Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Page 151, line 13, after second ("the") insert ("minimisation,")

The noble Baroness said: With this amendment, we move into the detail of the waste strategy or new waste strategy, or whatever it will be known as. This amendment seeks, as did several other amendments that we had in this group but have withdrawn, to include the word "minimisation" and the concept of minimisation in the mayor's waste strategy.

When we come to the subject of a waste strategy, to omit the word "minimisation" is to ignore what is happening with the whole of the waste production stream. Originally, the Government had a target that 25 per cent of household waste would be recycled by the year 2000. London is recycling 11 per cent of its waste at the moment, and that fairly patchily. Some boroughs are doing very much better than others. The borough of my noble friend Lord Tope is doing especially well in that respect.

However, it is very uphill work. No matter how hard the boroughs work to recycle as much as they can, waste seems to grow and grow. Simply aiming to recycle the waste and transport it in a more efficient way, together with all the other current objectives that the strategy aims to achieve, is absolutely not enough if any real impact is to be made in this area. In fact, minimisation should be the prime responsibility of the mayor if he takes a long term view.

Recycling initiatives have experienced great difficulties for a number of reasons. They are not in themselves particularly energy efficient and it is often difficult to use the end products again, although I believe that industry and commerce are getting much better at tackling this area of work. In addition, whichever way we look at it, the landfill sites are running out. By 2010, the south-east region is likely to run out of space for landfill site disposals. Incinerators

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1502

certainly represent one possible change of direction. However, they are going to hit very hard the people who do not want them in their back yards. In any event, in terms of environmental sustainability, minimisation has to be the way forward.

However, minimisation is incredibly much more difficult to achieve. It will mean persuading people that they want to do without things or do them in a more difficult way. For example, when we adjourned for our dinner break--for which we were all duly grateful--many members of staff in the canteen were taking away their meals in take-away boxes. Although that sort of practice makes life easier for all of us, it would have to stop under a minimisation plan because it produces vast amounts of waste.

The mayor needs to be given some ammunition to target those things which people will reluctantly give up. Large shops will be reluctant to give up practices which make packaging and selling easier; they will prefer to recycle them, because it is cheaper in the short term and they do not have to look at different ways of doing things. But minimisation is absolutely essential and must form part of the mayor's strategy. Anything else would be short term. Minimisation is the medium and long-term future. It must be on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: I find myself in almost total agreement with the noble Baroness in terms of what she said, with the possible exception of the implied abolition of the dinner break. What the noble Baroness proposes in this amendment could actually lead to the exact opposite result. Waste minimisation is such an integral part of waste management that separating it out, as proposed by the amendment, would send the message that waste minimisation and waste management were two different things. That seems to me to be entirely the wrong message and, indeed, the wrong implication of what the noble Baroness was just saying.

Therefore, although I totally agree that waste minimisation is absolutely a central part of waste management and the whole waste strategy, to say that it is different would actually give the wrong message to the mayor as regards the way in which the strategy was drawn up. I hope that the noble Baroness will accept my support for almost everything she said, but that she will not actually pursue the amendment.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: Before my noble friend decides what to do with the amendment, perhaps I may add a few words to the debate. We really are getting into a very strange situation where things which are most important are left out of the Bill and those which are less important are left in the Bill; in other words, part of the waste management strategy is in the Bill but part of it has to be kept out of it. Either we should just talk about waste management, or we should talk about all the elements of waste management. We should not be selecting waste management and some of its elements, which is what is in the Bill at present.

I urge the Minister to rethink these clauses, which are not very well drafted, in the context of the guidance of the Department of Environment and that under the

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1503

Environment Act, which everyone has been seeking. The whole idea of waste minimisation is a central part of that process. Although the abstraction by the collection authorities and the recycling of products is very important and forms part of the waste minimisation idea, the latter is also an attempt to try to encourage people--for example, those who run large businesses--to demand less packaging from their suppliers. A whole host of things, like making encouraging noises and the kind of leadership role that we expect the mayor to take, can be exercised through the word "minimisation" in what is, particularly in major cities, one of the major strategies which the mayor has to get right.

We have talked a good deal during the proceedings on the Bill about the effect of what happens in London on other local areas. I do not believe that there is anything that London does which causes more ill-humour and more disadvantage to its surrounding areas than waste management, or lack of waste management. This is something that we need to get right in the context of this Bill. Alongside my noble friend, I urge the Government to take the matter a little more seriously.

10. 45 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: While my noble friend was speaking, I searched again through Clause 283 to determine what the Minister meant when he said that although he agreed with everything I had said the Bill already placed an adequate duty on the mayor to ensure that waste is minimised. However, I failed to find any such duty. Clause 283 refers only to,

    "the Mayor's proposals and policies for the recovery, treatment and disposal of municipal waste".

The Bill concentrates on dealing with waste as it occurs and does not seek to place a duty on anyone to minimise it. We shall certainly return to this matter. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 451A not moved.]

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood moved Amendment No. 451B:

Page 151, line 14, leave out ("municipal")

The noble Baroness said: The object of this amendment is to remove the word "municipal" from the waste management strategy. We could have tabled a large number of amendments all saying the same thing. We have simply chosen this one in order to discuss the principle of the matter.

The definition of "municipal waste" as provided for in this Bill--my noble friend will discuss this in a moment--is rather curious; namely, all that waste which reaches the waste collectors. That is it. However, that is not a satisfactory description of waste. It would be better to talk simply of waste management and not of municipal waste management. Then the mayor would have a strategic role in dealing with waste management and minimisation through to disposal of the waste that arises in London. That would include, for example, builders' rubble and dangerous waste, to which reference was made earlier in the Committee stage.

27 Jul 1999 : Column 1504

The Minister has told us many times that we must not restrict the mayor's freedom and capacity for action. However, to my way of thinking this description of municipal waste does just that. I repeat to some extent the point I made earlier. The Bill does not state that the mayor should act in a leadership role to encourage businesses to deal sensibly with their waste. It simply states that whatever waste comes into the hands of the waste collection authorities shall be dealt with under a mayoral strategy. I believe that it would be better for the mayor to have the freedom to consider how all of London's waste is disposed of, whether it is disposed of, or recovered, or managed, or reduced by the private sector under his encouragement, or whether it is dealt with by the waste collection and disposal authorities through their contracts with the private sector. It seems to me that the word "municipal" is a limiting as well as a rather curious definition within the waste terminology. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I support the amendments spoken to by my noble friend. I hope that the Minister will explain what is the point of the mayor's waste strategy. It is surely to turn waste into something that is less costly to deal with and to minimise it and, where possible, to obtain energy from waste, for example. Given that those are the sorts of objective that the mayor's strategy should aim at, the kind of waste that he has to deal with is not particularly relevant. He should establish broad, long-term aims that may encompass many kinds of waste which will be dealt with in different ways.

The source of waste is perhaps the least important concern; what matters is where it goes and what benefits and drawbacks there are in its disposal. Perhaps the Minister could define how this purpose is served by trying to split waste into many different categories. The waste collection and disposal authorities at borough level should have regard to dealing with particular kinds of waste, not the mayor.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page