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Municipal Waste Recycling Bill

Volume 401: debated on Friday 14 March 2003

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Order for Second Reading read

9.34 am

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

First, I thank right hon. and hon. Members for being in their places this morning. I appreciate that this is a particularly difficult time. Indeed, to think of anything but Iraq is extremely hard for us all. Let me say how much I appreciate Members being present. Secondly, I thank all my sponsors, many of whom are present, and who come from all parties.

The Bill began as an initiative by Friends of the Earth, which started a campaign two years ago to promote a doorstep recycling Bill. That was supported by Waste Watch and the community recycling network. The campaign generated a huge amount of public and parliamentary support, which spurred me into accepting the proposal as a basis for my private Member's Bill. Its form has changed as a result of the many consultations that we have undertaken, but its ultimate purpose remains the same: every household should have a collection of separated materials for recycling at the point from which its waste is currently collected. I believe that that should be everyone's right.

The law requires that our household rubbish is collected at or near our doorsteps. It seems utterly logical that waste for recycling purposes should be collected from that same point. Environmentalists have always regarded it as wasteful that we should make extra car journeys to get to bring-sites. The advent of bring-sites at supermarkets may have cured that problem for some, but there are still many households that do not shop at supermarkets, and 28 per cent. of our population still do not own cars. I believe that we should legislate for this right for people, but I accept that we must proceed according to the best practical environmental option. That is why drafting the Bill has been less straightforward than drafting some other measures.

For far too long, waste has been the Cinderella of environmental policy—although it is a passion of mine. In 1989 I was lucky enough to introduce another measure under the private Member's procedure, which created powers to tackle fly tipping. That legislation is still in use. At that time, people were much exercised about rubbish being illegally dumped, but far less concerned about where their own rubbish ended up. Today, many more people have become conscious of what is happening to their waste.

Of the estimated 30 million tonnes of municipal waste produced annually in the UK, about 80 per cent. goes to landfill and only 12 per cent. goes for recycling and composting. It is often said that the UK produces enough waste to fill the Albert hall every hour of every day. We have only to imagine that amount of waste spilling out of that august building hour after hour to realise what landfilling really means.

As if that were not enough, the waste mountain is growing by 3 per cent. per annum, which means that waste production will have doubled by 2020. Change is urgent. There has to be both a reduction in waste produced and a sharp change in disposal methods. We are literally running out of space for landfill. We are transporting waste further and further a field. Public concern about health risks has risen sharply following reports linking landfill sites to birth defects.

Last week, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs quantified the undesirable nature of landfill by publishing a report on the effect of landfill on house prices. The total price reduction of homes within half a mile of landfill sites amounted to nearly £2.4 billion. Landfill is also responsible for 25per cent. of the UK's emissions of methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases.

The obvious alternative to landfill—one that has been taken up by many other European countries and by my local authority, Lewisham—is incineration. However, incinerators, too, have proved massively unpopular because of health concerns about the release of dioxins, heavy metals and acid gases.

Reduction, reuse and recycling are the only alternatives to increasing incineration. Increasing landfill is not an option. The European landfill directive requires the volume of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill to be reduced by 2010 to 75per cent. of that which was produced in 1995, and requires even sharper reductions thereafter.

When waste is landfilled or incinerated, it is lost for ever. New products have to be produced. That production uses both new raw materials and energy, contributing to climate change and frequently, in cases of extraction, to environmental damage as well.

The hon. Lady has already mentioned the health effects of incineration, which are one reason for rejecting that option and supporting her Bill, but does she accept that landfill has health effects as well? Only yesterday, 100 local residents in Rhondda Cynon Taff were awarded compensation because traces of carcinogens were found in their properties, which were close to a landfill site. That is another reason for pressing on with the Bill's proposals.

The hon. Gentleman is right. Those threats to people's health have been recognised, and clearly the settlement to which he referred is an acknowledgement of that.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her excellent Bill. My local authority promotes recycling and has benefited greatly from a Government grant from the national waste minimisation fund. It has raised with me the subject of transitional arrangements, and I would be grateful if my hon. Friend would look into that. The authority has entered into long-term contracts on incineration, and although it supports the principle of t he Bill, it will need reassurance that those contracts will be taken into account in any change.

My hon. and learned Friend makes an important point. Clearly we do not want to do anything in the Bill that is to the disadvantage of local authorities. There is no question of local authorities, having entered into legal contracts, having to set them aside. The issue is important but, as my hon. and learned Friend knows, relatively few local authorities have incinerators, so there is not a major problem at the moment. However, it might become one if there was a sharp increase in the number of incinerators in Britain.

A Canadian study suggests that recycling saves on average three to five times as much energy as is produced by incineration—one reason why incineration is considered preferable to landfill. The European Commission found that overall, separation of waste at source followed by recycling and composting gives the lowest net flux of greenhouse gases compared with other waste treatment options. Those are vital considerations in the fight against global warming. A good example is glass, which can be recycled indefinitely—it takes less energy to recycle it than to melt down the raw materials. Recycling a single glass bottle saves enough energy to power a 100 W bulb for almost an hour. Most other European countries have diverted waste from landfill using a mixture of regulation and fiscal incentives.

I join right hon. and hon. Members in congratulating my hon. Friend on her excellent Bill. She has just referred to the recycling of glass. My local authority, Bristol city council, has a good recycling service for glass, paper and cans but, like many councils, it does not provide a facility for recycling plastic, which constitutes a large volume of household waste. Has my hon. Friend given any consideration to fact that local authorities may need financial assistance to recycle plastic products?

The Bill is not prescriptive about which materials and waste streams local authorities would be required to recycle. I hope that that will be clear when I come to explain its details.

There are differences of opinion about the recycling of plastics. I have met representatives of a company that has to import plastic bottles to keep its recycling process going. There are differences in the market, and some local authorities may not have been able to find the right company to do their recycling work. There is a great need for information to be exchanged in that field, and the Government are trying to assist local authorities to match their recycling requirements with companies that can do the work. I accept that recycling plastic could be a problem, but it does not need special financing—it needs better communication so that the market can meet the need to deal with such products.

I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend on her Bill. Does she agree that if local authorities were supported in recycling plastic, that could provide the farming industry, which has tremendous difficulties with the disposal of plastic, with an avenue to solve that problem?

I agree with my hon. Friend. Ihope that the Bill and all the interest in it will give a boost to companies that are prepared to do the work, and which could expand if they had certainty ofcollection—I shall come to that in due course.

I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend on producing such an excellent Bill. Does she agree that one of the problems in establishing a viable market for plastics recycling in the United Kingdom is the export packaging recovery note—EPRN—which makes it cheaper for some companies here to export plastic to China, where it is cleaned and separated and then imported back to the UK? That is nonsense, given the patterns of world trade and the impact of transport on the environment. When the Bill goes into Committee, as we hope it will, will my hon. Friend ensure that there is some discussion of the operation of the EPRN system?

I shall refer later to an exhibition that I held earlier this week. One of the companies that attended showed me photographs from the far east of people on rickshaw-type vehicles carrying mountains of plastic bottles that had been exported from Britain. My hon. Friend is right that that problem needs to be addressed, and I hope that we will have an opportunity to discuss it further in Committee.

Is the hon. Lady aware that Fareham borough council, which recycles a high proportion of its waste, provides a facility for households to separate plastic bottles and packaging for recycling? I am surprised that a number of hon. Members have expressed concern about councils' ability to do that, as Fareham borough council does it very successfully.

Some councils have made that choice about the waste stream. There is a question about procedures depending on the weight of recyclates. Plastic is light, and many councils have opted to deal with heavier products first. That is one issue, but there is another issue about light recyclates taking up a huge volume inside council vehicles. There are therefore many interesting things to discuss if the Bill goes into Committee.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way to me, as she has already given way so many times. I thank her for coming to Thamesmead in my constituency, where she visited Green Works, which recycles and reuses office furniture that would otherwise go to landfill or incineration, and Ecopark, run by the Gallions housing association, which has a number of environmentally friendly energy-saving features built into it, including in situ waste separation and can crushing. Was she impressed by that project, and does she think that it is a model for other developers, whether private, local authority or housing association? Does she share my concern that our system, unlike the Dutch system, has no financial incentive for developers to include environmentally friendly measures in their developments?

I am most grateful to my hon.Friend—[Interruption.] He bought me a sandwich, as well as a cup of tea. How could I resist telling him how impressed I was by that excellent development? May I explain briefly to Members that above ground there were just ordinary-sized bins for different recyclates, but there was a huge well below ground where material was collected and from which it was extracted? It is a state-of-the-art facility, and I was delighted to see it. Yes, I believe that there should be incentives to encourage such projects.

Landfill is still far too cheap in this country. In Denmark and Austria landfill taxis twice the UK level. The heavy reliance on cheap landfill in this country has been a disincentive to the development of recycling and composting. A survey of public attitudes to quality of life and the environment in 2001 found a 10 per cent. Drop from five years earlier in the proportion of people separating glass and cans from their waste. When asked why they did not recycle more, the most common response given by a quarter of the respondents was that they had no doorstep recycling service. The second most common response was that recycling facilities were too far away. For me, that says it all.

The strategy unit report "Waste not, Want not" commissioned polling by MORI and corroborated the earlier findings. Demand for kerbside recycling washigh—three in four respondents said that they would recycle more if facilities were available to them.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her Bill, and I am pleased to say that a huge number of constituents have written and asked me to be present today in support of it. They are keen to get involved in recycling. If the Bill is successful, when does my hon. Friend estimate that they will have the doorstep recycling scheme that they are so keen to take part in?

What a question! That will depend on many factors—among which, clearly, are central Government, and the ability of individual local authorities to raise their act. There is already a huge spectrum of activity among local authorities, some doing virtually nothing and some doing a great deal. Our aim, which I shall explain further when I get to the details of the Bill, is that there should be a service for every household. If the Bill is successful, we expect that by 2010. That might seem a long way off to some, but because we start from so far behind in this country, seven years is very ambitious.

