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Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, we wholeheartedly support the amendment. It is crucial that "composting" should include,

The main points include the impact on agricultural land where in wet weather biodegradable applications can lead to run-off from the farmland into water and water courses. We are also most concerned about the knock-on effect of the run-off into drinking-water supplies.

The second point relates to the disposal of organic waste, especially catering waste, on agricultural land. As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, that includes meat and inadvertently may include bones. A great deal of meat is de-boned, but chicken bones and so forth appear in catering waste. The impact is twofold. The first is on human health. We need only mention BSE and CJD, which has occurred. Furthermore, typhoid and salmonella could be spread.

We are concerned also about the impact on animal health. I refer to scrapie and to BSE in particular. Lambs and calves, for example, can pick up salmonella from the pasture. I know of a farmer who contracted a type of salmonella typhomuirin from calves and nearly died. It is highly infectious.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, also mentioned foot and mouth, and heat treatment is a most important factor in dealing with that and with BSE. In fact, one should use higher temperatures than those stated. I had experience, albeit 40 years ago, on a family farm of bones being picked up by dogs on the farm. That resulted in an outbreak of foot and mouth disease from imported Argentinan meat. Fortunately, it was an isolated incident on one farm, but all the stock had to be destroyed as a result.

The heat treatment at high temperatures is most important. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, made an important point about the banning of pigswill. I wholeheartedly agree that it should have been banned. Biosecurity in relation to animal health is also most important. The relaxation of temperatures led in one respect to the initiation of the BSE outbreak in the mid-1980s and we do not want to repeat such problems. The 98 degrees Celsius specified in the amendment is crucial and we wholeheartedly support it.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, my name is attached to the amendment, which my noble friend has clearly explained. It refers to,

    "a requirement to maintain selected biodegradable waste at 98 degrees celsius".

Noble Lords have referred to the closure of the pigswill industry, from where we have obtained the figure. My noble friend rightly spoke about foot and mouth

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disease and others which we in this country try to guard against and I want to add two further points. The first relates to fallen stock. I understand that from 1st April fallen stock will not be allowed to be buried on farms. What will happen to them thereafter? Even though the majority will not carry disease, it is possible that some may and will have to be disposed of in a proper manner. Furthermore, I understand that blood which accumulates at abattoirs will have to be dealt with differently. Will the Minister explain how the Government are tackling the new requirements being placed on abattoirs?

Finally, as regards catering waste, I would like to believe that the Government's contingency plan—I know they are working on it and that we have not yet received it—and their import control plan will lessen the risk of disease being spread within this country. But we know very well that it is almost impossible to stop disease entering the country. We must therefore take every precaution we can in this country to minimise the possibility and I therefore hope that the Government will accept this worthwhile amendment.

12.45 p.m.

Lord Plumb: My Lords, I fully support the amendment and the points that have been made. An enormous danger exists—we have seen it happen in the past and may well do so again. I realise that it will be difficult for the Minister to give the assurances for which my noble friend has asked. I wonder how many noble Lords saw on television last night a programme about the illegal import of foods. It was one of the most horrific programmes I have seen on television for a long time. The quantity of food that enters this country is considerable and appears to be increasing. The type of food that is coming in is dangerous. The packages containing foodstuffs were often full of maggots and disease. Sometimes it was not known from where they originated or even what animal they came from.

Consumers are horrified by what they see on such programmes. When producers see the importance of dealing with such food as it comes into this country, they become aware of the difficulties we have in coping with the situation. While we recognise that much of the food will go into compost, while there might appear to be discrimination, who knows what goes into compost from the household or industry?

I fully support the amendment. I hope that the Minister will take note and accept the amendment. It will deal with an enormous problem and stop the import of products which created havoc at an extremely high cost to the taxpayers of this country, as we saw during the foot and mouth outbreak.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, I agree with the amendment. As I have not taken part in previous debates on the Bill, I am a little puzzled by the word "selected". I understand that catering waste from the home or commercial establishment needs to be treated, but do we need special regulations to decide what is to be selected? Having quickly glanced at the Bill, I see no powers to indicate how it is to be selected. Is that

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matter covered in a current Act? If not, at a later stage of the Bill in another place regulatory powers must be included in it.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the House will recognise that I would not want to put anything on to the statute book which would increase the vulnerability of our livestock industry to foot and mouth disease or our country to other diseases—human and animal—which cause such a degree of devastation. Therefore, our concern is the same as that expressed by Members on the Benches opposite.

Strong concerns have been expressed about the safety aspects of composting certain types of biodegradable waste; namely, catering waste and animal by-products. We take those concerns extremely seriously. However, it is also true that the composting of catering waste inevitably will be vital if local authorities are to achieve the recycling targets to which they will be subjected by this Bill and the Landfill Directive. However, the composting and biogas treatment of catering waste in the way being advocated in the amendment are in effect banned by the Animal By-Products Order 1999, which will come into effect in May. That order prevents the disposal of catering waste that might contain meat in a way that enables livestock or birds to access and move it, thus increasing the risk of transmission of animal diseases. The requirement will also extend to home composting. Spreading such compost on to pastureland will be banned, as was pointed out by one noble Lord. Furthermore, under the regulations, unsorted catering waste containing meat and meat by-products will have to go through additional stages of composting. A number of wider issues were raised relating to blood and fallen stock. Some of those matters are relevant to the order, but they are not relevant to biodegradable waste.

Last year the department commissioned a risk assessment to look at the animal and public health risks posed by the composting and biogas treatment of catering waste, as well as the effect of spreading it on the land. It concluded that, provided satisfactory controls are in place, the treatment can be carried out safely. The controls set out in the by-product regulations, which as I have said will come into force on 1st May this year, will ensure that. For those plants processing only catering waste and not animal by-products, the regulations will allow national standards to be set.

However, when setting national standards we must bear in mind their total effect. I imagine that a number of noble Lords have received a letter from the Composting Association. It indicates that if the bulk of catering waste were subjected to the kind of treatment suggested in the amendment, it could in fact have counter-productive effects on safety. Heating waste to such high temperatures can destroy the beneficial micro-organisms that should be encouraged by the composting process, thus rendering the compost ineffective. In addition, destruction of good microbes through heating can increase the susceptibility of the waste to an increase of pathogenic

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microbes such as salmonella. It is by no means clear that the proposal would guarantee greater safety than the provisions of the by-products regulations already in place.

Turning to the national standards element, we have just completed a consultation aimed at proposing suitable UK national standards for the treatment of catering waste. The standards are in line with the recommendations of the independent risk assessment, to which industry and users have now replied.

The Government accept that the composting of kitchen and catering waste is an important method of diverting waste away from landfill, but it is vital that it is done safely and with due regard to all the dangers referred to by noble Lords. However, it is not sensible or necessary to put into the Bill a different form of control and requirement from that already covered by the animal by-products regulations. Furthermore, even leaving aside the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, that the amendment is not complete in itself, its effects could be counter-productive.

Given the assurance that the Government have already considered this dimension, but believe that the animal by-products regulations already cover the points, and given the further protections through national standards currently being developed, I hope that noble Lords will not pursue the amendment.

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