HL Deb 22 January 1974 vol 348 cc1286-301

2.53 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Young.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 11 [Dustbins, etc.]:

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 83: Page 16, line 35, at end insert ("and number").

The noble Baroness said: This Amendment is to make clear that the collection authority, in serving notice under Clause 11(3) on the occupier of commercial or industrial premises requiring him to provide receptacles for the storage of waste may specify the number as well as the kind of receptacles to be provided. Such notices are to avoid the creation of a nuisance or serious detriment through inappropriate storage of commercial or industrial wastes pending collection, and to avoid nuisance or detriment that might arise from insufficient containers as well as from the use of unsuitable ones. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 84:

Page 16, line 46, insert the following new paragraph— ("(d) the substances that shall be put into separate receptacles provided, pursuant to the provisions of subsections (1) and (2) above, after having been extracted by the person disposing from the general body of the waste.")

The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment about dustbins. I should like to read to your Lordships a letter from the correspondence column of this morning's Sun. it is very short, and it says: Paper, bottles and tins were all salvaged during the war. Why aren't they now? It makes me mad to see all these, and even expensive glass food-containers being thrown away. And it costs local authorities a lot to dispose of them. Dustbins are found in every house and are very important to the economy. The clause as it stands meets nearly every provision to give the housewife and industry the dustbins they need. But I feel that the collection authority should have the power, either nationally or in certain areas, to require that certain items be separated before they are put into the receptacles.

I know the difficulties of gathering any particular item that is disposed of, in that one cannot collect (shall we say?) waste paper all over the country: one can collect it only where the articles thrown out are needed. But, as I envisage it, the day has come, or is coming, when many raw materials are going to be so expensive that it will be necessary for them to be collected them from the dustbins. My Amendment would assist in that. The local industry can go to the collection authority and say, "We want to collect some particular item from this area convenient to us. Will you please arrange for it, and charge us for the bags or the boxes to put it in?" It might be that local industry could very well say, "You put the boxes there but we will collect them ourselves". Or they might say, "Will you collect them and store them for us?" Although if the local authority are going to collect and store for an industry, they would want a long-term contract stating the costs of new raw materials that are put forth.

My clause would apply not only to householders but to waste from all sources, commercial and industrial as well. I can give very briefly indeed the sort of items that I think could be collected. The first is waste paper. We heard a lot about that from Lord Leatherland the last time we had this discussion: about 2½ million tons are wasted in this country to-day. Secondly, regarding glass—I know that the glass bottle manufacturers have a target to collect broken glass and use it again, and I know that they have now arranged to obtain glass from their own sources. The demand is going to increase, however, and there ought to be arrangements for collecting broken glass. Next, woollens and cloths, rubber and plastics and aluminium foil containers, which are very expensive and are nearly pure aluminium. Then 10 million gallons, at least, of engine oil are thrown down the sinks very day. A million tons of ferrous scrap are also lost. I know the difficulties with tin cans, but that is being tackled. Here one should mention Warren Springs Laboratories, which are working on this, and so many other projects. In addition one has to consider edible wastes in certain areas.

That is all I have to say. I think there is a good case for requiring the house holder to do these things, and I know from the letter that I read at the beginning of my short speech that the householders will co-operate in this task. If the noble Baroness assures us that the clause as drafted meets what I want, that the householder and industry can be instructed, I shall be very glad to withdraw my Amendment. I beg to move.

2.59 p.m.


I am sure that we have all listened with very great interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, has said on this matter of salvage and the sorting out of different types of waste material. I think that it might be helpful to the Committee if I explain what in fact Clause 11(4) does provide. It provides a power to make regulations concerning receptacles for controlled waste of various sorts; their size; the different substances which may or may not be put into them, and the steps to be taken by householders to facilitate collection, such as the kind of thing that would ensure access to the dustbin if the householder is out. Paragraph (e) enables regulations to be made requiring collection authorities to give directions on any of these matters.

We have on a previous Amendment discussed the question of the separation of waste paper where of course it is open to any collection authority, if they so wish, to collect paper separately and make such arrangements. I believe it would be possible for collection authorities if they wished to go further, to make arrangements for a separate collection of something else. I think the difficulty about this Amendment would be that it would make it obligatory to sort out waste, or would suggest that the Secretary of State should by regulation have a power to oblige collection authorities to collect all these items separately.

