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Lord Jenkin of Roding: I did not say that my noble friend's plant did. I was merely reporting what is said by some of the people who question this process. I strongly support the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Wade of Chorlton, because the subject requires a great deal of study.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, because she passed me a copy of my noble friend's long letter about why the Government are looking for single-point enforcement, rather than what I believe is called multi-point enforcement, of the packaging process. I have every sympathyif I may put it crudelywith civil servants wanting to have one bottom to bite. It is much easier to enforce. If one is a watchdog it is much easier if one has only one person to go for. I understand that. But the fallacy that underlies the Government's approach is that in the commercial chain, which can sometimes be many parties long, the packer/filler, or whoever it is, can impose sufficient conditions down the line to ensure that the objectives of the scheme as a whole are attained. Life is a great deal more complicated than that.
There are few more competitive worlds than, for instance, the food processing, packaging and distribution industry. It is an immensely competitive industry. The Government are expecting too much of one party to that chain to make it effective. A multi-point system may appear on paper to be more difficult to enforce, but, as the noble Baroness said, it at least ensures that pressure is brought upon each stage in the chain. If it is not, there will be no incentive to introduce the new techniques and technologies, to find the new materials that reduce the amount of packaging produced, or the recycling that can be done. I hope that at this early stage of the Billwe seem to have been going on for a long time and yet it is still only the Committee stage in the first Chambermy noble friend will have another careful look at this issue.
Lord Moran: I should like to say a brief word in support of Amendment No. 303A. I have discussed this subject with the Food and Drink Federation, and I know that it feels strongly that responsibility for recovery and recycling should be shared, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, has argued, among all those in the packaging chain.
I have received a brief from the British Retail Consortium, which I found impressive. It says that the system of applying the control at a single point has been tried in Germany where it led to a 2 per cent. to 3 per cent. increase in retail prices, and that one leading British chainstore operator has estimated that the same system imposed in the UK would increase its operating costs by £40 million. It also describes the French scheme (the eco-emballages scheme) and points out that if one exports a jar of fruit to France four calculations are required: the amount of glass in the jar; paper in the label; metal in the lid; and plastic in the tamper-proof seal. It says that that system is breaking down.
The organisation has also addressed the Government's argument, which is the nub of the matter, that it would be difficult to enforce an arrangement where everyone in the chain was involved. It believes a multi-point obligation can be made enforceable by incorporating any organisation set up by the individual companies to meet the targets. The prosecution can then be brought against that company. That is useful. It is the view of the consortium representing 90 per cent. of retailers in this country. I hope that the Government will take it seriously.
The Earl of Balfour: Within this basket of amendments is the amendment standing in my name and that of the noble Earl, Lord Kintore. Amendment No. 309A is designed to alter the last two words of Clause 78 in that there are references to either Clause 76 or 77. We wish to substitute "those sections" for "that section". I have sympathy with Amendment No. 300 which wishes to have "including energy recovery" inserted, because many years ago the town gas in Hawick was supplemented by the methane gas produced by that town's sewage works.
Lord Bridges: I shall speak to Amendment No. 303A. I too have received some briefing from the Food and Drink Federation. My reason for speaking after so many Members of the Committee have spoken on the same matter is that this is a subject of considerable national importance. We are talking about the most efficient way of recycling packaging waste, obtaining as much as we can from it, and turning it into fresh raw material at a reasonable cost.
There has been one horrible example in Europe, which has gone wrong, to which my noble friend Lord Moran has already referred; namely, the German example, over which, as those Members of the Committee who have read the Select Committee's report on the subject, will see, a serious mistake was made. I
The noble Lord, Lord Wade, spoke with considerable moderation about what the Government have done. It does not seem to have been a sensible procedure to have invited an important businessman to work out a scheme in September 1993, and then, when it had been worked on for a year, for the Government to say was that it was not what they preferred. The whole progress of the discussion on the European directive should have given the Government sufficient time to come to an a priori judgment if they wished to do so. That has resulted in an unfortunate state of affairs which was not necessary.
I should like to make one or two other points. First, there is the argument that it would be administratively easier to have a single-point scheme rather than a multi-point scheme. I do not believe that that is the real test. The goal is to collect as much packaging waste as possible and to recycle it properly and efficiently. Industry has suggested how that should be done. The argument of administrative convenience for the department is a secondary consideration.
