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Lord Ezra: My Lords, the Minister referred to recycling. Does he consider that enough is being done to encourage recycling? Further, in respect of those materials that cannot be recycled, does he think that enough is being done to ensure that they should be incinerated and converted into electricity?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it is clear that not enough is being done and that we need to intensify our efforts both in terms of waste management authorities and in terms of commercial and other activities. We have a target for reclaimed waste of 40 per cent, with 25 per cent being recycled or composted. That 25 per cent is well above what we are achieving at present, which is around 8 per cent. However, that target has already been achieved by some of our European partners.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one area where the Government could set an example is in dealing with the increasing amount of waste on motorways and trunk roads? The Highways Agency has a contract in respect of each area for the removal of waste. Does the Minister agree that what is needed is a much more vigorous enforcement of the terms of the contract, with appropriate penalties when contractors leave roads in a filthy state?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I have no doubt that there are such examples on our roads. I can assure the noble

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Lord that the Highways Agency will pay attention to enforcing those contracts, but the objective indices that have been drawn up suggest an improving situation on our highways. Nevertheless, I take the noble Lord's point that we could do better.

Baroness Hogg: My Lords, does the Minister accept that a great deal of fly-tipping takes place because sites that are supposedly available for dumping are not open at weekends? Can he say whether the Government's framework requires the sites to be open at weekends?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the requirements for civic amenity tips are that they should be reasonably accessible and open at all "reasonable times". However, the latter is interpreted in somewhat different ways by local authorities. So there will be some tips that are not available during weekends or at other hours that might be more convenient to householders. We expect local authorities to address those problems.

Viscount Simon: My Lords, I take a slightly different tack from that of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. Would it not be a better idea not only to enforce the contracts but also to put into force the existing legislation against those people who actually deposit rubbish in the first place?

Lord Whitty: Yes, my Lords. However, the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, referred to motorways. In that case, it may be slightly difficult to identify who deposited the rubbish in the first place. Clearly, where we can identify the offender, severe measures should taken and fines up to £2,500 are appropriate in those circumstances.


2.55 p.m.

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have expressed any concern about the new coalition Government in Austria.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have made clear their deep concern and distaste at the inclusion in the Austrian Government of a far-Right party, which appeals to xenophobia. We have welcomed the fact that the new Austrian Government have committed themselves to abiding by the common obligations and values of EU membership, to combating all forms of discrimination, and to dealing constructively with the country's Nazi past. But we shall be watching them closely and judging them on whether they fulfil the commitments that they have made.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for explaining so clearly the Government's commitment to gesture politics.

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However, as the French and the Italian parties and governments are full of re-cycled and unrepentant communists, can she tell us why we did not hear a squeak of protest when they were appointed? Why were the Government so shy about wheeling out their political conscience on that occasion?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, both the Italian and French Governments are constructed in a rather complex way. As regards this matter, we obviously have to respond on a case-by-case basis. The Austrian Government have within their membership an extreme Right-wing element, which is intrinsically against some of the fundamental principles that bind the EU together. We could not be silent. We were silent once before and, internationally, we paid the price.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, perhaps we should try to get away from all the controversy over this issue. Does the noble Baroness agree that this problem about Mr Haider's party arises wholly and solely as the result of proportional representation? Does she still think that it is a good idea?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, each country has to make its choice. It is the way in which Austria has chosen to form the parties. Noble Lords will remember that this was not a problem for Austria for 13 years and the way in which proportional representation brought forward a government seemed to inure to Austria's benefit. Obviously it is a matter of great concern that the construction of its government now is materially different.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister say whether the Government are concerned that Mr Haider's FPO party will legitimise and increase support for other far-Right parties in the UK and in Europe?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we are concerned about that possibility. It is not insignificant that 27 per cent of those who voted for Mr Haider were young males under the age of 30. It is a matter of concern. Other countries in Europe have experienced similar indications. Obviously it is a matter about which we must express concern and upon which we must keep a close watching eye.

Lord Hurd of Westwell: My Lords, perhaps I may press the noble Baroness gently on what she wants to happen next. Presumably, if this is a policy it has an objective. Do the Government want the Austrians to go back to the cosy coalition that they have just rejected? Do they want fresh elections, which might strengthen Mr Haider? If there is no policy objective because, as my noble friend suggested, it is just a gesture tossed into the headlines, can the noble Baroness say how long that gesture will last?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, this is not simply a "gesture tossed into the headlines". Indeed, if I may respectfully say so, to put it that way does not

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give value to the seriousness of this particular situation. We are fully committed to the measures that the other 13 EU countries have adopted. We believe that it is important to give a clear signal of our concern at the inclusion of a far-Right party, which advocates xenophobia, in the government of another EU country. We have welcomed the fact that the new Austrian Government have committed themselves to abiding by the common obligations and we shall watch to see whether they deliver. That is an important signal to have given. They have responded in a limited way. We are very much--if I may put it colloquially--"watching this space".

Lord Dahrendorf: My Lords, while I appreciate some of the answers that the Minister has given, there remains one big question; namely, given the fact that the Austrian condition is different from, for example, that of Greece 30 years ago when the colonels took over and where the objective was quite clearly to restore democracy, what exactly will Austria have to do at the end of the day for normal, bilateral relations to be re-established, and for Ministers of Her Majesty's Government to be prepared to be photographed with old colleagues with whom they were frequently photographed smiling in the past?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, one cannot set this in stone but it is quite clear that the threat which is inherent in some of the statements that Mr Haider and others have propagated has to be demonstrated as not having any validity or strength. We simply cannot say that yet. We have had a helpful indication and a commitment from Austria. However, we have to wait to see whether that is worth the paper it is written on. Some noble Lords in this House will remember--this was before my time--someone else saying, "I have a piece of paper". However, Britain discovered what that paper was worth.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, according to the BBC World Service two countries--one of which is Belgium--have apparently made an application for Austria to be suspended from the European Union. I wonder upon what grounds it can be suspended. I think that I know the Amsterdam Treaty and, indeed, the Maastricht Treaty pretty well. There is nothing there which at the present time would justify the expulsion of Austria from the European Union. Will my noble friend confirm that there has been such an application by two countries? What will be Her Majesty's Government's attitude towards that application?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am not in a position to confirm that there has been any such application. There is nothing at the moment which would indicate that expulsion from the European Union is being contemplated.

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