The noble Lord quoted a letter from the Sun and I understood him to say that he, on the basis of this, felt that the householder would be willing to cooperate in this matter of separating out different household wastes. The difficulty is that, whereas people were glad to co-operate during the war, and indeed nearly everybody separated household wastes, any salvage drive to-day must rely to a great extent on the co-operation of the public. It is difficult to know quite what enforcement action could be brought against householders who failed to co-operate, and who might have failed to co-operate for good reasons in that perhaps they had not the proper space to be able to store all these different kinds of thing, or for some such reason. Secondly, there is a practical reason requiring the full co-operation of collecting authorities, because of course they would be required to have specially designed vehicles in which the different types of thing could be sorted, so that they could be collected easily.

So far as industrial wastes are concerned, the evidence is that most of the wastes are in fact re-cycled wherever this is possible, so the same argument would not apply. Although this is the kind of Amendment with which one has an instinctive sympathy, against a background of wanting to use all our resources, the reason why we believe it would be difficult to write such a provi- sion into the Bill is that it would, or could, require a measure of compulsion which we feel could not be justified, and this must rest on the basis of co-operation with the collection authorities and the public. It is for this reason that I feel I cannot accept the Amendment.


Before my noble friend Lord Craigton replies, may I, surrounded as I am at this moment by Scotsmen, ask whether my noble friend Lady Young can make any suggestion as to what one does with empty whisky bottles, of which, as your Lordships may realise, I have a great number? I cannot get rid of them except to the dustman. I have tried to get rid of them to the wine merchant from whom I buy, and so on. Recently one of the big whisky manufacturers ran out of bottles. So can my noble friend, or any Scotsman, tell me what one ought to do with these bottles? It is a terrible waste to give them to the dustman.


I am delighted to know that the noble Lord is able to consume so much whisky that he has so many bottles he does not know what to do with them. I thought I should perhaps mention, in speaking to this proposed subsection, that I myself as a private citizen have now taken action with the City of Westminster, who inform me that arrangements could be made to collect all my waste paper if I do certain things. I am now going lo try to persuade the other tenants in the block of flats in which I live to agree. I would suggest that noble Lords should take comparable action with their own local authorities or with commercial interests, to indicate that when we speak in this House we mean what we say and try to do something about it.

I appreciate the point made by the noble Baroness that there is an obligatory element in the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, which I suppose could lead to some difficulties. Maybe this is something we should look at again more carefully. We are all groping towards methods by which we can ensure what all of us are aiming at, which is an intelligent use of our resources. Recent events, as we all know, have brought this matter home to the general public far more clearly and sharply than has been the case ever since the period shortly after the last war. It would be a great pity if we in this House did not do our best to make effective the public sentiment which has been recently aroused, but just allowed everything to slip back to where it was before. So even if the Amendment proposed by Lord Craigton cannot be accepted, I am sure we are all in great sympathy with its objects and should like to see whether the Department, or ourselves, could not by some ingenuity find some other method of securing the same end.


I wish that in withdrawing this Amendment I could do so with such skill as the noble Baroness has just used for me. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 12 [Disposal of waste in England and Wales]:

3.5 p.m.


This is a fairly simple Amendment intended to clarify the fact that this is a more specific reference to Clause 10. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 17, line 17, leave out ("this Part") and insert ("section 10").—(Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD CRAIGTON moved Amendment No. 86: Page 17, line 17,, leave out ("waste paper") and insert ("such waste").

The noble Lord said: I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, wishes to discuss his two relevant Amendments with mine. The point is a short one. I have made out some kind of a case for collecting many things other than glass. All I felt was that in dealing with this provision we should allow the collection authority at least to collect something else than glass because it must be more expensive to have two handlings. So I wanted, without altering the pesent position, to make this change. I beg to move.


I should like to give support to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Craigton; it covers substantially the point I sought to cover by Amendments Nos. 87 and 88. As the position stands, as I think the noble Lord stated, a collection authority is going to be very limited at the present time in its ability to salvage materials. None of us at this stage knows what we shall need to reclaim in the future. It would seem to me to be rather unwise to leave this matter to disposal authorities. In places we could well have a collection authority with a sense of initiative that wished to reclaim items which this Bill, as at present worded, would prevent it from doing. I very much hope that the noble Baroness will feel she can at least accept the principle behind these Amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, and myself.


