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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, who, likewise, I am happy to sit opposite again, has partly answered the question raised by the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. As I said at Second Reading, this is a relatively modest and narrow Bill. This provision is intended to fulfil commitments under the Landfill Directive. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, implied, the Government will also fully implement the provisions of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive and the End of Life Vehicles Directive. If we were to legislate in the Bill for the totality of the waste strategy, we should cover a much wider area than even the amendment tempts us to do. We already have the Waste Strategy 2000, which deals with wider issues of waste and what might be needed as a result of the recent Performance and Innovation Unit report on waste strategy. But this part of the Bill is specifically and time-committed to deliver the Landfill Directive.
The other two directives, which have yet to be transposedthe WEEE Directive and the End of Life Vehicle Directivespecify targets for recovery, reuse and recycling of equipment sent for treatment and for the reuse, recovery and recycling of end-of-life vehicles. Those targets are in those directives and we fully intend to implement them. Those targets are pretty challenging as well and will be dealt with in the normal transposition.
Indeed, to incorporate the targets in advance of that transposition and then provide further targets in line with the ones for biodegradable municipal waste could be seen in a different context. I can see the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, saying that that was gold plating in advance of the coming directives. The focus of this Bill is on the Landfill Directive.
Moreover, the Government have a policy to minimise waste which arises, rather than specifying maximum quantities allowed in landfill. So we are aiming to increase the quantity of material, in this context as well, that is reused, recycled and recovered, in line with what is in the waste strategythat is, in line with the waste hierarchy and the strategy that we will be adopting from the PIU report. Clearly, therefore, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, implies, there are much wider issues for the Government to tackle, but this is not the place to tackle them. They will be dealt with either by the transposition of directives or they in line with our broader waste strategy. It is important that we focus on what is provided in the Bill rather than
I therefore hope that the Committee will not pursue the amendment because it would hugely widen the Bill and have substantial consequences for later stages of our consideration. We need to deliver the Landfill Directive and this is the means whereby we are doing so.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I listened to what the noble Lord said and one thing struck me very forcefully: namely that it is the Government's policy to minimise waste. If that is what we want to do, the Bill starts from the wrong end. I said that on Second Reading and repeat it now. It seems strange that we are to deal with landfill problems through the Bill, rather than starting at the other end by trying to minimise waste. The people of this country are deluged by waste which is then put into landfill sites. We should start at the other end by persuading manufacturers and others not to produce so much wastepacking their goods in so much waste and delivering newspapers and other things to people's doors that they are unable to reject. The problem at the landfill sites could then be much more easily dealt with.
I think that the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Dixon-Smith, have in mind that instead of dealing with the matter piecemeal, the Government should be dealing as a whole with the production of packaging and waste which goes to landfill, the recycling of waste and its final disposal. It seems to meand no doubt to most other reasonable peoplethat it should be tackled as a complete problem rather than in this piecemeal way.
Lord Glentoran: I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. For some time, I have been only on the fringe of this Bill and the issues related to it. It is sometimes beneficial to focus on the small package that appears to be meaningful and then to deal with it. I sense that that is what the Government are attempting to do with the Bill and with the issue of municipal waste.
Since first reading the Bill and looking at the Explanatory Notes, I have been worried not by what is in the Bill but by what is missing from it. As we go through it, I am worried, as, I am sure, is the Minister, about the overlaps that will inevitably occur because of the things which are left out of the Bill and which are not necessarily municipal waste in black bags, such as financial planning and fly-tipping. More often, such items will be motor cars and fridges and so on.
Unless we are careful and take account of the WEEE and End of Life Vehicles Directives, what we debate and finally pass as an Act into the public domain will make interpretation extremely difficult for both local authorities and the judiciary. It will be difficult to decide where the lines are drawn when cases arrive in court, as they inevitably will do.
The noble Lord wants seriously to resist this issue, and one side of me has considerable sympathy with that approach. However, I am also seriously worried that many issues are not covered by the Bill. Those will inevitably leak out in a big way when they reach people in the countrylocal authorities, district councils, the industry itself and those of us who want to find someone who will take 50 quid to dispose of a fridge for us. The impact of the problem and the managing, handling and disposing of all waste produce in the United Kingdom are matters which are not dealt with in the Bill.
Lord Hanningfield: I would add to those comments and endorse them but I must immediately declare an interest as leader of Essex County Council, which is one of the largest authorities in the country for disposable waste. It will be very much affected and will have to implement the Bill, which is putting the cart before the horse.
I agree that we would like some legislation to reduce waste. Holland, for example, has considerable legislation that helps to minimise waste. The Bill will affect and penalise local authorities without assisting them to minimise waste, which is what it should be about.
The Waste Not, Want Not strategy was published a month or two ago, and I gather that there was a waste summit a year ago last November, but there has not been much further action by the Government since then. One would have liked to have seen some real thought about minimising waste, and something included in the Bill about that. It will be very difficult to implement the Bill without some real help in minimising waste.
Lord Dixon-Smith: Before the Minister responds for a second time, even if we accept the exclusion of what I would call white goods, cars and electronic goods, we are still missing the greater part of the problem of what goes to landfill anyway, because most of those items do not. Instead they go to what in some places is called land reforming, where they are used to create mountains. Mountains of waste fridges do not look very nice.
There is an immense amount of inert waste of all sortseverything from building footings to rubble from old buildings, timber and so on, which could possibly be reused, although much of it is smashed to pieces as the building is demolished. Much if not all of that goes back into landfill. It would be interesting to hear whether the Landfill Directive is exclusive to the issue of biodegradable domestic refuse or whether it is generally a landfill problem. If it is generally a landfill problem, then frankly what we are dealing with here is missing part of the point. If on the other hand, it is specifically drawn, we are dealing with a different issue. It would be interesting to hear whether there is a linkage, because there certainly ought to be.
Lord Greaves: The Minister referred to the Government's overall strategies, which do of course exist. There is the Waste Strategy 2000 for England and Wales, and the thick document, which has just been
The existence of those strategic policy documents increases the power of the argument that what we need is legislation which deals with the problem as a whole. The Minister said that there are many interesting things to be discussed, but that this is not the place to do it. I understand his point of view in relation to the Bill, but he will equally understand the frustration experienced by those of us in other parts of the House and some of the organisations who have been considering the Bill on behalf of local government, the waste industry, the environmental movement, or whoever, who see it as a wasted opportunity.
I have no doubt that the Minister's response to many amendments that we will be discussing in Committee will be exactly the same. No doubt he will get thoroughly weary of giving the same response that what we propose is all very interesting, necessary and important, but not part of what he wants to do through the Bill.
Equally, it is absolutely right that we should use the opportunity of the Bill to probe the Government's wider intentions, not least because the Bill cannot avoid being broadened in its implications. It will not exist and operate in a vacuum. It will have knock-on effects, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, on, for example, fly-tipping. It may have knock-on effects on incineration if in order to meet the Bill's requirements there is greater pressure on waste disposal authorities to go for more incineration, which we would certainly deplore. There may be implications for other kinds of landfill, such as inert waste, about which the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith has just spoken.
It seems that a measure is being introduced to place a huge amount of pressure on waste collection and disposal authorities to minimise waste in order to meet these targets, but the measure itself does not help them to do so. It is perfectly right and proper that we should probe what the Government are doing to assist them to do that, so that they can carry out the requirements of this Bill. Without that assistance, the Bill will be meaningless. If the amount of biodegradable municipal waste that turns up at landfills does not reduce year on year in line with the targets, the whole thing will fall apart. People may be penalised, but the whole thing will still fall apart.