HL Deb 26 June 1990 vol 520 cc1462-516

4.25 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 47 [Waste recycling plans by collection authorities]:

[Amendment No. 205 not moved.]

Lord Gisborough moved Amendment No. 205A: Page 51, line 22, leave out ("waste collection authority") and insert ("waste regulation authority').

The noble Lord said: With this amendment should be taken Amendments Nos. 207A, 209A, 210ZA and 210A. The Bill places a duty on waste collection authorities to produce waste recycling plans together with powers, along with waste disposal authorities, to recycle waste. The waste regulation authority has the duty to prepare a waste disposal plan. This division of responsibility is unfortunate. There is no clear and coherent strategy for recycling as between the three authorities. Waste disposal authorities need to plan for the disposal of collected waste, and to do that effectively they need to know the likely volume of waste that the collection authorities could divert from the waste stream for recycling.

Disposal facility operators need to know the volume of waste they are going to receive for some years ahead if they are to make informed investment decisions. Furthermore, it is important that there are no inconsistencies between the waste recycling plans that each collection authority prepares. There is thus a need fully to integrate disposal plans with recycling plans, and a need to ensure a coherent approach to recycling across each county as a whole. The authority best placed to do that is the waste regulation authority. This amendment would ensure much better co-ordination of key waste management arrangements. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

These amendments, as my noble friend explained, would switch the responsibility for preparing and implementing recycling plans from waste collection authorities to waste regulation authorities. In our view that would be an unsatisfactory change, for the following reasons.

Waste collection authorities, which are mainly district councils, are in the front line in dealing with household waste. They empty our dustbins, usually, and many provide or service the local facilities associated with recycling, such as bottle banks. Many already have arrangements with contractors to take away recyclable materials, and some noble Lords may be acquainted with the excellent schemes run by many councils. They have local contact with all the people who make recycling work: local shops and firms, schools and legions of committed volunteers. We want to see this activity spread so that all councils come up to the standard of the best. That is the purpose of requiring them to draw up and implement local waste recycling plans. These amendments would have the effect of removing that requirement.

Waste regulation authorities, to which the amendment would transfer this responsibility, are very different animals, operating as they do at county level. In their way they are equally important for recycling, but their role is not to draw up local detailed recycling plans like the collection authorities; it is to take a wider strategic view of what happens to all waste arising in their area. Although they are required to have regard to the desirability of giving priority to recycling waste, they are not in a position to adopt the local approach of the districts.

I hope that on reflection my noble friend will agree that collection authorities are the right organisations to draw up and implement local waste recycling plans.

Lord Gisborough

I am grateful to my noble friend for that explanation, which I will pass on to the people who are interested in these amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Ross of Newport moved Amendment No. 206:

Page 51, line 29, at end insert: ("( ) in accordance with guidance with the Secretary of State, to investigate the extent of the market for recycled products deriving from the waste; ( ) to consider what arrangements it could reasonably make to stimulate the market for recycled products in its area;").

The noble Lord said: We are dealing with Clause 47, which sets out the duty of each waste collection authority. Subsection (1)(a) to (e) sets out what the responsibilities of the waste collection authorities should be.

We suggest in the amendment that two further small additions should be made: first, to investigate the extent of the market for recycled products deriving from the waste and, secondly, to consider what arrangements the local authority can reasonably make to stimulate the market for such products in its area. The amendment would oblige a waste collection authority when drawing up its plans to investigate the extent of the market for recycled products derived from the waste that it collects and the ways in which it could stimulate the market in its area.

Those of us whose wives collect waste paper all know from experience that at times the market collapses. It is in a collapsed state at the moment. I suspect that a great deal of paper that has been stored in barns is probably about to be dumped in holes in the ground because there is no market for it at present, although it will revive later. If we could achieve some consistency in the matter, it would be an enormous advantage. We also know that tin cans are not wanted, but that aluminium cans are wanted. There is a bottle bank in my town, but nowhere to put cans. There is a well-organised collection point for cans in the next market town, but unfortunately it is 10 miles away.

The most important step in a recycling programme is market research. Without it, the programme will fail and people who were once keen to take part will become disillusioned. That is exactly the description that I used on Second Reading. People collect things thinking that they will be recycled; but they then find, to their horror, that the items have gone nowhere and have simply been dumped. Before putting a waste recycling plan into effect, the authority should carry out such market research. It should also examine how it can stimulate the market by, for example, using more recycled products itself—we should do that in this place—and by encouraging others to do so. When local authorities have premises to let, they should try to ensure that the firms which take those premises make some use of their waste products. The Secretary of State should draw up national guidance as to the overall market for recycled products, and should help the authorities by giving them that information and so assist them in drawing up or modifying their plans.

Amendment No. 206ZA is consequential. It contains a printing error. The word "on" should read "or" so that the amendment reads: the recycling, or the facilitating of the recycling of waste". I beg to move.

Lord Renton

Without committing myself to the terms of the amendment—I am not quite sure how it would work—I should like to say that in my opinion the noble Lord has done a valuable service in drawing attention to the inadequacy of some of our existing arrangements for dealing with waste.

For example, I suspect that, like me, all noble Lords live in an ocean of paper that comes through the post. Being a keen conservationist, I save all my paper. I have saved about half a tonne in the past 18 months. I keep it in a shed. I have become rather tired of taking small quantities in my own car to a waste paper factory 15 miles away. That is the nearest one, as I live out in the country five miles from Huntingdon. The people in the waste factory say that, if I get a tonne, they might collect; it depends what other loads they have to collect. They would like three tonnes. I reckon that it will take me a good many years to collect that amount.

That is a serious and practical point. It would save trees galore, carbon dioxide and all sorts of things, if we collected our waste paper and recycled it. However, turning aside from that, the noble Lord's suggestion that we need more bottle banks is a valuable one. It is not difficult to keep boxes in which wine bottles arrive, to use them to put the empty bottles in after they have been consumed, put them in one's car, and, as one passes through a town where there is a bottle bank, shove them into it. However, as I understand it, not many towns have them, especially in convenient places where you can park your car nearby. The best place to have one is at a car park.

In my own mind I cannot quite fit the machinery that is described in the amendment into the Bill; but I shall be interested to hear what one of my noble friends may have to say about the matter. I hope that he will have something encouraging to say.

Lord Ezra

I should like to support the amendment moved by my noble friend. It would add substantially to the clause that we are debating.

I should explain that I have an interest in these matters as I am president of the UK Reclamation Council. The Council represents those sectors of industry concerned with paper, metals, glass, and so on, which are interested in stimulating recycling, not only as part of their own activities but to obtain the full support of the public.

One point has been clear throughout our deliberations; namely, that the state of the market for recycled products must be well known by all concerned. That was the point to which the noble Lord, Lord Renton, referred in connection with his assiduous collection of waste paper. People are not particularly well advised on those matters. If clear guidance could be given at the regional and local level by the authorities as to which areas of recycling were important at any one time and they could consider ways in which those could be stimulated, that would be most helpful. The amendments add considerable force to the clause.

Lord Hesketh

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Rcss—Amendment No. 206—raises an issue of fundamental importance. There is no point in collecting and processing recyclable waste if there is no end market. As he rightly pointed out, all you get are soggy stockpiles of newspapers, and can and glass mountains. You also get many disheartened consumers who see their efforts to segregate waste literally going to waste.

Our approach has been to look at recycling as a loop with the consumer at the beginning and the end. At the household level, we have put in place the right collection and sorting systems and we are backing a number of pilot schemes. The waste collection authority must have the right facilities to deal with waste collected and can also help with providing and servicing what are called "bring" systems such as bottle banks. Next in the loop are the local companies which process waste and pass it on to the manufacturers who produce new materials. In some cases—for example, with glass—the middleman may be bypassed by the glass manufacturer himself. Finally, there is Mr. and Mrs. Green, again buying and using recycled products.

The markets for each waste stream can be very different. Paper is an internationally traded commodity and its price can fluctuate considerably. At the moment, the price of waste newspaper is very low, although that for other types of paper, such as computer paper, is holding up well. Most types of glass are in demand, and the aluminium and steel can manufacturers could take a great deal more cans and offer a guaranteed price for them.

We are encouraged that, subject to the necessary clearances, the new owners of Reedpack, the paper company, intend to go ahead with a major investment at Aylesford in Kent. That plant will produce newsprint with 100 per cent. recycled waste paper content. If that goes ahead, it will greatly increase the capacity to process waste newspaper and will mean the end of the current glut which, I am well aware, has been the subject of a number of Questions in the House over the past 18 months.

Turning back to the amendment, I am always impressed by the versatility of local authorities. However, I do not regard market researching as one of their fortes. Naturally, they will come to know about the local market for recycled materials, but it would place too much of a burden on them to go in for formal market investigation. However, I agree with the implication of the amendment that central government should, wherever possible, help local authorities to find a market for recycled goods. That is why we set up an expert advisory group on recycling with membership from local authorities as well as industry and voluntary organisations.

That group split into several teams which investigated the markets for different recyclable commodities in depth.

The exchange of information was extremely valuable. The Department of the Environment and the Department of Trade and Industry are currently considering how to carry forward the findings of these teams and how to keep up an effective exchange of information about market issues.

Under the current wording of Clause 47, waste collection authorities will be required to carry out an investigation of arrangements for dealing with waste for the purpose of recycling it. They are required to report on those arrangements in the recycling plan. Amendment No. 206ZA in the name of the noble Lords, Lord Ross and Lord Addington, would restrict the scope of the plan to a report on recycling arrangements without covering the essential preparatory work of sorting and baling recyclable waste.

Waste collection authorities must look at the arrangements for waste separation and sorting in their area. We are currently working with local authorities to investigate, for example, the extent to which source separation of waste by householders is desirable or feasible. I recently opened such a scheme in Milton Keynes. Waste recycling plans must necessarily take such issues into account.

I hope I have not detained the Committee too long. The amendments raise a central issue of importance. In the light of what I have said I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Ross, will not find it necessary to press the amendment to a Division.

Both the noble Lord, Lord Ross, and my noble friend Lord Renton raised the matter of bottle banks. At present there are 4,000 bottle banks in the United Kingdom. We hope to raise that figure to 10,000 by the end of the century along with our stated desire of achieving 50 per cent. recyclability.

Lord Renton

Before the noble Lord, Lord Ross, replies perhaps I could make one further point which arises from the response of my noble friend regarding the low price of waste paper. I firmly believe in market economies. But we have a dilemma here. It is a dilemma increasingly recognised by the Labour Party for which I give that party credit. The more efficient the collection of waste paper becomes the lower the price is likely to fall. We must not allow the collection of waste paper to be impeded or delayed by the fall in the market price.

I cannot expect my noble friend to answer that dilemma immediately, but I hope that it will be borne in mind that the effective collection of waste paper must not be impeded by the operation of the market price.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Before the noble Lord, Lord Ross, replies, perhaps I may say that I am fascinated by the response of the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I commend to him my Amendment No. 207B, which I believe answers the point that he raised.

Lord Hesketh

Before the noble Lord, Lord Ross, responds, perhaps I could draw my noble friend's attention to the proposed plant in Kent. The key problem regarding newsprint is not a question of subsidy or financial encouragement; it is the physical availability of the plant to process the soggy pile of paper about which my noble friend is concerned. One hopes that when the plant is completed, there will be capacity in excess of the available market which will result not merely in an underpinning, but an increase in the price in the United Kingdom.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Is the Minister suggesting that the garage of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, leaks?

Lord Ross of Newport

I am grateful to all Members of the Committee for their contributions, I thank particularly the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for his support. The government response is good news. I know that the Minister is particularly pleased with what is shortly to happen in Kent because it will put a bottom into the market.

However, I find it sad when two private individuals—young men—start up in business collecting newspapers for recycling. They buy a van and set the business up but the whole thing collapses and they go bust. That is very sad. I believe that local authorities could help in such a situation by providing storage and similar facilities, pending a revival of the market.

The Minister gave a very full reply. I realise that the amendment may damage some aspects of baling and packaging. I do not want to do that. It is a good clause and I congratulate the Government on their approach. I am also interested in the guidance the Government are receiving from their committees. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 206ZA not moved.]

4.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 206A: Page 51, line 32, at end insert ("having regard to any scheme drawn up under section (Subsidy far waste recycling) below").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 206A I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 207B and 210B. The first two are consequential upon Amendment No. 210B, which is the new clause after Clause 47 providing for a subsidy for waste recycling.

I was greatly encouraged by interventions in the previous debate, particularly that of the noble Lord, Lord Renton. Once again the noble Lord proclaimed his devotion to market economics and suggested that we might agree with him. That led me to indicate to him that he may find virtue in our Amendment No. 210B. I also invite him to contrast Amendment No. 210B with the government amendment on a similar subject, Amendment No. 222A. It was not decided to group one with the other but that could have been done.

There is already recognition that the operation of the market pure and simple is not adequate to provide for a flourishing recycling industry. That is borne out by statements including that of the Minister in his response to the last amendment. In turn, a flourishing recycling industry is necessary to ensure that there is enough impetus on the orginators of recyclable waste to prepare and collect that waste for recycling. No less a body than the Recycling Advisory Group of the Department of Trade and Industry—not noted for its references to market failures—points out the following. Changes in commodity prices, to which the Minister referred when talking of the prices for different types of paper, aluminium cans, glass and so forth, make the recycling firms highly vulnerable to swings in commodity prices. That, as they say, is not a market failure but a genuine reflection of risk".

Something must be done if the market is to be given the necessary support in order to provide for the continuity of supply and disposal of recyclable materials which will be necessary if we are to achieve the targets which, to do them credit, the Government set for themselves in improving our record on recycling.

Amendment No. 222A contains a recycling credit proposal which in effect shifts funds around within the recycling process. That is perfectly valid. If we are reduced to that, I shall not oppose that amendment. However, I want to put to the Committee—particularly to the Government and the noble Lord, Lord Renton—that we are proposing a market-led solution. We are proposing that subsidies should be used to encourage the use of recycled material. In other words, they should be aimed at the end product of the recycling process rather than shifting money around in the intermediate stages. The second is not necessarily ruled out by the first; the second may well be valuable. We shall support the proposal; but to encourage the use of recycled materials—which is the purpose of Amendment No. 206A—by the kind of subsidies set out in that amendment is the real contribution which can be made to recycling. Everything else, however worthy, is secondary.

