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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not believe that my noble friend Lord Whitty would thank me for saying that waste was not important. Our debates on the subject show that many noble Lords think it is important. As regards whether there should be a target rather than an aspiration, as I indicated in my Answer the Chancellor, in his Pre-Budget Report, confirmed that in the next spending round the Government will not only raise significantly the amount of overseas development assistance but also its share in national income. That is a good way of expressing a target.

Baroness Boothroyd: My Lords, does the Minister have before him figures which indicate the amount of development aid that is devoted to family planning and population policies? If not, perhaps he would let me have such figures in the foreseeable future.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sorry, I do not have those figures in front of me. I shall certainly let the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, have them and I shall place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I appreciate the tireless enthusiasm of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, on these matters. Does the Minister nevertheless accept that the sheer volume of overseas official aid is often a poor trigger for sustainable development and wealth creation? In fact, in many instances, it has had the reverse effect. Does he further accept that when

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one looks at total resources going to developing countries, and includes private investment flows, the figures for the recent past look much better. They are near the target of 0.7 per cent and were even higher in the early 1990s. Does he further agree that the Chancellor's recent pronouncements on the need to increase our aid efforts and his talk of a Marshall Plan, include some reliance on overseas private investment? Therefore, if the figures are already looking quite good, what is new?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it is true that the original United Nations target included both private and public assistance. However, arising from what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said and as the World Bank confirms, it is important not to tie public overseas development assistance to commercial investment. The World Bank has produced a figure which shows that official development assistance is 25 per cent more efficient if it is not tied to commercial programmes. That has been a significant part of the Government's policy on ODA.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, in the instrument on arms sales to third countries agreed in December 1993 by the OSCE, is there not a condition that states will not sell armaments to countries where such sales would constitute a material diversion of the resources available for development? Furthermore, is not the proposed sale of the 28 million military air control system to Tanzania a flagrant breach of that obligation? Will the Government think again and try not to set an example that would serve only to hinder the universal observance of an agreement which has stood us in good stead?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I know no more about the case to which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has referred than I have read in the newspapers. No official decision has been taken on the matter.

Disposal of Fridges and Freezers

11.20 a.m.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice they are currently giving to consumers in respect of disposal of freezers and fridges in light of the requirements of EC. Reg. No. 2037/2000 being applicable from 1st January 2002.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, my department has published an information leaflet for consumers advising them how to dispose of their old fridges and freezers safely. The leaflet has also been posted on my department's website and has been widely circulated electronically to retailers, including small businesses dealing in white goods, trade associations and local

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authorities. We have asked retailers to place copies of the leaflet in their shops and to give them to customers buying a new fridge.

The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Can he afford further comfort to consumers on this matter by advising the House how far advanced plans are to provide a recycling plant to deal with the problem? Can he further advise the House on the availability in the UK of appropriately trained mechanics qualified to remove all the CFCs from fridges and freezers?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the problem is not the availability of appropriately skilled labour, but rather the availability of a dedicated plant to remove CFCs from the foam within fridges. Part of the problem has been that, until a few months ago, we did not believe that the European directive required the removal of CFCs from the foam as distinct from the coolant contained in fridges. As yet there is no capability available in the United Kingdom for delivering the removal of foam. Therefore, there will be a burden on local authorities in particular as regards the storage of fridges and freezers until such facilities come on stream. We are in contact with a number of potential investors in such plant. The expertise is already in place because plants of this kind are already operating on the Continent.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, the decision that the regulation should apply to domestic fridges was first made in February 2000 at the Environment Council. That decision was confirmed in June 2000 when the regulation was approved. The regulation is clear and the Government cannot wriggle out of the obligation by suggesting that they did not understand it. Paragraph 16.2 states:


    "Controlled substances contained in domestic refrigerators and freezers shall be recovered and dealt with as provided for in paragraph 1 after 31st December 2001".

Why has it taken the Government 18 months since the regulation was first approved to issue guidance and to set standards for the recovery of this material? Was it simply that the Government forgot about the problem, forgot what they had agreed to, did not understand what they had agreed to, or were simply negligent? Is this not an instance where the Government should stop trying to defend the indefensible? They should hold up their hands and say, "Sorry, we made a mistake. We are human, after all. We made a botch of it".

Lord Whitty: My Lords, in this festive season I am perfectly prepared to accept that the Government are human. However, this is a complex matter. It is certainly true to say that some serious clarification has had to be made as regards exactly what was meant in the regulation. I am due to respond to a Written Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. I shall give the full sequence of events in my Answer. However, the fact remains that, as late as February of last year, the Commission circulated a table of

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clarification on what the directive meant which stated that it did not cover foams. That clarification was in line with the intentions of the directive at that time.

However, subsequently and after much badgering by the British Government to have further clarification, in June of this year the European Commission provided a final interpretation which indicated that the regulation did in fact require the recovery of controlled substances from insulating foam. Having received that clarification, the Government have attempted to deal with retailers and with local authorities.

I do not minimise the fact that there is now a problem. Virtually all retailers have ceased to take back old fridges, which has been the traditional way of disposing of around 40 per cent of the market. There is therefore an additional burden on local authorities, as well as an additional danger of fridges being dumped. The Government and local authorities are trying to deal with the issue. We have announced that additional resources are to be made available to local authorities to do so.

Baroness Fookes: My Lords, the Minister waved a leaflet which contains guidance on this matter. What does it actually say?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it explains that local authorities are responsible for removing fridges. They can charge for that service. Some do and some do not. As regards the disposal of an old fridge, the appliance can be taken to a local civic amenity site for disposal free of charge or it is possible to arrange for the fridge to be collected. As I have said, some local authorities will charge for that service. The leaflet further explains that the new law will come into force from 1st January 2002, stating that the CFCs and HCFCs in old refrigerators and freezers must be removed. Of course, newer fridges will not contain such material. Generally speaking, it is the older fridges that are being disposed of.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I declare an interest as an adviser to the electrical equipment manufacturers' section of the Federation of Electronic Industries. Is the Minister aware of a time-bomb ticking away in Brussels that is wonderfully entitled the WEEE directive? It will bring forward further responsibilities as regards the disposal of waste electrical equipment. Is the Minister confident that the balance of responsibility between the consumer, the retailer and the manufacturer has been set correctly in the directive? Are the Government better prepared for the WEEE directive than they were for the disposal of fridges?


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