face of the Bill—something that should be done before strategies for dealing with waste are agreed. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

We set Amendment No. 110 to one side. Amendment No. 83, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, requires the Government to assess the availability of alternatives. We accept that that is necessary. That took place in the course of producing the Waste Strategy 2000 for England and Wales, and the Strategy Unit's report that was published last month. We fully recognise the need for proper consultation and would want to take into account all the points to which the noble Lord has referred.

The Strategy Unit recommended that DEFRA looks at biowaste. That is an issue that we need to cover in our government response. All the items raised by the noble Lord are extremely important. I hope that I have reassured him that we consult fully, that we have done so in the past, as our record shows, and that we shall do so in future.

Lord Greaves

I am grateful for the Minister's reply. We are calling for research rather than consultation. However, I am reassured by what the Minister has said, and I shall read it carefully. Those issues will come up again as the strategy unfolds over the corning months. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 84 and 85 not moved.]

Lord Greaves had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 86: Page 11, line 43, at end insert— ( ) The Secretary of State must have a strategy for the prevention of fly-tipping and for dealing with fly-tipping.

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 86 would add a further line to the requirements on the Secretary of State in Clause 16 on fly-tipping. During the course of the Committee we have tossed around the issue of fly-tipping adequately, so I shall not move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 86 not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Strategy for Scotland]:

[Amendments Nos. 87 to 98 not moved.]

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Strategy for Wales]:

[Amendments Nos. 99 to 111 not moved.]

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 [Strategy for Northern Ireland]:

[Amendments Nos. 112 to 123 not moved.]

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 ["Biodegradable waste" and "municipal waste"]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 124: Page 14, line 4, leave out from "decomposition" to end of line 6.

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 124 is another of those wonderful examples of my trying to be helpful to the Government. We want to remove some words that do no more than set out examples. Those words are entirely unnecessary to the meaning of the Bill. The Bill states: 'biodegradable waste' means any waste that is capable of undergoing anaerobic or aerobic decomposition".

One does not need to specify "such as". That deals with Amendment No. 124.

Amendment No. 125 raises a slightly different point. The Bill mentions, waste that, because of its nature or composition, is similar to waste from households".

Amendment No. 125 states: similar waste from commercial or state-run establishments"— although I should have preferred the wording "similar waste coming from any other establishment, or from other local authority activities"— but excluding waste from agriculture".

That is our specific point.

Many wastes from agriculture, especially farmyard manure, pig manure and so on, are in fact biodegradable wastes within the meaning of the Bill, which we feel should be specifically excluded so that they cannot be mistaken for being organic waste. I am positive that there is no intention that they should be included within the scope of the Bill, but they are not specifically excluded, as they should be. Even if we have not got the wording of the amendment right, I should be grateful if the noble Baroness would either give an assurance that there is no intention to include them, or say that she will reconsider the wording of the Bill to ensure that they are specifically excluded, if that is what is required.

Amendment No. 128, which is grouped, adds a definition for "inert municipal waste", which the Bill mentions. There should be a definition of that, and so we propose that it, means waste that is not biodegradable within 25 years".

That would help the Bill and people in future, and I ask the noble Baroness carefully to consider the matter. I beg to move.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said about Amendment No. 124. Amendment No. 125 on the exclusion of agricultural waste is especially important because the precise nature of agricultural waste is well known. I would go so far as to say that I have spent many hours—not necessarily happy hours—spreading it on the land, and it does a lot of good. Amendment No. 125 is therefore perfectly acceptable.

Our amendment, Amendment No. 126, refers to, commercial waste from catering establishments". That is important because one-third of all food is now consumed within catering establishments and the amount of waste generated is considerable. That is the reason for that amendment.

Amendment No. 127 adds two subsections. One refers to, end of life vehicles", and the other to, end of life electrical and electronic equipment", which incorporates EU Directive 75/442/EEC.

It is important to separate out those matters and refer to how they are to be disposed of. We all know the problems, so I shall not repeat them; we have talked enough about that already. I note, understand and support what the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said about Amendment No. 128 regarding inert municipal waste.