My hon. Friend has been generous in giving way. I congratulate her on her Bill. My question concerns recycling in dense urban environments, where many people live in blocks of flats, which are sometimes tall. It may be difficult for people to schlep great boxes of stuff for recycling down to the kerbside. Some local authorities will collect only from blocks of flats where there has been a vote in the block and the majority want the recycling facility. How does my hon. Friend think her Bill can accommodate the problem of people living in blocks of flats?

For many blocks of flats, the most that a local authority would be prepared to do—and this is how the Bill is worded—is to collect the material for recycling from the point at which the refuse is currently collected. In my constituency, that means that at the bottom of blocks of flats there is usually a bin shelter into which people take their rubbish. I hope that those will be improved, as some of the bin shelters are a disgrace. We expect that there would be a facility where people would place their separated materials for recycling, and another for their residual refuse. That is the most straightforward way available to people in blocks of flats. However, I know of one local authority in London—I fear my memory isnot—[Interruption.] It is suggested to me that that could beHounslow—

I shall finish the point, then my hon. Friend will know whether she has been able to anticipate me. That local authority has a very sound arrangement with its caretakers, whereby a basket for recyclable material is placed outside the doors of the flats, and the caretakers collect from those baskets into a wheeled facility and take it in the lift to the collection point. So it is possible to arrange collection from people's door steps, even for flats. That is the optimum arrangement. I do not anticipate that most local authorities will do that, although it would be good if they did.

The London borough of Hounslow, which is in my constituency, provides a green box service to residents of low and high-rise flats. It is a beacon council, and I would be honoured if my hon. Friend would accompany me to Hounslow to look at the scheme.

I congratulate my hon. Friend not only on the Bill, but on giving way so often. Clearly, there is great variability between local authorities in the ways in which they achieve the various waste targets. The Government recognised that in their waste strategy by stating that authorities that have not performed very well do not: have to perform a great deal better just to double what they have achieved in the past. How would my hon. Friend's Bill interact with those targets? Does she see great opportunities in the Bill for more partnership working between authorities, spreading good practice and so on?

On the latter point, it is one of the hallmarks of our Government that we have encouraged the sharing of good practice, given beacon status to authorities, and so on. That is important. If my hon.

Friend will allow me to make some progress, I shall explain all the points that he needs to know when I come to the details of the Bill. He might like to intervene again at that point.

For the record, I shall be available in the Lobby to support the hon. Lady's Bill if it is put to a vote, which I think it may not be. I appreciate that we are dragging her into detail that she intends to address later, but the points that have been raised about doorstep collection are significant, especially to the elderly. Canterbury city council has a scheme that I believe to be working quite well, but considerable numbers of the people living in the area are elderly. They have been told in some cases that the dustmen will collect only from the pavement, not from the doorstep. When clause 3 and the duties of the waste disposal authority are debated in Committee, will the hon. Lady consider amendments and pay particular attention to the need to make sure that if the scheme is to operate as we all hope it will, it is easy to operate so that people want to participate in it?

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. My own mother has a similar problem with her local authority. Local authorities need to have discussions with their residents about what is possible and what is not. For many people, the wheelie bin has been a great success, but elderly people may still have problems. With forethought and consideration, ways can be found to overcome those problems. If we are to make recycling as successful as I hope we will, we need to take great care to understand what people can and will do. That is essential.

On that point, I refer to Environment Agency research that was published in May lastyear. The press release states:
"9 out of 10 people in today's survey claim they would be very likely to sort rubbish for recycling if the local council provided containers. Where councils already provide recycling containers, the survey shows that participation in recycling increases dramatically. For example, whilst only 6 per cent. of the total sample surveyed claimed to recycle plastic packaging, the proportion rises to 59 percent. of those whose council provides containers and doorstep collection. On the same basis the proportion recycling plastic bottles rises from 10 per cent. to 59 percent. and for cardboard from 17 per cent. to 67 percent."

On public support for recycling, does my hon. Friend agree that that is one of a number of issues on which public opinion is way ahead of the Government's perception of public opinion? There is an enormously important campaign by residents of Ramsbottom in my constituency, the RALF campaign—Ramsbottom against Land Fill—which not only was successful in turning down an important planning application for one of the largest holes in the ground in south-east Lancashire, but, accepting responsibility for developing an alternative to landfill, is now working closely with the metropolitan district of Bury to establish a household doorstep recycling campaign. Is it not important that we build on the strength of support for recycling among local community groups? Can they not be an important force for change?

I could not agree more. I, too, have had experience of people, sometimes from particularly deprived communities, with strong feelings about the way in which their rubbish is disposed of and with the will to do something themselves. Of course we should engage with that, and I recommend it to every council and congratulate my hon. Friend's constituents.

Another virtue can be added to those that I have already explained this morning in relation to recycling and composting. Waste Watch in "Jobs in Waste" calculated that achieving a recycling target of just 30 per cent. by 2010 would create 45,000 jobs. The private company Biffa Waste Services Ltd. predicted smaller gains, but its range of scenarios suggests that around 40,000 jobs would be created by the Bill.

I think that the House will conclude that there is a pressing need for a huge expansion of doorstep recycling if we are to deal with the required shift from landfill and the public's resistance to further incinerator build.

My Bill proposes that 50 per cent. of UK municipal waste should be recycled or composted by 2010. That target has not been plucked from the air. The fifth report of the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs in March2001 said:
"The national targets for recycling and composting … for 2010 (30 per cent.)and 2015 (33 per cent.) are depressingly unambitious and appear implicitly to accept that there is a 'ceiling' on the proportion which can be recycled … We recommend that new targets be set of 50 per cent. by 2010 and 60 per cent. by2015."

Is my hon. Friend aware that Canberra in Australia has gone from 22 per cent. to 66 per cent. recovery of waste in only six years by utilising systems designed to separate waste into different streams?

My hon. Friend adds to the argument that I am making that it can be done, should be done and is done in other places.

In common with other hon. Friends, I should like my hon. Friend to know that her Bill has massive support from my constituents. I have received a huge postbag—and that from people who live in the borough of Camden, which I am sure my hon. Friend will agree has been a leader in this area, working for recycling and doorstep collection. A point that is central and essential to this that has already been made, and in which I believe that the public are way ahead of the Government and many local authorities, is that in densely populated areas such as London it is virtually impossible for many people to find space in their homes to store recyclable waste, and as my hon. Friend has already said, a car may not be available to take it to an already established recycling point.

Order. May I ask the hon. Lady to bring her intervention to a close?

Therefore a doorstep point where people may leave their recyclable rubbish, perhaps daily, would be a simple solution.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We must ensure that people, wherever they live, whether in the most densely populated urban areas or in rural areas, have a service that is as accessible and convenient as possible. It cannot be perfect for everyone all of the time, but much greater efforts could and should be made.

The national targets dismissed by the Select Committee as "depressingly unambitious" appeared in the Government's "Waste Strategy 2000", which further announced the introduction of recycling targets for each local authority in England. But the strategy was hardly in place before the depth and urgency of the problem prompted a Government review, which resulted in the strategy unit's report published last November, "Waste not, Want not"—a strategy for tackling the waste problem inEngland—which provides the major argument that underpins the Bill. The strategy is for England alone, but its proposals are equally valid for all parts of the United Kingdom. The strategy unit called for policies aimed at
"developing the infrastructure for recycling and associated education programmes."
It predicted that its recommended strategy would lead to a scenario where in 2015
"every home now has kerbside recycling for organic waste and key dry recyclables."
Much of the supporting work that informed that study has also been published. A university of Paisley study found that the best system to deliver high capture was
"multi-material kerbside collections … and the high levels of successful promotional and education campaigns";
and that
"An alternative scenario of high density bring sites across the region with current kerbside provision maintained would give significantly lower capture".
The arguments for enabling every household to dispose of waste sustainably are utterly convincing, but the preparation of the Bill has forced me to test them out in discussion with many of the key players in the field. I have had good advice from Councillor Kay Twitchen of the Local Government Association and Samantha Heath, the chair of the Greater London Authority's environment committee, and from her colleague and mine, Nicky Gavron. I am delighted that the Mayor of London's draft strategy proposes that there should be a household collection of recyclables for every household in London by 2004.

I have also received good advice from the Environment Agency, the Environmental Services Association, the waste and resources action programme—orWRAP—the local authority recycling advisory committee, the all-party sustainable waste group, London Remade, the Paper Federation of Great Britain and British Glass. I have also received hundreds of letters of advice from individuals and companies.

Inevitably, there is concern about new duties being placed by the Government on local government, but there is also enthusiasm to do the job from many local authorities. My own council of Lewisham is no exception. Nine years ago, when it diverted its waste from landfill to incineration, that appeared to be a sustainable option, but the consequence is a low recycling rate and it has been acknowledged that much more needs to be done.

I very much support the Bill. Recent studies in Sweden that have made the national newspapers suggest that incineration may be more environmentally friendly than recycling. That is counter-intuitive to everything that all of us believe in, but has the hon. Lady given any thought to that, and could she elucidate it in her speech today?

We shall have to pursue such matters if the Bill reaches Committee, but other reports suggest the opposite. We must weigh up all the evidence, but what concerns me and others is that incinerators produce dangerous emissions, the permissible levels of which have had to be brought down and down, suggesting that that is a real, not a fanciful, concern. We must therefore consider the matter carefully. Sweden has invested considerably incinerators, which may be why it hopes to make that particular case.

My local authority has had a low recycling rate and I know the reasons for that, but I am delighted that it formally supports my Bill and has successfully obtained more than £1 million from DEFRA's waste minimalisation and recycling fund, and that it plans to establish kerbside recycling for estates borough wide of mixed dry recyclables from April this year. However, it points out that sustainable waste management requires sustainable financing.

There is no way the UK target on landfill can be met: without a greater contribution from every local authority. The strategy unit report highlighted years of missed targets and failed strategies. How many people remember that the environment White Paper of 1990 set a target of 25 per cent. recycling by 2000, but actually achieved slightly more than 11 per cent.? Reports in 1995 and 1999 served only to emphasise the Government's failures, which culminated in shifting the 25 per cent. target from2000 to 2005–06 in "Waste Strategy 2000".