If the Minister convinces me that the wording of Amendment No. 206A is defective, but that the Government accept the principle and will bring forward suitably worded amendments to achieve our objectives at a later stage, I shall beg leave to withdraw the amendment. However, the amendment deserves the serious consideration of the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

Perhaps I may say that while I appreciate the constructive spirit in which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, speaks to his amendments, it is really Amendment No. 210B that we should consider. His first two amendments are paving ones.

There are two matters on which I shall be grateful for enlightenment. It may be my ignorance, but can the noble Lord explain what is a waste producer? Who is a waste producer? It is rather an ambiguous term. I am a producer of waste. I collect paper and I submit it to a factory which disposes of it. I am producing the waste paper and therefore I am a waste producer. Is that what the noble Lord means in this amendment? I do not think that it can be because it does not fit in with the meaning of the amendment.

I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has a clear mind on this matter. He refers to subsidies. They can take various forms; for example, they can take the form of a capital grant for establishing equipment for recycling purposes; it can take the form of a price subsidy, or form a guarantee in case the market price falls. What kind of subsidy does the noble Lord have in mind? That is fundamental to his argument.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

Before my noble friend replies, perhaps I may offer one or two comments on the matter. In doing so, I declare an interest. I am chairman of a company which acts as an agent for the importation into this country of paper from Scandinavia. The paper industry in this country is increasingly alive and alert to all the various problems of pollution and conservation. It has a very close interest in these matters.

I wish to make two points and then to comment on the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. A great deal has been said about waste paper. There are two points to be made about it which Members of the Committee should have in mind. I was very interested to hear of the plan by Reedpack which my noble friend mentioned in connection with the last amendment. There is a similar proposal using the Gartcosh Mill in Scotland. Originally it was a Scottish company, but I understand that it has now been bought by a Canadian paper company. It too tends to produce large quantities of paper based on waste paper.

The fact is that with existing technology it is probably not feasible to consider the production of paper based entirely on recycled paper. There are two reasons. The de-inking processes that are necessary to produce an acceptable shade of paper for most, but not all, uses are still not perfected. A good deal of research is being done on this matter. As Members of the Committee can imagine, the kind of process that is needed to extract the inks of a variety of different chemical formulations, colours and consistencies from a heterogeneous collection of paper is not a simple process. De-inking is more than a rudimentary process but it still has a long way to go before it can produce a paper which is acceptable alongside paper made from fresh pulp.

What is more serious is one of the inherent characteristics of the fibre which goes to make up paper. There is a limit to the number of times any particular fibre can be recycled and still retain the inherent strength which is essential for virtually every use of paper. It is for that reason that hitherto it has been found practicable, when considering the use of recycled paper, to employ a mixture of new fibre, which may be chemical or ground wood pulp, with a certain amount of recycled paper. One of the common percentages is that about 60 per cent. of recycled paper requires 40 per cent. of new pulp in order to provide an acceptable product.

I shall be interested to know about the Reedpack plan. It may be that it will try to produce a quality of paper where it is possible to use a proportion of recycled paper higher than the 60 per cent. I have just mentioned. It is quite clear that, hitherto, for most commercial and domestic uses paper that has been entirely recycled has an obvious attraction for, if I may use my noble friend's phrase, Mr. and Mrs. Green. The fact of the matter is that, if I am not putting it too bluntly, you end up by putting your finger through it. It may also produce a form of newsprint which looks rather tatty. That means that, because of competition in the market, people will not, except as a green gesture, buy magazines printed on that kind of paper. Therefore, there must be a note of caution about how effective this measure will be in the present state of technology.

That brings me to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. As a former Treasury Minister, I have some hesitation in embracing what appears to be an open-ended subsidy. I recognise that he has done his best to include a variety of controls and has given the Secretary of State the right to amend the scheme and, presumably, to withdraw it. If one provides an open-ended subsidy between the producer and the consumer, it is contrary to all experience to imagine that the difference in prices will remain a constant or anything approaching a constant or that the suppliers, the purchasers and the market will not automatically adjust their prices to the fact that there is the injection of a subsidy.

At the moment there are large quantities of waste paper lying about. I share exactly the experience of my noble friend, Lord Renton. I have a barn which at the moment is piled high with paper and it is impossible to persuade anyone to take it away. There is a suggestion that there should be payment to close the gap so that it is then worth while for someone to collect the paper. However, once one opens the door to a scheme of that kind, all one's experience suggests that there are plenty of people who are going to climb on the bandwaggon. All the other prices will move in response to the existence of the subsidy. In the end one may finish up in much the same position as before, but with a substantial volume of public expenditure added. When the scheme does not work and it is withdrawn, there will be an enormous row and everyone will say that the Government are being wicked in withdrawing the subsidy.

I look at this scheme with a very great deal of caution. I confine my remarks to waste paper, though there may be other waste products where the scheme may be more relevant. I believe that the Government's scheme is perfectly reasonable because it does not involve the injection of new money. In fact, they are making sure that the costs and benefits of the whole process are shared in ways which will lead people to behave as we should like them to do in the interests of reclamation. That is perfectly appropriate.

Once the tap is opened for new money, it is surprising how quickly and effectively some of the people in this kind of trade will take advantage. The flow from the tap will become a flood and then the tap will have to be turned off. I do not believe that is a position that any government would wish to get into. I shall listen with great care to what my noble friend says and to the reply by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. However, for the moment he has not convinced me that his scheme is practicable.

Lord Ross of Newport

I was attracted to this amendment not because of paper but because of used tyres. I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that recycled paper is very good for toilet rolls and also it provides a great deal of writing material. I hope that many more people will use it. At long last I have got my wife buying it.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I entirely agree. In 1984 I was the first Secretary of State to get a government department to use nothing but recycled paper. That was the Department of the Environment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

This is very absorbing!

Lord Ross of Newport

I am delighted to hear that news and I congratulate the noble Lord.

In my Second Reading speech I drew attention to the number of tyre dumps in this country. There is one within a mile or two of where I live. It is called Motorway Remoulds. Eighty per cent. of the tyres which come off lorries on motorways are not in a good enough condition to be remoulded. Unfortunately, they are dumped. In my area they are dumped in a beautiful valley. The dump is 60 feet high and growing. There is a scheme in the Midlands to set up a recycling plant. An American company has actually applied for planning permission.

I can see a case for subsidising a firm to hold onto the tyres instead of dumping them in the valley. Perhaps it would be better to call them financial incentives rather than subsidies. There would then be a continuation of supply so that firms that were recycling could be sure of getting that supply. If there comes a time when firms stockpile, perhaps they will then look to a local authority to give them financial assistance in that regard. The local authority will be saving money, as will the National Rivers Authority.

Because some idiot is believed to have set fire to the dump to which I referred, or perhaps because of internal combustion, we now have to have permanent checks on it to ensure that the streams around it are not permanently polluted. Some pollution has occurred. Such checks cost money too.

I recognise that the Treasury would be horrified at the thought of subsidies. When I was in local government I can well remember firms such as Plessey knocking on my door and saying, "What financial goodies do you have for us?" I was horrified. What the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said is perfectly true. If one opens the door slightly, all kinds of people appear, many of whom could do without any subsidy at all. I agree that that is one of the drawbacks. On the other hand, if we are serious about trying to get recycling going on a permanent basis so that there is no lack of supply of materials—waste paper, tyres, aluminium, cans or glass—the local authority should be in a position to step in on occasion and perhaps hold the fort by providing some small subsidy. That is why I like the amendment.

5 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

Disregarding the Treasury and the recycling credit amendments which come later, we have touched on the importance of getting the market right for recycled materials. There are always ways of helping the market along, and the system of recycling credits which we hope to introduce through a later amendment will, we hope, do just that. We can help through changing public procurement policies and other such measures. I am pleased to tell the Committee that the Department of the Environment is continuing to pay a reasonable premium for recycled paper and to review its policy on specifying materials in order to favour recycled goods. We very much hope that other public bodies and private companies will adopt a similar policy of positive discrimination.

This amendment adopts a different approach. It would provide for subsidies to be paid by waste collection authorities to waste producers or others in order to keep up the supply of recyclable waste. The Secretary of State would cover any shortfall. In a way that is a market manipulation. I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, when he describes it as a market solution. In a way it is a command economy for recyclables. Recyclable materials are goods in the market. That market is in some cases international. Attempts in West Germany and the United States to insulate one waste stream—paper—from the market by pumping in price subsidies contributed to the worldwide collapse of the low grade paper market. What we need to do is to make recycling a natural, economic and environmental option by creating a level playing field through raising landfill standards and hence costs and by ensuring that the economic benefits of recycling get to those who are bringing it about and by improving collection and sorting systems.

It is true to say that I rarely disagree with my noble friend Lord Jenkin. I agreed with very nearly everything he said. However, on one item I have to inform him that he may be slightly incorrect. It is possible to achieve higher standards than 70 per cent. retrieved newsprint. I am told that even the Morning Star is produced on over 70 per cent. retrieved newsprint.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, understands that, while we resist the amendment, we do not resist the principle of recycling in the amendments that he has put forward. We just believe that the credit system that will come later is a preferable solution to answer part of the problem.

Lord Renton

Before the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, replies I think that he may now be in a better position to give us an idea of what kind of subsidy he has in mind and also to answer my question. What is a waste producer?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Minister has made it difficult to conduct an effective debate because he has specifically excluded his own recycling credits amendment, Amendment No. 222A. If it had been up to me I would have wished to have the two amendments debated together. We would then have had a more effective debate.

We are discussing a number of different ways of trying to achieve an objective which we all share. We are looking at what ways are likely to be most effective, least onerous and least likely to lead to what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, fears, which is an open-ended commitment for the public purse. I certainly agree with him that that would be most undesirable. But we have not exhausted the options open to us if we really want to achieve a greater degree of recycling.

Perhaps I may remind the Committee of the recommendations of the DTI Recycling Advisory Group. Many of them were a good deal more draconian than that which I have just put forward in my amendments. The Department of Trade and Industry Recycling Advisory Group listed three options which I have not put forward to the Committee today. First, it suggested that there should be compulsory recycling and that it should be an offence not to recycle materials under certain circumstances. Secondly, it suggested that public procurement policies should be devoted to recycling. In 1984 the Department of the Environment went over to recycled paper—and all credit to it and all credit to the Secretary of State—but that example has not been followed by all government departments. It would achieve considerable results if public procurement policy were consistently and universally devoted to recycling.

The third option, which is the closest to that which we are recommending, was that there should be subsidy for the build-up of buffer stocks—in other words, payment to build up a usable stock, which comes right back to the collection forming in the garage of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and in the barn of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. It is close to what we are trying to do in Amendment No. 210B, which is to create a market.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, asked whether our amendment involves a form of open-ended subsidy. I invite him to look forward to Amendment No. 222A, the government amendment on recycling credits. I suggest to him that that amendment involves a subsidy, first, in subsection (1) by waste collection authorities; and, secondly, in subsection (2) by waste disposal authorities. The only evidence of recoupment is in subsections (6) and (7), which deal with reimbursement of the cost of making arrangements for the disposal of industrial and commercial waste.

If the new clause is to be effective I suggest that there will be public money involved. There will be public money from the authorities—not directly from the Treasury—but in the end public money will be involved. I suspect that the objections of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, will apply to this amendment as well. Indeed, the Minister has in a sense confirmed that in his reply. He boasted of the Government's financial involvement in recycling. For example, it must be the case that it is not resource efficient to recycle CFCs, particularly from used refrigerators. But the Government have taken a creditable and laudable initiative in seeking to encourage the recycling of CFCs or the collection of CFCs in such a way that they do not damage the environment. That involves an open-ended public subsidy. The Treasury would identify it as such.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I am sorry, but I feel that I must intervene at this point. However, I am willing to be corrected on what I have to say by my noble friend or anyone else. I do not call that recycling; it is taking necessary steps to protect the public from what would otherwise be very harmful material. I think that that has always been a perfectly proper expenditure of public money, as we know when we go back to the history of public health. I am not sure that the point the noble Lord is making is valid in the context of his amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I accept and appreciate that distinction. However, as we shall come to realise when we deal with later amendments, much recycling could well be of waste which is contaminated or capable of contamination. The distinction is not quite as clear-cut as the noble Lord would have us believe.

I turn now to deal with the objections raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I confirm that it was our intention in referring to "waste producers" to refer to industrial and commercial waste producers as regards those who would require a subsidy. I do not think that those who collect on their own behalf, whether filling their garages with paper, bottles, cans or whatever, are appropriate to receive a public subsidy. However, I can see that the wording of the amendment is not entirely clear. For that reason, if for no other, I do not propose to press it to a vote.

As regards the noble Lord's request for my definition of the limits which would be placed on the subsidies—I think that was the thrust of his point—the controls which are provided in the new clause for the Secretary of State to control the scheme are adequate for the purpose. There is no reason to fear that the Secretary for State will allow such a scheme to run away with public expenditure. However, if he did so, someone would undoubtedly insert the phrase "with the consent of the Treasury" into the legislation and then we would be safe and in order once again.

Because of the incomplete nature of this debate, I am not satisfied that we have received the kind of answer which we should have been given. I do not think that we have as yet come to the heart of the recycling issue. There will be many amendments put forward on this matter seeking to make improvements. In my view, this amendment makes a point which will need to be reverted to at a later stage. However, because of the difficulties which have been pointed out in regard to the precise wording of what is proposed, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ezra moved Amendment No. 206B: Page 51, line 40, after ("cost") insert ("and savings").

The noble Lord said: The Government clearly expect recycling to increase through becoming increasingly financially attractive. Therefore I feel that they should have no objection to this and the other amendment in the grouping which make explicit the possibility that collecting waste for recycling could result in financial savings.

It is also important that authorities consider and calculate savings arising from the increased collection of waste for recycling. Waste collection authorities will have powers to pass such savings on to voluntary groups (which we must continue to encourage in this sector) and other bodies collecting waste for recycling. Waste disposal authorities will have a duty to pass such savings on to waste collection authorities. I attach considerable importance to this question of the calculation of savings arising from waste recycling. I beg to move.

