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Lord Greaves: I am grateful to all Members of the Committee for lecturing me on localism. It is an interesting new idea and philosophy, and I shall consider it. In that respect noble Lords are banging at an open door. Noble Lords are quite right; nevertheless it is important to raise such issues when we have the opportunity. In some cases, we shall not raise the issues at further stages of the Bill; we shall raise them in debates that will take place in the future, particularly when the Government have produced their waste strategy which we are all looking forward to reading.

It is important to be ambitious in this wider area. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said that these were ambitious amendments. However, in many ways there is a lack of ambition about the Government's policies in this area. All too often, we have the impression that the Government are reacting and responding to European directives and legislation. That appears to have happened in relation to fridges. The Government have not reacted or responded effectively or quickly, but they have been dragged into situations. That appears to be happening with end-of-life vehicles and the WEEE Directive. I fear that that will happen when the packaging directive comes in next year. That may not be the case. If not, we welcome that.

The experience so far is that the Government say the right things about waste management, waste minimalisation, recycling and cutting down landfill, but as the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, says, they are not ambitious about doing that. They do what they have to do and no more. We regret that. We believe that we should lead rather than follow the rest of Europe in that area. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, may not worry too much about what the rest of Europe does or says, but he still uses comparisons. It is fair to say that we could be in the lead on such matters.

Apart from anything else, new technologies and industries, which could provide a huge opportunity for this country, are being developed to deal with waste. We run the risk of falling behind and missing out in that area. If the accusation is that I am ambitious, I plead guilty. If the accusation is that I am not localist, I plead not guilty—very strongly.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said that such a provision would be an imposition on different kinds of households. Different kinds of households need different approaches to separation, recycling, composting and so on. I do not believe that there is any kind of household that cannot play a full part in that.

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A big wheelie bin with many different sections is obviously inappropriate for a pensioner on the third floor of a block of flats. However, there are appropriate ways in which that pensioner can separate waste and he or she would probably be very happy to do that. It is a matter of devising systems that are appropriate to fit the local circumstances and to fit the individual circumstances. What is appropriate in one street may be inappropriate in the next. That kind of approach is important. Having pleaded guilty to being ambitious, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 78 not moved.]

5.45 p.m.

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 79:

    Page 11, line 7, at end insert—

"( ) The Secretary of State must develop a national strategy for moving towards zero waste which shall include targets for all waste disposal and collection authorities."

The noble Lord said: This may be my final attempt to be ambitious today. Amendment No. 79 requires the Secretary of State to develop a national strategy for moving towards zero waste with targets for disposal and collection authorities. There is much talk about zero waste but that is not the whole answer. If too much material goes into the system at one end, too much waste comes out at the other. Even if all of it is recycled, the system may well not be ideal, because there is too much through-put in the system and too many resources being used at the beginning. Nevertheless, zero waste is a very useful slogan and concept. At least one local authority, Bath and North-East Somerset Council, has overtly put zero waste at the heart of its waste policy, with a long-term vision of eliminating waste altogether, rather than simply managing it.

The aim of eliminating waste altogether may be utopian and impossible, but it is an objective worth having because it is something that we can always work towards. If we end up with 2 per cent still having to go to landfill, or whatever—still being waste—that is a great deal better than 95 per cent. It may be that eliminating the final 2 per cent or 5 per cent is impossible, but at least we can get somewhere near.

Speaking now on behalf of my party, there should be a full debate on the matter within the European context—I know the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, will not like that, but that is the way things are with us—about how we move towards achieving a totally zero waste strategy, given the environmental costs and benefits. We are doing a lot of work on how that may be possible. I am not talking about next year nor even the next 10; the time period of 40 years has been mentioned and may perhaps be the answer.

However, if we are being ambitious and looking towards a long-term solution to this huge problem, we should decide to make the least amount of waste possible to be processed and process the vast majority of it by putting it back into the system in one way or another. That must be the objective and that ambition is not to be derided.

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The remaining amendments in the group are all more or less on the same lines. No doubt I shall be admonished again for including Wales and Scotland in matters that should be matters for Wales and Scotland. I have to say that the Welsh and Scottish Liberal Democrats will be the first to come to rap my fingers over this, along with the Minister. So I put all those on one side, because my fingers have been rapped enough for today. I had better now conclude my party political broadcast on zero waste. I beg to move.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Perhaps I may say a few words, because the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, mentioned me several times and gave the impression that I was anti-Europe. That is absurd; I am very pro-Europe. I have said before that I love the Italians; I think French cooking is good; and even the Germans have their good points. So I am not anti-Europe at all. I am all in favour of Europe—and, indeed, also in favour of the utmost co-operation with Europe on a voluntary basis.

What I do not want is this country to be governed by Europe, as increasingly we are. That has a lot to do with a lack of ambition—which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, possesses, for which I commend him. Indeed, this country should be a lot more ambitious. Unfortunately, that ambition is often constrained because people say, "Let Europe do it, then we can blame them if anything goes wrong". In fact, getting Europe to do virtually everything is now leading to a lack of ambition by our Government, who get lazier by the day and do not deal with the great problems that we are discussing. I am as ambitious as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, but it must be done in the right way.

I remind the noble Lord that those of us who have been members of local authorities know their background. We should like to return to the days when local authorities led the Government rather than the Government leading local authorities. Some of the greatest advances in education, waste disposal, sewage disposal, the provision of water and the provision of transport—all sorts of services—have not come from the Government; they have come upwards from local authorities.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and I are really on the same side. We love Europe; we are ambitious to get things done in this country; and we recognise that good, democratic, free local authorities with great power can act as the engine of progress. It is all too unfortunate that they are often constrained from doing the right things for their areas by the bureaucratic interference of central government.

The amendments are sensible. We indeed need a no-waste strategy; we need to ensure that everybody is involved. However, regulation often creates the waste that we find in our shops. A good deal of packaging arises from regulation. In this country, we are so law-abiding that we read every regulation, gold-plate it and enforce it. If one goes to France, for example, one sees that largely—certainly in the markets—the regulations are utterly ignored. We should not criticise

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ourselves too much, but the regulation that we introduce all too often creates problems such as this, which are difficult to deal with.

I have said enough, but I hope that I have put the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, right about my attitude to various matters.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I was waiting for the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, to remind noble Lords that many years ago it was the City of Birmingham that developed a strategy and a manufacturing process for converting sewage into paving stones. I endorse everything that he said about the power of innovation at local authority level. I must tell him that this bit of Government does not feel as though it is getting lazier by the day, but that may be my weakness.

I shall not repeat everything that has been said about the inadvisability of trying to promote a single kerbside system. We believe that the matter is important; that is why we set out proposals in the Waste Strategy 2000 to have targets, programmes and instruments. Those targets, programmes and instruments will be reassessed in the light of the Strategy Unit's report.

Amendment No. 85 would require the Secretary of State to consult various interests before formulating policy. We intend to conduct wide-ranging consultation with all interested stakeholders before finalising a scheme in England. A legal requirement to consult in the Bill is therefore unnecessary. I note the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, about what I would not even call a conversion on the road from devolution, because I know that he has supported devolution all the way through.

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