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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, the recent foot and mouth outbreak is fresh in all our memories. It lay behind the insertion of our amendment, which sought to raise the temperature of composting, into the Bill as it arrived in this House. Despite three inquiries of
As a result of the recent outbreak, we do know the consequences of the arrival in this country of the virus, which certainly does not normally exist here. The cost to the nation's economy was far larger than the cost to the agricultural industry, and that should be borne in mind. Therefore, there was a very good reason for seeking absolute biosecurity in the waste disposal process, and specifically in the composting process.
I have received some interesting correspondence from the Minister's department on this matter. Some of it I considered slightly strange. The noble Lord has repeated the possibility of the occurrence of spontaneous combustion if we heat compost to 98 degrees centigrade. Spontaneous combustion can take place in peculiar circumstances, but I am sure that if one produced compost in what I would call monitored circumstances, 98 degrees centigrade would not be a problem.
It was also suggested that heating compost to 98 degrees would reduce it to a sludge. My reaction to that is that those who wrote that paper could never have been in the kitchen when their wives were cooking. A joint is put into an oven at a much higher temperature than thatprobably double that. I know that my wife bakes cakes in the oven at far higher temperatures than that; they stay in the oven for a longer time and come out as something that is wholly edible, very refreshing and delightful.
One needs some realism. As for sterilising the compost material, so destroying the beneficial bacteria that will make the process work, one could easily answer that by heating the compost at the end of the process. Be that as it may, at Third Reading we asked for an absolute assurance. The Minister was unable to give it and I accept that it would probably never be possible for him to give such an assurance because I suspect that most scientists would deny that there can be absolute security. The fact is that composting, along with recycling, is at the core of the Government's policy for reducing waste going to landfill. Therefore, it has to be accepted. We shall have to look at matters in that light.
The noble Lord has mentioned the European directive and the European risk assessment that the Government are right to follow, but it is a risk assessment. It does not say that the risk is zero. There is mention of once in 120 years there being a possible risk. With a bit of luck, veterinary science will improve matters long before we get to 120 years. I hope that we shall have an interval of 20 or 30 years before the next inadvertent importation of the foot and mouth virus to this country.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I am slightly confused by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, on the analogy of cooking and composting. I can assure him that in some households often the husband, the partner or the children do the cooking.
On the amendment, as the Minister will know, I am relieved. I argued long and hard through the Water Bill to achieve definitions more in line with European definitions so that we all talk about the same thing. I am pleased to see that the amendment brings us closer to what will be a common understanding in the directive. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, that one worry is that compost is adequately treated, for all the reasons that he gave.
Another worryI am glad that the Minister's assurances in another place are on recordconcerns reassuring the waste disposal authorities that biodegradable waste can be composted and that incineration will not be the only acceptable method, indeed the first method, that is considered for disposal. Post the foot and mouth disease outbreak that was the reaction; that to be safe we had better start looking at incinerating everything. Of course, it would be disastrous to incinerate all materials that, if treated correctly, could be composted.
I gather that the Government will undertake a research programme into the reduction of the biodegradable content achieved by each treatment type and that Defra will set guidelines on the different types of treatment. However, I am unclear about the timescale in which those guidelines will be issued. Are we looking at a couple of years or more than that? Perhaps the Minister could give an idea of the timescale. If people are to set up composting methods and are to set aside areas for that, they would welcome Defra giving guidance on that in the near future.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, in response to the last point of the noble Baroness, the department will be giving guidance on the immediate application in the near future, but clearly the research programmes are not complete. Some of them will run for more than a year so it will be some time before we could consider whether we need to change that guidance in the light of further research. Clearly, further research may be necessary. The immediate guidelines, based on knowledge as of now, will come out in spring next year.
On the diversion of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, into his wife's cooking, I am not sure that she will entirely appreciate the analogy with compost. Nevertheless, I am sure her cakes are lovely. The noble
On the foot and mouth position, while, regrettably, we do not know from where the virus came, we know the original farm where it was ingested. At that point the existing regulations were not being observed. It is important for farmers and for everyone else that we observe the new regulations and observe them throughout Europe. That may well result in the outcome that the noble Lord seeks; namely, that it will be many decades before we are visited by such a terrible disease again. This Bill is not the appropriate place to define that; since the Bill was last discussed in this House we have defined it elsewhere. I commend Commons Amendment No. 8 to the House.
"( ) Subsection (2) may be satisfied by consultation before, as well as by consultation after, the coming into force of this section."
12Clause 29, page 19, line 17, leave out from "statements" to end of line 19
13Page 19, line 29, leave out paragraph (l)
14Page 19, line 38, leave out from "Wales" to end of line 42
15Clause 31, page 20, line 32, at end insert
"(4B) Before exercising its power to include requirements about separation in directions under subsection (4)(a) above, a waste disposal authority shall consult the waste collection authorities within its area.
(4C) In exercising its power to include requirements about separation in directions under subsection (4)(a) above, a waste disposal authority shall have regard to any guidance given by the Secretary of State as to the exercise of that power.
(4D) A waste disposal authority which includes requirements about separation in directions given under subsection (4)(a) above shall notify the waste collection authorities to which the directions are given of its reasons for including the requirements."
(4) After section 52 there is inserted
"52A Payments for delivering waste pre-separated
(1) A waste disposal authority in England which is not also a waste collection authority shall pay to a waste collection authority within its area such amounts as are needed to ensure that the collection authority is not financially worse off as a result of having to comply with any separation requirements.
(2) A waste disposal authority in England which is not also a waste collection authority may pay to a waste collection authority within its area
(a) which performs its duty under section 48(1) above by delivering waste in a state of separation, but
(b) which is not subject to any separation requirements as respects the delivery of that waste,
contributions of such amounts as the disposal authority may determine towards expenditure of the collection authority that is attributable to its delivering the waste in that state.
(3) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about how amounts to be paid under subsection (1) above are to be determined.
(4) Regulations under subsection (3) above may include provision for amounts to be less than they would otherwise be (or to be nil) if conditions specified in the regulations are not satisfied.
(5) Any question arising under subsection (1) above shall, in default of agreement between the paying and receiving authorities, be determined by arbitration.
(6) A waste collection authority in England which is not also a waste disposal authority shall supply the waste disposal authority for its area with such information as the disposal authority may reasonably require
(a) for the purpose of determining amounts under this section, or
(b) for the purpose of estimating any amounts that would fall to be determined under this section were the collection authority to be subject to particular separation requirements.
(7) In this section "separation requirements", in relation to a waste collection authority, means requirements about separation included in directions given to it under section 51(4)(a) above.""
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