The Earl of Arran

The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, has a perfectly reasonable and fair point in his Amendment No. 206B that a waste collection authority may actually make savings by implementing its waste collection plan, particularly in later years when it has got over the initial hump of expenditure on equipment or manpower. Some authorities already claim to be making a surplus on their recycling operations, although their methods of accounting do not always allow a clear assessment to be made.

The Bill certainly does not stop any authority from including details of savings in its plans. Indeed, one would expect any authority making substantial savings to shout it from the rooftops. The reason the provision specifically refers to costs is that the costs are the most significant item when it comes to the interchange between a local authority and the Department of the Environment over its capital and revenue expenditure. But we would hope that a waste collection authority would certainly include details of savings—or negative costs as they might be termed—in its plan, and I can undertake that we will include this point in guidance to local authorities.

Amendment No. 213A, which is also tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, seeks to require regulation authorities to take account of the savings as well as the cost of any arrangements proposed in their disposal plans. As I explained with regard to Amendment No. 206B, we are not convinced that adding the word "savings" is necessary. However, we should like to consider further the issue of the cost and savings of the arrangements set out in recycling and disposal plans. If the noble Lord is willing to withdraw his amendment, I can assure him that we shall return to these points at a later stage.

Lord Ezra

I am grateful to the noble Earl for his response. In view of his remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 207 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendments Nos. 207A and 207B not moved.]

5.15 p.m.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 208. Page 52, line 6, after ("authorities") insert ("and waste disposal contractors").

The noble Earl said: This minor drafting amendment inserts an additional reference to "waste disposal contractors" into subsection (3)(d) of Clause 47. It is consequential on a similar amendment to Clause 48(1)(c) which the Government accepted in Committee in another place. It puts the intended meaning of the subsection beyond doubt; that is, that in drawing up their recycling plans, waste collection authorities in Scotland must include information about the recycling arrangements they expect to make with both waste disposal authorities and private contractors. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 209: Page 52, line 11, at end insert: ("(3A) It shall be the duty of the authority in preparing the plan and any modification of it to consult the waste disposal authority for its area and any person appearing to it to have an interest in the collection, recycling and disposal of waste in its area, and to take into consideration any representations made to it in the course of such consultations before determining the content of the plan or modification.").

The noble Lord said: The reasoning behind this amendment is quite simple. At present authorities have no statutory duty to consult anyone before drawing up waste recycling plans. The amendment would effectively mean that they would have to consult the waste disposal authority and any other bodies or individuals which are interested. The groups concerned could be the Association of Waste Disposal Contractors, any other local bodies or, for example, such groups as Friends of the Earth which have genuine environmental concerns and knowledge to back up such concerns. I suggest that the kind of consultation proposed should be undertaken for the simple reason that otherwise author[...]ties may simply overlook such matters. I beg to move.

The Earl of Arran

Under Clause 47, waste collection authorities are already required to carry out an investigation with a view to deciding what arrangements are appropriate before preparing a waste recycling plan. All plans have to be sent in draft to the Secretary of State for the Environment and it would be readily apparent if adequate consultation had not been carried out.

We are concerned that to impose a formal requirement such as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, suggests could set back the cause of recycling for the following reason. It is quite possible that a difference of opinion could arise between the waste collection authority and the waste disposal authority. Our policy is that the waste collection authority should have rights of first refusal on recyclable waste unless the disposal authority has an existing contract with a disposal contractor to recycle the waste. We want to protect those rights of first refusal.

The collection authority must of course let the disposal authority know what waste it intends to hold back for recycling. That requirement is incorporated in the Bill. But we believe that it would be wring to impose the formal burden of consultation on waste collection authorities, with all the bureaucratic machinery it would entail.

Consultation is somewhat like motherhood and apple pie. It seems cruel and heartless to oppose its spread. We believe that we should let collection authorities get on with the job of recycling rather than getting bogged down in elaborate consultation exercises. No decent plan could in any case be drawn up without adequate consultation and we therefore see no need to place such a formal requirement on the face of the Bill. In view of those reasons, I ask the noble Lord not to press his amendment.

Lord Addington

The Minister's reply hinges on the fact that he believes that consultation could lead to greater delay and to bureaucratic obstacles being placed in the way of the recycling process. I agree that there is a danger of that; but I also believe that there is a danger in not listening to all those concerned. However, I should like to study what the Minister said before I decide what to do about the issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 209A and 209B not moved.]

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 210:

Page 52, line 25, at end insert: ("(c) to carry out its functions in conformity with any waste collection plan made for its area").

The noble Baroness said: With the leave of the Committee, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 220. Clause 47 provides that waste collection authorities should have a duty to prepare recycling plans. Subsection (5) requires them to publicise the plans and to send a copy to the waste disposal authority. However, the clause, as drafted, is defective as there is no duty on waste collection authorities to implement their recycling plans. It is pointless for authorities to be statutorily required to make plans setting out the policies for the exercise of their functions without then being required to exercise their functions in accordance with the plans that they make. The amendment adds that requirement to the end of subsection (5).

Amendment No. 220 relates to Clause 49. Clause 48 provides for waste regulation authorities to make waste disposal plans. Clause 49 imposes a duty on waste disposal authorities to arrange for the disposal of waste collected by waste collection authorities in accordance with Schedule 2 Part II. Although it might be considered implicit in Clause 49, it would be worthwhile seeking to ensure that the normal arrangements made by the waste disposal authority for disposal should be in accordance with the waste disposal plan for the area, which is what Amendment No. 220 asks for. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

The amendment would require a waste collection authority to carry out its functions in conformity with any waste collection plan made for its area. I take it that by waste collection plan the noble Baroness has in mind the waste recycling plans to be drawn up by waste collection authorities under the provisions of Clause 47.

Baroness David

That is correct.

Lord Reay

In that case we have a great deal of sympathy with the underlying purpose of this amendment. In straightforward terms, it is saying that there is little point in a waste collection authority having a recycling plan if it does little or nothing about implementing it. The plan, after all, is intended to be an action document. That is why we brought forward Amendment No. 202, which, as the noble Baroness may recall, required a collection authority to have regard, in deciding what recycling arrangements to make, to its waste recycling plan. I suggest that that amendment, now incorporated in the Bill, has the same aim as that of the noble Baroness.

I should like to add that the Secretary of State for the Environment will see copies of waste recycling plans in advance so that he can raise with local authorities any instances of their recycling proposals being substantially out of step with their waste collection or disposal policy as a whole.

I turn now to Amendment No. 220. I fear that the amendment is a product of some confusion about the role of a waste disposal plan. We may not have done enought to clarify the exact status of those plans in the future. In that case, I should like to attempt to set the record straight. The first point to bear in mind is that disposal plans will be prepared by regulation authorities and not by disposal authorities. The regulation authority will identify the types and quantities of waste generated in its area. It will detail the existing and planned sites in the area licensed to deal with that waste. It will then estimate the number and type of new disposal facilities needed to deal with any expected increase in waste generated, taking account of existing facilities which may need replacement.

Regulation authorities will in that way be able to guide future investment in waste disposal facilities by giving a steer to disposal companies (local authority and private sector alike) about the future demand for new sites while also setting out the authority's policies on various disposal options, including recycling.

Regulation authorities are the only bodies which will have the necessary information, gained from their licensing role, to prepare a meaningful plan. Why then do we resist the amendment? The noble Baroness seeks to tie the decisions of the disposal authority, which has the job of arranging for the disposal of waste, to the plan made by the regulation authority.

As I have sought to explain, the role of the plan is mainly to guide investment in waste disposal facilities. Disposal plans should not be prescriptive. It is for the disposal authority to consider the various options open to it, taking account of the environmental and value-for-money factors. It is worth remembering that any disposal facility chosen will have anyway to be licensed by the regulation authority to the amendment's underlying aim is probably already met. With those points in mind, I trust that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

The Earl of Barlfour

Before the noble Baroness withdraws the amendment, perhaps I may say this. I was interested to hear the comments of my noble friend the Minister. However, I should like to draw the Committee's attention to the fact that Clause 46 does not apply to Scotland, whereas Clause 47 does. Perhaps consequential amendments can be introduced on Report to include the important words added to the end of Clause 46(2) as a result of Government Amendment No. 202. Otherwise, I feel Scotland will be left out of that important provision. The point is a technical one.

Lord Reay

My noble friend always does careful research, and I should like to consider the point that he makes.

Baroness David

I have to confess that I was not here the other evening when Amendment No. 202 was discussed. I shall have to read that discussion with care to see whether that amendment fulfils the functions of Amendment No. 210. I thank the Minister for his full explanation on Amendment No. 220. I should like to read it before I decide whether I am convinced by it. I should also like to consult the Association of County Councils, which asked me to table the amendment, to see whether it is satisfied with the Minister's reply. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

[Amendments Nos. 210ZA and 210A not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 47, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Jenkin of Roding

Perhaps I might mention a small point which I possibly should have raised by way of an amendment. I hope that my noble friend will be able to deal with the matter. Clause 47(7) gives the authority power to decree timetables—obviously different timetables in different circumstances. I am told that the NCC has asked why there should not be one timetable covering all authorities, which would be a more effective way of dealing with the matter, rather than having a series of different timetables produced in different cases.

I do not know how far I can elaborate on that point. Clause 47 provides a welcome new process, but perhaps we should consider the matter between now and Report. My noble friend may be able to give me a brief explanation of why different timetables are thought appropriate for different authorities in different circumstances rather than one national timetable.

Lord Hesketh

I do not have the specific answer to my noble friend's point. I can assure him that if it is satisfactory I shall write to him immediately after this debate with the answer.

Clause 47, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 210B not moved.]

Clause 48 [Waste disposal plans of waste regulation authorities]:

[Amendments Nos. 211 and 211A not moved.]

5.30 p.m.

Lord Ezra moved Amendment No. 212:

Page 52, line 50, at end insert: ("( ) to determine and make public the period to which the plan in paragraph (c) above refers, and the timescale for the introduction of the proposed arrangements.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 212 I wish also to speak to Amendments Nos. 213, 214 and 218, the last of which is in the name of my noble friend Lord Addington. On Amendment No. 212, the Bill does not make it clear that local authorities should state in their plans the period of time for which they are planning ahead or by which they intend to implement that plan. Not all plans can be implemented by a particular date because authorities may have contracts that will not have expired by such a date. Therefore it must be for each authority to set its own period of implementation. The amendment will still allow local authorities to set their own timescale but it will ensure that they are required to set some timescale.

I believe that it is important to ensure that plans are not just vague statements of intent at some indeterminate future date but that real commitments with a stated time are put forward. Making the period publicly known will enable local residents and community organisations to find out what and when initiatives are planned to start. The local authority should also find this discipline useful as a means of establishing procedures for monitoring and evaluating progress.

Perhaps I may briefly also speak to Amendment No. 214. The Bill at present also does not make it clear that local authorities are expected to consult with local recycling agencies on the contents of their plans for waste recycling, although the Government have said that they ought to do so. The amendment would simply put this right and introduce such an obligation at the appropriate point. I beg to move.

Lord Addington

Amendment No. 218 is another amendment primarily concerned with consultation. The Bill states that the authorities have a duty to consult those parties which are likely to be engaged, by way of trade or business in the disposal or treatment". That includes the reclamation of controlled waste in the area. I suggest that other groups should be consulted. There is no reason why merely those involved in any form of business transaction or commerce concerned with waste should be consulted, as everybody has an interest in these reclamation issues in the context that everybody has a stake in the environment as a whole. I suggest that these groups should be included in any consultation if the business community is included.

Lord Hesketh

I apologise for the confusion and the delay in answering. It was entirely my fault. I thought that my noble friend Lord Reay was attending to this amendment but I realise that I am responsible. I humbly request the forgiveness of your Lordships' Committee and also of my colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Reay, who was confused. He thought that I thought that he was dealing with the amendment.

Amendment No. 212 seeks to add a requirement that regulation authorities must make public the period to which the plan refers and when any proposed arrangements are to be introduced. I can appreciate and support the logic of the first of these aims. However, I feel it is a matter of common sense that plans include some detail of the period to which they refer. I would also draw the noble Lord's attention to subsection (3)(a) of this clause, which requires plans to state the periods to which they relate, and the end of that subsection, which would allow the Secretary of State to modify this if it became necessary.

I do not accept the second aim of this amendment for the simple reason that the regulation authority will have no control over the implementation of arrangements made with contractors. Those arrangements will be between waste producers and contractors. The regulation authority's role will be to publish details of arrangements known to it and then to license and enforce waste disposal in its area.

Amendments Nos. 213 and 214 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, seek to impose a duty on regulation authorities to consult such relevant interests and organisations as they consider appropriate about any modification to their plan. I would draw the noble Lord's attention to subsection (5) of Clause 48 which already imposes a similar duty and thus, we believe, makes these amendments superfluous.

Amendment No. 218, which will be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, refers to widening the scope of the consultation about disposal plans to include other persons affected by the environmental impacts of the plan. We do not accept the need for such a duty to be imposed on regulation authorities. It would be in effect to widen the scope of the consultation to include everyone resident in the regulation authority's area. Clearly such a requirement would be impracticable. I can assure the noble Lord that regulation authorities will be required to give adequate publicity to their draft plan or to any modification thereafter to it. They will also be required to consider any representations made in response to the plan or modification, including representations made by the public. In this way everyone affected by a disposal plan will have been given the opportunity to make representations to the regulation authority about it. That is why we resist the amendments.

Lord Ezra

I wish to consider carefully what the noble Lord has just said. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 213 to 214A not moved.]

Baroness Nicol moved Amendment No. 214B:

Page 53, line 35, at end insert: ("(3A) The Secretary of State may by regulations made under subsection (3) above require a waste regulation authority to have regard in drawing up any plan under this section to any likely changes in the kinds and quantities of controlled waste to be disposed of within its area as a consequence of any charges which the Secretary of State may require such an authority to make in respect of the use of virgin raw materials undergoing significant processing for conversion into goods or sources of energy.").

The noble Baroness said: Amendments Nos. 214B and 257C would enable the Secretary of State to use whatever means he thought appropriate to discourage the use of virgin materials in industry and commerce by reference to their presence in the waste stream. We are all agreed that the waste stream must be reduced. By this means of discouraging the use of virgin materials, and incidentally therefore encouraging the use of recycled materials, the objective would be achieved.

