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Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 69:


The noble Lord said: This is a large group of amendments which all have a common purpose. That purpose is to give a slightly greater degree of clarity to the Bill than exists at present. The amendments have an interesting parentage in that originally they come from Friends of the Earth, and I am amused to find myself proposing them.

The strategy for England and those for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all the same. The Secretary of State must have a strategy for reducing the amount of biodegradable waste from England and from outside England. It is simply a question of whether the wording on the face of the Bill is clearer than that in our amendments.

We believe that the wording in our amendments is clearer. Under the wording in the Bill, it would be possible for the Secretary of State to achieve the level of reduction in biodegradable waste going for landfill that he required by adjusting solely the amount that came from, say, England and not adjusting the

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amounts that came from Wales and Scotland, or vice versa. The same would apply to Wales and Scotland. Therefore, the slightly ridiculous situation could arise whereby we could reduce our national waste and, in a sense, relieve our burden by shoving the stuff over the border into Wales or Scotland and the Welsh and the Scots could do the same. One could set up a wonderful merry-go-round.

It was because the suspicion existed that that might be possible that we simply suggested shifting the position of these words. That would be consistent with amendments relating to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. My advice that these amendments have no effect in substance does not appear to tally with the noble Lord's interpretation. Probably the best thing that I can do is to undertake to look carefully at what the noble Lord said. Either he and his advisers or my advisers have misunderstood the result of this group of amendments. Without any commitment—I do not know what I would be committing the Government to—perhaps I may ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the Minister for undertaking to study this particular aspect of the Bill. It is in no one's interest that there should be the least doubt as to precisely what the Bill means. It was only because of the way that this question was raised that I felt it worth troubling the Committee with this problem. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 70 and 71 not moved.]

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 72:


    Page 11, line 7, at end insert—


"( ) the amount of waste sent to incineration"

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 72 is the first of a series of amendments tabled to Clause 16, which is invitingly entitled, "Strategy for England". It is not surprising, in those circumstances, that between them, the amendments cover a wide range of issues.

Subsection (1) begins:


    "The Secretary of State must have a strategy for reducing—


    (a) the amount of biodegradable waste from England that goes to landfills, and


    (b) the amount of biodegradable waste from outside England".

Amendment No. 72 inserts a new subsection to read


    "the amount of waste sent to incineration".

We tabled the amendment because the whole question of waste going to landfill—particularly biodegradable waste going to landfill—and incineration are closely related. There is a danger that putting pressure on waste disposal authorities to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill will make incineration a more attractive option, which we

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do not want. I do not want, at this stage, to start a huge debate about the merits or otherwise of incineration. The purpose of the amendment is to discover from the Government what is their policy and approach to the amount of waste that is incinerated.

Amendment No. 105 does not belong in this group and should be in the next group—although it is a technical point which does not matter too much. All the other amendments in this group also relate to incineration and related matters in the different devolved administrations. I shall therefore speak only to Amendment No. 72.

Yesterday, I received a report that set out the number of waste incinerators in England and proposals for new ones. The impression that I gained from that is that incineration is a growing business and that the number of incinerators around the country is increasing. On the back of the amendment, I want to ask the Government: what is their policy in relation to the amount of biodegradable municipal waste, or other incinerable waste, that will go to incineration? Do they believe that the present level should be maintained and not increased; that the present level will be and should be increased; or, do they believe with us, that, wherever possible, it should be reduced? That is the fundamental question behind the amendment and I look forward to the Minister's reply. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, these amendments concern the strategies for each part of the United Kingdom required under Clauses 16 to 19. Each of those clauses requires there to be a strategy to fulfil the requirements of Article 5.1 of the Landfill Directive, which obliges member states to have a national strategy.

Amendment No. 105 seeks to extend the statutory scope of the strategy beyond its main purpose. Amendment No. 105 would add waste other than biodegradable waste, such as construction and industrial waste, for which local authorities do not have responsibility and which therefore lie outside the scope of the relevant provisions of the Landfill Directive to the requirement to create a strategy for Wales. That amendment, and Amendments Nos. 90, 97, 102, 109, 115 and 122 all relate to parts of the UK outside England. The general issue of sustainable waste management is devolved. The wider strategy issues are for the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly and the Department of Environment in Northern Ireland to determine, not for Parliament under the Bill.

As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, the first two amendments in this group require the strategy for England to set out how it will reduce the amount of waste sent to incineration. That is a broad provision as it applies to all waste streams. I presume that it is not, in fact, intended to extend it to, for example, hazardous or clinical waste. However, as the Committee recognised yesterday, the issue of incineration often revolves around the treatment and disposal of that small part of the overall waste stream that is municipal waste.

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All commentators and analysts agree that the Landfill Directive targets for the diversion of biodegradable municipal waste away from landfill are already immensely stretching for the authorities concerned. As much as 30 million tonnes of waste per year may have to be diverted from landfill if we cannot arrest the current rate of growth.

In England, we currently landfill around 80 per cent of municipal waste, but we incinerate less than 10 per cent—against the European average of 20 per cent or more. In answer to the specific question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, the Government have no plans for constructing or aiming for a particular number of incinerators, and the choice for waste treatment facilities is up to local authorities.

Our aim is to try to slow down and reverse the growth of waste and recycle as much as we can of the waste that is produced. Whether we shall need more incineration in future will crucially depend on the success of these measures. That cannot be predicted at this stage.

I therefore regret that the Government cannot commit to a requirement in primary legislation to reduce incineration when it may be that at some point in future, the need for some small increase may occur. I am certain that the noble Lord will want to think carefully about what I have said. He may want to return to it in future. However, I hope that he now feels able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Greaves: I am grateful to the Minister for that detailed explanation and reply. I am not sure whether she was inciting me to come back later with further amendments. I am sure she was not, but it sounded a little like that. The Minister knows it will make no difference whether she tries to incite me or not; I will do what I think is right.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Perhaps I can explain to the noble Lord that all I was doing was seeking to prevent him from feeling that he had to explain to me that he would be returning to the amendment.

Lord Greaves: I am not prepared to give that commitment. We can all play the same game. I am grateful to the Minister for rapping me over the knuckles on the question of inappropriately including devolved administrations in this group of amendments, and for pointing out that devolved powers should not be brought back to this Parliament. I entirely agree and thank her for that, and rather hastily withdraw from that set of amendments.

On the lead amendment, I think that the Minister said that the Government have no policy on the number of incinerators, and that it is all down to local government. If that is what the Minister said, that is interesting, but I shall read carefully in Hansard exactly what she said regarding the Government's policy. It is extraordinary if the Government are saying that they have no policy over the number of incinerators that will be required because that is a matter for local authorities to sort out. I am as strongly

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in favour of local devolution, control and decision-making, as anyone, but something as important as this requires a national strategy. I note that that is not the view of the Strategy Unit, in its recently published report, which suggests that there should be an attempt to reduce the amount of waste going to incineration. We will no doubt have many opportunities to discuss the matter in future.


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