We also tabled Amendment No. 130, which refers to an insertion on page 14, line 31, after "sorting". We want to make absolutely sure that that does not include incineration. We do not want more incineration.

I believe that Amendment No. 40 is also in this group.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I missed Amendment No. 40 in opening the debate and it might be as well to have it formally laid before the Committee before the noble Lord speaks to it. It is a very small amendment; it would, in fact, simply remove the word "small". However, there is a point to it.

In Clause 24, the Bill mentions: the deposit of non-hazardous dredging sludges alongside small waterways". The amendment would remove the word "small". What is a small waterway? I can imagine lawyers having a wonderful time with that in future. A ditch is clearly a small waterway when there is water in the bottom of it, but a ditch does not normally carry water all year round. Then there is a stream, a rivulet, and in the north there is something called a beck. Then one gets to a small river, a medium-sized river and a large river. There are waterways where it is entirely appropriate to spread the dredgings on the bank. I have seen that done adequately and sensibly on the banks of medium-sized rivers. The word "small" could reasonably be removed. Perhaps we should have put the words "and insert 'appropriately' in its place. That would have been rather better.

When I looked at the clause a few moments ago, I saw something that offended me far more than the word "small". I hope that the Minister will forgive me if I mention it. The clause refers to, small waterways from out of which they have been dredged". Ugh! We really cannot permit that to go forward. I hope that, if we agree on nothing else in the amendments, we shall agree on that.

Lord Livsey, of Talgarth

I take on board much of what the noble Lord., Lord Dixon-Smith, said. It is important that non-hazardous waste is allowed to be put on the side of waterways. Very often, it prevents flooding and contains the waterway. But the maintenance of small waterways can also be extremely important in ensuring that productive land is adequately drained for growing crops and perhaps also for carrying intensive livestock. I can think of situations in, for example, Somerset where that is particularly important.

Often the cleaning out of waterways is done single-handedly by one person working alone with, for example, a JCB. He does not have the support of several other tractors and the means to take the stuff away. It is simply a practical problem and I wonder what the Environment Agency has to say about it. Is the Environment Agency concerned about whether this has been a problem in various parts of the country and has it asked the Minister's department to ensure that this provision is included?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I was not clear whether the question regarding the Environment Agency was linked specifically to that concerning small waterways.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

Yes, it was.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

It was. Therefore, what the noble Lord really wants to know is whether the Environment Agency agrees with the importance of being able to place non-hazardous waste on the banks of "small waterways", which would become simply "waterways" if the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, were carried. I now understand.

First, perhaps I may put on one side the issue of agricultural waste. The reason that it is not excluded is that it is not municipal waste in the first place. I hope that that is reassuring. I am conscious that, had the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, still been here, he might not have liked the way that I shall handle this point.

This group consists of technical amendments to definitions in the Bill. However, the definitions in the Bill—for example, of "biodegradable", "municipal waste", "landfill" and "treatment infill"—reflect the definitions in the Landfill Directive. The aim of the Bill is to give legal effect to the obligations imposed on the UK by Articles 5.1 and 5.2 of the Landfill Directive. It is important that we cover everything within the scope of the directive.

Amendments Nos. 125 and 140, in particular, are narrower than the definitions in the directive. In such cases, moving away from the definitions in the directive always bears a risk. The interpretation of any definition is, in the final analysis, for the courts to determine. It would be highly undesirable if, in addition to any domestic debate on the interpretation, there were also a challenge from the European Court of Justice as to whether we had transposed the directive correctly because we had adopted a different set of definitions from those in the rest of Europe. I think noble Lords will spot the point at which the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, may have pointed out this was not his sort of Europe. I regret that Amendments Nos. 124, 125, 126, 130 and 140 would all place us in this difficulty and on these grounds we cannot accept them.

