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I was interested to see in the report of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee that my noble friend Lord Jopling, who was a member of the committee, had a bit of a go at this, although from a different angle. He asked Mr Pedrotti of the DTI, who was giving evidence:
Do you think it would be a good idea to tell the department that for future pieces of secondary legislation many people in Parliament resent orders which are laid on the brink of a recess to come into effect whilst Parliament is still in recess?
Mr Pedrotti agreed that that was wrong. But I am afraid that I have news for my noble friend Lord Jopling: his point was purely procedural; it would not have made the slightest difference because it was EU legislation.
Surely we are a grown-up country and should be capable of enacting all our legislation where it is necessary to do so. We are told that we are the oldest democracy and the fifth largest economy in the world. We should be capable of running our own show. We do not need the EU to tell us how to dispose of our electrical waste. If Japan, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia and America can do so, why cannot we?
I suggest that it is time to examine the role that Parliament plays and the way that it dealsor, rather, does not dealwith EU legislation. Parliament should have the right to amend or reject all EU legislation, or perhaps we should just stop signing the cheques.
Lord Teverson: My Lords, I know little about this instrument, or directive, that my noble friend Lord Greaves has talked about this evening, but I want to raise one or two issues that have come out of the discussion.
The statistic of 84 per cent regarding German legislation was very interesting. I have no way of verifying that figure but it is probably correct because Germany does not have the equivalent of a Home Office to legislate very widely and frequently.
The key issue is that if we wish to have a true single market for goods and services, we must ensure that there are no technical barriers to that trade. In that way, many British companies and industries have been successful in their exports and trade with other European partners. I strongly believe that it is a reasonable area of authority for the European Union to demand that manufacturers, whether importing into the EU or manufacturing and selling within it, increasingly produce products which can be recycled effectively and efficiently.
I accept that my noble friend has made important criticisms of this directive. I am also sympathetic towards how democracy works between us and the European Union. I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, that the way to achieve what he seeks is to tackle the democratic deficit in Brussels and Europe rather than trying to change how the single market works so that it would not work in reality. The technical barriers of a number of our partners, whether France or the southern European members, would mean many of our exports would be blocked in all sorts of technical ways.
Although there might be issues around this legislation, it is certainly an area of EU competence. It is a single-market issue of recycling and it is of environmental concern across the EU. That general principle therefore needs to be stated. Let us tackle the democratic deficit in Europe and ensure that all decisions are at least made by co-decision, so that we can have full democratic input in Brussels.
The role of national parliaments should be to control their Executives who send Ministers to the Council of Ministers. That is how national parliaments should be most effective and one of the biggest ways in which parliaments of member states have been least effective. That is the tragedy.
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has given us the opportunity to debate these regulations, for which I thank him. They will have a fundamental impact on the collection, treatment, recovery and disposal of electronic and electrical equipment through a set of complex new arrangements.
As my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith has highlighted, it is estimated that the United Kingdom will produce 1.1 million tonnes of household electrical equipment waste in this year alone. Can the Minister enlighten the House on whether the Government have made any assessment of how the digital switchover may add to this figure?
Environmentally, we on these Benches emphatically believe that, while these regulations are necessary for the basic recycling infrastructure, we must encourage greater social responsibility and develop a strong recycling culture in this country. There is a need for a holistic, cross-departmental approach, which we shall wish to adopt when we form the next Government.
It is my job to look at the regulations from the DTI perspective. To help the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, Alan Duncan is the shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in another place. Businesses have informed us that they are disappointed with the information provided by the DTI about how electronic waste will be collected from consumers. I ask the Minister to ensure that both consumers and businesses are aware of the regulations and how they will affect them.
Your Lordships are well aware that the Government have held six consultations and a review, and that this has caused three years of delays in the implementation of the WEEE directive. We on these Benches recognise the scale of the challenge of implementing the directive, and the subsequent need for detailed consultation. I urge the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, not to push his prayer to a Division and introduce further delays and uncertainty for business.
The guidance accompanying these regulations is of critical importance to producers. It will determine much of the detail of the implementation of the regulations. The UK trade association for information technologyIntellecthas raised concerns that the publication of the guidance has yet again been delayed and it still has not seen a copy. Can the Minister guarantee that the guidance has been published or give a date when it will be published? Will the guidance contain rules to prevent recycling firms over-collecting and over-processing waste electrical and electronic equipment?
The regulations and guidance will inevitably have a disproportionate effect on smaller electronic producers and retailers. Will the Minister summarise the assessment made of the potential barrier that these provisions may create for new electronic producers and retailers? It is essential that these regulations do not threaten Britains international competitiveness in the electronics industry. Have the Government examined how other European countries have implemented this directive? Have other countries put in place similar schemes or are they, as so often, using paper-based compliance?