These measures would also be an incentive to producers to avoid unnecessary over-packaging. The latter problem has perhaps been over-stated in debates up to now, but nevertheless packaging accounts for 20 per cent. in weight of the waste stream. Anything that one can do towards reducing that is helpful.

I wish to draw attention to the wider problem of the need for all manufacturers of whatever product where possible to use recycled material and to avoid the use of virgin materials. I should have made clear that I am moving Amendment No. 214B and speaking to Amendment No. 257C. There is little more to be said. I do not believe that this aspect of the Bill has been explored in another place and I hope that the Minister may have a constructive answer for me. I beg to move.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

Perhaps I may intervene briefly before my noble friend responds to the noble Baroness. One must be cautious about the wholesale condemnation of virgin materials—to use the expression in her amendment—and the preferability of using recycled materials.

We must draw a distinction. There are virgin materials which are themselves renewable. I referred earlier to the paper industry. It is a fact, particularly in developed countries, that the production of timber for the purpose of making paper is becoming increasingly an entirely self-sustaining renewable process. Governments and regulatory authorities in many of the timber growing countries have a requirement, which they enforce in the most rigorous and stringent fashion, that whenever a tree is cut down for the purposes of the timber industry whether for the production of timber, board, paper or pulp, it must be replaced.

The country that I am best acquainted with in this context is Finland. Finland has a firm and strict regime with regard to its timber industry. Whenever forests are culled and trees are cut down, replanting must take place. The industry is perpetually renewable. In the south of the country it takes about 30 years for a larch or other tree to reach the stage when it can be used. In the north of the country that process takes rather longer, perhaps 40 or 50 years. Nevertheless each time a tree is cut down, it is replaced.

It is an important part of this whole argument that one should consider the source of paper. One should consider whether its source is a country which has a strict regime as regards its timber industry so that virgin products—I indicated earlier the advantages virgin products can have over some renewable products—are themselves perpetually renewable and self-sustaining.

One must also consider whether its source is a country which is a good deal less careful about creating a renewable timber industry and cuts swathes through its forests and does not replace them. The Americans are getting better at this, but not so long ago the tree fellers simply marched across the forests of Canada and the northern United States and left a wilderness behind them, with no thought of replanting. However, the timber industry in North America is now being dealt with much more effectively. The north Americans are following the lead of the Scandinavian countries.

I have every sympathy with the motives of the noble Baroness, but with the greatest respect I do not think it is right to condemn automatically so-called virgin materials. Those materials themselves may be environmentally extremely valuable. One could take the argument to the point of absurdity, and there is always a danger in that. What would happen, for example if one suddenly told large numbers of Scandinavians that no more trees were to be cut down? In that case those trees would reach the end of their lives, fall and rot. We would be back in the situation of the primeval forest from which mankind has hauled itself out over a series of millenniums. However, no one is asking us to go back to that state. We can cultivate our natural resources and use them sensibly and wisely. We can replace our forests, and that is an entirely proper and benign process. That should be recognised. A blanket distinction between virgin and recyled products does not seem to me to make a great deal of sense.

Baroness Nicol

I must respond to the noble Lord. For once in my life I was not defending forests, because I support the idea of a dynamic forestry industry and have done so for some time. There are many reasons for supporting such an industry, not least the fact that a young tree absorbs about 300 per cent. more carbon dioxide than a mature tree. Therefore there is a need to continue planting forests.

I did not concentrate solely on the paper industry. I was speaking rather about the waste stream and the need to reduce waste. That is a problem in this country at the moment. Apart from waste, we also have the problem of metals, many of which are reclaimable. However, they do not come from renewable sources. I wished to address my remarks to a wider area than just defending forests.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, has proposed a resource tax with the intention of minimising the waste that we have to dispose of. She hopes that by making it more expensive to use virgin raw materials people will use less of them and that they will switch to using recycled raw materials. She intends too that the beneficiary of the tax will be the waste regulation authorities, although she does not say what those small bodies would do with the large sums of money that could be generated by even a minimal tax applied throughout the UK industry.

I submit that the proposed tax would have two principal effects. The first would be to increase inflation. There is only one way that manufacturers of products that are affected could raise the money to pay the tax and that is by passing on increased prices to their customers.

The other effect would be to encourage people to switch to imported products that were unaffected by the resource tax. I shall let the Committee speculate on the impact that this would have on our balance of payments. The amendment might achieve its intended effect of encouraging people to recycle waste instead of disposing of it in other ways, but only if the material was there in the first place. I am convinced that tampering with the operation of market forces would not be a recipe for success. In this case, there will be an immediate rush by manufacturers to lay their hands on the finite supplies of recycled waste. What happens when an item is in short supply and in demand? Its price rises. So again I believe the effect will be inflationary.

A scheme such as is proposed by this amendment would be unfair in its impact on different parts of the country. Post-consumer waste arises in similar amounts all over the country depending only on the number of people living in an area, but if manufacturing industry had to pay a tax to its waste regulation authority, the proceeds would be concentrated in the traditional manufacturing regions while the more rural parts of the country would lose out. I cannot believe that the proposal of the noble Baroness would work. Economic measures to encourage the proper management of waste may be a possibility but they cannot be introduced like this in a piecemeal fashion. They must be fully evaluated an all possible implications considered.

One tax imposed in isolation will cause far more harm than good. That is why we are taking a more cautious but, I suggest, sensible approach by leaving the whale question to be covered by the White Paper on the environment which is to be published this autumn That will allow everyone to take a rational look at all the options and to come up with a workable system.

I ask the Committee to consider whether Amendment No. 257C adds anything to the already extensive guidance that is set out in Clause 48. There is already a duty on the waste regulation authority under subsection (3) to include in the plan information as to the kinds and quantities of waste arising in the area and moving into or out of the area as well as the waste that the authority expects will be disposed of in the area. If a waste regulation authority did not have regard to the effects of such a fundamental factor as a resource tax, it would hardly be doing its job properly. Even if this were not the case, the Secretary of State has the power to add, by regulations, further matters for consideration in the plan. I would expect this to be done, if necessary, by any regulations that were made instituting a resource tax. It is for those reasons that I ask tie noble Baroness whether she might consider withdrawing her amendments.

Baroness Nicol

I am grateful to the Minister for that full reply. He raised some interesting arguments which I must confess I had not thought of. I wish to consider carefully what he has said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Addington moved Amendment No. 215: Page 53, line 38, leave out ("where reasonably practicable").

The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to remove the words "where reasonably practicable" from rage 53, line 38. If those words were not included, the subsection would state: In considering what information to include in the plan under subsection (3)(d) above, it shall be the duty of the authority to have regard to the desirability of giving priority to recycling waste". I suggest that that is a reasonable requirement to make when asking an authority to use recycled waste. If one includes the words, "where reasonably practicable", one so weakens that requirement as to make it virtually useless. Any authority which did not have a desire to use recycled products or which decided for reasons of convenience that it did not want to use such products could wriggle out of the requirement. There are far too many opportunities for those who do not wish to be bothered by considerations of using recycled materials to ignore their usage. I suggest this is a perfectly reasonable requirement. I beg to move.

The Earl of Arran

Amendment No. 215, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, is another of those amendments which is driven by good intentions to encourage recycling. However, we remain convinced that the Bill as drafted is already sound. I shall explain briefly why. I appreciate that this is another of those cases where the Committee

may feel the words in the Bill do not go far enough in imposing duties on authorities to recycle ever more waste. However, it must be right that there is some measure of flexibility in any such duty. The words under debate here, "where reasonably practicable", seem eminently sensible to us. We cannot impose a duty on authorities to consider recycling where it is impractical.

Perhaps I may say once again that we welcome the spirit in which the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, was intended; but I hope that he will agree with me that authorities should only give priority to recycling where it is practicable to do so. It is in no one's interests to have white elephant recycling schemes; they just undermine the serious recycling which we all want to see and which achieves results. I hope that that explanation will persuade the noble Lord not to press his amendment.

Lord Addington

The answer which the noble Lord has given is one that I anticipated. Such phrases tend to so water down a provision that it becomes virtually meaningless. Saying "where reasonably practicable" is like saying that something will be done provided it is not too much trouble.

At this stage, I do not believe that it would be correct to press the amendment. There is a fine line between avoiding putting people to undue trouble and asking them to look at something at some time in the future. I believe that in this case the Government are on the wrong side of that line. However, at this point I am not prepared to press the matter, but I reserve the right to come back to it at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved amendment No. 216: Page 53, line 43, leave out ("whose area includes any of the relevant land") and insert ("any part of whose area is included in the area of the waste regulation authority").

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 216, I should also like to speak to Amendment No. 217. The amendments are both minor drafting amendments. The first makes a small improvement in clarity, and the second corrects an obvious error. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment Nos. 216A to 216C not moved.]

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 217: Page 54, line 2, leave out ("disposal") and insert ("regulation").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 217A to 218C not moved.]

Lord Ezra moved Amendment No. 219:

Page 55, line 2, at end insert: ("( ) It shall be the duty of the authority to revise the existing waste disposal plan for its area in accordance with the procedure and having regard to the criteria outlined in subsections (1) to (9) of this section.").

The noble Lord said: In accordance with Clause 48(4), which we have just considered in connection with the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Addington, waste regulation authorities have to prepare their waste disposal plans having regard: to the desirability, where reasonably practicable, of giving priority to recycling waste". What is not clear is whether, before new waste disposal plans are prepared under this Bill, existing waste disposal plans will be updated. If such plans are updated under the terms of previous control of pollution legislation, they will presumably not be subject to the provisions of this Bill. If that is so, it would take some time before the proposal in regard to waste recycling is taken into account. The proposed amendment therefore would ensure that waste disposal authorities would have a duty to review existing plans explicitly in line with the new priority given to waste recycling. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

Amendment No. 219 in the name of the noble Lords, Lord Ezra and Lord McNair, is one which we can support in principle but must reject in practice. The amendment seeks to impose a duty on regulation authorities to revise their disposal plans in accordance with the subsections (1) to (9) of Clause 48. We accept that any modification to the disposal plan should follow the procedure set out in this clause for the preparation of plans. Indeed that idea has always been incorporated in the Bill. Clause 48 is drafted in such a way that it refers to preparation or modification of plans at every stage. In this way the same procedure would be followed when an authority revises its plan as was followed when it was originally drafted. I trust that in the light of that explanation the noble Lord will feel that he does not need to press his amendment.

Baroness Phillips

Can the noble Lord explain that in simple language? That would make a change! He said that the Government agreed in principle but did not like it in practice. Perhaps he would enlarge, because he did not give an answer. Two noble Lords who are very knowledgeable on these matters have put their names to the amendments. If it is the duty of the authority to revise existing waste disposal plans, surely that would not contradict anything that is already in the Bill. It would only strengthen it.

Lord Reay:

The noble Baroness pulls me up for having said that we can support the amendment in principle but must reject it in practice. The point here is that Clause 48 as it now stands refers to the preparation and modification of plans, and that that procedure will be followed. The clause will apply to any modification of existing plans under the Control of Pollution Act.

Lord Ezra

In the light of that categoric statement that the provisions of the present Bill when passed will apply to any modifications of plans prepared under the previous control of pollution legislation, I am glad to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments No. 219A and 219B not moved.]

Clause 48, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 219C not moved.]

Clause 49 [Functions of waste disposal authorities]:

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 219D: Page 55, line 12, at end insert ("and for the disposal of waste so deposited").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 219D, I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 221A, 221B, 221C, 221D and 221E.

This group of amendments in my name for the most part simply clarifies the provisions of Clause 49 of the Bill. However, the amendments also provide some important new provisions to widen the powers of disposal authorities. First, Amendment No. 219D makes it clear that disposal authorities have a duty to dispose of waste deposited at civic amenity sites. Secondly, as the Committee will be aware, the Bill provides that disposal authorities will transfer their existing assets to a LAWDC or make some alternative arrangement which satisfies my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. Clause 49, as previously drafted, allowed authorities some scope to hold land to be used by contractors for the disposal of waste. If the Secretary of State approved, disposal authorities could grant the contractor a lease to cover the active life of the site. In this way authorities could retain the freehold on disposal sites which had a specific use for the authority after they had finished their active life, such as landfill sites that were to be used as parks or sports facilities.

Amendments Nos. 221A to 221E widen that power. Authorities will continue to be able to own land to be used by contractors as disposal sites as I have just outlined. In addition to that disposal, authorities will be empowered to own land, plant and equipment in certain other circumstances. I shall attempt to explain each of those circumstances in turn.

First, in relation to waste collected by collection authorities, disposal authorities will be able to own plant and equipment to be used to store the waste prior to its transportation, or to treat it so that it may be transported more easily. Amendment No. 221B is aimed at transfer stations. An authority would be able to own transfer station equipment, including skips in which waste is stored, and compacting equipment reduces the volume of waste to be transported. Disposal authorities will not operate the plant or equipment themselves. They will simply make it available to the contractors to use.

Secondly, Amendment No. 221E will allow disposal authorities similar powers in respect of their duty to provide civic amenity sites. Again they will be empowered to hold land to be used by contractors as civic amenity sites. Disposal authorities will also be able to provide plant and equipment to be used by contractors for storing waste delivered to civic amenity sites and also for treating such waste to make it easier to transport for disposal elswhere. I beg to move.

6 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I have some concern about this series of amendments which we have not had very much time to consider. In the first instance I should like to phrase my concerns as questions to the Minister. Am I right in thinking that this amendment provides that the waste disposal authorities have the power to hold land, plant, buildings and so on to deal with the deposit, transfer, treatment, disposal etc. of controlled waste and that they can divest themselves of the capital assets but may keep them for their own use? If I am right about that, where does that leave the waste disposal contractors?

It looks as though a waste disposal authority is unlikely to set up a waste disposal contractor if there is an alternative, which I understand these amendments provide, of holding the assets and letting them on contract to a waste disposal contractor. If the authority has that option and uses it, does that mean that the waste disposal contractors will be at a disadvantage compared with the private sector? In effect, they will be labour-only subcontractors and will have great difficulty if private sector contractors are willing to under-price a contract in order to get operational control of the facilities, such as transfer stations.

I am concerned about what that means for the relationship between the waste disposal authorities and the waste disposal contractors. I wonder why this series of amendments has come before Parliament at such a late stage with so little explanation of what has gone before.