Amendment No. 128 defines inert municipal waste as waste that is not biodegradable within 25 years. This amendment is only necessary for Amendments Nos. 75, 103, 91 and 117, which relate to landfill strategies in each country of the UK and which we have already considered. The definition is very different from the definition of inert waste in the Landfill Directive and therefore we are unable to accept that amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, asked about the Environment Agency. The answer is simply yes, it was consulted.

Finally, Amendment No. 127 proposes definitions of end-of-life vehicles and waste electrical and electronic equipment required for those amendments we have already considered in group one. As they are consequent on other amendments that we could not accept, for the reason given, I regret that we cannot accept these too.

I am conscious that that is slightly complicated and noble Lords will want to read it. The basic theme point is that it is important to use and mirror the terminology used in the directive in order to protect us against challenge in the future. With those explanations I hope noble Lords are happy to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

I entirely understand what the Minister is saying about the European directive. That is entirely logical and one would not wish to challenge it. I am concerned about the business of small waterways, which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is about to mention. It would appear that DEFRA consulted the Environment Agency but we do not know what the Environment Agency said and whether it wants to ban this. It will cause a lot of hardship in some family situations if this is the case and it will be interesting if that information comes out.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I am hoping that information will come out. We consulted on "small" in the context of landfill regulations and it may be helpful if we write on the issue of what constitutes small. I am trying to think of another way of saying this because it is possible it may come to me whether I am going to be in a position to say what the Environment Agency said when we consulted it.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

Perhaps I may assist the Minister. That part of the Environment Agency that deals with landfill may well have been consulted, but there is another part that deals with drainage and runoff of land and water basins, which may have a different view.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I have reached the conclusion that, given that we have to decide which size water courses we are dealing with and who said what to who where, it is possible that in the end I may resort to writing about whether the Environment Agency accepted the importance of dredging and placing on the bank on a small waterway. The answer is yes. It came to me in a flash.

Lord Dixon-Smith

The Minister has been very helpful in her reply and explained why these particular terms are in the Bill and how they were arrived at. I am grateful to her for that and we will go away and study her answer with some care. Maybe we will need to refer to it again and maybe not. However, one point that she did not pick up is that I cannot believe that anyone translating from a French original to English came up with "from out of which". I cannot think of a single translator who would do that.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

It appears to me, speaking without advice, that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has a point. I will see if others share my interpretation.

Lord Dixon-Smith

With that assurance, I am most grateful and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 125 to 128 not moved.]

Clause 20 agreed to

Clause 21 ["Landfill"]:

[Amendments Nos. 129 and 130 not moved.]

Clause 21 agreed to.

Clause 22 ["Scheme year" and "target year"]:

[Amendment No. 131 not moved.]

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 132: Page 14. line 40, leave out "2019" and insert "2015

The noble Lord said: This amendment is about the derogation that this country has obtained, which allows it to implement the various stages of this Bill four years after better geared up countries. Our view is that this derogation is not necessary. It is a matter of whether the commitment—the ambition—is present in this country to do things. It is a matter of commitment and a matter of resources. If we were in government, we would not use this derogation. We would get on with it and do it all four years earlier. There is not really much more to say than that. I beg to move.

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

These amendments would change the target years and adjust the length of the landfill allowance scheme to bring it into line with the underogated targets in Article 5.2 of the Landfill Directive. These targets are already very difficult to achieve and we have made allowance for the full derogation, which is why this scheme is expected to run until 2020. However, if the UK managed to achieve more than the minimum, Clause 22(2) would allow the Secretary of State to alter target years to the underogated years, or to any of the years up to the full derogated ones. This gives us full flexibility to decide whether to take full advantage of the derogation, if we make good progress towards achieving the targets under the directive. That is our intention and I hope with that explanation that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, feels able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Greaves

I feel able to withdraw the amendment but not on the basis of the unsatisfactory explanation that has been given. We will disagree on this and for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 133 and 134 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 135: Page 14, line 41, leave out "2013" and insert "2015