Something has to change, and that change must be based on what the public say that they will do and want their councils to do. In drafting the Bill, we have reflected the desire of central and local government to remain focused on outcomes—50 per cent. recycling—and not on process, such as the 100 per cent. doorstep recycling target that was originally proposed. However, there is a strong argument that the collection of separated waste is but an upgrade of councils' existing duty to provide a collection service.

Other arguments have been put to me, particularly about markets. I crave the indulgence of the House; as I have given way a let, I seem to have been speaking for a long time, but it has not all been my speech. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is very interesting."] I am encouraged by my hon. Friends. I want to deal now with the other arguments that have been put to me about markets, as many local authorities have had bad experiences in the past and are concerned that existing markets cannot cope with supply and that new markets need to be created. WRAP—the waste and resources action programme—is undoubtedly doing sterling work and there will always a need to stimulate and encourage innovation and markets.

The recyclates exhibition that I organised in Portcullis House on Wednesday featured20 companies, which provided a superb display of talent in manufacturing new products from recycled waste. I am only sorry that I am not wearing today the scarlet fleece that was on display—

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I was not sure whether the dress code of the Commons would allow me to wear the fleece, which was beautiful, warm and soft and as good as anything that one could buy in any high street, but was made from recycled plastic bottles, which is quite unbelievable. Instead, I have settled for a beer can, which I am sure hon. Members will be pleased to know was recycled into the jewellery that I am wearing.

On markets, like a number of other colleagues who have chipped in, I am a member of the Select Committee on Environmental Audit, which last week visited a major recycling centre run by Cleanaway in east London. The centre now has a successful process for recycling garden waste and turning it into compost that can be used domestically and by companies. As a Member of Parliament who is particularly opposed to seeing any incinerators in Essex, I was encouraged by the process, which I wanted to introduce to the debate as a practical example of what can be done.

As a keen gardener, I can tell the hon. Gentleman how much I support the work on producing compost. The most exciting thing that I saw at my exhibition this week was what appeared to be a green plastic plant pot that was wholly recyclable. One cannot discern the difference from a normal pot, and I understand that the product is soon 10 be on sale in this country. One company—I think it is Homebase—says that it sells a thousand miles of plastic: pots a year. Those will all be replaced by completely compostible pots. He is right to raise such important issues; we are a nation of gardeners, after all.

While we are considering innovative recycling, may I tell the hon. Lady that I have a constituent who had a couple of gallstones removed and has made them into very attractive earrings?

Although I am keen to wear recycled jewellery, I am not planning a gallstone operation.

I also heard from a number of the very big companies. Apex, another importantcompany—it provided all the recycled compost for the Eden project—and Aylesford Newsprint told me that they had no problem finding markets and that they wanted certainty and quality of recyclates supply. The chairman of Glasspac told Friends of the Earth:
"There is no issue in the glass industry with markets or treatment capacity—the issue is collection which is why we are supporting the Municipal Waste Recycling Bill".
Alupro, the not-for-profit company sponsored by leading can, sheet and foil rollers, told Friends of the Earth:
"With ample reprocessing capacity, ready markets for recycled materials …the issue for aluminium is collection and specifically collection from the domestic waste stream."
Dirk Hazell, director of the Environmental Services Association, told us that, if there were regulatory certainty, his members would be ready to invest about£1 billion in plant and equipment in the UK. That £1 billion is available now. Andy Doran of LARAC said that he was
"still not overly concerned about either the capacity of current market outlets … or the ability of the reprocessing industry to grow according to the supply of materials that would be produced by the Bill."
I turn now to the question of costs, which is very important. It is difficult to quantify either present or future costs and I look to my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment for help in due course with this matter. LARAC has said:
"the current funding system for local authority waste activities is based upon very historical ambitions to dispose of waste quickly and efficiently but with little regard to the environment. A new funding structure for local authority waste disposal is needed that takes account of the ambitions of the public, Government and practitioners that higher proportions of household waste is segregated at source and recycled rather than merely disposed of."
Friends of the Earth has attempted a calculation based on the average cost of existing schemes, subtracting the savings that would be made on landfill and adding the revenue from selling recyclables. The overall annual cost for England and Wales would be about £400 million at today's prices by 2010. The ESA has done a calculation without deductions, which is, of course, much higher, but it emphasizes that there is a dramatic drop in costs once the collection threshold has passed from25 to 45 per cent.

I am aware, however, that £100 million has already been put into public finance initiatives that are mainly for incineration, and that £114 million is available in the waste minimisation and recycling fund. A further £100 million is being directed from the landfill tax credit scheme, and I understand that approximately half that money will be available to local authorities.

My local authority, Bath and North East Somerset council, was the first authority to introduce a zero-waste policy and it is the best unitary authority in terms of recycling. On cost, does the hon. Lady accept that if in parallel to implementation of her Bill, which I entirely support, much greater efforts were made to reduce waste in the first instance, there would be less need for recycling and costs would fall? For example, it took me almost seven minutes to separate the shirt that I am wearing from the packaging in which it was sold.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for making those points. Time is passing and I know that many other hon. Members wish to speak, so I will say only that there is a gap in the calculations, but many ideas about how it might be filled. Again, we could explore those issues further if there were time to do so.

Let me turn briefly to the detail of the Bill. In this context, I want to thank Martyn Williams of Friends of the Earth for the huge amount of assistance that he has given me in preparing the Bill, and my assistant, Heidi Alexander, who has worked extremely hard. Clause 1 places a duty on the Secretary of State to provide an overarching framework for UK recycling policy, to ensure that 50 per cent. of municipal waste in the UK is recycled or composted by 2010. The target is a UK target, as one of the key drivers of the policy is the need to meet the landfill directive, which is, of course, a UK duty. The Bill therefore requires the Secretary of State to consult all the devolved Administrations.

As to ensuring that the 50 per cent. target is met, clause 1(2) requires the setting of targets for local authorities in England and Wales, to be carried out by the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales respectively. Scotland has its own strategy, which currently aims to achieve 38 per cent. recycling and composting by 2010 and to provide a doorstep service for 85 per cent. of households, despite the fact that Scotland starts from a much lower base than England. After the Secretary of State has produced his report on targets, clause 2 gives local authorities a further six months in which to draw up a sustainable waste strategy for their area.

Subsection (2) would set two objectives of the strategy: minimising waste and promoting reuse and recycling; and ensuring that all households in an area may access services provided. I have received representations from Help the Aged and others who are worried that elderly people might find distant bring-banks difficult to access owing to their lack of cars and inability to carry recyclables.

Subsection (3) would require annual reporting of the quantity of waste collected, composted and recycled. It is important to produce a report that would enable people to see that access was being expanded, which is an important part of the strategy.

Clause 3 would ensure that materials collected by waste collection authorities were of the best possible quality and of high value. As of last week, a similar clause has been included in the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill, and if the Municipal Waste Recycling Bill reaches the Committee stage, we shall take a sensible view and remove the clause rather than duplicating the other Bill.

The Bill is ambitious and sets a very ambitious target for recycling and composting. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister has serious reservations about the target, but given his commitment to the environment, I urge him to rise to the challenge. We both know that other European countries have achieved the targets and that a couple of English authorities are close to achieving them.

I shall end on a personal note. Try as I may to minimise my waste, it continues to accumulate at an alarming rate. With two MPs in my household, it would never be easy to take recyclables to bring-banks. A local organisation called Aquarius Recycling has provided a solution. It collects all our newspapers, magazines, card, plastic bottles, glass bottles and tin cans from our doorstep every week, at a cost of £7 per month. That system works. Our wheelie-bin waste has reduced by at least 50 per cent., although I confess that I am still struggling with our home composter.

I know that not everyone can pay for that, but I want everyone's local authority to provide the service that I have for my home. If the Bill is supported today, I hope that that will become a reality.

10.22 am

I congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) on her choice of subject for the Bill. I join her in congratulating Friends of the Earth on the considerable amount of work that it has done. As one who first entered Parliament in1983 but who has never managed to appear in the top six on the ballot, I envy her the opportunity to introduce an important and necessary measure.

All the parties have been promising doorstep recycling for every household in the country for some time. The national average municipal waste recycling rate of 12 percent. suggests that the Government have been painfully slow in catching up with the popular clamour from citizens, the green lobby and environmental industries.

Does the hon. Gentleman also believe that the Conservative Government were painfully slow in the 1990s, which meant that the target had to be reset?

Yes, but not as slow as the Liberals.

The Bill presents us with an opportunity to prove that hon. Members care sincerely about the environment and the wishes of our electors. It is undoubtedly true that Conservative councils do a sight better at recycling and collecting source-separated waste than Labour or Liberal councils.

Survey results that were published on Tuesday revealed that only 19 per cent. of Members of Parliament rank the environment in their top two priorities. The environment rates behind the economy, health, education and crime. However, a MORI poll that was conducted last year showed that 61 per cent. of householders rated waste collection, disposal and recycling as the most important services provided by their councils—above schools, parks and open spaces and support services for the disabled. The Environment Agency survey in August 2002, which was cited by the hon. Lady, showed that 90 per cent. of people interviewed said that they would sort their rubbish if the council provided containers. What further evidence do we need to prove the existence of the gap between the national interests of Members of Parliament and the local priorities of those who elect them? There could scarcely be a better opportunity than the Bill for us to close that gap.

Despite the Government's laudable rhetoric on sustainable waste management, the amount of municipal household waste is rising by 3 per cent. every year. In2000–01, just over 78 per cent. of the 29 million tonnes collected in England and Wales was disposed of in landfill. At present, 51 per cent. of all households are served by kerbside recycling collection schemesD— I might add that 80 percent. of those are in Conservative-controlled councils. However, in Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions last week, the Minister for the Environment said:
"Our goal is the maximisation of recycling."
He also said, in a somewhat plaintive tone:
"We have to meet very tough landfill directive targets by2016."—[Official Report, 6 March 2003; Vol. 400. c.945.]
That lament was more than justified. By 2016, the weight of biodegradable municipal solid waste disposed of to landfill must be no more than 35 per cent. of the amount produced in 1995. At the current rate of growth, that would require the diversion of 33 million tonnes a year to other waste management methods.