I have also heard it suggested that some people in Whitehall worry that a multi-point scheme is likely to be non-competitive. I find that argument difficult to understand because I believe that the single-point scheme is more likely to run into difficulty. The argument appears to have been turned on its head.
Every part of the complicated chain between manufacture, wholesaling, distribution and the point of sale needs to be brought into the Act. If the industry has devoted a great deal of time to the matter, has come up with a carefully worked out scheme and has an agency ready to move, I hope that that can be considered seriously.
Viscount Ullswater: Amendment No. 300 would clarify that the term "recovery" includes energy recovery. The term "recovery" is used to encompass any process of value recovery from waste; for example, by incinerating waste to produce electricity. But I have sympathy for the noble Lord's intention to clarify that this does indeed encompass energy recovery.
The Government have indicated that, broadly in line with the views of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, they would like to see a bigger role for waste to energy in future waste management practice. In our consultation paper, A Waste Strategy for England and Wales which was published recently, we made clear that waste to energy remains a key element of our overall strategy. Planning Policy Guidance Note 23 sets out the Government's general policy towards waste management in the field of planning. It highlights the obligations placed on waste management authorities in drawing up waste management plans to have regard to objectives which include encouraging energy recovery.
In the waste strategy, we have identified a number of impediments to the growth in waste to energy and we look forward to receiving views as part of the consultation process on how these might be overcome.
I am concerned about the effect of Amendments Nos. 301 and 306. It is important that for each waste stream, industry is able to arrange the recovery of value from its waste products or materials in the most efficient way. For some this will mean increased recycling, for others energy recovery. To replace "or" with "and" would remove this option and put re-use, recover and recycling on an equal footing for all waste streams. In the light of the need to be flexible and to achieve the most environmentally beneficial solution for each waste stream, I hope that the noble Lord will not move these amendments.
I understand the concern of Members of the Committee that the obligation imposed should be a fair one, but I am anxious that we do not close off any of our options at this stage. In considering these clauses, we must be clear that they are not solely to implement the European Community Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste, to which most Members paid a great deal of attention. There are a number of other waste streams which these enabling powers may eventually need to cover and we are in discussion not just with the packaging industry but with these other industries. Therefore, I am keen that while ensuring that we are fair we do not limit our options at this very early stage.
As regards packaging waste, on Thursday 2nd February I replied to a Written Question tabled by my noble friend Lord Gainford. I set out a list of the considerations that we propose to bear in mind in assessing the various options for putting in place a legislative framework. It is our clear responsibility to satisfy ourselves that the proposed course of action meets the objectives and does so in a way that is consistent with broader policy aims and legal constraints. We are continuing our discussions with businesses and other organisations representing all parts of the packaging chain. These discussions are proving to be productive, and certainly all parties acknowledge the complexity and significance of the issues at stake.
At this stage, we have not yet taken a view on how we wish to proceed. However, we shall bring forward a consultation paper as soon as we are able. In the meantime, we ought to preserve our options both in terms of the position for waste streams other than packaging and also for packaging waste. This is novel and uncharted territory and it would be wrong to constrain ourselves to a single solution. The choice is not simply between a single point obligation or a multi-point obligation but there are variants of each and shades in between.
I say to my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, it is not that we want to be out of step but that we want to make certain that all the steps remain available. I hope that on that basis my noble friend will be able to withdraw his amendment.
Amendments Nos. 303C and 303D would add to the Bill the definitions of "recovery", "recycling" and "re-use" contained in the packaging directive. Although these definitions are appropriate for the packaging waste stream they may not be appropriate for other waste streams. Again, I am concerned that at this stage we do not allow these general enabling powers to be coloured solely by our experience on packaging. In view of that, I hope the noble Lord will not move these amendments.
Amendment No. 309A would replace "that section" with "those sections". I have had to look at this a number of times but I have eventually concluded that because of the specific way in which the phrase is drafted the correct term is the original, "that section". Although I have great sympathy with my noble friend in wrestling with these grammatical intricacies, I hope that he will not move his amendment.
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