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Official Report of the Grand Committee on the

Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [HL]

(Second Day) Wednesday, 18th December 2002.

The Committee met at half-past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Skelmersdale) in the Chair.]

Clause 8 [Duty not to exceed allowances]:

Lord Hanningfield moved Amendment No. 48:

    Page 7, line 12, at end insert—

"( ) All monies in respect to financial penalties collected as set out under section 8(2) and (3) will be hypothecated directly to waste disposal authorities as directed by the allocating authority."

The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 48. We have spoken several times during debate on previous amendments about the financial problems of the Bill and the money that it will cost local authorities. Here, of course, if the Bill is enacted, there will be some income from the fines that will be paid. Rather than that the fines end up in the Chancellor's pocket or in some other area, we believe it is important that the money should be used to compensate for some of the other costs associated with the Bill. In fact, it should go back to the waste area, either to help recycling or to help in another area associated with this legislation.

We are suggesting that the fines should be hypothecated back. We would obviously have to find a mechanism for doing that and we are not suggesting how such a mechanism should work. It could be done through DEFRA or through the Environment Agency. The money could go to the Environment Agency and to local authorities to help in this area. Obviously something has to be done with the money from the fines. I hope that the Government will take on board the amendment as a way of easing some of the other financial problems that we talked about during debate on earlier amendments to the Bill. I beg to move.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): As the noble Lord explained, the amendment would require that the penalties imposed on waste disposal authorities go back to the allocating authority so that the money raised could be used to support waste disposal. One can understand the attractions of that proposition as it would keep the money in the system to be used to best effect.

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However, the suggestion cuts across a number of normal principles of public financing. Not only is it hypothecation, which, by and large, our colleagues in Great George Street are not keen on, but it also cuts across the general view that the fined income should not be set against expenditure in the same field because that would provide a perverse incentive and sanctions money normally goes back into the Exchequer. The proposition in the amendment would also relate to other parts of the United Kingdom, as well as to England, and our devolved colleagues require flexibility in that respect.

Having said that, and having put down serious caveats from the point of view of overall government finance, all the Strategy Unit report proposals, which have funding implications in general, are currently under consideration inter-departmentally. Any proposition which relates to this area is therefore being considered in that context. In that sense, I should not like to rule out the proposition put forward by the noble Lord. However, the issue may not be resolved during the course of the Bill's proceedings within this House, although it may before the Bill completes its course through Parliament.

Therefore, I cannot give any indication that I shall return with a proposition that would go some way to meeting the objectives of the amendment. I understand the motivation behind it, but the issue needs to be seen in the wider context. We shall need to be clearer on that point at a significantly later stage in the Bill but, at present, I cannot accept the amendment.

Lord Hanningfield: I am grateful for the Minister's comments. Obviously, there are other cases where, for example, parking fines are hypothecated and the funds go back to local authorities. Increasingly, discussions are held about other examples of money being returned for the use of the service from which it is raised. I can understand the original idea but I do not believe that that would be that much of an exception. That said, the Minister made some encouraging comments that the money might be returned to the waste system, which is so short of money. It would be a shame if it was not. I was encouraged by those comments and hope that the Government will reflect further upon the matter so that we can hear more about it when we reach Report. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 49 to 51 not moved.]

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Monitoring authorities]:

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 52:

    Page 7, line 30, at end insert "and monitor the measures used for handling the remaining biodegradable municipal waste which is not sent to landfill"

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 57. Amendment No. 52 imposes a requirement for the overall monitoring of the destinations of biological and municipal waste. I have written that down here as "BMW", which somehow

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does not seem a very appropriate acronym, but I may continue to use it. It states that the Secretary of State must:

    "monitor the measures used for handling the remaining biodegradable municipal waste which is not sent to landfill"—

in other words, it covers that part of the BMW which does not go to landfill. Amendment No. 57, which is grouped with it, imposes a requirement upon the waste disposal authorities to:

    "produce evidence as to amounts of waste, or of waste of any description, which is handled by measures other than being sent to landfill".

The amendments are intended to help prevent fly-tipping of those biodegradable wastes which are not landfilled. As we all know, fly-tipping is a significant, continuing and growing problem, both for farmers and owners of land and for the general community in both the town and the countryside. In relation to farmers and growers, in August 2000, the National Farmers Union conducted a telephone survey of 300 producers in which 25 per cent of them identified a significant increase in the incidence of fly-tipping on their land in the preceding year. Although the problems reported included all the things one would expect—abandoned cars, tyres, construction and building waste and so on—it also included a significant amount of household waste.

More recently, it surveyed 2,000 farmers and growers in the urban fringe, of whom 67 per cent reported that they suffer from fly-tipping. Probably the only thing that would surprise some of us about that is that the proportion is only 67 per cent. We are all aware of the extent of fly-tipping and anecdotal evidence and personal observation suggests that it is increasing not decreasing.

Fly-tipping is not merely unsightly. It is also a health hazard wherever it takes place. On farmland, it is a danger to grazing livestock; it is also a source of pollution. Often the owners of the land on which the material is tipped end up having to deal with the problem and being responsible for removing it. If they will not remove it, eventually the council will serve a notice on them to do so. The whole system is, therefore, worsening from an already bad position.

There is also increasing concern about fly-tipping from commercial establishments involved in operations, particularly catering, which involve biodegradable waste. We are all familiar with the increasing problem of people getting a takeaway and eating about a third of it before chucking it away. Whether it goes in the bottle bank, the waste paper bank, somebody's front garden or into a hedgerow, it is just as bad.

I am not suggesting that measures in the Bill will have a direct effect on the motivation of people who chuck away their uneaten curries, chicken chow meins, fish and chips or whatever it happens to be. There is, however, a concern that on the broader scale, the measures in the Bill may result in greater fly-tipping—greater unauthorised disposal of all kinds—of biodegradable waste that is not sent to landfill.

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The purpose of the amendments is to place a duty upon the authorities at all levels in the system to monitor and provide information about—to keep a check on—not just the biodegradable waste that goes to landfill under the Bill but that which does not. Unless we know what is happening to that which does not, we do not know what problem it poses. I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am bound to support the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in these amendments because the problem of fly-tipping is universally offensive. Unfortunately, by definition it is impossible to measure it because it is unofficial and we do not know that fly-tipping has happened until it is too late. Even if it is reported, all too often—certainly in my part of the world—nothing happens and the poor old landowner is left facing a problem.

Many years ago, I even recall a dead sheep being dumped in one of my ditches in the middle of a major disease outbreak among livestock. When I reported that to the relevant authorities—both the Ministry of Agriculture and the local authority—they were not interested in the slightest. There is a problem with fly-tipping and out in open country people will get rid of lawn mowings, rose prunings—you name it.

To encourage the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, we have tabled amendments relating to clauses towards the end of the Bill that we hope might relieve the pressure for fly-tipping, but we will deal with them when we reach them. I make that point, but I support the principle of anything that will help to get hold of that dreadful problem. Knowing about waste that does not go to landfill is just as important as knowing about waste which does.

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