Why do the Government find the targets so hard to meet? I believe that it is because they have pursued a disjointed policy of serial reaction to European Union directives without real investment in, or a commitment to, a comprehensive and far-sighted waste management infrastructure. We have lacked a regulatory framework to provide price signals and incentives to industry and households, and to stimulate the much-needed market for recyclates. According to a review of the UK landfill tax commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and published in October 2002, 25 per cent. of local authorities are likely to miss their statutory recycling targets in 2005–06.

Hon. Members will remember last year's fridge mountains and are all too aware of increased fly tipping of building waste, the dumping and incineration of cars and the lack of real preparation to enable local authorities to deal with the collection of waste electrical and electronic equipment, tyres and batteries. We are being bombarded by environmentally progressive regulation from Brussels, but we are left defenceless by a Government who are simply digging themselves into deep trenches of mismanagement and neglect.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was tackled on Government inaction and complaints from the industry at a hearing of the Environmental Audit Committee on 12 February. In an extraordinary display of petulance, she rounded on the Committee with the words:
"I am getting the distinct impression that an awful lot of people who have come to see you have all got very good excuses for why they are not doing enough to tackle the problem of waste. They are all saying if only the Government did something different, but that none of them needs to do anything different."
Perhaps she should take note of the chief of the Environment Agency, BaronessYoung—she is, after all, a Labour appointee—who said last week:
"We need some overarching leadership to take us forward, there is no overall group with this responsibility. Let's look to government to fill this gap. It is not a case of all of us leaning in to fill this space".
The role of the Secretary of State is to lead, but I am sorry to say that it seems the Government would prefer to do nothing and then blame everyone else, when we are constantly outstripped by European states which, some years ago, took steps that we are considering only today—and only by way of a private Member's Bill. This should have been a Government Bill.

It is easy to be critical, but much better to be positive. The Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, of which I am a member, is currently considering waste, and has just visited Denmark. We should not get too hung up on comparisons between ourselves and other European states, because it all depends on what we put into our calculations and, dare I say, what we leave out.

As the hon. Gentleman says, there must be clear comparators. There must also be clear standards, and, as I have said for some years, they must be common standards. He rightly implies that the definition of recycling is different in different countries, and that common definitions would allow clearer comparators. As he may acknowledge, however, I have not compared us with the rest of Europe. What I have said is that much more needs to be done, could have been done and should have been done by past Governments, and certainly should have been done by this Government.

:We have heard no reference to Northern Ireland so far, but I assure the House that we in Northern Ireland face the same problems and take the matter very seriously. Could not the Minister, even at this late stage, redeem the failures of past Governments by allowing the Bill a speedy passage?

I agree with that helpful intervention.

Waste should not be seen as a nuisance to be dumped in cheap holes in the ground. It should be seen as a resource giving us a new form of energy, and new materials for more eco-friendly product design and green procurement. To date, however, local authorities, householders and businesses have been given no incentives either to reduce the volume of waste produced or to increase the level of recycling at source. Failure to tackle those problems is having grave implications for our international competitiveness in what promises to be, according to Biffa,
"the fastest growing services and engineered products market on a global scalein the coming century".
The Department of Trade and Industry has estimated that the worldwide market in environmental technology is currently worth no less than $515 billion, and is forecast to grow to 618 billion by 2010. The United Kingdom's share of that market is less than 5 per cent.

Some of the incentives that currently exist are ill suited to encourage plastic recycling, for instance. Local authorities wishing to stimulate plastic recycling know that it will do little to solve the landfill problem, while the landfill tax is a crude instrument to make them recycle materials that do not take much space in landfill.

That is a good point. If the hon. Gentleman stays a little longer, he will hear my proposals for dealing with the problem.

We must recognise that our historic reliance on a linear flow of raw materials into products, consumption and waste that goes into landfill must change. We must move into a brave new world of resource efficiency. It has taken a private Member's Bill to propose what is right for both the environment and the nation. It requires the Secretary of State to ensure that by 31 December 2010, 50 per cent. of municipal waste in the United Kingdom is recycled or composted. That is the level recommended by the Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs in a report published in March 2001. It also places a duty on waste disposal and waste collection authorities to publish a sustainable waste strategy promoting minimisation, reuse and recycling, and enabling all householders to dispose of their waste sustainably. The waste disposal authority's role will be to direct the waste collection authority to collect waste in a manner that will facilitate reprocessing or recycling.

I assume that that implies the collection of source-separated waste, as that would deliver household waste in the most resource-efficient way. It is in legislative harmony with the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill, as amended in the other place, which requires the waste disposal and waste collection authorities in a given area to produce and publish a joint municipal waste strategy.

It would be difficult for anyone not to support the principle of the Bill. As Friends of the Earth has commented, it
"will dramatically increase recycling rates by providing every household in England with a collection scheme making recycling as easy as putting out the rubbish".
That may be slightly over-egging the pudding, but the sentiment is correct. However, the Local Government Association, my colleagues and I have some reservations about the Bill, and I therefore suggest that it should be given time in Committee for thoughtful amendment. How, for instance, can we ensure the necessary flexibility for local government, taking account of the division of labour and resources between the waste collection and waste disposal authorities? I welcome the interdependence of the two tiers in the provision of a joint sustainable waste strategy, but we must ensure that one tier is not penalised for the other's failure to discharge its duties.

How will local authorities be given adequate resources to research and fund recycling projects? If recycling targets are to have any real meaning, local authorities need reassurance that they will have the capacity to carry out the recycling, and that there will be an end use for the materials collected. The Government should provide more measures to stimulate the demand for recyclates. We cannot risk defrauding the public by encouraging them to separate waste, only for it to end up mixed again and dumped in landfill owing to the lack of a viable market. We must also ensure that the transport of waste outside the boundaries of the areas for which waste disposal authorities are responsible is kept to a minimum. Transporting rubbish is simply a waste of resources and energy, and is in any case in defiance of the proximity principle which we all support and which is not mentioned in the Bill.

As the promoter of the Bill said, however, the main issue requiring much more debate is undoubtedly funding. Citing my amendment to early-day motion 333 in support of doorstep recycling, I urge the Government to quantify the expenditure implications and to state explicitly how local authorities will be supported in implementing the Bill. The Treasury remains un persuaded as to the end use of the landfill tax increase announced by the Chancellor in lasts November's pre-Budget statement. If that entire increased revenue constituted another stealth gain for the Treasury, that would be yet another fraudulent green tax with little environment a benefit.

The proposed reforms to the landfill tax credit scheme allow for only 20 per cent. of the tax—about £100 million—to be given to waste management. If the Government intend to increase landfill tax significantly, as we have been told, they must demonstrate a direct and transparent transfer of resources to fund environmental improvements. One such way might be to fund local authorities that establish the collection of source-separated waste and build recycling plants. Currently, 54 per cent. of the revenue from the landfill tax is money from local authorities. It would not be unreasonable if a similar proportion were recycled back to them to use for further recycling, the enhanced policing of fly tip ping, and campaigns to raise public awareness of waste. What is more, if theme asurement of waste were to incorporate volume as well as weight—this deals with the point raised by the hon. Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh)—we might raise further revenue and simultaneously discourage the use of lightweight but non-biodegradable packaging.

The Government's own strategy unit reported in November last year that unless action was taken, the volume of waste generated would double by 2010 and the cost of disposal would increase by £1.6 billion. The Secretary of State responded to the report with the determined words:
"We need to change our ways."
However, when asked by the Environmental Audit Committee on 12 February whether she would support the Bill, she replied more cautiously, saying:
"We will have to give the Government's response when the Bill comes for ward, but I would have said that if we thought this was an essential step, we would have made it ourselves".
Perhaps she would like to change her ways and recognise that, although it may not have been the Government's idea, this Bill—this step—is essential if the UK is not to be left far behind as the rest of Europe marches on ahead along the road of strategic environmental thinking and economic and social progress. We will support the Bill from these Benches.

10.42 am

It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to speak in favour of the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock). I was a sponsor of her Bill back in 1989. In those days, we had a Conservative Government who did not have the same commitment to environmental issues that the Opposition now say that they are going to make. That Bill made an enormous impact on environmental issues. The Bill that my hon. Friend has introduced today has strong support from many people on both sides of the House and across the country, including Friends of the Earth, which has played an important role in this campaign. It is vital that we do everything possible urgently to get the Bill through both Houses and on to the statute book, so that we can change be haviour. I am conscious that that same urgency applies to the way in which we make our speeches today, so that everyone has the opportunity to speak and the Bill can go through. I am delighted to support the Bill; I hope that we will see it on its way and that there will be ringing endorsements for it from all parties.

I am also pleased that the Environmental Audit Committee, of which I amvice-chair—I see many of its members in the House thismorning—is having such an impact on the development of environmental issues. The Minister is a member of that Committee and has made an enormous contribution to environmental policy, and I hope that his commitment will be matched by all Government Departments. I am conscious that, in getting this Bill on to the statute book, we will need the support of the Treasury, and I hope that we can make real progress on that.

My interest in the Bill stems from a long-standing interest in environmental health matters—I am a vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health—and from my concern about how we look after our resources, our climate, and the planet as a whole. Many people make the mistake of equating the environment with the countryside, or with un spoilt natural areas. I agree that such areas are important but, equally, the environment in which most of our constituents live is not like that; most people in this country live in towns and cities. That is why it is so important that we should have a sustainable development strategy.

I am passionate about ensuring that our urban environments are clean, healthy and pleasant to live in, as well as being concerned about protecting the green areas around our cities. I would like to mention a major national conference that is being or ganised by the Landscape Institute and which will take place at Vale Park in my constituency. National conferences of this kind give us all an opportunity to raise awareness of how we can build our green spaces and have environmental policies to match.