The principle behind this clause has been the division of responsibility between collection authorities and disposal authorities which is based on a similar division under the London Government Act 1963. With the exception of waste paper, collection authorities are to hand over all wastes to disposal authorities. That is the basic principle behind this provision. The Amendment of my noble friend Lord Craigton would have the effect of leaving a collection authority complete discretion as to what it should hand over. I think the Amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, have the same effect of giving collection authorities discretion. This point follows very much on the discussion we had on the last Amendment. I understand the principle behind these Amendments, which is that collection authorities would have a power, if they so wished, to colloct other substances separately. This is a matter I should like to consider, to see whether there is any way in which we could meet this point. I should be glad to consider all three Amendments.


To speak for myself, I am grateful for the tenor of the noble Baroness's remarks. It is important to allow collection authorities some latitude so that they can, if they wish, show initiative. They may be willing to undertake what a disposal authority may not be willing to undertake at some given time. This in the long run, could be a very considerable improvement to the Bill. So far as my Amendments are concerned, in the circumstances, I shall not move them.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD LEATHERLAND had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 89A: Page 17, line 26, at end insert— ("() Every collection authority (unless excused by the Department of the Environment) and every disposal authority shall keep waste paper separately from other refuse and shall dispose of the waste paper by sale.

The noble Lord said: Last Thursday night it was decided that we should take Amendments 89A and 89B in conjunction with Amendment No. 81. We had a debate on the subject of reclaiming waste paper and I addressed your Lordships at some length with such little eloquence and persuasiveness as I can command, and we felt that the debate had then been closed. Perhaps my two Amendments are still on the Marshalled List because, at the end of last Thursday's debate we merely withdrew Amendment No. 81 and announced that we would be coming back to this question of waste paper in my two Amendments at a later stage of the Bill. It would be improper, therefore of me to address your Lordships at any length once again. I think that probably the best course is for us to come back to the Amendments on Report.

LORD STRATHCONA AND MOUNT ROYAL moved Amendment No. 90: Page 17, line 40, after ("or") insert ("otherwise ")

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lady Young I beg to move Amendment No. 90; and it may be to the convenience of your Lordships if I refer also to Amendment No. 96. Amendment No. 90 is purely a drafting Amendment in order to make clear that processing is considered to be a form of disposal of waste.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

3.15 p.m.

LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 91.

Page 17, line 42, at end insert— ("(3A) Noting in section 23 of the Electric Lighting Act 1909 or in any other enactment shall be deemed to prohibit a disposal authority from generating electricity from the combustion of waste or from supplying the said electricity to an Electricity Board on such terms as may be agreed between any such Board and the disposal authority.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 91, and at the same time may I speak to Amendment No. 130? I should like to think that the Committee would see these Amendments as being very valuable ones having a considerable topical interest in view of our difficulties at the moment with regard to fuel supplies.

Section 23 of the Electric Lighting Act, 1909, as amended by the Fourth Schedule to the Electricity Act, 1947, which this Amendment seeks further to modify, states as follows: It shall not be lawful for any local authority, company or person, other than an Electricity Board, to commence to supply or distribute electricity: Provided that this section shall not prevent any company or person from affording a supply of electrical energy to any other company or person where the business of the company or person affording the supply is not primarily that of the supply of electrical energy to consumers: The Greater London Council has in operation, and has had for some time, a very large refuse incineration plant at Edmonton and its construction provided it with a capacity to produce a substantial amount of electricity from the heat from the incineration process, and the plant is presently producing electricity and feeding it to the national grid. If, however, the heat from the plant had not been used for the generation of electricity, that heat would simply have been wasted. I hope, therefore, that my Amendment may be regarded by the Government as a very welcome and sensible one.

By reason of the provisions of the London Government Act, 1963, the Greater London Council is not a local authority within the meaning of the Act of 1909 although it is a local authority for the purposes of the Electricity Act, 1947. So the position is that although the Council can claim for its refuse incinerator at Edmonton, and any future similar installation, that it is free from the prohibition contained in Section 23 of the Act of 1909, I am advised—and this view is supported by the opinion of leading counsel—that the position is otherwise in the case of local authorities generally. Because of that, I think that it is desirable that the effect of Section 23 should be appropriately modified to allow waste disposal authorities under the Bill to provide for the possible generating potential of waste disposal. If that were to be done, disposal authorities generally would be free from the prohibition contained in Section 23.

I appreciate that the wholesale repeal of Section 23 would possibly meet with the objection that the statutory monopoly of the Electricity Boards would be undermined thereby. But the proposed Amendment does not seek to do that; it seeks merely to remove for waste disposal authorities a prohibition on the potential use of a valuable by-product of the waste disposal process. I put this Amendment forward as an improvement to the Bill. I would think that at the moment it might be regarded as a matter of burning interest, and I hope that in what I have been able to say I have been able to throw a little light on the intention of the Amendments. I beg to move.


