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House of Lords

Thursday, 6th March 2003.

The House met at eleven of the clock: The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Rochester.

Royal Assent

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified her Royal Assent to the following Acts and Measures:

Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act,

London Development Agency Act,

Synodical Government (Amendment) Measure,

Church of England (Pensions) Measure.

Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [HL]

11.6 a.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 7 [Trading and other transfer of landfill allowances]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 5, line 34, at end insert—

"( ) their use will not result in any increase in the number of daily waste transport journeys, to any landfill or landfills, above that required in the previous year;"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Bill makes provision for the trading and transfer of landfill allowances for the disposal of biodegradable municipal waste. At earlier stages of the Bill we had a number of discussions and serious debates around the problems created by the transport of waste. It is very often waste that is transported long distance—quite often along roads that are less than suitable for the heavy transport involved. It arrives at a disposal facility, which we hope, in part as a result of this Bill, might soon be doing rather less business.

If there is a purpose in this Bill, it is supposed to reduce waste that goes to tipping, and to reduce the transport of waste from one location to another. I have a relative who is, so to speak, in the business—so I have no business to declare, but he is a relative, which has caused me problems in the past. He says that in this modern era there is no reason any longer for a waste disposal authority to be required to transport its biodegradable waste for treatment outside its boundaries, provided that the technology is put in place.

The transport of waste is a serious issue that is offensive to many people. In the long term, the Bill can be of great benefit. However, in the short term it could cause problems, particularly if we start trading the

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allocations. The amendment simply seeks to say that trade should not take place if it leads to increased journeys conveying waste.

We have had this debate on transport on many occasions. I think everyone agrees and accepts the principle. The difficulty has always been to find words in a suitable form to achieve a reduction in transport without disrupting the business from the day the Bill comes into force. As this is the Third Reading, it is our last attempt to try and get something about transport into the Bill. The debates in the past have been worth it. They have not been a waste of time, because, at the very least, they draw the significance of that issue to the attention of everyone who takes note of what is said in this place. I beg to move.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon Smith, has raised this important issue on a number of occasions during the passage of the Bill. We do not want the Bill to result in more transport of waste than there is at the moment. He is right to say that he has struggled to find a satisfactory way of putting that into the Bill. With all due respect to him, I do not think that he has achieved it in this amendment. He has rightly raised the issue again, but we cannot support the present wording because we do not believe that the amendment is either practicable or enforceable.

People can wrestle with ways to reduce the transport of goods on this country's roads. But any proposal has to apply to all transport of goods. There is no reason for simply bringing out in a bureaucratic way a remedy in respect of the transport of waste. With regret, we cannot support this amendment.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, I agree with both noble Lords that transport is an important part of waste strategy, although it also fits into the wider transport issue. However I do not think that this amendment would achieve what the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, seeks. We have to bear in mind that it is the allowances that are traded and not the waste. In aggregate, there will be no more allowances than the finite number on a zero sum basis. In other words, the point of the trading system is to provide flexibility to overcome difficulties in meeting the target—and to allow trading between authorities which are doing better than the trend and those which, for one reason or another, are unable to meet that trend. In total, there is a finite number. Therefore, an authority that increased its number of journeys by purchasing extra allowance would be balanced by the fact that the authority trading with it had foregone that extra allowance. In aggregate, therefore, such provision cannot be necessary.

I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that even if such provision were desirable, it would be unenforceable. For example, if an authority were faced with a catastrophe requiring the closure of a landfill site or incinerator and had to trade to meet its target, the exact location of the alternative disposal provision

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would determine the aggregate length of journeys. It would be difficult in such circumstances to tell the authority that it should incur an additional penalty because it was unable to use the best means of disposal. As I said, therefore, in aggregate, this provision is not necessary and would in any case be unenforceable. While I recognise the importance of transportation in this matter, I do not think that this amendment would improve the Bill.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I hear what the Minister says and I have to accept his comments. I shall perhaps return to the issue in later amendments. Nevertheless, I am unrepentant for raising the issue again today. As I said, and as the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, have acknowledged, the issue is significant. I accept that it is difficult, and probably exceedingly dangerous, to deal with transport matters by statute. With that in mind, I think that the time we have spent has been worth while. My father used to say that the only pleasant thing about knocking your head against the wall was that it was actually rather good when you stopped. I think it is time that I stopped. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.15 a.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 2:

    Page 5, line 46, leave out paragraph (f) and insert—

"(f) make provision for all trading to be carried out by direct transfer or sale between waste disposal authorities;"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a short amendment to leave out paragraph (f) on page 5, line 46, which provides for the intervention of what I would call third party brokers in the business of trading waste disposal allowances. We think that such intervention is wrong. We do not think that third parties should be involved in this business at all. We would prefer to have our wording in the Bill, to make provision,

    "for all trading to be carried out by direct transfer or sale between waste disposal authorities".

The "waste disposal market" is not a conventional market. It is not a market that anyone can enter. The only parties that will be allowed to trade waste disposal allowances are waste disposal authorities, and there is a limited number of those bodies. The waste disposal authorities are currently composed of most if not all of the shire counties—I am not quite sure of the position of Rutland, which is unique—the unitary authorities and the London boroughs. I agree that the number is not finite. I suppose that if the Government were to have their way over the creation of elected regional assemblies, and under those only unitary authorities, the number of waste disposal allowances could conceivably increase. However, we cannot anticipate future numbers and the consequences of legislation that is only beginning its passage through Parliament. The Bill is currently in this House, and it will in any event take a long time to implement.

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Given that it is a closed market, that all local authorities know and work with each other as waste disposal authorities in a national local government organisation and that they are familiar with arrangements across boundaries and across the country, it is an odd proposition that someone will be able to create a profitable profession by trading the allowances—which, if the system works, will not be required by 2020. I think that that would be a very hazardous job for anyone to undertake.

However, we do not think that that will happen. We think that the normal meetings and lines of communication between local authorities and waste disposal authorities will very quickly enable those with surplus capacity to locate and do business over the telephone with those deficient in capacity. Our amendment says that that is what should happen—whereas the present, rather odd paragraph provides for third party intervention in the trade. The present paragraph also provides for the necessity of regulation to define how that person should behave in his trading practices. We think that the current provision is unnecessary and that Amendment No. 2 would be much better. I beg to move.

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