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Baroness Hilton of Eggardon moved Amendment No. 265A:


Page 78, line 6, leave out ("as soon as possible") and insert ("within three months of this Act receiving Royal Assent").

The noble Baroness said: I rise to move Amendment No. 265A which to some extent has been overtaken by events in view of the publication by the Government last week of a waste strategy for England and Wales. The amendment sets out a timetable for the production of a national waste strategy. However, the Government's draft document provides an acceptable timetable. We hope that that will appear in the final version of the document when it emerges this summer.

Amendment No. 265B in this group covers the avoidance of waste. To some extent, we have already spoken about this. It is important that both waste avoidance and waste minimisation are covered in the strategy, not just waste recovery and disposal. That point is related very much to the discussion we have just had about the need for resource management.

Amendment No. 266ZA remains an important one, despite the Government's draft document. It places a duty upon the Secretary of State to maintain the currency of the strategy. Clearly, in the light of unfolding environmental pressures or new discoveries it is important that a national waste strategy is not a static document. Public attitudes to waste management, technical knowledge and public acceptability all vary

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with time and should be reflected in the strategy. The amendment places a duty on the Secretary of State to update the strategy on a regular basis.

Amendment No. 266AA deals with what appears to be an ambiguity in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The new clause as drafted in the Bill can be construed in two different ways: either that the agency will advise the Secretary of State on the production of the strategy or that it will advise him only on policies which are not yet included in the strategy. Both of these are unacceptable as alternatives. Clearly, both should apply in all instances. The amendment attempts to redress that ambiguity.

Amendment No. 289A includes a reference to the need for a national strategy on sustainable development. It draws attention to the need for such a strategy in relation to waste management. I beg to move.

Baroness Nicol: I should like to take advantage of the existence of this group of amendments, which I support, to ask the Minister how the waste strategy that is to be discussed will be helped by the fact that the Central Statistical Office no longer appears to collect statistics on waste arisings from industry. I understand that the statistics for 1992 included a very large figure—which I am afraid I have not bought with me and have forgotten—for industrial waste arisings. That was greatly reduced in 1993, but the figure did not appear for 1994. I have rather sprung this question on the Minister, but it occurred to me when I listened to the debate. It seems rather odd when one is approaching a strategy to remove the statistical basis of it.

Viscount Ullswater: If during the course of my remarks I am able to answer the question posed by the noble Baroness, I will do so. I have been taken a little unawares by it. In dealing with Amendment No. 265A, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 265B, 266, 266ZA, 266AA, 289A and 290 to 294.

I deal first with Amendments Nos. 265B, 289A and 290 to 294. All of these will extend the scope of the waste strategy which the Secretary of State is required to draw up under the new Section 44A which Clause 75 inserts into the Environmental Protection Act 1990. I know from the Second Reading debate that there is widespread support for a national waste strategy, and this support is also reflected outside this House in industry, local government and environmental groups.

Amendment No. 265B would specifically require the strategy to cover waste production as well as waste recovery and disposal as presently provided, while Amendments Nos. 289A and 290 to 294 would each extend the objectives defined in the new Schedule 2A of the 1990 Act, which is inserted by Schedule 11 of this Bill. The additional objectives include ensuring that waste is managed in accordance with the national sustainable development strategy; achieving targets and providing incentives for reuse and recycling; identifying and encouraging markets for recycled products; and stabilising or reducing waste production, especially agrochemical wastes, containers and packaging materials which are hazardous. These are all very laudable objectives which I wholeheartedly support. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, has already mentioned,

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last Tuesday we issued a draft waste strategy for England and Wales for public consultation. This sets out a framework of policies to achieve sustainable waste management. We have allowed an extended consultation period until 28th April and hope to stimulate a wide debate about our waste management policies, with the intention of finalising the strategy by the summer.

The draft waste strategy is firmly rooted in the principles of the national sustainable development strategy and builds on that by proposing practical steps for future action. It is concerned with the production as well as the recovery and disposal of waste and will achieve all the objectives proposed in these amendments. In particular, the draft strategy proposes a target of stabilising the production of household waste at its present (1995) level. The Government plan to set targets for industrial and commercial waste in due course when sufficient information on these waste streams is available. At the same time, we intend to keep the target for household waste under review with a view to moving as soon as practicable to a target of progressive reduction.

We have also proposed targets for reducing the proportion of controlled waste going to landfill by 10 per cent. over the next 10 years, with a further 10 per cent. reduction in the following 10 years. We already have a target of recycling 25 per cent. of household waste by the year 2000, and have recently set a new target to increase the use of recycled waste materials as aggregates in England from 30 million tonnes per year at present to 55 million tonnes by 2006.

The draft strategy places emphasis on the use of market instruments to promote waste recycling and recovery. Some of these, such as the recycling credits scheme are already in place. Others are proposed, such as the new landfill tax which my right honourable friend the Chancellor announced in his Budget Statement and the producer responsibility initiative for which provision is made later in the Bill. The draft strategy also recognises the need to encourage the growth of new markets for recycled materials.