The Bill has a great deal to offer people right across the country. I cannot be the only one who notices the difference between the streets in this country—with their litter, graffiti and dog mess—and those in many European cities that we occasionally have the opportunity to visit. I hope that the Bill will move us closer to some of our European counterparts whose policies have had a real impact on keeping their streets healthy and clean. Rubbish collection in this country originated as a solution to the public health problems caused by hugely unhygienic piles of rubbish. The famous urban myth that we are never further than 10 ft from a rat in London was certainly a lot closer to the truth before regular collections of waste got our streets even to the relative state of cleanliness that we enjoy now. What I want to see is progress from a scheme that protects human health to a scheme that also protects the health of the planet that we live on. For many years, we have known that we have to keep our homes free of rubbish and waste to protect our health. Now, we also know that we need to recycle and reuse to protect the planet's health, and our law needs updating to reflect this. We have an opportunity to do that today.

What I find hugely encouraging is the evidence that providing people with recycling facilities encourages them to think beyond simply recycling. The Environmental Audit Committee has seen that on visits that it has made, including those that it made last week to parts of Essex and Kent. I am also delighted that some local authority leaders are assisting my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford, through the Local Government Association, with the detail of getting the Bill on to the statute book. As people get used to separating recyclable rubbish from the stuff that has to be thrown away, there is evidence that broader environmental awareness is encouraged. We have a sub-committee on the Environmental Audit Committee that is examining how we can raise awareness of these issues, and it is clear that if we get the Bill on to the statute book, more people will recycle their rubbish, which will lead to greater environmental awareness.

If we are to persuade people to respond to this, we must provide the facilities for them so that they can make the right choices. We must also foster a spirit of environmental responsibility. That means that we must also do our bit here in this place, and the Government have to do their bit. The MORI evidence has been referred to. We must ensure that people can do what we want them to do in terms of recycling. A huge number of people from my constituency have made representations asking that the Bill should go through the House today, and I am sure that other hon. Members from Staffordshire and elsewhere will have received similar requests.

There are two local authorities in my constituency. Staffordshire Moorlands district council should be congratulated on its record. Its targets for recycling for next year are 11 per cent. of household waste and 15 per cent. of composting. That is 26per cent. overall, which is well above the national level. Similarly, in Stoke-on-Trent, the local authority has huge ambitions and I would like to say to my right hon. Friend the Minister that we are hoping that there might be a shortfall in his waste minimisation budget that could be used to help Stoke-on-Trent to match Staffordshire Moorlands in regard to the amount of recycling that is carried out.

I know that we are short of time, but I want to say that recycling offers enormous opportunities for business and for innovation. Already, there are huge budgets for regeneration, and that money—we would not even have to have more—couldbe used for recycling. I hope that there is support for the Bill across the House today.

10.50 am

I am pleased to support the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford(Joan Ruddock) and to be a sponsor of it. I recognise, as the hon. Lady said, that it has cross-party support in the House, with Members from all parties appearing in the list of sponsors. That, and the nature of the hon. Lady's contribution, makes the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr.Sayeed), who is no longer in his seat, somewhat churlish.

Conservative Members are saying, "Pathetic." The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire left his seat, although he is now returning. He spent his time criticising the Government, but the Bill is about cross-party initiatives to improve r cycling.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is the hon. Gentleman in order? He is making a rather unpleasant point while my hon. Friend is simply delivering his speaking notes to the Official Report.

I really do not think that that is a point of order for the Chair.

This country starts from the position of having a mountain to climb—a mountain of tyres, a mountain of cars, a mountain of fridges and a mountain of other household waste. There is perhaps a mountain to climb in persuading the Government to support the Bill, but I hope not. We have with us the Minister for the Environment, who I am sure is absolutely committed to the Bill and the premise behind it. We do not, of course, have with us Treasury Ministers or Ministers from other Departments, who may play a key role behind the scenes. Nevertheless, I hope that their attention is drawn to comments made by Members on both sides of the House.

We have a mountain to climb in that we have a recycling rate of 11 or 12 per cent., which is very low, as the Minister has readily admitted on a number of occasions. It compares with 64 per cent. in Austria, 52 per cent. in Belgium and more than 50 percent. in some local authority areas. In my constituency, a good scheme is run by Wealden district council, which I am happy to concede is run by the Conservatives. It runs a scheme entitled CROWN—composting and recycling our wastenow—which recycles more than 50 per cent. of household waste in Polegate in my constituency. There are good practices up and down the country, and we should emulate and build on those.

The Government recycling target of 30 per cent. by 2010 has already been pushed back from what those of us who are in favour of recycling wanted and what was in place in the 1990s. We must ensure that it slips no further. It is entirely reasonable to include in legislation—perhaps this Bill—a target of 50 per cent. That is achievable. If any Ministers are balking at that figure, I hope that this Minister will do his best to persuade them that it is achievable, because it certainly is for the reasons given by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford.

There is no dispute about the waste hierarchy. We all agree on it, on both sides of the Chamber. The dispute is as to how much is achievable within each strand of that hierarchy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) has correctly said, we need to do more on waste minimisation. We are not tackling that, and waste is still increasing by 3 or 4 per cent. per annum. I find packaging, for food in particular, excessive. My hon. Friend has told us that, on a bad day, it took him seven minutes to remove the cellophane packaging from one of his shirts. When I go to a supermarket to buy a packet of croissants, I find it offensive to find numerous layers of plastic. If I go to a baker's shop in my constituency, I pay more for four croissants loosely in a paper bag than for four in plastic packaging, as there is a reduction for purchasing four in that way. That point has to be made and we must do something about it.

I recently visited Brussels to talk to those involved with environmental matters in the Commission, which is keen to do something. There is a packaging directive, of course, but it can require only the recycling of existing packaging. We need an incentive across Europe to reduce the production of packaging. One reason for not having that is that the European Union has no competence to introduce the fiscal measures that would achieve it. That is an example of member states' reluctance to give fiscal power to the EU having a detrimental environmental impact. The requirement on producers to recycle existing packaging is better than nothing, but it does nothing to reduce the amount of packaging in the first place. That is one example of the challenge that we must deal with in terms of minimisation—we must do more.

We can do more on reuse. I am happy to tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I still have my milk delivered in glass bottles on my doorstep, although that option is sadly not available to everyone in the country these days. An average milk bottle is used for 17 trips while the average plastic carton is used for one and is then thrown away. We need to do more to encourage the use of milk bottles. To give a quick plug for Harvey's brewery in my constituency, which produces excellent beer, it uses beer bottles for which there is a deposit. People can buy their beer, return the bottle sand get some money back. That was common practice 30 years ago, but it has been lost. However, it remains common practice in countries such as Denmark and we should be considering deposit schemes for bottles whether they are glass or plastic. If supermarkets were faced with paying a deposit on returned glass bottles, they would soon put the pressure on the producers and the Government to do something.

The hon. Gentleman is stealing part of my thunder on the reintroduction of deposit schemes. Does he accept that the scheme in Denmark operates through' the full involvement of the manufacturers? For example, every bottle that is sold by Carlsberg carries a deposit. The only problem is people bringing in beer from Germany, which does not have a deposit scheme, although I know that an attempt is being made to cope with that as well.

That is a valid point that shows the value of having an EU rather than a nation state solution to these matters, which, I am afraid, will be second best environmentally. I am afraid, too, that the EU sometimes goes for a solution that is the lowest common denominator rather than the highest common factor, if I remember my mathematics correctly from along time ago. We need to do more there.

We could do more in terms of reuse and industry. There is an innovative scheme, which I am happy to say I was part of, in East Sussex when I was chair of economic development. We went round each firm on an industrial estate to identify the waste that they were producing and what they were doing with it. We found that a lot of the waste being thrown away was being bought as virgin material by other companies on the estate, so simply by matching up individual businesses we not only reduced the waste stream, but saved them money as they were getting material free of charge that, otherwise, they would be purchasing. If anyone needs convincing, that shows that helping the environment also helps businesses and the economy. That message, I hope, will also go through to the Treasury

The EU landfill directive is coming up, and it is right that we are seeking to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. Of course, landfill is simply a mediaeval way of dealing with unwanted material—simply chucking it in a hole in the ground. It is not a sophisticated way of dealing with waste. The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford is right: if we do not deal with the alternatives to landfill now through a proper recycling and reuse strategy, a massive splurge of incineration capacity will be built. We are at the crossroads. Landfill is being stopped, but what will happen to the waste that has traditionally gone to landfill?

We must put that recycling and reuse strategy in place now. Otherwise, incineration will take off. When incineration has taken off and 40, 50 or 60 per cent. of our waste is being dealt with by it, we can all just go home, because there will be no prospect of achieving a significant recycling capacity in this country. One reason for that is that incinerators are hungry mouths. They operate 24 hours a day and, like nuclear power stations, they have a particular capacity to which they want to operate. To ensure that they do that, they also want to take more and more waste.

:I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that, under the waste strategy approved by the National Assembly, local authorities in Wales are asked specifically not to tie them selves into long-term contracts, particularly regarding incinerators, in order to remain flexible enough to deal with the issues of recycling and reuse to which he refers. Surely, whether the Bill goes through or not, it would be a good idea to apply a similar policy in England and, indeed, in Scotland.

I absolutely agree and congratulate the Welsh Assembly if that is the strategy that it has adopted. It is important that we do not commit ourselves to decisions now up and down the country that in 10 years may be deeply regretted but of which there is no way out. That is the danger with long-term incineration contracts. Incineration is not simply an alternative to recycling that is less desirable. Incineration undermines recycling by removing the recycling market and directing the waste elsewhere, where it will stay for the next 25 years. That is one of the reasons why incineration is undesirable. Another reason is the potential harmful emissions, to which the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford referred.

There is also the proximity principle, to which I know the Minister subscribes. That principle is that those who generate the waste should dispose of it and be seen to dispose of it, so that they are aware of the cycle of waste. The trouble with incineration is that people can produce waste, put it on a lorry, send it 50. 60, 70, 100 miles somewhere else and have no responsibility for that waste— it is out of their area and they feel no responsibility. That is what is happening with Brighton and Hove, which prides itself on being a city. It is happy to be a city, providing it can dump its waste outside, whether it be sewage, household waste or anything else. It wants it to be dumped in East Sussex. It treats parts of East Sussex like a Soweto to deal with its waste, which it is not prepared to deal with itself. If it wants to be a city, it has to be a city in its entirety and take responsibility for all aspects of being a city.

