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Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I have been listening intently to the Minister, and I am grateful to him for giving way. My point was that there should be a moratorium until we have discovered that there are no health hazards and that incineration is environmentally the best way to deal with waste. The moratorium will not last forever if we can prove that.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it is certainly necessary to consider the health hazards arising from all methods of incineration, but it also true that emissions of dioxins from modern incinerator plants are very low. The exaggerated fears that are often portrayed during planning decisions and other assessments of incineration proposals are rather misplaced and based on older technologies and memories of different forms of incineration that are certainly not proposed in this country to deal with future waste.

The noble Baroness also asked a few questions about the landfill tax credit scheme. The ministerial group announced in the Pre-Budget Report Statement that we would consider how to deploy that scheme more effectively and what money should go to local authorities and others. The objectives of that scheme

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will clearly include the need to ensure that landfill tax increases are revenue-neutral so that all the money will be recycled either to industry or local authorities. That reform of the scheme was announced in the PBR along with the increase in landfill tax to 35 a tonne.

We continue to develop our approach to supporting councils, helping them to improve their performance. In the past two or three years, most local authorities appear to be taking their responsibilities much more seriously. Rather than being a relatively ghettoised area for local authorities, waste management has become a mainstream, top-priority area. We have tried to increase pressure to ensure that that occurs by writing to the leaders of local authorities whose recycling targets do not appear to be improving at a rate consistent with achieving our targets for 2003-04. We want those local authorities to be clear how they will achieve the targets and be accountable for their performance. We will need to intervene if they continue to appear to be failing to meet the targets.

Several other issues were raised. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked about what was included in the recycling targets. In particular, he referred to the recycling of rubble. Rubble is excluded because the focus is on household waste. Some rubble may be household waste, but most of it is commercial waste. It can be distorting, if it is included in the total target, because it is extremely heavy. The noble Lord also mentioned home composting. It is also excluded because it is difficult to measure. Many see it as a waste minimisation measure, rather than an issue relating to how waste is dealt with.

The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, referred to the need to raise public awareness. The Strategy Unit has recommended two education programmes to be taken forward under WRAP. We are certainly taking that up.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, referred to the problems that arose when formal measures of waste disposal failed and people engaged in fly-tipping. The noble Lord implied that the powers of the Environment Agency and the local authorities were insufficient. The Environment Act 1995 does not mean that they have those powers, but we are amending the Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991 to enable local authorities to do more to tackle the problem. They will enable local authorities to check business waste transfer notes and to check the origin of the fly-tipping. That should lead to better enforcement.

The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, also referred to the need to reduce the generation of waste. That is certainly high in everyone's consciousness. We look to several measures, such as the packaging and packaging waste directive to reduce the amount of waste created in the first place.

The point is to set up incentives, targets and support mechanisms that deliver the right results. We need a suite of indicators for local authorities and a suite of support measures for local authorities, so that we have a measure of growth, on the one hand, and a measure of the management of waste, through recycling,

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composting, incineration and so on, on the other. We need all local authorities to develop an effective strategy to meet their recycling targets and minimise their use of landfill. We will develop targets that will measure all those things and will require local authorities to take some strong measures to meet them.

I welcome this important debate. I commend to noble Lords the report of the Strategy Unit and the recommendations contained therein. The Government

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will respond in full to the report in the new year. We will also take into account the points made in the debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and I am grateful that the voice of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, lasted—mine almost did. I send my best wishes to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for his recovery, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, for her contribution in his stead.

        House adjourned at twelve minutes before nine o'clock.

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