The noble Lord said: The amendment was tabled because we have problems with what you might call the schedule of these dates. I know exactly what the Minister is going to say in response, but the fact is that the date schedule in the European directive has given rise to this Bill. All the negotiators from every country in Europe must have been asleep to agree these. We have from 1995 to 2010 to make a 25 per cent reduction in the amount of waste going to landfill. We then have another three years to get rid of the next 25 per cent and then another eight years to get rid of the third 25 per cent. That is weird scheduling by any calculation. I can see no rationale for it at all. I cannot understand how sensible—or otherwise sensible, perhaps—negotiators can have come to this conclusion. The amendment was aimed at making that rather funny position slightly more logical, but I am bound to say that the flaw is in the directive. I know that the Minister will tell us that the directive is what we must live with but none the less I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

The amendment would change the middle target year in the Bill from 2013 to 2015. We cannot accept that, because the effect would be to make it harder to meet the legal obligations under the Landfill Directive, as the target years in the Bill would not be in line with those in the directive. The three target years for the directive, including the full four-year derogation, are 2010, 2013 and 2020, and we do not have the flexibility to move the middle year to 2015.

We accept that the targets are challenging. That is why we have the Waste Strategy 2000 and the Bill and why the Strategy Unit has reported on meeting the targets. But they remain, and we cannot unilaterally alter them.

Lord Dixon-Smith

I am not surprised at the Minister's response—she has her brief. I must confess that if I were in her position, I should be constrained by exactly the same background and I should have to give precisely the same reply. Although I am not satisfied, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 136 to 138 not moved.]

Clause 22 agreed to.

Clause 23 [Other definitions]:

Lord Dixon-Smith had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 139: Page 15, line 21, leave out from beginning to "regulations" and insert "Environment Agency subject to

The noble Lord said: If my memory is correct, during our discussion in Committee yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, said in response to another point that the Environment Agency would be the monitoring agency for England. If that is so, I do not need to move this amendment. If the Minister would assure me that my memory is not at fault, I should be delighted.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

For the record, that is exactly the case. In fact, the amendment would make the Environment Agency the appropriate monitoring authority in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. If he were to move the amendment, the noble Lord would join other noble Lords who have got into trouble for imposition on the devolved countries.

[Amendment No. 139 not moved.]

Clause 23 agreed to.

Clause 24 [Activities to which Chapter I does not apply]:

[Amendment No. 140 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 141: After Clause 24, insert the following new clause—

"APPLICATION OF THE LANDFILL TAX ESCALATOR (1) Commencing in the financial year 2006–07, the whole of the portion of landfill tax above £15 per tonne in each year will be disbursed to the allocating authority for each area. (2) The allocating authority for each area will apply the disbursement received under subsection (1) to—

  1. (a) research into ways of reducing the amount of all waste going to landfill,
  2. (b) capital projects designed to treat biodegradable municipal waste to prevent it from going to landfill,
  3. (c) capital projects designed to treat biodegradable waste to reduce the amount going to landfill, and
  4. (d) schemes designed to benefit the local community where waste treatment projects are sited.

(3) The allocating authority for each area shall ensure that capital projects for treating biodegradable municipal waste are—

  1. (a) sited within the boundaries of the location controlled by each waste disposal authority that is applying for funding, and
  2. (b) supplied with waste mainly collected within the boundaries of the locality controlled by the relevant waste disposal authority."

The noble Lord said: Here, we step into slightly more difficult territory. We are really in the business of hypothecating the use of the landfill tax escalator. Once again, I must assume that the noble Baroness will be somewhat negative in her response, for all sorts of good reasons. We have heard on numerous occasions that if we are to have specific taxes placed on this area, where we know that there are huge potential investment liabilities if we are to meet both the directive and the needs of society at large, we need the money to be retained within the business so that it can be put to other use there.

The amendment proposes that the product of the landfill tax escalator—not the landfill tax but the escalator—should be devoted to four purposes: (a) research into ways of reducing the amount of waste going to landfill, (b) capital projects designed to treat biodegradable municipal waste to prevent it from going to landfill, (c) capital projects designed to treat biodegradable waste to reduce the amount going to landfill, and (d) schemes designed to benefit the local community where waste treatment projects are sited".