We welcome the Governments decision finally to implement the directive but, as always, the devil will be in the detail. The DTI considers that the capacity is in place for the new arrangements, yet James Murray recently reported in IT Weekly that, despite all the consultation, the delays are only the start of the problems for IT businesses. His conclusion was that a well intentioned idea has been undermined by a weak Government, with good intentions but woeful execution. That may be so, but we are where we are, so let us move ahead without further delay in our attempt to save our environment and encourage our responsible British industry.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, this has been a short but interesting debate on a difficult issue. The difficulties have been eloquently expressed by noble Lords who contributed to the debate. In the few minutes that I take to respond, I hope to answer and touch on many of the matters raised, but if I fail to do that, I will write.
I listened with great care to the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke. I have to leave aside the noble Lords views on Brussels, but the Governments view is that this is important environmental legislation that seeks to address in a practical and environmentally effective manner the increasing levels of waste electrical and electronic equipmentI refuse to use the acronym WEEEwithin the European Union. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, quoted a figure of 1.8 million tonnes and the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, gave graphic examples of what is being thrown away. Government figures are that last year 2 million tonnes of waste of this kind were generated in the UK. That figure is absolutely enormous, and imaginative and brilliant solutions are needed to solve the problem.
The regulations place obligations on all producers of electrical and electronic equipment to finance the costs of the waste management of the products they place on the UK market. The range of products covered by the regulations is extensive and runs to a full foolscap page in one of the documents. It includes washing machines, mobile phones and all sorts of things, including specialist equipment such as ventilators, dialysis machines and, in some cases, laboratory measuring equipment.
We had extensive consultations, and the business community as a whole supports the aims of the regulations and the need to limit the environmental impact of their products when they reach their end of life. As of this morning, the environmental agencies have received 37 applications from prospective compliance schemes that will help producers to meet their obligations. That is a real demonstration of the commitment within the producer community.
In drawing up the regulations it was agreed, following consultation with interested organisations and their representativesI say to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that I managed to remove all references to stakeholders in my final speech, so they will be interested organisations rather than stakeholdersthat the Government should bring forward separate regulations that cover the main obligations and necessary infrastructure and separate regulations in relation to the treatment requirements, which are focused on the waste management and treatment sector. There are three sets of permitting regulations, which amend the existing waste treatment licensing regimes in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The main WEEE regulationsSI 3289aim to introduce producer responsibility in a practical and cost-effective manner for producers and distributors in the UK. Although the bulk of the obligations rest with the producers of electrical and electronic equipment, the distributors of such equipment also have obligations. When a replacement item of EEE is purchased, distributors must provide facilities for
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The WEEE regulations place no new direct obligations on local authorities regarding waste collection; for example, current arrangements for bulky waste collections from households will be unaffected. However, local authorities are obligated under other waste management regulations to accept from households all types of household waste, including waste electrical and electronic equipment. Under the range of regulations they are also required to arrange the environmentally sound disposal of any such waste. They are not, however, obligated to separately collect WEEE or arrange the treatment in line with the targets within the WEEE regulations.
The involvement of local authorities will help to establish the robust infrastructure needed to produce an efficient and effective system under the regulations. By working with the Distributor Take-back Scheme, local authorities will be able to reduce their financial obligations under other waste management regulations. For example, producer compliance schemes will provide all containers for the separate collection of WEEE; producer compliance schemes will finance the collection, treatment and reprocessing of all separately collected household WEEE; local authorities may be able to count the recycling of WEEE deposited at their sites and collected by producer compliance schemes towards their recycling targets; and, by reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill, they will be able to reduce their landfill costs. In view of these benefits, we are absolutely confident that the vast majority of local authorities will wish to sign up their civic amenity sites as designated collection facilities.
As noble Lords have noted, the implementation of the directive in the UK has not been without its problems. The evidence given to the Merits Committee, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, was straightforward, up front and clear. Civil servants should be congratulated on that. While we are confident that the requirements for collective responsibility of waste can be fully implemented, Article 8.2 of the directive introduces the principle, which we have heard about, of individual producer responsibilityIPRwhich provides for each producer to be responsible for financing the cost of waste from their own products placed on the market after 13 August 2005.
The Government fully support the concept of IPR in principle; we have, for example, implemented the end-of-life vehicles directive on the basis of own-marque responsibility for vehicle manufacturers. We have, however, taken the view that IPR for WEEE is
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However, the regulations before us require all producer compliance schemes to put forward, by the end of 2007, their suggestions and ideas for how IPR can be achieved. In addition, the DTI will be working with producers to develop a process for sharing good practice to help in developing an effective solution.