I think the aim of the Amendment as the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, has outlined it, would seem to your Lordships to be a very sensible one indeed. It is very difficult, in fact impossible, at this stage to envisage the volume or nature of refuse which will be available in the dumps of the disposal authorities, but in some cases it may be economic to use the combustion for the generation of electricity. In the cases where that is so, clearly one would hope that everything would be done to encourage them so to do and to sell back the power generated to the Electricity Board. I hope that my noble friend will be able to say that she agrees that the aim of this Amendment is a good one and will, in principle, give it her support.


I also sincerely hope that the Government will be able to accept this Amendment. It may be that they will argue that the disposal authorities already have the power to sell their steam from their refuse destructors—I do not know. This Amendment would make it obligatory on them to do so.

I know quite a lot about refuse destructors. When I came out of the Army in 1919 I was appointed as Chief Cost Accountant of the Birmingham Corporation Refuse Disposal and Salvage Department. It is a pity I did not stay there instead of degenerating into journalism. A refuse destructor with its battery of boilers can produce an enormous quantity of steam, and at our main destructor in Birmingham we used to produce steam to drive all the machinery on the depot—the paper baling plant, the tin baling plant, and so on—and then piped that steam under the road to the Corporation's electricity generating station on the other side of the road. We received a substantial sum every year for the steam that we supplied. I know that electricity generation is now under a completely new authority, but it would be a pity if refuse disposal authorities were not enterprising enough to seize the opportunity to sell their steam to electricity stations where they are conveniently situated. I very warmly support this Amendment.


I hope I have said enough in the course of the Committee proceedings to make it clear that the Government are fully in sympathy with these Amendments which are concerned with various aspects of re-cycling. As I made clear at an earlier stage, we intend to bring forward an Amendment of our own on this matter. On this particular Amendment, I support the remarks of my noble friend Lord Amory and of the noble Lords, Lord Garnsworthy and Lord Leatherland, about the plant at Edmonton which my noble friend Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal and I visited. We were very impressed with what we saw. This is a most topical matter which we will consider. We intend to consider this Amendment further in consultation with the Department of Energy and representatives of the supply industry. There are legislative and technical problems involved and these will need full consideration. I hope that with that assurance the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, will feel able to withdraw the Amendment.


I am grateful to the noble Baroness for what she has said, and grateful, too, for support from the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, and my noble friend Lord Leatherland. As I understand the position, if the Government are able to produce an Amendment that covers this position they will be doing so at the next stage of the Bill. In that event I wonder whether I may ask the noble Baroness if she would be kind enough to let me know as early as she can, otherwise I may want to come back to this at a later stage. On this understanding, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 13 [Disposal of waste in Scotland]:

3.23 p.m.


On behalf of my noble friend I beg to move Amendment No. 95. This is a Scottish consequential Amendment which should be read in conjunction with Amendment No. 85.

Amendment moved— Page 19, line 15, after ("of") insert ("section 10 of").—(Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal.)


I wonder why the different procedure is adopted in the English and the Scottish clauses. There was a reference to "of this Act", and then "of this part of the Act", and now in the Scottish one it is, "Section 10". Section 10 appears to me to be equally applicable to England and Scotland. Why is different wording being adopted in Clauses 12 and 13? Is it just because there are different draftsmen and they do not speak to each other?


I must admit that I am not familiar with the individual draftsmen. The noble Lord is aware that Amendment No. 85 put in the words "Section 10" instead of "of this part". There was a specific reason for that and I think the same reason applies to this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 96. We have already discussed this with Amendment No. 90.

Amendment moved— Page 19, line 26, after ("or") insert ("otherwise").—(Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 14 [Directions to licence holders to accept waste]:


On behalf of my noble friend I beg to move Amendment No. 97, which we discussed some days ago with Amendment No. 37.

Amendment moved— Page 21, line 9, after ("3(1)") insert ("or 4(7A)").—(Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 14, as amended, agreed to

Clause 15 [Removal of waste deposited in breach of licensing provisions]:

LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 98: Page 21, line 21, leave out ("a disposal authority or").