I accept the hon. Gentleman's point, which is well made. There is a tendency for urban areas to take a view that they can allow their waste to go elsewhere. Equally, as has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock), a number of London boroughs have been at the forefront of recycling. In the city of Westminster, which I represent, there is nowhere to have a landfill site, other than potentially in Hyde park. None the less, there is a commitment to recycling both from the local authority and from individuals living there.

I am happy to accept that point. I am not criticising all urban areas. Some are innovative and constructive. Others have genuine problems in terms of space and that is recognised; that is particularly the case in some London boroughs. However, it is not the case in Brighton and Hove, where there are clearly sites that could be used.

I entirely associate myself with those remarks, not least because some of the rubbish from Brighton and Hove seems destined, if certain people have their way, to come into my constituency, in another part of East Sussex, across miles and miles of very bad roads. We are determined to resist it.

I am grateful for that intervention. It makes the point that it is not a sensible environmental solution to transport waste long distances. If we are looking for environmental solutions, we need to minimise transportation of waste, not encourage long journeys on unsuitable roads from one end of the county to the other.

The Government unfortunately have implicitly supported incineration by the financial structures that they have set up. I am sure the Minister for the Environment has not given support for incineration but those structures are in place. If one puts down the train track, that is the way the train goes, unfortunately. East Sussex, which I am most familiar with, has been given borrowing credits that encourage it directly to go down the incineration route. Indeed, it has to use those credits by the end of this month. It has signed a contract with Onyx Aurora this week, in the teeth of opposition from thousands and thousands of people across East Sussex, particularly from Newhaven in my constituency, weeks before a public inquiry is to begin into the waste plan, which is looking at whether an incinerator should be built. That is the sort of topsy-turvy world we now have. Local authorities, whether they wish to or not, are encouraged to go down the incineration route. The credits and the financial support available for incineration seem to be greater than that available for recycling. The Government need to deal with that matter.

It can be done. We need three things: the will, the money and the markets. I believe that the will is there from the vast majority of the population, and I suspect from the vast majority of Members of Parliament from all parties; we have heard support from all four parties represented in the Chamber today.

On the money aspect, figures have been suggested: £400 million per annum was the suggestion from the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford. That figure may or may not be right but we must take into account the economic cost of not doing something, and the environmental cost, which is also an economic cost, of disposing of waste inappropriately. We never value the environment properly in economic terms. There is also the cost of supporting incinerators, which is the alternative. If one started to take those externalities into account, the £400million figure would start to come down.

Let us face it. The Government suddenly produced a cheque from nowhere for£650 million to bail out British Energy to support nuclear power. They can do that with a flourish of the pen. That would pay for doorstep recycling twice over up and down the country.

The hon. Gentleman mentionsIraq. I do not want to go down that line. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to be awash with blank cheques for his own schemes but not for doorstep recycling. Perhaps the Minister for the Environment could draw attention to the blank cheques that the Chancellor has been waving around and see whether there is one going for doorstep recycling and for this Bill. Therefore, I do not believe that cost is an issue. The cost is not that great in real terms. The Government seem to have money. When they want to use their cheque-book somewhere, they find money to do so.

On the markets issue, it is in some ways the most difficult to deal with. I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford. I do not believe that that aim is unachievable. However, there will be difficulties if one has one recycling point which is in south Wales for aluminium. It will mean massive lorry journeys. There will be difficulties if one has a sudden increase in the recycling of one particular commodity and no market has developed for it. Therefore, careful planning is required. It is by no mean insurmountable.

Part of the answer comes back to the Chancellor. He can do a lot by means of economic instruments. He can encourage particular directions to be taken. People tend to follow their pockets. If there is a good reason financially for doing something, they will do it. If it makes sense financially to follow a recycling path, people will do so, so we need the Chancellor to look carefully at what he can do to support the Bill. He should not leave local authorities in the lurch, where they are good at collecting but then not able to find a market for that.

I visited a council in the north-west recently. It was dismantling a tower block and wanted to deal with the windows from the block. It told me that it cost £5 to landfill the windows and £8 to recycle them. That is completely the wrong economic message to give. I accept that in that case the landfill tax will help, so the Chancellor has got that right, but he could use other instruments to encourage recycling and markets.

In the long term, we need to look at a resource tax. We should be looking at giving a disincentive to use virgin material and more of an incentive to use material already in use on the planet. I suspect that that is a long way away but that seems environmentally to be the proper solution in the long term.

I congratulate again the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford on her Bill. I know that she has worked hard on it. She has had strong support from Friends of the Earth and others, as she graciously acknowledged. She has full support from Liberal Democrat Members, and I wish her Bill well.

11.8 am

I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend t he Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock). As always, she is at the forefront of any environmental move. The Bill is an important staging post hat in a sense brings together the environment with the economics. Neither can be looked at in isolation.

I will be quite brief because much has already been said, and try to cover a couple of areas that have not been covered. The simple fact is that this measure is not just good green politics; it is also environmentally sound. The Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, has established some clear ground rules. Some 70 per cent. of municipal waste is deemed organic and, if so, it can be recycled. If it is organic, it is the most likely cause of methane, so sticking it in the ground is creating problems for the future.

I am aware that the Government—through their excellent report "Waste Not, Want Not" and the work of the waste and resources action programme—are trying to grapple with these difficult issues and I hope that the Bill will help.

The Committee also considered the rate of growth, which the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) mentioned. Much of the increase is due to the changing nature of society. I am grateful to the packaging industry, which has identified two clear statistics. First, a person living alone has roughly double the environmental impact of a person living in a larger household. In addition, one person in a large household uses 60 per cent. of the materials and 40 per cent. of the energy used by a person living alone. That is a clear example of the environmental impact of moving towards single-person households.

A fortnight ago, the Committee visited Denmark, which is one of the leading advocates of a different approach to dealing with waste. It believes that incineration is part of the solution and, interestingly, has more problems in encouraging people to livecloser to landfill than incinerators. However, that is cultural. Denmark is beginning to understand that incineration comes at a cost, as does landfill.

I do not want to pre-empt the report, but we talked to Government spokesmen, local government officials, councillors and local communities. We visited a small community in the municipality of Copenhagen and we saw waste stations that put us to shame.

There are six principles or canons of recycling, starting with the obvious one; Denmark has a much more punitive tax regime, allied to economic incentives. It has ahierarchy of recycling that discriminates most against landfill, but incineration is not much lower. Denmark gives positive incentives to recycling. The second point is that Denmark is not afraid to use regulation to encourage a different approach to the planning system.

I was pleased to hear the Conservative spokesman call for regulation. Denmark's approach makes ours pale into insignificance. In Denmark, the polluter pays many times over and there is no compunction about putting the blame where they believe itlies—on the creators of waste and those who refuse to deal with it. Denmark also provides incentives, and not just economic ones; encouragement is given to recyclers, which links clearly to the idea of support. Denmark goes out of its way to support local authorities and non-governmental organisations in finding innovative solutions. Something may have been lost in translation because they refer to the whip and carrot approach. We would tend to define that as the carrot and stick approach.

Denmark exhorts the population to be serious about the matter. The community that we visited was not compelled to be part of the recycling project but, by a voluntary agreement, some 40 per cent. of residents were part of it and aimed to recycle the vast majority of products they purchased. However, it is clear that composting must be used.

We took away from our visit the idea that the scheme has to be managed. I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford mentioning the notion of using caretakers or community wardens. It was inspiring to see people whose job previously had been checking and chasing people now taking a proactive role and leading the campaign for recycling and composting the maximum amount. I hope that my hon. Friend will look at similar measures in Committee, and at neighbourhood initiatives.

We need to encourage the Government to do more and we need to use composting. We have a problem with the animal by-products regulations, which has led to a spat involving those who believe that they should be able to compost whatever they like. I have talked to the National Renders Association, which says that we should not allow any animal by-products to be composted. Europe is driving us in one direction, but we are also being encouraged to do something slightly different. We need to clarify the situation.

The hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) mentioned deposit schemes, which are important. They are historical, and we used to do them so well. However, we have gone backwards. In addition, it is not just a question of common or garden materials. We must recycle specialist waste, including car batteries, PVC materials and oil. We must make sure that people have a place where they can take those products, knowing that the good materials will be taken out and the awful stuff disposed of.

How has the Select Committee been able to reconcile the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill, as amended in the otherplace—particularly the need to heat meat waste up to 98 deg—and the animal by-products regulations?

I do not want to get into detail and pre-empt the report, but we are aware of the conflict. We visited the cement industry, which argues that what it does is not incineration; it burns at much higher temperatures. We have not explored that sufficiently, although I am not saying that that is the answer. That clearly links into emissions trading. One cannot isolate energy use and efficiency from that way in which we dispose of our waste, and I hope that our report will include some comments on that.

This is a very good Bill that deserves support. I know that the Government will to some extent quake at the implications of fettering future Governments, but if we are serious about waste, we must look at the benefits of dealing with it properly, rather than worrying about the cost. At the end of the day, the costs can be covered if we are serious about this issue; however, the benefits are there for all to see.

11.20 am

I, too, add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) on securing the time to introduce this extremely important Bill. It will certainly find a lot of support in my constituency, where the issue of recycling, reuse and waste minimisation has shot up the local political agenda in recent years— not by chance, but as a direct result of the very real problems in coping with the waste that is produced in East Sussex. I agree very strongly with some of the comments made by the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker). A lot of such waste is generated not in my constituency, but in the city of Brighton and Hove, which is some distance away. It is my constituents who face the prospect of dealing with it— whether through an incinerator at Mountfield, through waste disposal at Pebsham, or through a landfill site above Bexhill, at the Ashdown brickworks. All of those proposals are the result of a waste strategy that has not been thought through, and which fails to recycle nearly as much waste as could be recycled.