Lord Hesketh

I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, takes an interest on behalf of the contractors and believes it possible that the contractors might lose out. There may well be circumstances in which it is preferable from both the authorities' and the contractors' points of view for them to come to some arrangement, lease or rental agreement over certain essentially capital equipment. That is the object of the exercise. I can assure the noble Lord that there is no hidden scheme arriving at this point in the Bill.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

With respect, that does not answer my questions at all. I had very specific questions. Under what circumstances do the Government believe that a waste disposal authority will let the local authority waste disposal contractors (those are the ones about which I am concerned—the LAWDs) have control of its land? Why am I thinking that the natural tendency will be for the waste disposal authorities to keep control of the land and assets and simply let out a tender to labour-only subcontractors? I did not receive an answer to that question.

Lord Hesketh

The noble Lord may say that he did not receive an answer. I thought that I gave him a fairly specific answer to his question. I think that he is trying to over-complicate what is quite a sinple issue.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I shall not pursue this exchange as a dialogue in which I do not receive any answers. This is a matter to which we may have to come back at a later stage.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 220 not moved.]

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 221: Page 55, line 21, leave out from ["Saturday") to end of line 22 and insert ("or Sunday of each week except Easter Day and a week in which the Saturday or Sunday is").

The noble Earl said: I refer to the part of subsection (2) which is in parenthesis, (including at least one period on the Saturday", which then goes on, or following day To me the following day has always been Sunday. How long-winded can a parliamentary draftsman get? My amendment will alter the subsection to read: the Saturday or Sunday of each week except Easter Day and a week in which the Saturday or Sunday is 25th December or 1st January)". That covers the main holidays of England. However, as the clause applies only to England, I may be on dangerous ground. Scotland recognised Christmas Day as an official holiday only in 1952. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

Amendment No. 221 attempts to exempt local authorities from the requirements that they open their civic amenity sites on Easter Sunday. Civic amenity sites should be available at places and times which encourage their use. Civic amenity sites form a crucial part of the recycling initiative because many local authorities co-locate their recycling facilities and their public disposal, facilities, and we must do all we can to promote them. Bank holiday weekends are often the time that people find most convenient to sort out their bulky waste and take it to the civic amenity site. It is clearly important that civic amenity sites should not be prevented from opening at such times. It is a sad fact of life that people, having sorted out their waste and taken it to the civic amenity site, may well fly-tip that waste if the site is not open when they visit it. That is a good reason for resisting any restriction on civic amenity site opening periods.

Furthermore, I should like to point out to my noble friend that there is no requirement that authorities must open their sites on Easter Day. Clause 49(2) of the Bill merely requires that civic amenity sites must be open on at least one Saturday or Sunday of each week except where Christmas and the New Year fall on a Saturday. That gives local authorities sufficient flexibility to avoid having to open their civic amenity sites on Easter Sunday, or any other Sunday, if they so wish. They will simply have to open their sites on the Saturday instead. Alternatively authorities may choose to open their sites on Saturdays and Sundays. Clearly such a decision would greatly reduce the potential for fly-tipping, but it is rightly a matter for the individual authorities themselves to decide.

We are convinced therefore that the clause as drafted gives local authorities sufficient discretion about when to open their civic amenity sites and that this amendment, though well intentioned, is not necessary.

Lord Jenkin of Boding

Before my noble friend sits down, perhaps he can deal with the question, so fairly put to him by my noble friend Lord Balfour, as to why the draftsman has used the words "or following day" instead of saying "Sunday". Sunday comes after Saturday. Why not say "Saturday or Sunday"?

That seems to me to be a perfectly fair point. The present wording adds a little piece of obscure gobbledegook to what otherwise would be a perfectly clear clause. Having said that, I entirely accept the point made by my noble friend about Easter Day.

The Earl of Balfour

I am grateful for the explanation that I had from my noble friend the Minister. Perhaps he will look at this point between now and Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 221A: Page 55, line 35, after ("above") insert ("as respects controlled waste collected as mentioned in that paragraph").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendments Nos. 221B to 221E:

Page 55, line 37, leave out from ("which") to ("is") in line 38 and insert ("such waste").

Page 55, line 40, leave out from ("which") to end of line 41 and insert ("such waste may be treated or kept prior to its removal for treatment or disposal").

Page 55, line 42, leave out paragraph (c) and insert: ("(c) may make available to waste disposal contractors (and accordingly own) plant and equipment for the purpose of enabling them to keep such waste prior to its removal for disposal or to treat such waste in connection with so keeping it or for the purpose of facilitating its transportation; (cc) may make available to waste disposal contractors (and accordingly hold) land for the purpose of enabling them to treat, keep or dispose of such waste in or on the land;").

Page 56, line 5, at end insert: ("(4A) For the purpose of discharging its duties under subsection (1)(b) above as respects household waste deposited as mentioned in that paragraph a waste disposal authority—

  1. (a) may arrange for the provision, within or outside its area, by waste disposal contractors of places at which such waste may be treated or kept prior to its removal for treatment or disposal;
  2. (b) may make available to waste disposal contractors (and accordingly own) plant and equipment for the purpose of enabling them to keep such waste prior to its removal for disposal or to treat such waste in connection with so keeping it or for the purpose of facilitating its transportation; and
  3. (c) may make available to waste disposal contractors (and accordingly hold) land for the purpose of enabling them to treat, keep or dispose of such waste in or on the land.
(4B) Where the arrangements made under subsection (1)(b) include such arrangements as are authorised by subsection (3) above, subsection (4A) above applies as respects household or other controlled waste as it applies as respects household waste.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 221B to 221E en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 222 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 222ZA: Page 56, leave out lines 6 to 27.

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 222A. I sense unanimity on the need to ensure that, where practicable, waste is put to good use rather than consigned to landfill. To some extent straightforward commercial common sense means that with rising raw material costs, more materials are recycled within factory gates or are reclaimed at later stages. The provisions of Part II of the Bill, with their emphasis on raising landfill standards and hence costs, will of themselves give a further boost to recycling.

However, we need to go further. We should give a positive incentive to those local authorities and others who divert waste from landfill to recycling. In particular it is important to encourage waste collection authorities, which are the first port of call for waste after it leaves the consumer, to make arrangements to recycle as much as possible of the waste they handle before it leaves them to pass to waste disposal authorities. This is not to say that the waste disposal authority itself cannot arrange for waste to be recycled. In some cases that may be more appropriate. But, generally speaking, the waste collection authority will be the prime mover in recycling.

Turning to the specific amendments, government Amendment No. 222ZA would remove the existing permissive provisions. Government Amendment No. 222A provides in subsection (1) for recycling credits to be paid by waste disposal authorities to waste collection authorities. Those credits should represent the net saving of expenditure on the disposal of the waste.

Subsection (2) enables waste disposal authorities to pay such credits to bodies or individuals other than waste collection authorities, and subsection (3) empowers the Secretary of State to turn that permissive power into a duty, specifying as necessary the types and quantities of waste in question. Subsection (4) puts a gloss on the term "net saving" and subsection (5) gives the Secretary of State a duty to make provision by regulation for the precise determination of the net saving.

I know that these provisions have a highly prescriptive ring to them. The reasoning behind that is as follows. At the moment few disposal authorities make credit or rebate payments to collection authorities who save them landfill costs. I pay tribute to those authorities like Lancashire County Council which have been doing that for some years. But the existing powers to pay rebates are little used. That is not surprising, since they are permissive. Thus the only incentive at present for waste collection authorities to recycle materials is the return they can get in the market as it stands. They get no credit for the economic and environmental savings brought about by saving on landfill. Using market mechanisms rather than subsidies, this amendment ensures that the benefits reach the parts that the current system does not reach.

We considered leaving it to waste disposal and collection authorities to agree on what the net savings might be. But we came to the conclusion that this could make for endless negotiation and confusion and large inequalities from area to area. I am the last one to favour administration by diktat, but in this case central government must take the responsibility for making sure that there is a clear and agreed methodology for assessing net savings. That is the purpose of subsection (5) of the new clause.

Thee Department of the Environment is about to commission detailed research into possible methodologies and we will be consulting widely both on the possible scope of regulations to be made on payments to third parties under subsection (3) and on the regulations to be made on determining net savings under subsection (5).

Subsections (6), (7) and (8) deal with reimbursement of the costs of disposing and delivering industrial and commercial waste and simply replace and clarify the provisions previously in subsections (6) and (7) of Clause 49 which in turn were carried over from the Control of Pollution Act 1974.

I am sorry to have dwelt on these amendments at length but we believe that their provisions underlie the whole trust of our recycling policy. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I should like to echo the immortal words of the noble Lord, Lord Reay, in his response to an earlier amendment. We welcome these amendments but have some doubts as to their practicality. In order not to provoke a comment from my noble friend Lady Phillips, I shall try to explain those doubts simply in words of one syllable.

Baroness Phillips

You will still get the comment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

It is right that there should be intervention and that the intervention should be as widespread as possible. The moves which the Government are now making to advance on the present permissive arrangements for local and waste disposal authorities are very welcome.

As I said, the problems are practical. What is the definition of the savings which are to be made? I give two examples of definitions in use at present. The West London waste disposal authority pays a subsidy of £8.26 per tonne on all sorts of recyclable waste[...] that is, paper, glass, cans and so on. The figure is arrived at by calculating the cost per tonne of disposal of statutory waste in other ways, normally by landfill sites, estimating the amount saved and, therefore, basing the price per tonne on the average cost.

On the other hand, the Merseyside waste disposal authority pays a subsidy of £3.40 per tonne for glass and £3.90 per tonne for cans. I do not have the figures for other materials. However, it is calculated on the basis of marginal cost. It is calculated that the facilities, sites and labour must be provided in any event. Therefore, there is only the additional cost of the marginal tonne of material which would otherwise have to be disposed of. So, a lower figure is arrived at.

Which of those two methods are the Government tending towards? Whichever it is, how are we to secure that a subsidy, which might be £3 or £8 per tonne of material, will be well spent when, in the end, the material to be produced—for example, paper for recycling—is worth £1 per tonne?

The danger of that procedure as compared to the market-led procedure proposed in Amendment No. 210B is that we finish up subsidising the private paper and/or glass industry. I can see the arguments but the Government have not brought out those arguments. That was not part of the brief given for the amendments. I doubt whether the intention was that which I have described but I challenge the Government to show me that that will not be the effect.

Our further doubt is the possibility of fraud. We have heard about the paper stored in the garage of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and the barn of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. I am sure that they will not shift the paper from garage to barn and from barn to garage in order to twice gain a subsidy. However, what about scout hut A or church hall B where the materials are being collected? What assurances can be made that the subsidy will not be collected twice, as is the case with so much of the common agricultural policy. Subsidies are collected several times for agricultural materials which are moved in or out of different countries or territorial waters. We need more assurances that the scheme has been carefully thought out before we can accept that, however admirable it may be in principle, it will work in practice.

Lord Hesketh

It was interesting that the noble Lord said that we should end up paying subsidies. When replying to the noble Lord's earlier amendment I referred not to the market but to the command economy, as I saw it. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred to the word "subsidy". Whatever financial return or benefit accrues, it accrues within the waste itself. It is not, as in the amendment of the noble Lord, extra cash coming in from outside in order to try to rig the market. It is an internal transaction and keeps within the policy of the loop which I outlined earlier to the Committee of trying to create improvement and achievement within the system rather than that coming in from outside.

The noble Lord referred to recycling and tried to link with that the aspersions which he cast on the Common Market. I have discovered many aspects about the Bill since I first looked at it a considerable time ago. However, the relationship between recycling and butter mountains moving inexorably between various Mediterranean resorts is going a little further than I would have expected of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh—

Noble Lords

No, no.

Lord Hesketh

I do not disagree with the noble Lord in saying that whatever system one tries to employ in order to encourage recycling will have difficulties. I should be the first to admit that there will always be difficulties when we try to achieve what we set out to do.

As regards the system of recycling credits, the Government propose to go out with their research and consult widely. The points raised by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, about the definitions taken by various authorities with regard to waste are important because we must set the system in the middle. After consultation we shall go to regulation.

The purpose of our system is not to affect the market but to encourage the result. That is unlike the system proposed in the previous amendment; it was to affect the market by putting money into it. We are trying to achieve the same net result but by two different methods.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I fear that the Minister is playing with words. It is a question of what is a good word and what is a bad word? What I call a "subsidy" he says is all right because it is only a credit. When I say that something is market led he describes it as being the command economy. However, he goes on to describe his amendments as being prescriptive, which appears to be the same as issuing commands. If I am wrong about my interpretation of those words I stand to be corrected.

The noble Lord accused me of being unfair about the Common Agricultural Policy. I was not as stern as the Prime Minister has been on occasions, or as many Members of the Committee have been, about the well-known abuse. The noble Lord would not call it a "subsidy" system but the Common Agricultural Policy consists of a series of credits which the Government are recommending. Those credits are being widely abused and I fear that the present provisions are also at risk of wide abuse.

The detailed defects of the amendments are clear and have not been effectively gainsaid. However, ultimately the only way in which one can have any effect on the market is to provide effective support for the consumption of recycled materials. Our amendment provided for that; these amendments fail to do so.

Baroness Phillips

Amendment No. 211D reads: may make available to waste disposal contractors (and accordingly own) plant and equipment". If that provision is so important, it is strange that, the Bill having passed through the other place and reached this Committee, the Government suddenly find it necessary to insert it. Surely it relates to a question of policy. One wonders how much research goes into the preparation of some of the legislation that we debate, of which the Bill is a clear example. Such provisions are points of policy. Where have they been until now? That is the only caveat that I should enter because an example occurs in almost every Bill. I have been a Member for a long time and I believe that in Committee we should not have to consider so many policy amendments. They should have been written into the Bill or dealt with earlier.

As regards the EC, I heard an interesting conversation here, although not in the Chamber. A farmer was saying that he drove his cows over a border to collect one subsidy and then drove them back again to collect another. I do not believe that we can escape the fact that, as usual, people have become wise to that possibility.

Lord Ross of Newport

I wish to place on record the fact that, in tabling the amendments, the Government are carrying out a promise made in another place and that therefore we welcome them. My only criticisms are that the arrangements may be difficult to work in practice and that the payments for third parties will be discretionary. That may be one of the less attractive aspects of what has been put before us. However, we on these Benches as well as the outside waste authorities will welcome the Government's action in this respect.