The main costs of implementing the WEEE regulations are the separate collection, treatment and recycling of WEEE required under the directive. The DTIs regulatory impact assessment estimates annualised costs in the region of £200 million to £300 million, but this estimate assumes that virtually all WEEE arising in the UK will be separately collected. However, we anticipate that these costs will fall over time as new treatment technologies develop and as recycling markets for materials deriving from WEEE grow.
The UKs WEEE regulations implement the WEEE directive with as light a regulatory touch as possible, allowing a competitive market to develop in which producers can discharge their responsibilities under the directive. It is regrettable that delay in implementing the regulations has resulted in the UK missing the Commissions deadline for transposition and implementation. As we know, the Commission has commenced infraction proceedings as a result, and judgment is expected shortly.
The diverse nature of the business community directly affected by the regulations resulted in the identification of a range of difficulties as the directive was transposed into UK law. The complexity of the base directive added to these difficulties in transposition and implementation. But, as I said, we are not alone in those difficulties. The majority of member states have had difficulties. Of the 24 member states, 18 were not able to complete transposition within the directives timescale and 13 of those were unable to meet the implementation deadline. One member state is still to transpose and implement.
In the process of developing the implementation policy, the Government recognised the importance of engaging with producers, distributors, local authorities and the waste management sector to develop the necessary infrastructure behind the regulations to provide an effective WEEE system in the UK. We are confident that the regulations will not only result in a robust infrastructure for the handling of WEEE but represent practical solutions to the issues faced.
I shall quickly deal with some of the questions raised by noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, was very interested in light bulbs and asked why ordinary light bulbs were not covered by the directive. The directive focuses on bulbs that contain hazardous materials. That is seen as a priority. It is entirely possible that the directive may cover filament bulbs in future. The UK will discuss that with the Commission during the review. The noble Lord also asked when
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Importantly, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, also wants to know what the UK is doing to review regulations. The European Commission review starts in 2008, and the UK will participate fully. The UK will monitor the situation in the UK very closely. The first full year of the review will be 2008, and 2009 will be the earliest that we can look at the WEEE system.
The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, asked some very interesting questions. I do not have the answers to all of them, but I found extremely interesting the question about the digital switchover and the number of televisions that will go into recycling as a result. Not all existing TVs will be made redundant by the digital switchover. Those that are will be disposed of in the UK system, which has adequate capacity to deal effectively with television sets and radios.
As I said, I am very grateful to everyone for contributing to this short debate. I am aware that a number of questions asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, have not been answered, and I undertake to answer them as quickly as possible.
Viscount Colville of Culross: My Lords, the Minister referred to the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, of which I am a member. I do not know how many Members of the House have read the report of the DTIs evidence to that committee about a fortnight ago, but it answers many of the problems mentioned in the debate, particularly highlighting what is being done in other EU countries. I recommend it to anyone interested in this subject.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Viscount for making that point. It was said at the beginning of the debate how interesting it was. Because it was the first time that the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee had taken evidence, it has resulted in a great deal of interest, and I absolutely agree with the noble Viscount that what was said in that committee answers many of the questions asked today.
Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, the Minister kindly answered one or two of my questions. Will he confirm for the record that the Government are perfectly happy for Parliament to act simply as a rubber stamp for EU legislation?
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am sorry; we are here to discuss a specific issue. I know
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Lord Greaves: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. Perhaps I can thank even the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke. He and I come from opposite ends of the spectrum on Europe. He campaigns very well for his new party, and I am a Euro-enthusiast. However, when you get down to practicalities and are talking about what happens on the ground, people from surprisingly different areas come together, and I am grateful for his intervention in the debate and for his support. I am grateful, too, for the support of everyone else. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, on the Conservative Front Bench. I thought that she was going to give me what in my part of the world we call a right scragging, but her helpful and constructive intervention was much appreciated. Thank you.
I particularly thank the Minister for his very helpful and constructive comments. It is interesting to come to the House of Lords and find the Minister still talking about foolscap, which I think goes along with toasters. It is reassuring, somehow. If I may tease him a little further, he also ended up saying the dreaded acronym WEEE in the interests of getting through his speech towards the end. I thank everyone very much for the debate.
I want to raise only one point with the Minister. The Government are saying that having no new obligations on collection authorities is a good thing. I am saying that there should be obligations on collection authorities, because they can collect the medium-sized and smaller stuff. I hope that if there is no obligation on them, they will at least be encouraged to do this as part of their general recycling. The people who religiously put out their rubbish for recycling every week or fortnight will not understand that this is not part of it. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, will be pleased to learn that I do not have large numbers of troops hiding in the bars and the lavatories of the House. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
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