That is not to say that the news in my constituency is all bad. In a way, it is a tale of two cities. Part of my constituency is covered by Wealden district council. Its Conservative administration has a terrific record, with a recycling rate of some46 per cent. through a doorstep scheme. It is one of the leaders in the UK and it offers a model that the Government should try to apply across the country. Sadly, things are different in the Rother area. The people there are keen to recycle, but there is no doorstep collection service, and although many do their bit, as a result we have only a 10 per cent. recycling rate. More needs to be done. Councils such as Rother are looking to central Government to give a much stronger lead in terms of strategy and financing. The Government's arrangements make it very difficult for councils such as Rother to make the very significant step change that is necessary in order to meet the targets that we want them to achieve. I therefore genuinely welcome this Bill.

There are many benefits associated with recycling, apart from just our own local imperatives. It reduces the need for polluting landfill and incineration, but it also reduces the demand for raw materials. It avoids mining, quarrying and forestry, and it creates jobs. As has been said, up to 40,000 jobs could be created by 2010. It also helps to save energy, and therefore helps to combat climate change. Moreover, it is popular: nine out of 10 people would recycle more if they were given better facilities, according to an Environment Agency poll of last May. Above all, it is good in its own self. Recycling for its own sake helps to remind people about where they stand in relation to the environment that they occupy, and it encourages thrift and responsibility. Many of these virtues enabled the older generation, who lived through the war and its aftermath, to develop habits that stayed with them for a lifetime. It was the subsequent generation that got used to the disposable, throwaway society.

As a member of the Environmental Audit Select Committee, I am particularly concerned about this subject. At the moment, the Committee is investigating the subject of waste through a formal inquiry. It was no surprise to find that doorstep recycling enjoyed very strong support among all of the expert witnesses that we called. For example, the Chartered Institute of Waste Management told us:
"We fully support the principle of rolling out kerb side collection schemes because it is really the most effective way of capturing the recyclables from householders. It is so easy and convenient for them."
Steve Lee, of the Environment Agency, told us:
"The Agency has done some attitudinal survey work on normal people about recycling, how much they want to become involved in it, what was it actually that would induce them to be highly recyclist, and, surprise, surprise, we find that most people, the vast majority of people, say that they would be only too happy to participate in separated collection and recycling provided it was made easy for them."
Unfortunately, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) pointed out, when the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs appeared before the Select Committee, she appeared somewhat complacent. She said:
"I am getting the distinct impression that an awful lot of people who have come to see you have all got very good excuses for why they are not doing enough to tackle the problem of waste. They are all saying, 'If only the Government did something different', but that none of them needs to do anything different."
That reminds me of the proud mother, watching her son in a passing-out parade, who turns to her husband and says, "Look, dear, the entire parade is out ofstep— except for our little Johnny!"

I hope that this Minister is a little more prepared to accept that the Government could, and indeed should, improve their record, rather than simply looking around for other people to blame. I know that he is keen to do more for the environment, and I hope that he will do so now in an applied way. I hope and anticipate that he will support this Bill— not just today, but during its subsequentstages— and that it does not get lost amid the Government's legislative programme.

What is clear is that the last completed inquiry into waste was unimpressed with the Government's record. A Select Committee report entitled "Delivering Sustainable Waste Policy" found that
"national targets for recycling and composting … for 2010 (30 per cent.) and 2015 (33 per cent.) are depressingly unambitious … We recommend that new targets be set of 50 per cent. by 2010 and 60 per cent. by 2015."
It also concluded:
"The kerbside collection of source-separated waste is a necessity if we are to transform waste management."
The Committee continued:
"It may seem rather obvious but if householders are to recycle their waste, they must be given the opportunity to do so relatively easily. In practice, this means that kerbside collections of recyclable materials are required".
My party is committed to this Bill and to raising recycling rates. However, I hope that we will not have to wait for an election in order for it to reach the statute book. This country needs an ambitious step change. It requires leadership and strategy to come from the centre, to enable people to make the change that they want. I very much hope that this Bill succeeds and that it provides the step change that we need.

11.28 am

I welcome the opportunity to support my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock), and I congratulate her on introducing this important Bill. I appreciate that brevity is the order of the day, and I intend to impose my own programme motion on my remarks. However, I cannot waste the opportunity to say a few words about my own district council. Braintree district council, although not necessarily a pioneer, has made great strides in introducing recycling in the town of With am, which has 10,000 households, and it expects 50 per cent. of household waste to be diverted away from landfill sites. Across the entire Braintree district, some 16 percent. of waste is currently recycled, and the council is on target to reach a figure of 48 per cent. in the next four years. It receives £1.4 million in grants from the national waste minimisation and recycling fund. I sometimes think that such things would be better known if they had simpler names; nevertheless, such grants must be incredibly helpful to our local authorities.

As others have said, recycling becomes much easier for people when we move away from bank collection to doorstep collection, One has to have a certain devotion and enthusiasm to take disposables to a bank, but devotion is not necessary when one can simply put them in a separate container within one's own household curtilage. Through that process, numbers are gained at an immeasurable pace.

The avoidance of incineration and landfill is the overriding attraction of recycling. In my constituency, the old Rivenhall airfield is one of the prospective sites for an incinerator. It is euphemistically referred to as a brownfield site, because the United States air force happened to use it during the war for the purpose of bombing Germany, but in essence it is agricultural land. If the incinerator is built in that rural location, it will contaminate not only the air, which is a matter of scientific analysis, but the environment and local residents' quality of life, through the burden it will impose on the roads and local facilities.

I am most encouraged to hear London Members on both sides of the House tell the House of the strides that London boroughs are taking towards recycling. Since Roman times, my county, Essex, has been the dumping ground for London's waste. It is about time that that ended, but it never will if incineration becomes the order of the day. As the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) told the House, the incinerator has an appetite that can never be satisfied—it demands ever more waste to be fed to it. What an easy option it is for an urban authority to put its waste out of sight and out of mind by sending it many miles down the road to one of our constituencies.

I wish the Bill every success. It appears to have all-party support, and we must be mindful not to mutilate it in Committee. I am sure it will become one of the most important pieces of Legislation that we pass this Session.

11.32 am

I, too, shall keep my comments brief. I congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) on introducing the Bill. I confess that, like my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed), who is no longer in his place, I have been unlucky in the ballot for private Members' Bills in my two years as a Member of Parliament. Had I come as high as the hon. Lady, I would probably have considered a recycling measure. She will know that in October, I introduced a debate in Westminster Hall on recycling of household waste by individuals.

Much of the effort must come from the heart. Although the Bill refers to powers and duties for local authorities, we have to inculcate a sense of responsibility among the population at large. Inevitably, a carrot and stick approach will be used—the stick of higher taxes, which might be levied on supermarkets and manufacturers, and the carrot of encouraging people as far as possible to do the right thing. All MPs who visit schools or have school parties visit us here will know that young children have a positive attitude towards recycling, which is heartening.

When I was growing up and as a young adult, I was fairly indifferent to recycling. As has been said, the big push towards recycling has become a mainstream political activity only in the past decade or so. Many of us remember the European elections of 1989, in which the Green party scored great success. That heightened awareness of environmental issues, of which recycling is one. I take it to be part of my responsibility as a local Member of Parliament to avail myself of the recycling facilities in the City of Westminster. I probably cut a rather sad figure as I go to collect my newspapers on a Sunday morning carrying a basket—courtesy of Westminster city council—full of newspapers, bottles and other paraphernalia, which I dump into the various bottle banks and other recycling sites. That is a positive thing that all Members of Parliament should do, and it is encouraging that it is now being done by far more people generally.

The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) commented on the European position. Although I accept that we have to compare like with like, there is little doubt that this country's figures are extremely disappointing. Some weeks ago, I went to Germany on a short lecture tour. I was struck, especially in the former East Germany—a socialist command economy from 1945 to 1989—by the enormous strides that had been made in recycling. The people with whom I stayed made it clear to me that what we call recycling they call secondary raw materials; they took the view that recycling was essential in view of the scarcity of raw materials. On every railway platform, and throughout all the main towns, are large bins segregated for paper, plastics and other types of waste.

We in this country should look at the example set by much of Europe, because we are to a large extent the dirty man of Europe. Various statistics have been quoted. At the time of my debate last year, about 10 per cent. of our household waste was recycled, and the figure of 12 per cent. has been mentioned today. Those are extremely low rates compared with those in much of the rest of Europe. In places such as Germany, roughly 50 per cent. of household waste is recycled, and I imagine that the rate for municipal waste is similar.

The Bill sensibly calls for doorstep recycling to be introduced by 2010—an ambitious but none the less realistic target, which focuses our minds firmly on what we need to do. I am slightly concerned about one or two of the caveats mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire, especially those relating to clause 3. I have reservations about the costs and the provision of funding to local authorities, especially in a general economic climate that might become more difficult for this country in coming years. As a London MP, I was disappointed to see that the new funding formula might result in several London boroughs of all political colours suffering as the funding for environmental, cultural and protection services is cut. That is the experience in the City of Westminster, and I hope that all London MPs will do their bit, irrespective of party allegiance, to ensure as far as possible that as the new funding formula hits the capital and the southeast, funding for environmental and recycling services is ring-fenced.

My focus is on London, and is not party political in nature. I am a great walker throughout London, and I have seen the successes that we have achieved. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson) is no longer in the Chamber, because she is right to say that Camden is a terrific success story. As one walks though the streets of Camden, one sees the many households that have recycling paraphernalia outside and are committed to recycling. The same is true of the London borough of Haringey—another Labour authority—and the borough of Lewisham. Similarly, one can see a strong commitment to recycling when one walks the streets of Blackheath, Deptford and down into Catford.

We have to do more. In London there is a high level of education on the subject, which is a positive starting point. I hope that the Bill will play its part in ensuring that we put some pressure on local authorities. However, to return to my initial point, much of the effort must come from the heart; there must be a sense, shared by everyone, that this is our responsibility and that we have only a leasehold on this planet. As the hon. Members for Lewes and for Braintree (Mr. Hurst) said, parts of the country outside London feel that over the decades they have been treated as dumping grounds. In Essex there are many landfill sites, and an increasing number of incinerators are planned. As far as incineration is concerned, we are at a crossroads. Let us hope that the Bill will play an important part, and that we make the right decision for the future.

11.39 am

I congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) on the work that she has done, not only in securing this debate but in preparing the Bill so as to get as much support as possible from all sides. Like everyone else, I will support the Bill—and in Committee we will have to remember that any amendments must be constructive and acceptable, so that it becomes law. Without this Bill, we will lose an important part of our recycling strategy.