The priority which we give to waste reduction in the draft strategy applies just as much to the reduction of agrochemical waste and hazardous containers and packaging which is referred to in Amendment No. 294. MAFF and HSE have also issued extensive guidance on the disposal of waste pesticide concentrates, waste packaging and other contaminated materials through the Government's Code of Practice for the Safe Use of Pesticides on Farms and Holdings.

As your Lordships will appreciate, therefore, we have no difficulty in making provision in a waste strategy for the types of policy set out in these amendments. However, the scope of the strategy, and the objectives set out in the new Schedule 2A to the Environmental Protection Act 1990 are those set by the amended EC Framework Directive on Waste for the waste management plans which that directive requires. The waste disposal plans drawn up by waste regulation authorities under Section 50 of the Environmental Protection Act currently satisfy in part the directive's requirements for plans. In future, that element of the implementation of the directive will

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need to be met by the waste strategies drawn up by the Secretary of State and SEPA. It is unnecessary, and indeed it would be undesirable, to extend the scope of the strategies and their objectives beyond those required by the directive. Indeed, it can be argued that all the proposed amendments are already covered by the scope and objectives of the strategies in Clause 75 and Schedule 11.

I hope that I have convinced the Committee that the Government are firmly committed to the policy of sustainable waste management by reducing waste production and increasing the levels of reuse and recycling, and that it is unnecessary to extend the scope and objectives of the strategies beyond those which are required by EC law.

Amendment No. 265A would require the Secretary of State to issue a national waste strategy within three months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent. Such a requirement would be neither practical nor sensible. As the Bill makes clear, the preparation of a strategy would require considerable prior work by the environment agency, including the carrying out of a survey of waste. Such a survey alone would take the best part of a year. Time would then have to be allowed for other preparation, including consultation, an aspect in which the Committee has rightly shown considerable interest.

Amendment No. 266 is concerned with the area covered by a strategy in England and Wales. I have to point out that the amendment would have no material effect on the meaning of these provisions. The issues which need to be covered in a waste strategy are generally common to both Wales and England, and our approach to waste management policy in each country is the same. The Government therefore believe that a single waste strategy covering the whole of England and Wales is the most effective means of presenting their policies. However, circumstances may change, and the Bill accordingly makes provision in new Section 44A(2) (b) for the preparation of separate statements for different areas of England and Wales. If it appeared appropriate at the time, one of those could relate to the whole of Wales.

Amendment No. 266ZA would require the Secretary of State to review the strategy annually besides modifying it from time to time. The production of such a strategy is a major undertaking. Annual review would be inappropriate for many of the targets it will contain, which will need an implementation period of longer than one year—in some cases considerably longer. Moreover, annual review would sit uncomfortably with the timescale required for a national waste survey.

Finally, Amendment No. 266AA seeks to ensure that any direction from the Secretary of State to the agency regarding modifications of the strategy should require it to advise him on policies which have already been included in the strategy. There is no need for the amendment. Any direction requiring the agency to advise on the policies to be included in a modified version of the strategy could require it to report on the advisability of retaining the existing policies. Indeed, that would be the natural starting point for any review and development of the strategy.

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We are sympathetic to the motives behind the amendments, but I hope that I have persuaded the Committee that in the circumstances they are unnecessary.

In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, the draft waste strategy document accepts the need for more information being made available and collected. Therefore, an information-gathering unit is being set up within the department in order to advise the Secretary of State. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness and other Members of the Committee who have put down amendments will feel able to withdraw their amendments.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness David: I am sorry to come in after the Minister has spoken, but I have now found my briefing for Amendments Nos. 290 to 292 and I should like to make a point about saving our peatlands.

Opportunities to develop soil improvers and growing media from organic waste are not being fully exploited. The Wildlife Trusts, together with other leading conservation, archaeological and geological organisations, have been working for over five years to safeguard peatlands. The UK produces sufficient organic waste material to completely replace peat in horticulture, landscaping and gardening. If peat were to be replaced, peat bogs would be saved from further damaging exploitation and could be rehabilitated. Ninety seven per cent. of lowland bogs in England and Wales and 90 per cent. of those in Scotland have been destroyed or damaged.

The opportunity could be taken to export technology into Europe and reduce current peat imports. Forty per cent. of peat used is imported, mostly from Ireland, where 94 per cent. of raised bogs have already been destroyed or damaged.

In August 1994 The Wildlife Trusts published Growing Wiser: Case Studies on the Successful Use of Peat-free Products and held a major conference on that theme. The use of alternatives is becoming more common, but many professional growers are likely to remain reluctant to switch from peat until greater incentives are available. Incentives to discourage disposal of organic waste should stimulate more research into reuse of materials and improve the current cost differential (peat is very cheap to buy, unfortunately).

I conclude by saying that peat bogs have been identified as priority habitats under the EC habitats and species directive. The point of Amendments Nos. 290 to 292 is to encourage the use of waste to replace the use of peat, which we wish to save.


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