I do not need to read out the whole amendment. Those purposes are well worth while. I am sure that, in replying, the Minister will sympathise with our ambition even if she has to be negative, but it is an area where more than sympathy is required. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, for tabling the amendment because it raises several significant issues that the Government will address during the coming months following the recent Pre-Budget Report and Statement given in another place. That report made clear that there is a strong case for increasing the tax rate for active waste significantly in future years to provide incentives for the development of alternatives to landfill and to reduce the volume of waste disposed of that way.

The Government therefore announced that we shall consult on a revenue-neutral proposal to increase the landfill tax escalator to £3 per tonne in 2005–06 and to increase the rate of tax by at least £3 per tonne in future years on the way to a medium to long-term rate of £35 per tonne. The Government intend to introduce the increases in a way that is revenue-neutral to business as a whole. We announced that we will consult with stakeholders on options for the package, including the recycling of revenue, before making our decisions. A ministerial group will be set up to co-ordinate activity in that area across Government that will report to Parliament in the Budget next year.

To support the amendment and the new clause would cut across one consultative process already announced by the Government and the results of another that has already concluded, and would require all extra tax take arising from an increase in the rate for active waste above £15 to go to local projects and local councils, so the business sector, which would also be paying significantly more tax, would receive no further help to minimise its waste.

I therefore regret that the Government cannot accept the amendment, but I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, will be interested in my reply.

Lord Dixon-Smith

The Minister has been helpful by setting out the position. However, there is always a problem with revenue-neutral proposals. Revenue-neutral proposals for business do not necessarily help the waste disposal business to get funding for the investment that it requires, which the amendment may well have provided.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer may well be right in trying to produce revenue-neutral proposals for business, but at the same time, if he does so and businesses are either let off other taxes or whatever, so that they are not adversely affected, he will still have the residual problem of finding the funding—huge amounts of capital funding will be required by the waste disposal sector—to meet the targets. We are talking about one system against another.

I accept what the Minister has said for now. She gave the explanation that I expected, if not the one that I desired. We shall study it, but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 142 to 146 not moved.]

7 p.m.

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 147: Page 16, line 28, insert— ( ) Where a waste disposal authority is liable to a penalty under this Chapter and that liability is a result of an action or actions or a failure to take action on the part of a waste collection authority within the area of the waste disposal authority, the allocating authority may levy all or part of the penalty on the waste collection authority.

The noble Lord said: This is yet another amendment that returns us to the interesting question of potential problems under the Bill in two-tier local authority areas in England. The amendment would allow the allocating authorities to levy penalties on district councils—the collecting authorities in effect—if they were satisfied that the failure to comply with the requirements of the Bill, to meet the targets and the quotas, was the result of the collecting authorities and not the waste disposal authority.

I do not wish to say anything more about that. Previously in Committee we have discussed the interesting matter of the inter-relationship of collecting and disposal authorities in those areas. The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, gave some clear commitments that the Government were looking at those problems, and that during the progress of the Bill they expected to be able to report what their thoughts were on resolving difficulties.

On that basis, I do not wish to move the amendment as the matter of two-tier authorities has been discussed sufficiently, but the Minister may be desperate to reply, so I shall move the amendment for her benefit. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for moving the amendment. I wanted to place on record that at this stage, without prejudice, that particular mechanism could worsen relationships between the two tiers of authorities if one were able to impose the penalty on the other. We have noted the problem and we shall give it further consideration.

Lord Greaves

I am grateful for that response. The amendment does not allow the waste disposal authority to impose a penalty on the collecting authority. It would allow the allocating authority to do that in extremis. That may not be the right mechanism, but mechanisms are clearly needed. We look forward to discussing those matters as the Bill progresses. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 [Regulations under Chapter 1: procedural provisions]:

[Amendments Nos. 148 to 151 not moved.]

Clause 26 agreed to.

Clauses 27 and 28 agreed to.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 151A: After Clause 28, insert the following new clause—