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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I should be grateful to the Minister for his explanation of the amendments. However, I thought I understood them when I read them against the Bill as it left this House and I am not sure I now understand them so clearly. Be that as it may, we raised the necessity of joint working in two-tier authorities. My noble friend Lord Hanningfield, who regrettably is not here today, specifically asked for amendments in relation to this. The Government's response answers the points my noble friend made and to that extent, the amendments are acceptable to us.

I want to ask the Minister to elucidate a little more on Amendment No. 17. It deals with the powers to disapply duties under the joint municipal waste management strategies. The formulation of these joint strategies is essential and there is no doubt that where local waste collection authorities and the waste disposal authority are working together it is reasonable that additional administrative burdens should not be placed upon them. However, not least of our difficulties in looking at Amendment No. 17 is that it depends on regulations which we do not have before us. We have made that comment on so many occasions.

On reading the amendment, I am not clear about whether the regulations could be disapplied if only some the authorities in the two-tier areas—in other words, some of the collection authorities, or some the disposal authority, or a combination of both—were operating efficiently. If either the waste disposal authority or the waste collection authorities are not operating at the approved level of efficiency, it should not be possible to disapply the duties under the joint municipal waste management strategies.

I ask the Minister to elucidate a little further merely in order to have clarification on that point. The amendments contain many words that say not a great deal—I am aware that legislation tends to do that—and I should be grateful for clarification.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the principles laid out in Amendment No. 17. The difficulties of having a joint municipal waste management strategy should not be underestimated. My authority has completed its

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strategy and is now running its public awareness campaign. I am only too aware of the immense amount of effort that goes into producing such a strategy.

If authorities in two-tier areas have signed up to such a strategy, what is the Government's thinking in introducing through the amendments an element of discord? An authority that is not excellent will be caught by these requirements. However, if, say, the disposal authority is excellent but a number of collection authorities are not, presumably all the signatories to the joint waste management strategy must continue to operate the plan. That is only one difficulty. It is unlikely that all the authorities in an area will achieve excellent status at the same time. If one drops out from excellent status, do they all again become subject to the strategy?

The Government have introduced another difficulty in allowing the disposal authority to give directions to the other authorities. The spirit of signing up to a waste management plan strategy should be that everyone abides by the agreements and the targets they have reached in it. The Government's prescription in that area will probably be a recipe for discord rather than anything else.

Despite those comments, I firmly believe that joint strategy working is good and I hope that the regulations will encourage it rather than introduce other elements of discord.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am grateful for the welcome of the concept of joint strategies. Undoubtedly, it resolves many of the issues that were raised at an earlier stage in this House. Amendment No. 17 implements other aspects of the Government's policy towards local authorities which, in general, received a welcome from the Opposition Front Benches. It is intended to return some flexibility to local authorities, beginning with those which perform best. That means that the disapplication of the requirements would be given to an individual authority which either had an excellent comprehensive performance assessment or passed defined objectives in relation to waste management.

The Secretary of State has the power to disapply the requirements in a two-tier area where one or more of the authorities is exempt. Clearly a judgment would have to be made in every circumstance about whether to exempt all or only some of the authorities. For example, in the case of an "excellent" county authority—I shall call it a "county authority" so that we all know what we are talking about—it would not necessarily follow that all the district authorities should also have reached the "excellent" criteria and be subject to disapplication. It would still be possible for the county either to persuade or engage in a direction to the district which was not up to standard. However, that would have to be judged on an area-by-area basis because further consultation is required on the regulations which would give effect to this clause, and some of the circumstances might be a little clearer at that point.

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However, it is important that we have flexibility to disapply in an area where, say, the majority of waste collection, as well as waste disposal, districts and counties have met the "excellent" or "effective" criteria in relation to waste management. But if one authority held that disapplication back, it would not necessarily be the case that we would not give the disapplication to the others. However, as I said, a judgment would have to be made according to the circumstances.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

3.30 p.m.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

7Page 11, line 32, leave out subsection (5)

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 7.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 7.—(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

8Clause 22, page 15, line 24, leave out subsection (4)

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 8. This concerns another area that we discussed in this House at Third Reading in particular, when a definition of "composting" was added to this part of the Bill.

After due consideration, the Government decided to take steps to remove that definition, principally because the definition appears elsewhere—mainly in the EU Animal By-Products Regulation. It is obviously important that we take all aspects of biosecurity extremely seriously, and that argument was put forward in relation to the previous debate in this House. We have no intention of bringing forward any measure that would increase the risk to public or animal health. In fact, the Government have acted positively to reduce the risks associated with, for example, the composting of catering waste.

The term "composting" is used in the provisions of the Bill only as an example of the types of measure that a strategy under Clauses 17 to 20 could include to help to achieve the relevant landfill targets. The term "composting" does not appear in other parts of the Bill. Of course, it is a requirement that, in diverting waste from landfill, relevant legislation must also be complied with. Therefore, if biodegradable waste were to be composted, any relevant restrictions on that process would need to be followed.

The Government have never seen this Bill as a primary vehicle for controlling composting generally or composting catering waste in particular. The other legislation—in particular, as I said, the EU Animal By-Products Regulation, which came into force in May this year—covers the appropriate controls, including

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those on the composting of animal by-products and waste food from food factories and retail premises. That regulation requires that animal by-products are submitted to heating to 70 degrees centigrade for one hour before being composted. That is now the standard endorsed by the EU Scientific Veterinary Committee as sufficient to destroy all damaging pathogens.

With regard specifically to catering waste, the EU regulation allows member states to introduce national standards for premises where only catering waste is to be treated, provided the controls deliver a similar level of protection. An independent assessment commissioned by the Government into the risk to public and animal health associated with the composting of catering waste concluded that, provided certain treatment standards are met and suitable controls are in place, the risks to human and animal health from the composting or biogas digestion of catering waste containing meat are acceptably low. The findings of that risk assessment enabled the department to draw up its own animal by-product regulations to replace the Animal By-Products Order. Those regulations contain controls and treatment standards for composting catering waste that adequately safeguard animal health. They came into force in July this year following, as I explained, the coming into force of the EU Animal By-Products Regulation.

Now that both the EU Animal By-Products Regulation and the UK By-Products Regulations 2003 are in place, and now that they include appropriate time and temperature requirements for composting, there is no need for a separate definition to deal with composting in this very limited sense in the Bill.

I should also add that, from a practical point of view, it would be almost impossible to work to the definition that was in the Bill when it left this House. Heating biodegradable waste to 98 degrees for a minimum of two hours would not only render the resulting material fairly useless as compost; it could also result in combustion, with the waste bursting into flames.

As I said, the Government wish to do all they can to reduce the risks associated with animal disease. They also wish to drive waste disposal up the waste hierarchy. To achieve both, it is necessary for the composting of catering waste to be an option available to waste producers and managers, provided the controls are in place to minimise the risks. The Government believe that the legislation now on the statute book in relation to the animal by-products legislation does that and that, therefore, a different definition in this Bill is unnecessary. I hope that the House will be able to support the Commons in this amendment.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 8.—(Lord Whitty.)


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