Lord St. John of Bletso

I too support Amendment No. 222A, which seeks to enhance the recycling powers of the Bill. I am sure that all Members of the Committee will be keen to ensure that the emerging recycling capabilities of the private sector have at least as good an opportunity to compete in the tendering processes as do the less environmentally friendly disposal techniques such as tipping. Currently that is funded entirely from the public purse.

Following the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, I ask the Minister to define the Government's meaning of the word "net" which appears in subsection (4) of the amendment. Does it mean that local authorities will not be permitted to disguise the costs of disposal that were traditionally met by other budgets when competing in the tendering process with those in the private sector, who must include all their costs?

Can the Minister assure the Committee that before the regulations specified in subsection (5) are made there will have been full consultation with representatives not only of local authorities but also of private organisations and that the emphasis will be on the need to encourage recycling?

Lord Parry

The Minister's faith in the market-led economy and its mechanics is understandable coming from his side of the House. Does he agree that the collection and recycling of glass has been made more difficult because in Wales no plant can deal with the recycling of glass? Therefore, the value of the glass to the authorities which are collecting it falls below the cost of that collection as the market-led economy rises and falls.

The Duke of Somerset

I wish to intervene because this is an important clause and it is similar to the one which I shall be moving later. It allows a financial incentive for those who seek to divert waste from landfill in favour of recycling and reclamation. It is important to ensure that any schemes competing or applying for financial credits can do so on equal basis.

The Minister has referred to the regulations which will govern the administration of the part of the Bill. However, I hope that he can confirm that the consultation process which will precede these regulations will include the opportunity for all those with skills in the field of recycling to participate. It is hoped that such consultations will include the views of private recycling firms which have an ability to advise on the most cost-effective and efficient ways of establishing a recycling infrastructure.

Can the Minister tell the Committee when the regulations will be in place? Will the consultations and subsequent regulations ensure that source separation and mechanised separation are able to complete on the same basis? Can he confirm that, when the provisions in the amendment are in force, one will not have an advantage over the other? It is hoped that the new amendment and its subsequent regulations will make the option of landfall financially less attractive in order to avoid the inherent environmental problems which we have heard about, such as methane.

Lord Hesketh

I welcome the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Newport. I point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, that he was right in saying that the amendment fulfils a promise made in another place. It is a comparatively modest amendment compared with those that I have seen tabled on occasions by Members on the other side of the Committee in an attempt to change the course of various Bills.

The noble Lord, Lord Parry, mentioned the market. I must refer him to the earlier remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, when introducing his amendment. He extolled the market as being one of the attractive features of his amendment. Concerning crushing facilities in Wales, I do not have the necessary information to hand, but I shall communicate with the noble Lord, Lord Parry, later.

The noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset, and the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, referred to consultation. I said earlier that consultation will be on the very widest basis. I hope that covers the points made. The regulations will be appearing within 12 months. In answer to the noble Duke's question, separation will be part of the calculation. One of the objects of this Bill is to reduce landfill as a principle, not only through method but through other means.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 49, as amended, agreed to.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 222A:

After Clause 49, insert the following new clause: ("Payments for recycling and disposal etc. of waste

  1. .—(1) Where, under section 46(2) above, a waste collection authority retains for recycling waste collected by it under section 43 above, the waste disposal authority for the area which includes the area of the waste collection authority shall make to that authority payments, in respect of the waste so retained, of such amount representing its net saving of expenditure on the disposal of the waste as the authority determines.
  2. (2) Where a person other than a waste collection authority, for the purpose of recycling it, collects waste arising in the area of a waste disposal authority which would fall to be collected under section 43 above, the waste disposal authority may make to that person payments, in respect of the waste so collected, of such amounts representing its net saving of expenditure on the disposal of the waste as the authority determines.
  3. (3) The Secretary of State may, by regulations, impose on waste disposal authorities a duty to make payments corresponding to the payments which are authorised by subsection (2) above to such persons in such circumstances and in respect of such descriptions or quantities of waste as are specified in the regulations.
  4. (4) For the purposes of subsections (1), (2) and (3) above the net saving of expenditure of a waste disposal authority on the disposal of any waste retained or collected for recycling is the 1498 amount of the expenditure which the authority would, but for the retention or collection, have incurred in having it disposed of less any amount payable by the authority to any person in consequence of the retention or collection for recycling (instead of the disposal) of the waste.
  5. (5) The Secretary of State shall, by regulations, make provision for the determination of the net saving of expenditure for the purposes of subsections (1), (2) and (3) above; and any question arising shall, at the request of the authority or person concerned, be referred to him for determination.
  6. (6) A waste disposal authority shall be entitled to receive from a waste collection authority such sums as are needed to reimburse the waste disposal authority the reasonable cost of making arrangements under section 49(1) above for the disposal of commercial and industrial waste collected in the area of the waste disposal authority.
  7. (7) A waste disposal authority shall pay to a waste collection authority a reasonable contribution towards expenditure reasonably incurred by the waste collection authority in delivering waste, in pursuance of a direction under section 49(4)(a) above, to a place which is unreasonably far from the waste collection authority's area.
  8. (8) Any question arising under subsection (6) or (7) above shall, in default of agreement between the two authorities in question, be determined by arbitration.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 50 [Duties of authorities as respects disposal of waste collected: Scotland]:

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 223: Page 57, line 11, after ("43(5)") insert ("(a)").

The noble Lord said: Clause 50 applies only to Scotland. Page 47 of the Bill, subsection (11), states that subsection (5)(b) shall not apply to Scotland. I therefore beg to move this amendment, which I think is a necessary one.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

This amendment is a purely technical drafting amendment, which I am quite happy to accept.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 50, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 51 [Special provisions for land occupied by disposal authorities: Scotland]:

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 223A: Page 57, line 34, after first ("waste") insert ("in or").

The noble Earl said: I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 223A and 223B together. The wording should read "in or on land". These words are consequential upon similar amendments which were discussed and were inserted into the Bill last Thursday. I beg to move.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

I am happy to accept these drafting amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 223B: Page 57, line 37, at the beginning insert ("in or").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 224: Page 57, line 44, after ("regulations") insert ("made by the Secretary of State").

The noble Lord said: This amendment effects a minor clarifying change in the drafting. Amendments Nos. 225 and 226 indicate small changes consequential on amendments agreed to at an earlier stage. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 225: Page 58, line 5, leave out ("severe") and insert ("serious").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 225A:

Page 58, line 20, at end insert: ("(ii) the Health and Safety Executive").

The noble Lord said: This amendment has already been spoken to, and I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 226: Page 58, line 28, leave out ("water") and insert ("waste").

The noble Earl said: Amendment No. 226 corrects what must have been a printing error in the original production of the Bill. We do not have water disposal authorities.

I should like also to speak to Amendments Nos. 227 and subsequent amendments. Although there is no difference in the meaning of "in pursuance of" Section x and "under" Section x, let us at least have the same expression used throughout the whole clause. I have always believed that if one word will do, that is all that should appear in Scottish legislation. This has been confirmed by a group of similar amendments which were moved by my honourable friend Mr. Trippier during the Report stage in another place. I beg to move.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

I have no quarrel with any of these amendments and am quite happy to accept them in their entirety.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 226A: Page 58, line 30, leave out from ("which") to end of line 35 and insert ("the river purification authority, the Health and Safety Executive or the general planning authority makes to it during the allowed period;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendments Nos. 227 and 232: Page 59, line 6, leave out ("in pursuance of") and insert ("under"). Page 59, line 9, leave out ("in pursuance of") and insert ("under"). Page 59, line 14, leave out ("in pursuance of") and insert ("under"). Page 59, line 19, leave out ("in pursuance of") and insert ("under"). Page 59, line 21, leave out ("in pursuance of") and insert ("under"). Page 59, line 25, leave out ("in pursuance of") and insert ("under").

The noble Earl said: These amendments are all concerned with similar wording, and I beg to move them en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 232A: Page 59, line 29, after second ("authority") insert ("or the Health and Safety Executive").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendments Nos. 233 to 235: Page 59, line 33, leave out ("in pursuance of") and insert ("under"). Page 59, line 46, leave out ("in pursuance of") and insert ("under"). Page 60, line 3, leave out ("in pursuance of") and insert ("under").

The noble Earl said: In rising to move Amendments No. 233 to 235 en bloc, I should like to record my thanks for the letters and discussions that I have had with my noble friend Lord Sanderson concerning the many questions that I have raised on this Bill. This clause seems to me a good example of where we have much improved the wording. I beg to move these amendments en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendments Nos. 236, 236A, 236B and 236C: Page 60, line 7, leave out subsection (12). Page 60, line 11, after ("authority") insert (", the Health and Safety Executive"). Page 60, line 14, leave out ("the authority") and insert ("that body"). Page 60, line 15, leave out ("the other authority") and insert ("that body").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 236 and, with it, Nos. 236A to 236C en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 51, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 52 agreed to.

Clause 53 [Powers for recycling waste: Scotland]:

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendment No. 237: Page 61, line 16, leave out ("used again") and insert ("recycled").

The noble Lord said: In speaking to Amendments No. 237, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 238 and 239. These are drafting amendments consequential on the insertion into the Bill in another place of Clause 29(6), which gives a broad meaning to the term "recycling". Thus we have been able to simplify the drafting of Clause 53 using the term "recycled" instead of the other expressions. I hope that these drafting changes will need with the approval of the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, as he raised these points in correspondence with my noble friend Lord Sanderson. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne moved Amendments Nos. 238 and 239: Page 61, leave out lines 17 and 18. Page 61, line 21, leave out from ("being") to end of line 22 and insert ("recycled").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 53, as amended, agreed to.

The Duke of Somerset moved Amendment No. 240:

After Clause 53, insert the following new clause: ("Incentive for recycling waste Payment by waste disposal authority to waste collection authority Where a waste collection authority establishes for its area, or any part of it, a system of waste storage and collection which enables householders in that area to separate domestic waste so that all or part of that waste is separately contained or stored prior to collection by the collection authority or its agent or contractor, and that waste is thereafter recycled by the local authority or its agent or contractor, the waste disposal authority for that area shall pay to the collection authority a sum equal to the real avoided landfill cost which the waste disposal authority would otherwise have incurred in receiving and disposing of that waste either in its own disposal facilities or those of its contractor.").

The noble Duke said: In moving Amendment No. 240, [...] should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 241, 242, 243 and 244.

I am grateful to the noble Lords who have added their names in support of these amendments as they come from many sides of the Committee. I am also happy to see that the Government have tabled their own amendment after Clause 49 which is similar in principle to this amendment. Many of my points were debated during our discussions on that amendment. I therefore hope that the Minister will be able to assure the Committee that they will be similar in practice.

It is important to ensure that any new system of financial credits does not favour or disciminate against one means of recycling as against another. Financial credits should be available to the method or organisation that can most effectively recycle the greatest volume of domestic waste. The private sector must play an important role in the establishment of a recycling industry. I am sure that the Minister will agree with me when I say that a market-led solution is essential when addressing the ever-increasing problem and the ever-increasing volumes of domestic waste.

If the Government wish to see 50 per cent of domestic waste recycled by the year 2000, they will need more than the statute book as an incentive. When one realises that we currently recycle only 5 per cent. of household refuse, it is clear that we are racing against time to reach that laudable target.

I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that the Government will not rely on source separation of domestic refuse in isolation to reach their target. Although source separation is useful and should be assisted on performance by financial credits, so should other means of recycling and reclamation. Presently about half of household waste is recyclable by traditional means of source separation and mechanical and physical methods. If the 50 per cent. government target is achieved, a great amount would therefore still go to landfill. That would mostly include the organic components which generate methane and thus contribute to the greenhouse effect. Methane is a great deal more damaging to the atmosphere than CO2.

I am sure that the Minister is aware that Birmingham City Council already operates, in joint venture with the private sector, a recycling and reclamation initiative which does not rely on any kind of source separation. I gather that it now claims to be in a position to reclaim 92 per cent. of the waste stream that goes through the plant.

Local authorities like Birmingham should be encouraged to seek partners in industry who are able to help them tackle those problems. Such ventures must be part of an overall strategy that helps to reduce the volume of waste that we consign to the ground by processing it into a form which is useful and which eases the burden on natural resources such as fossil fuel and peat.

I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that financial credits will be available to all sensible organisations, whether in the private sector, the public sector or a combination of the two, and that the administration of those credits will operate on the simple criterion of volume diverted from landfill. In landfill sites methane can still be produced for 30-odd years and after completion needs careful monitoring.

Both my amendment and that of the Minister refer to the need for regulation in the administration of this part of the Bill, especially in relation to the determination of the saving that has occurred in financial terms by diverting certain volumes of waste from landfill. On that point, I should like to quote the Secretary of State for the Environment, who made an excellent speech on recycling on 25th March. We heard parts of it last week. He said: Through the Environmental Protection Bill, we will be able to see for the first time the real measure of landfill costs and the benefits of recycling. This is not just in terms of some narrow financial balance sheet but taking into account the range of environmental and economic costs and benefits". I ask the Minister to confirm that the regulations to which he refers in his new clause will reflect the equation on the value of avoiding landfilling and diverting waste so clearly put by the Secretary of State in his speech three months ago.

Perhaps the Minister will consider the point further and reflect on what the Secretary of State went on to say in that same speech. He described the way in which the Americans assess the value of litter. He said: Some American States have litter assessment levies on different materials according to their potential to create litter, with the proceeds put into litter control and recycling". I wonder whether the Minister will look at those sentiments of his right honourable friend, extend them slightly and look at the possibility of making "potential for nuisance" a factor when deciding the amount of value that should be attracted towards the removal of certain kinds of waste from landfill when financial credits are calculated. That is an important point which should be addressed when setting regulations.

If one successfully removes all the paper and glass content, one is left with a higher percentage of landfill content that is of a putrescible nature, such as vegetable matter. If financial credits on a sliding scale encourage the recycling of that content into such products as refuse-derived compost, then the financial credits system will be working well and will encourage an industry-led solution to the problems of recycling. That must be good news for those already concerned by the mounting burdens on the public purse.

In conclusion, and following on directly from that point, perhaps the Minister will give one final and important commitment. I hope that he will be able to assure all noble Lords who have an interest in this matter that he will include as many people as possible when it comes to the consultation process that will precede the regulations that he outlines in his new clause. Naturally, that should include industry, which is already involved in recycling. I beg to move.

