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Lord Greaves: My Lords, in Grand Committee we asked why the Government considered that this new profession of biodegradable municipal waste allowance brokers might be necessary. We were not given satisfactory answers. As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, the world of local government, certainly the world of local government waste disposal, is fairly small. Those involved in it know one another. If people have allowances to sell or to transfer, it is not clear why they cannot just telephone those whom they believe might be interested in them, or, indeed put advertisements in the appropriate publications. It is not clear why the measure in the Bill that we are discussing is required. Indeed, the regulations we are discussing may be implemented by the Government. Do the Government intend to implement these regulations? Do they think that they will be necessary? If not, are they just included in the Bill in case they might be necessary at some point in the future, or do the Government have the firm intention of implementing them to create a new and rather strange profession?
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I should like to support the previous two speakers. I do not have much to add but I have a question. When the legislation was framed, were any figures provided? For example, what profit are brokers likely to make if in fact they come into being? How much profit a year will they make? What will be the cost to local authorities? Somehow or other the cost will be placed on waste disposal authorities and eventually, one way or another, on the consumer. Presumably, figures must be available. Is it possible for the Minister to provide those figures now?
As regards whether we shall need to implement the relevant regulations, we are committed to consult on the whole of the clause, including the paragraph we are discussing. If the overwhelming view expressed in the consultation is that waste disposal authorities cannot conceive of any circumstances in which they would involve professional brokers, the relevant regulations will not need to be triggered. If, however, professional brokers do become involved in the process, the Government will need to regulate their involvement. Therefore, we have covered that eventuality in the Bill. Some waste disposal authorities may consider that it is more cost effective and more professional to carry out the operation in-house rather than outsourcing it. We recognise that flexibility is needed in this matter. However, as I say, the public interest needs to be safeguarded in relation to the propriety of brokers' involvement. That is the reason for the inclusion of the provision in the Bill; namely, to enable the Government to regulate that profession. I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that we should provide for that eventuality and will not press the amendment.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I apologise to the House that illness prevented my attendance in Committee and at Report stage. Do I understand from the Minister that at the moment the Government are consulting on the issue? Or, is he suggesting that in future they may consult if an interest is shown? Surely, if the Government are consulting now, it seems odd to have included the relevant regulations in the Bill. But if consultation has taken place, I can understand why the relevant regulations are in the Bill. I seek clarification.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I hope that I may press the Minister further. I assure him that this is the last occasion on which I shall do so. Further to what the Minister said, any alterations or recommendations that emerge during consultation will be implemented in statutory instruments or orders. If that is the case, the House will not have the opportunity to debate them in the way that we are debating matters today. That is one of my big concerns.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the regulations we are discussing are no different from regulations in general, including regulations right across legislation relating to various trading schemes. If local authorities wish to outsource their activities, that process should be subject to certain standards. We have covered that eventuality in the Bill. It is sensible to do so. That does not mean that a local authority must employ a broker. It may well be that no local authority employs a broker. However, the measure in the Bill enables us to implement the relevant regulations should local authorities employ brokers and indicate in the consultation that they wish to do so. I welcome the noble Baroness back to the debate.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response although I am bound to say that it sounds to me rather like someone who is buying unnecessary insurance. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, for his helpful remarks and to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for his comments. Although it was suggested that a deal between Essex and Lancashire might be possible, we have a little difficulty in that we both have plenty of words but for a deal to be done someone needs to have a deficiency. The debate has been worth while. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I tabled this amendment at both Committee and Report. I am trying to make noble Lords realise how much the measure that we are discussing will cost. Since Report I have done some more work and consulted colleagues about the likely cost. The Minister mentioned Essex and Lancashire. As leader of Essex County Council, I have consulted the LGA as regards the likely costs of implementing the legislation. I am certain that my findings are also relevant to Lancashire.
As I say, I am the leader of Essex County Council, one of the largest local authorities in the country. We have nowhere near enough money in what is now called the FSSour grant from governmentto fund the current expenditure on waste disposal. Most of that has to be funded by Essex council taxpayers.
I do not want to give a lecture on council tax today but, when councils do not get grants from government, for every £1 million that we have to raise we have to ask the public for £4 million, because of the gearing effect. That is why council tax bills are so high this year, because of the gearing effect of extra money for which local authorities have to ask. If the Bill is going to cost £15 million, it could well cost the public £60 million in council tax with a gearing of four. That could add a considerable amount to council tax bills around the country in future.
I want noble Lords and the Government to acknowledge that the expenditure must be recognised as an additional expenditure to local government. Therefore, some way must be found to fund it, perhaps through government grant. There must be some acknowledgement of that. I am concerned that the Government do not seem to recognise that the Bill will cost local authorities money, and that that money has to be provided. I hope that the Minister will give us a reasonable response, and that the Government will take account of the subject before they finalise the legislation. I beg to move.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I have every sympathy with the amendment. My Amendment No. 21 is grouped with it and is directed towards a similar purpose, which is to get proper recognition from the Government of the increased costs imposed dribble by dribble in little ways, but which mount up for individual local authorities into quite large sums. They rarely seem to be taken account of properly when it comes to the annual national calculation of what the costs of local government truly are.
I need say no more at this stage, as the case has been well made by my noble friend. Anything I say will be repetitious, but I support the principle that he set out.
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