The noble Lord said: The clause as drafted gives power to both waste disposal and waste collection authorities to remove waste from land where it has been wrongfully deposited. I am advised, however, that this provision appears to conflict with Section 23 of the Civic Amenities Act 1967 which places the responsibility on the authorities which will be the collection authorities under the clause—that is to say, the district councils—to remove dumped waste from places in the open air. Since it does not appear to be the intention of the Bill as drafted to repeal Section 23 of the Act of 1967, it would be consistent and would avoid possible disputes arising between collection and disposal authorities if this clause was amended so as to relate to collection authorities only. I beg to move.


The effect of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, would be to restrict to collection authorities the right to take remedial action if waste was deposited in breach of licensing conditions. Clause 15 has been so drafted that either the collection authority or the disposal authority can take remedial action if a licence has been breached. It is because of possible danger to public health that it has been so drafted. It is felt, in those circumstances, that either authority ought to have this power.

On the specific question which the noble Lord raised about the Civic Amenities Act, this is a point which we shall look at in connection with the group of Amendments moved by my noble friend Lord Amory, which it will be recalled had the effect of repealing and consolidating previous legislation.


I am grateful to the noble Baroness, particularly for her latter remarks. I have no wish to take up the time of the Committee and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.30 p.m.

LORD STRATHCONA AND MOUNT ROYAL moved Amendment No. 99: Page 21, line 39, after ("nor") insert ("caused nor knowingly").

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lady Young, I beg to move Amendment No. 99, and it may be convenient to discuss with this Amendments Nos. 104 and 105; and indeed Amendment No. 106 by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, is made unnecessary if we accept No. 105. This is essentially a straight forward legal point which, seeing that he is present, I hope will commend itself to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill. The essential point is to show that ignorance is not an excuse and the effect of the three Amendments is to substitute a rather stiffer test; namely, that the occupier neither deposited the waste nor caused or knowingly permitted the waste to be deposited. These three Amendments bring the clause into line with Clause 3(1), which creates the basic offence of depositing waste or causing or knowingly permitting waste to be deposited on unlicensed sites. I beg to move.


I am quite happy about that. It seems to cover the points that I have tried to make in my Amendment No. 106 and if your Lordships accept Amendment No. 99 and Amendments 104 and 105 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, I shall not need to move Amendment No. 106.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

3.31 p.m.

LORD STOW HILL moved Amendment No. 100: Page 21, line 44, at end insert ("provided that the court may in the alternative amend the notice by deleting any particular requirement it considers unsatisfactory").

The noble and learned Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to make a slight change in subsection (2) of Clause 15 with a view to make it a little more effective. As the Committee will see, the subsection provides that a person who, under Clause 15, is served with a notice by the disposal authority or the collection authority, has a right of appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction. That court is then called upon to quash the notice provided it is satisfied, as to the matters set out in paragraphs (a) to (d) of subsection (2) and otherwise has to dismiss the appeal.

For the purposes of this Amendment the relative paragraph is (b), which reads: any requirement of the notice is unreasonable". In other words, if the court comes to the conclusion that if any requirement which may be contained in a number of requirements—the notice may set out many requirements—is unreasonable then the court has to allow the appeal. What is envisaged is that there may be a notice which is sensible and desirable in every conceivable respect, which ought to be upheld, subject to this: that among a number of requirements it contains one requirement which could be said to be an unreasonable requirement. As subsection (2) now stands, the court would be under a duty to allow the appeal because there was, among many requirements, one requirement which it thought to be unreasonable.

It would be sensible at this stage to submit to your Lordships' Committee that in a case of that sort the Court should be given a third alternative. In that situation it should not be under a duty to allow the appeal. Clearly, it could not dismiss the appeal. It should be given a third alternative, which should be as set out in the Amendment which I commend to the Committee. It should be entitled to make a change in that requirement which it thought was an unreasonable requirement; it could amend it, and no doubt if it thought fit so to do it would amend it by striking out any provision (if it were feasible so to do) in that requirement which would seem to make it an unreasonable requirement. The Court could strike out the characteristic that was unreasonable or it could change it or make such amendment as in the circumstances seemed reasonable. Having done so, it could then dismiss the appeal. The result would then be that the recipient of the notice would have a notice containing requirements, all of which were reasonable, and he could not reasonably complain if in those circumstances his appeal to the court of summary jurisdiction were disallowed.

I submit that this is an Amendment which would improve the working of subsection (2); it would produce the result that appeals would be dismissed where, as a matter of common sense, they ought to have been dismissed but which, as the subsection reads at the moment, would have to be allowed because each single requirement contained some feature which could not reasonably be justified. I beg to move.


In order that the House may hear the Statement about the Prime Minister's meeting of yesterday with the T.U.C. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.