6.45 p.m.

Lord McNair

I should like to support the amendment moved by the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset, which also bears my name.

We have set ourselves just one decade in which to recycle 50 per cent. of household waste. We start from a very poor 5 per cent. today. If we are to get anywhere near that figure, we need to encourage all those engaged in recycling. We need to let the recycling industry compete on equal terms in the hope that its combined efforts will help us to reach the Prime Minister's laudable target by the year 2000.

I understand that the Government initially looked at a system of financial credits in order to finance source separation. It now appears that the Minister is happy to allow that facility to be extended to those who can demonstrate a recycling capability. That is welcome news, expecially to those of us who believe that source separation alone will not achieve that 50 per cent. target and, more importantly, will be vastly expensive to implement and maintain.

I should like to conclude by pressing the Minister for an assurance that full consultation will take place before regulations are set effecting the implementation of the relevant clause in the Act and that those consultations will include private sector companies which are already involved in pioneering recycling technology for domestic waste.

Lord Renton

The noble Duke and those who support him deserve credit for putting forward this concept. The idea of incentives for solving the waste problem is a good one. However, there is one matter that arises from the amendments which requires explanation. The savings to be achieved—that is to say, in the words of the amendment: a sum equal to the real avoided landfill cost which the waste disposal authority would otherwise have incurred"— are necessarily in every case a hypothetical amount.

We need to consider how that amount would be estimated. One way would be to decide what area of land the landfill would take up and what would be the value of that land. It may very often be an old brickfield being filled in, or something of that kind. Another way of measuring might be by deciding the weight of the waste to be put into the landfill site. Another way would be to decide by the volume, by measuring the number of cubic metres.

We must realise that, as a matter of practicality, the cost savings must be considered and worked out. I hesitate to criticise the amendments because in principle they are aiming at something worth considering. However, when we examine how they will work we must look a little deeper. We must consider in particular how the hypothetical sum is to be calculated.

Lord McNair

Perhaps I can enlighten the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I believe that the costs are calculated on a volume not a weight basis. It is the amount of space that the waste takes up that decides for how long the landfill site can be used. Future amendments deal with that subject in more detail, but I understand that there are three types of cost which should be taken into account when one is looking at the avoided landfill cost.

One is the gate fee or tipping cost; another is the monitoring cost, which is a long-term cost; and there is also the maintenance cost. It is difficult to attribute a specific tonne cost to each lorry load that is tipped. The monitoring and maintenance costs relate to tipping which occurred in the past. However, I hope to be in a position to enlighten the Committee when we consider further amendments.

Lord Hylton

It is clear that the practice of landfill tipping is likely to continue for many years, with the best will and incentives. It is also obvious that there are many completed sites quietly decaying.

When the Minister replies, it would be helpful and enlightening if he would say something regarding the progress made in collecting and using the methane generated from the sites. Perhaps he would also say whether greater improvements are likely in the next few years.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

It is obvious from debates on previous amendments that we are sympathetic to the ideas behind this amendment. We believe it shows a considerable degree of ingenuity in the design of financial incentives. I do not wish to criticise the detail of the wording, especially as the noble Lord, Lord McNair, to a considerable extent answered the criticisms already made.

However, I believe the amendment raises a question which I brought up on earlier amendment regarding the basis of the subsidies or credits. The Minister did not respond when I gave the example that some local authorities were using avarage costs and some were using marginal costs. He did not say which was his preferred basis of calculation.

The same difficulties arise with the "real avoided landfill cost", which is the basis of these amendments. The calculation could become extremely complicated. A reference to methane has already been made. That could be a cost or it could be a benefit if the methane is used. The reinstatement of the landfill site in due course could be a benefit later, but that could be many years way and the calculation of the cost could be complicated. We must have better answers from the Government than we have had so far to this kind of amendment.

Lord Parry

Before the Minister replies, perhaps I may ask whether or not there are already sufficient data available to show the costs incurred over the years by local authorities in the acquisition of hollows and wasteland for the creation of infill tipping. Is not the cost per tonne also included in the records of the various authorities? Far from being a hypothetical issue, as described by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, it is a practical one for which all records are kept.

Lord Hesketh

Amendments Nos. 240 to 243, standing in the name of the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset, the noble Lords, Lord McNair and Lord St. John of Bletso, and my noble friend, Lord Sudeley, seek to establish precisely the sort of recycling credits scheme about which I spoke—at some length—a little earlier. We are at one in the desire to see a clearly understood methodology for establishing the cost savings made by avoiding landfill in favour of recycling.

We also agree that the economic benefit of recycling should if possible be passed on to whoever is responsible for recycling, be they in the public or private sector. We are, for example, very aware of the efforts made by companies in the private sector, such as Secondary Resources plc, to devise systems which maximise the recycling of waste.

Amendment No. 244 refers to a rather different issue. It seeks to exempt authorities from the competitive tendering requirements where they propose to make arrangements with a contractor for recycling. Again, I appreciate the spirit behind the amendment, which aims to encourage as much recycling as possible. But authorities will be able to take environmental considerations into account in assessing tenders, and it is surely both healthy and potentially beneficial for recycling that authorities should not be locked into existing disposal methods and that the private sector should be encouraged to come up with innovative methods of recycling.

Both noble Lords who spoke in support of the amendment they had tabled referred to what they saw as the limitations of source separation. I should make it clear, as I did at the end of speaking to my own amendment a short while ago, that credits will be available to all sensible organisations, be they in the public or the private sector. The main points made particularly by the noble Duke referred to his concern at the level of consultation. I can only reaffirm that we believe consultation should be on the very broadest basis.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, made an interesting interjection into the debate. He said that I had not answered his question regarding the different forms of costs. If we are to consult, there is not much point in having a closed mind before consulting. The purpose then is rather lost, if I may say so.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Government must have some mind, whether closed or open.

Lord Hesketh

It has a broad mind, which is why we are waiting to know the views of those who have something to contribute to the debate.

Lord Renton

May I suggest that the Government may need an open mind?

Lord Hesketh

I am once again grateful for an intervention of my noble friend Lord Renton. In many ways there are similarities between this amendment and the amendment I moved earlier. I shall look forward with interest to the finer and more technical amendments that the noble Lord, Lord McNair, foreshadowed in his remarks.

The Duke of Somerset

I am grateful to the Minister for his comments. On the basis of the Government's new amendment tabled subsequent to mine and of his explanation, I am happy to withdraw the amendment at this stage in order to examine what the Minister has said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 241 and 244 not moved.]

7 p.m.

Lord Ezra moved Amendment No. 244A:

After Clause 53, insert the following new clause: ("Matters relating to approved recyclers

  1. .—(1) In preparing a plan under section 47(1) above of the arrangements appropriate in its area for the recyling of waste, a waste collection authority shall have regard to the existence of approved recyclers capable of serving the locality.
  2. (2) In preparing a plan under section 48(1) and 48(7) above of the arrangements appropriate in its area, a waste regulation authority shall have regard to the existence of approved recyclers capable of serving the locality.
  3. (3) An approved recycler shall be entitled to treat, keep or dispose of waste without having applied for a waste management licence provided that the material that it is keeping or treating shall be non-contaminated material capable of, and wholly or primarily intended for, reuse.
  4. (4) The waste regulation authority shall authorise by approved recyclers' licence the treatment, keeping or disposing of waste without a waste management licence.
  5. (5) The Secretary of State, may by regulation, make provision as to the conditions upon which an approved recyclers' licence is, or is not to be, granted by approved recyclers.
  6. (6) The Secretary of State may, as respects any approved recyclers licence for which an application is made to a waste regulation authority, give to the authority directions as to the terms and conditions which are, or are not, to be included in the licence: and it shall be the duty of the authority to give effect to the direction.
  7. (7) It shall be the duty of waste regulation authorities to have regard to any guidance issued to them by the Secretary of State on the discharge of their function in relation to approved recyclers.
  8. (8) For the purposes of this section an "approved recycler" shall be a person or undertaking wholly or primarily involved in the keeping or treating, or disposing of non-contaminated waste capable of and intended for reuse, or who is carrying out such approved processes of recycling as the Secretary of State may by regulation determine.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 244A deals with another aspect of the facilitation and stimulation of recycling. It is intended to apply to those involved in the recycling of non-contaminating material. The proposed new clause results from work being done by the British Secondary Metals Association, which acts on behalf of companies involved in the recycling of non-ferrous metal. As president of the UK Reclamation Council, I believe that the clause might have application to a wide range of recycling activity that might otherwise end up by being over-regulated in the Bill.

It is relevant to draw the attention of the Committee to the preamble to the EC draft directive on the transit of waste. It is stated in the 14th recital that less stringent rules may be applied to waste which is to be further used. It also states that non-contaminated waste intended for further use should be excluded from controls on transit.

The Committee had the opportunity to debate some of these principles in relation to the recycling of secondary metals in connection with Amendment No. 154 to Clause 32 which was ably moved by my noble friend Lord Ross of Newport. Since then the Committee has had occasion to debate important and welcome clauses to the Bill which seek to encourage recycling.

The purpose of the proposed new clause is that firms whose work is wholly or primarily recycling, which do not handle contaminated material and which achieve certain minimum standards laid down by regulation for the conduct of specified recycling processes should be awarded a licence as an approved recycler. Such recyclers would be open to future inspection to ensure that they were not undertaking activity outside the approved categories and that they were maintaining due standards.

However, beyond that they would be freed from the supervision otherwise envisaged for waste management. The procedures would be simple and the criteria clear. My amendment suggests that regulation authorities should be guided by regulations and guidelines produced by the Secretary of State. Such guidelines can be drawn up after discussion with the appropriate representatives of recycling bodies such as the BSMA previously referred to, the BSF and other members of the UK Reclamation Council.

I believe that the status of approved recycler is one that would be eagerly sought. It would ensure support from the public and would protect the recycling industry from unnecessary regulation. Therefore, I hope that the Government will consider the positive advantage of a proposal that I believe will carry wide support in the recycling industries. I ask the Minister to consider this provision seriously and to let me have his views. This is by way of being a probing amendment. The suggestion is one that could help to achieve the recycling objectives which are fully covered in the Bill. Therefore, I hope that the amendment will be sympathetically considered. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Of course we are sympathetic to the idea brought forward by the British Secondary Metals Association that there should be an exemption from the onerous obligations of regulations which necessarily apply to large numbers of categories of controlled waste. Before saying that we can support this amendment I would have to be sure that it does not go further than the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, intends. With this amendment he is creating a new category of people called approved recyclers. They would have the right to treat, keep or dispose of waste without having to apply for a waste management licence.

Clearly in the case of non-ferrous metal, to which I am sure the noble Lord is referring, there should not be any difficulty. The problem is that the amendment does not specify what materials are being referred to. It may well be that the boundary between contaminated and non-contaminated material, as provided for in the proposed subsection (3), is not as clear as the amendment intends. What will happen if the material for recycling is contaminated? What will happen if it can cause contamination? That is particularly important with metal substances that are not contaminated themselves but which can be the cause of contamination.

The problem is that almost any waste can contaminate or damage the environment. The degree of contamination depends not only on the material but on its reaction on surrounding materials and sometimes on its quantity. I am sorry to appear to be so unwelcoming to a provision that is basically good. The danger with this amendment is that it could be a way round the control of contaminated material. Unless we know clearly who checks whether a material is contaminated and who pays for the checks, the Government should be wary to some extent of this amendment.

Lord Hesketh

I have the utmost respect for the valuable contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, to recycling policy as chairman of the UK Reclamation Council. When he enters a special plea on behalf of the recycling industry we do well to listen. We sometimes hear special pleadings that seem to be suggesting that any industry engaged in reclamation and any material destined for recycling are inherently a good thing and should therefore be exempted from every control or regulation known to man. The noble Lord is far too experienced and knowledgeable to fall into such exaggeration. This proposed new clause is moderate and reasonable in its demands. Indeed, it is so reasonable that I hope to be able to demonstrate to the noble Lord that all its essential points are already met in the Bill as it stands.

The noble Lord's scheme would exempt specified waste recycling processes from waste management licensing. Instead recyclers approved by a waste regulation would be issued with approved recycler's licences. Such licences could be issued subject to conditions: the Secretary of State could direct an authority as to licence conditions and the authority would have to have regard to guidance from the Secretary of State.

That has a familiar ring to it. The noble Lord's proposed licences for recyclers would be little different from waste management licences. I am afraid I do not see the point of exempting recycling from one system and replacing it with another system. Surely that would not ease the burden. A waste management licence may also be issued subject to conditions and the Secretary of State has power to set such conditions for licences in general or for classes of licences. The main difference in the noble Lord's system is that there is no provision that failing to abide by a licence is an offence. I assume this is an inadvertent omission. Without some sort of criminal sanction in reserve, a licensing system would be of little use. In fact I do not see anywhere in this new clause a provision for recyclers to have regard to pollution of the environment or harm to human health.

I can assure the noble Lord that everything his proposed system is designed to achieve can be done within the Bill as it stands. The licensing system is designed to cover activities like recycling as well as simple disposal. That is why we have changed the name from "waste disposal licences" in the 1974 Act to "waste management licences" in this Bill. There is plenty of provision for flexibility. The conditions attached to a licence should be wide or narrow, tight or loose, according to the dangers posed by the activity being licensed. That is the key criterion. Of course we must bear in mind the ultimate good of recycling, but we must have overriding regard to whether the materials and processes involved are threatening to people or the environment. The process of recycling a toxic material can be as dangerous as the process of disposal and as much in need of control.

Under the waste management licensing system there are provisions in the Bill for the authority to vary licences and to revoke or suspend them if it feels that the activities of the licence are causing pollution of the environment or harm to human health. Without this kind of back-up for a licensing system, an authority would be powerless to act on the occasions where the recycler suddenly started to cause problems or risked the health of humans.

I turn to the finer details of the amendment. I am afraid that I cannot see that the system would be workable. For a start, how would a recycler become an approved recycler if the authority had no powers to refuse a licence? If the authority imposed conditions in the recycler's licence, how would the licensee protect himself against overburdensome conditions? There is no right of appeal in this clause. Another point is that of inspection. Under the waste mangagement system an authority has to check the conditions in a licence and see that they are being complied with. There is no provision in the clause for such an inspection.

I hold no brief for regulation for the sake of it. If the Government were convinced that a particular class of activity required only minimal conditions, there is provision for the Secretary of State to direct that only certain conditions should be set in such licences. This can be seen in Clause 34 of the Bill which sets out the waste management system. If we were convinced that some processes were so innocuous as to need no licensing at all, there is provision for complete exemption. Indeed we have already used this power to exempt from licensing the processing of waste paper.

The new clause would require authorities to have regard to the existence of recyclers in drawing up their waste disposal and recycling plans. I have to say that it would be a strange plan that did not do so. My department will be issuing guidance on the content of plans, and an assessment of the capacity and location of recycling will certainly be a factor which plans should embrace.

The Government fully share the noble Lord's aims of promoting the recycling industry and eliminating unnecessary burdens. I hope he will accept that the legal framework for doing so is already in the Bill.

Lord Ezra

I thank the noble Lord for his consideration of the proposal and for his emphasis on two points which I think are most important. The first is that the way in which waste management licences are intended to be applied will be flexible and will take full account of the activities of the licensee. It follows that, if the licensee is largely recycling valuable materials to make them even more valuable, the conditions of the licence will reflect that activity. I take it that that is what he meant.

Secondly, I am pleased to note that the intention would certainly not be to apply onerous conditions where those were unnecessary. I should like to study carefully what the noble Lord said. I recall that when my noble friend Lord Ross moved an earlier amendment the noble Lord agreed that there could be contact between the trade associations concerned and the Minister to discuss these matters further. In the light of that assurance and in the light of what the Minister has said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 54 [Power of Secretary of State to require waste to be accepted, treated, disposed of or delivered]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 245:

Page 62, line 6, at end insert: ("(9) The Secretary of State shall consult the waste regulation authority before exercising any of his powers contained or referred to in this section.").

The noble Lord said: I move the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady David. Clause 54 concerns enforcement. Having dealt in Clauses 34 to 42 with the revision of the provisions of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 we now come to the replacement in the Bill of Section 17(3)(a) of the 1974 Act. Quite properly Clause 54 provides for sanctions against those who hold waste and fail to deliver it to a specified person—in other words, to deliver it for treatment in a proper way—and also against the waste regulatory authorities who are required to accept certain kinds of controlled waste when it is offered to them.

There is nothing wrong with that. It is right that there should be enforcement in this clause and in Clause 55 for Scotland. What puzzles me about the clause as drafted—and this explains why my noble friend wished to move the amendment to add the requirement for consultation with the waste regulation authority—is that in some respects it gives the Secrtary of State greater powers than the waste regulation authority.

Waste regulation authorities are on the ground. They know better than Secretaries of State the waste being produced in their areas that needs to be disposed of. We are not suggesting that there should not be this long stop provision. But we believe that as waste regulation authorities are being given considerable powers they should at least be consulted before their own rulings and their own enforcement provisions are overruled in turn by the powers given in Clause 54 to the Secretary of State. I beg to move.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Reay

Under Clause 54 the Secretary of State has a power to give directions in respect of the management of waste. This is an extension of powers contained in the Control of Pollution Act for special waste to cover all controlled waste. It is very much a reserve power for use when the normal negotiating arrangements for the disposal of waste have broken down.

It is not the Secretary of State's intention to become involved in the day to day management of waste. These arrangements are normally very satisfactorily made between the producer of the waste and his chosen contractor. However, there have been isolated incidents where it has appeared that genuine difficulties may arise in finding a contractor to take the waste in question or where the holder of the waste is disinclined to make any arrangements for it. Either event may prevent waste being disposed of, which is obviously an unsatisfactory state of affairs.

It is in such circumstances that the Secretary of State would intervene. It is not envisaged that this power would be used frequently if indeed at all. Such circumstances would be the result of a breakdown in relationships, and during the course of negotiations with the parties concerned the Secretary of State would take the advice of the waste regulation authority and HMIP.

I can therefore assure the noble Lord that if this power needs to be invoked it will be as a last resort when attempts to secure agreement between the parties have failed. In the course of such attempts the waste regulation authorities would have been consulted. I hope that the noble Lord is reassured by my explanation and will feel that he need not press the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am not certain that I am reassured. We understood that it was to be a last resort provision. That was never in question. I find it difficult to understand why, as we have the Government's assurance that the waste regulation authorities will be consulted, they cannot accept the amendment. After all it will not be a terrible burden on the Secretary of State as he will use these powers very infrequently. In this case the Government could have shown a little generosity and flexibility. The amendment cannot do any harm and it adds to the clarity of the Bill by introducing those provisions which the Government have made clear they intend.

However, I have no doubt that my noble friend will want to think about the response to her amendment. In order that she can do so, I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 54 agreed to.

Clause 55 agreed to.

Clause 56 [Powers to require removal of waste unlawfully deposited]:

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 246: Page 62, line 11, after ("deposited") insert ("in or").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 246 seeks to add clarity to the clause. The clause gives the regulation authority or the collection authority power to serve a notice on the occupier of land to remove waste unlawfully deposited on any land. This amendment adds the power to require the removal of waste which is in land.

Perhaps I may refer back to the debate on Clause 34 when my noble friend tabled amendments to include areas below ground. I take this chance once again to reassure noble Lords that waste in or on land, above or below ground, will be covered by this part of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Earl, Lord Balfour, does that much more quickly.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Layton moved Amendment No. 246A: Page 62, line 14, leave out ("occupier") and insert ("person who deposited or caused or knowingly permitted the waste to be deposited").

The noble Lord said: The object of this amendment is to broaden Clause 56(1) to cover an area which has been causing tremendous problems for some time to local authorities. I understand that the contents of the clause are copied directly from Section 16 of the Control of Pollution Act. Unfortunately, it does not seem to address the difficulties which local authorities have to face. It applies only to occupiers who have deposited waste on their own land.

The object of this amendment and of Amendment No. 246B which follows on to tidy up a modification in the light of the first amendment is to deal with the much bigger problem of the unlawful deposit of waste by third parties. It is a problem which most local authorities have been seeking to address and one which this clause as it stands at present does not cover. The amendment would broaden the scope of the clause to cover such undesirable actions. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

In my view the word "occupier" should not be removed. However, I think that it would be advantageous if the proposed words were to be added to the legislation.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My name is also attached to this amendment. I should like to add my support for the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Layton. We are not seeking to implement something new in this proposal; we are seeking to apply the principle of strict liability to Clause 56. We are doing so in line with recommendations from the European Commission which set out proposals in October 1989 to apply a common system of strict liability for waste throughout the Community.

Lord Renton

I do not think that the noble Lord appreciates the fact that by leaving the word "occupier" out of the legislation he is weakening the principle of strict liability.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I shall have to think carefully about that point. It certainly was not our intention to weaken the legislation. Very often the concept of proceeding against the occupier has been unsuccessful. Our intention was to pin the blame on the, person who deposited or caused or knowingly permitted the waste to be deposited". That phrase has a very precise meaning, which the noble Lord, Lord Renton, welcomed. However, I must admit that he may have a point in what he said about the word "occupier".

Lord Layton

I should like to deal with this point. It concerns the issue of whether a person is an occupier and knowingly permits the waste to be deposited. The implication here is that the, person who deposited or caused or knowingly permitted the waste to be deposited", could be the occupier, but that is not necessarily the case; the person concerned could be a third party. Therefore, the wording of the amendment would cover an occupier if that was the case..

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

In other words, the occupier is innocent if he did not deposit the waste or cause or knowingly permit the waste to be deposited. On reflection, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is right. However, this gives me an opportunity to rectify my negligence in failing to answer the noble Lord's question earlier when he challenged me to define a producer of waste. The European Commission defines a producer of waste as someone producing the waste in the course of his occupation or activity. That is the definition we had in mind. However, I concede that the wording we have used has not been adequately defined in that way.

Lord Hylton

I think that we have reached the point in the Bill where we are concerned with illegal and unwanted fly-tipping; that is, the depositing on land of refuse and rubbish of all kinds. I speak with some feeling on the matter as one who has been the victim of such procedures on occasions in the past.

Clause 56 talks about "any land". Therefore, it could be any owner or occupier who is the innocent victim of fly-tipping. It does not seem to me that the Bill does much to protect the innocent victim. Moreover, I am not sure that the amendment provides any further protection. Perhaps the Government can throw some light on the matter.

Lord Reay

I must say that we have considerable sympathy with these amendments which seek to take the burden off the occupier of the land and put it on the person who deposited the waste. We certainly would not want to see innocent occupiers of land who are victims of fly-tipping being held responsible for the removal of the waste and having to pay for it. However, there is already relief in the clause for innocent occupiers and provisions for recovering costs from the fly-tipper.

Under subsection (3) occupiers of land are protected against having to remove waste and having to pay for its removal as long as they did not deposit the waste or did not permit its deposit on their land. That leaves the question of trying to get at the guilty fly-tipper as well as the conniving occupier. Under subsection (8)(b) there is already a power to recover costs from the person who deposited the waste. I think that this is better than a power to force him to clear it up. We would not want to trust a fly-tipper to make a good job of clearing up the waste he had deposited. One might ask oneself where he would be likely to put it next. Therefore, there is no need for these amendments.

Lord Layton

I do not find that response very satisfactory. At the end of the day, we still have the situation where the innocent occupier has to pay out the money and then reclaim it. For example, what happens if the fly-tipping is of a very unpleasant controlled waste of some kind which will cost a considerable amount of money to remove? Will the occupier be responsible for that expenditure and then have to recover the money afterwards? Does he have to arrange to have the waste removed from his backyard, his field or wherever when he is totally innocent? Does he have to take on this burden? Finally, do the Government feel that this responsibility should be shifted on to a totally innocent party?

I shall study carefully the Minister's response but I feel that I may have to return to the matter at a later stage. I reserve the right to do so. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 246B not moved.]

Clause 56, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 57 agreed to.

Clause 58 [Duty of waste regulation authorities as respects closed landfills]:

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 246BA: Page 64, line 23, after ("gases") insert ("(including methane)").

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with Clause 58. I think it would be helpful to the Committee if I read out the first section of the clause. it says: Except as respects land in relation to which a site licence is in force, it shall be the duty of every waste regulation authority to cause its area to be inspected from time to time to detect whether any land is in such a condition, by reason of the relevant matters affecting the land, that it may cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health". Then we move on to subsection (2), the subject of the amendment, which reads: The matters affecting land relevant for the purposes of this section are the concentration or accumulation in, and the emission or discharge from, the land of noxious gases" — and we are inserting at that point the words "including methane"— or noxious liquids caused by deposits of controlled waste in the land

The Minister will have deduced that this is a probing amendment. We want him to say something specific about what the Government have in mind when he tells the Committee, as I am sure he will, that they are as concerned as anyone that the problems of methane gas should be dealt with. In other words, we should like to know what they intend to do in this respect. Do they intend to lay a duty on other people and not upon themselves or do they intend to deal with the problems caused by methane gas?

The Minister may say that the wording of Clause 58(2) can also cover methane gas. Methane gas causes a number of problems. It would be useful if the Minister could tell us how the Government contemplate dealing wih contaminated land in general. On Third Reading in the other place reference was made to the decision that district councils will be required to produce registers of contaminated land. To date, there have been no indications of how that requirement will be introduced into the Bill.

We are anxious to make progress, and although a great deal more could be said, it would be helpful to the Committee and to those who have professional and environmental responsibilities if the Minister could explain what will happen. Landfill gas is a mixture of potentially explosive toxic asphysciant gases. The environmental consequences of landfill gas migration can be substantial. They range from nuisance to damage to persons, property and vegetation. I have heard on the radio and read in the newspapers some disturbing illustrations of where the escape of methane gas from various landfill sites has permeated property, brickwork, and so on. It is an important matter, and I should be pleased to hear the Minister's comments.

7.30 p.m.

The Earl of Balfour

Perhaps I may intervene for a moment. If the amendment had been changed so that the clause reads, from, the land of noxious gases or combustible gases or noxious liquids", that would have covered the whole issue. One of the problems is that a number of combustible gases have no smell and one is unaware that they exist until one strikes a match—and then, bang!

Lord Hesketh

I fully understand the anxiety of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, and his desire to put the words "methane gas" on the face of the Bill. Pure methane gas may be colourless, and odourless. However, it is the potential danger against which we want to protect ourselves and the environment. That gas is flammable and can form explosive mixtures which in my mind means that it is potentially damaging to the environment and to those persons living in it. Hence the word "noxious" which, according to my dictionary, means hurtful and must include such a substance.

I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Graham, that the amendment is on that basis unnecessary. The dangers of methane gas from landfill sites are well understood, and local authorities are fully alive to the need for monitoring and for controls and remedial work where necessary.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution has issued Waste Management Paper No. 27 as a technical memorandum on monitoring and control, and has also conducted a survey of sites with local authorities which has identified some 1,000 sites as potentially at risk from landfill gas. The Government have specifically earmarked £33 million as a capital allocation to local authorities for remedial work on closed sites for 1990–91 with the prospect of similar allocations for further years. Priority will be given to work on any of the 1,000 identified sites and that will include any preparatory monitoring. Project approvals worth some £19 million have already been issued to local authorities for their use of resources within that allocation. Work on active sites will continue as a feature of day-to-day operations.

I can assure the noble Lord that monitoring of noxious gases includes methane gas, and I am sure that he will see that local authorities will continue to monitor landfill gas under those responsibilities.

The point about "noxious" is that if methane gas were the only trouble to come out of landfill sites it would be simpler to say so. The difficulty is that many nasty things come out of landfill which is why the provision is as it is in line 23.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I am grateful to the Minister. He will understand that I do not want to press the matter. I was interested to hear that the survey had identified about 1,000 active sites. My information is that it uncovered 1,300. The local authorities must be having a major blitz and getting rid of those sites by the yardfull. Whether there are 1,000 to 1,300 active sites from which noxious gases can escape, there are grave anxieties.

As the Minister is aware, those matters have been drawn to our attention by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities which has the support of the ACC. I hope they will take heart from what the Minister said and understand that the amendment is not necessary. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Reay

I beg to move that the House do now resume. I suggest that the House does not return to this business before 8.35 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.