One problem with recycling and waste management in this country is the fact that we are victims of our economic success. We buy things and we throw them away. Through television, children become used to the idea that always having the latest toys and gadgets, and always having over-packaged food—in fact, people are probably paying more for the packaging than for the food—is acceptable. It is hard to undermine that idea as people grow up, but we will have to. It is rather like what happened when I was young, when we were encouraged to eat what was on our plates because we had to think of the starving in Africa—although thinking of the starving in Africa did not work, because we still did not learn to like tapioca. However, we will have to do something.

We have to look at what other countries are doing, especially the poorest countries. We have talked about chucking things away, but those of us who have been to Africa, or to some Asian countries, will have seen how they deal with goods. They are constantly repairing, reusing and cannibalising goods. We should learn more about that. However, there is the problem of making goods attractive. The recycling exhibition yesterday not only showed us some virtuous things to do, but showed some jolly attractive things to do, too. It was very encouraging. I visited one of the plastics recyclers last year and saw how it dealt with fairly contaminated plastic—recycling it for use in underground pipes, for example, for which a particular quality was needed. Why is it that Belgium sends its plastic bottles to us for recycling, but we send ours somewhere else?

We have to think about the huge amount of plastic that is used to bottle water. It seems ludicrous. This week in my constituency, I was awarding prizes at an water company's event, looking into the ways in which water was delivered to households. It was a good competition. We have to let our children know that the water that comes out of the tap is of such a quality that, unless it is tainted by chlorination or something, they should think carefully before buying yet another bottle. They can fill bottles from the tap, and then keep them in the fridge if they want, but they should not keep buying bottled water. We have some of the cleanest water in the world. What we do is a farce. We have to minimise waste, not do things that create more waste.

We want the Government to do a lot on waste management. This debate is not about the shortfalls of the Government and I do not intend to turn it into one, although it is tempting. We have to be careful about economic instruments. Some good points have been made about the fact that we have to increase the landfill tax rate massively. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) said, we have to introduce a resource tax and an incineration tax, so that we are not feeding the beast of the incinerator. We have to reduce the dreadful landfill mountains, and the misery of the people who live close by them. Those people suffer the pollution of contaminated air, seagulls, noise, mud on the road and all the other awful things.

We are in danger of alienating the public on a number of issues. There is a political argument over which council is recycling more than which other council. However, many good words have been said, irrespective of their political direction, about councils that are making headway. In Guildford a difficult bit of literature came through our doors; it shows how recycling figures have changed but fails to say that we changed the way in which we counted the figures. An adjustment was made, which showed an increase. It is possible to paint the wrong picture by forgetting to point out that one is not counting the same things, but is putting them on the same graph.

During questions to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 19 December, a comment was made about figures being misreported to give an erroneous impression. That is being dishonest. The public want to know that when they put things in to be recycled, they will be recycled. Arguing about figures on a false statistical base can only demoralise the public. This Bill talks about proper reporting, making information clear, and making an onwards and upwards improvement in our recycling figures. The Bill sets high targets, which we must reach. Other countries are far ahead of us. In Germany and the Netherlands, recycling is already at 50 per cent. With political will, we should be able to do that too.

We will support this Bill, and I am proud to be a sponsor of it. However, I plead with the Government to raise their sights. When will we see a response to the "Waste not, Want not" report, so that we can see how things fit into the greater economic argument? I look forward to the Committee stage, and to seeing the Bill becoming law. It will be a jolly good piece of work when it is complete.

11.47 am

I too congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) on this private Member's Bill. I am pleased to note the cross-party consensus and I want to add my party's support as well. I wish the Bill Godspeed and ask the hon. Lady to thank, on behalf of us all, as I am sure that she will, those who have assisted her in preparing this Bill. It is a worthy piece of legislation. It deserves to be passed—albeit with one or two amendments that I shall come to in a moment.

In response to the hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty), I have to urge her not to do down the Welsh mineral water industry too much. Ty Nant, which is the best and best known mineral water—from my constituency, of course—is available in glass bottles, both blue and pink.

There is no deposit on them, but they are easily recyclable. The only way I can get my children to drink water is by giving it to them in a bottle. If it comes out of a tap, they will not drink it. There are obviously health issues to be dealt with as well.

Like the Welsh preachers of old, I want to take a text for my remarks over the next few minutes, and examine the Bill from the point of view of that text. The text, which is a quote, is as follows:
"I would say that something like a third of all local authorities have doorstep recycling in at least part of their area. We want that to be all of their area and all local authorities."
The author of those words is sitting on the Government Front Bench, namely the Minister for the Environment. He was speaking at a public meeting at Caxton house, Archway, London on 7 November 2002.

The right hon. Gentleman posed the crucial question: how can we bring doorstep recycling to every local authority and within every area of every local authority? If that is not done through this Bill, how will it be done? That is the question that the Government will have to ask if they cannot fully support the Bill during consideration in Committee and thereafter. I hope that we shall not see again what happened to an earlier conservation Bill that was given As Second Reading, was considered in Committee and then, somehow, became lost in the ways and means of things in this place. I hope that we shall see the Bill come fully into effect.

I want to address how we achieve the aims of both the Minister for the Environment and the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford from the perspective of Wales. There are some differences between Wales, England and Scotland. This is a UK Bill that would set a UK target. We must work out how that is done in the constituent parts of the UK. It is worth bearing in mind how we might achieve the target.

Last November, the Wales Consumer Council produced a useful report entitled: "Waste not, Want not: recycling and Welsh consumers." We can gather from the report how important recycling is for people in Wales. Seventy per cent. of people said that it was a priority for them, citing it as "very important" or "important". Interestingly, the respondents were more enthusiastic in the rural parts of Wales. In Cardiff, 61 per cent. were strongly committed to recycling, whereas in mid and west Wales, in the area I represent, the figure was 80 per cent. I do not know whether that reflects the old tradition of reusing every piece of material on the farm, and therefore of having a different attitude to recycling. Perhaps those who live in the countryside have a certain feeling for the environment that is around them. These figures go against the tendency to think that recycling is for urban areas, not rural areas. One of the challenges is to get doorstep recycling to every household, even in the most rural of our areas.

The report tells us that doorstep recycling was seen to be the key factor that would encourage more people to recycle. That chimes in with earlier facts and figures that the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford adduced. Eighty-four per cent. of those surveyed—consumers in Wales—said that a kerbside scheme would encourage them to recycle. Again, those in rural areas came out more strongly in favour, with 72 per cent. saying that more facilities would encourage them. About 90 per cent. of parents thought that a kerbside scheme would encourage them to recycle.

The opportunity is there. There is no doubt that there is public support for the Bill, and for the aims that lie behind it. The question is, how can we make it work? In Wales, we start from a low basis. The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field), who is no longer in his place, said that the UK is the dirty man of Europe. Unfortunately, Wales is the dirty part of the United Kingdom. We have the lowest rates of recycling in the UK as a whole. It is the country in the UK that is most dependent on landfill sites. As I mentioned earlier in my intervention on the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford, that is creating a great deal of public dissatisfaction, particularly in respect of health issues. A petition was presented today to the National Assembly for Wales, containing 2,000 names, against the landfill site in Trecatti, in Merthyr Tydfil. We have also had difficulties with the Nantygwyddon landfill site in the Rhondda. Incidentally, it was built with European money that was meant to be used for tourism. That is the bind that we got ourselves into 10 years ago about landfill in this country. It seems that we were prepared to use any scrap of money to build landfill and not to move on to more environmentally sustainable methods.

In a Welsh context, we have ended up with recycling of waste being as low as 8 per cent. In England, I understand that it is running at between 12 and 15 per cent. Wales is heavily dependent on landfill sites, which the population is rejecting. It is also rejecting incineration. Those who have come forward to propose incineration in Wales have been heavily rejected by public opinion.

The more positive side is that the National Assembly, with all-party support, has produced a waste strategy for Wales that is more ambitious than that for England. The target for 2009–10 is to achieve 40 per cent. recycling and composting of municipal waste. I understand that the target in England is 30 per cent. The programme for Wales is more ambitious, but there is a greater gap to overcome. We must focus on how we can achieve the target.

We need to set in motion the right fiscal methods throughout the UK, as hon. Members have said. For example, the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford is wearing recycled jewellery. I do not know what the VAT on such jewellery is, but perhaps it should be less than VAT on new jewellery. We may need to look at reducing the tax burden on fully recycled products or at encouraging other ways of getting recycled products on to the market. We certainly need to look at the landfill tax. All those things are UK fiscal matters which need to be dealt with by the UK Government in line with the obligations put on them by the Bill, but they will have an enormously beneficial effect in Wales.

My only regret is that we are not yet ready politically to talk about a zero waste strategy, and to look at our waste stream as a resource for reuse and reinvestment. More progressive parts of the developed world are looking at that. New Zealand, for example, is thinking about a zero waste strategy for the whole country—the aim is to create jobs dealing with the waste stream, not just in recycling and composting but in reuse. We have not developed such a programme to any great extent in the United Kingdom. I accept that such thinking is a little way off, but the Bill is the best opportunity that we will have this Session to progress towards a reasonable target of 50 per cent. recycling and composting throughout the United Kingdom.

As I mentioned earlier, the National Assembly has made it clear to local authorities in Wales that it expects them to avoid long-term contracts with guaranteed minimum tonnages and so on which in the past tied them to landfill, but now tend to tie them to the newfangled option of incineration. That advice is specifically designed to encourage authorities to be flexible enough to move over to the new recycling target. The Assembly has pressured the Government to make those plans mandatory for local authorities. Perhaps we can look at that in Committee, and consider how the whole United Kingdom can do something similar to what has been done in Wales so that we can help local authorities to avoid the double-bind by which they commit themselves to incineration for 15 or 20 years.

We should help them to leave such methods behind so that they can support a more fruitful pattern of recycling and composting.

I have been listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman, as he referred to the report on what needs to be done in Wales. I cannot recall from the report how much money the Welsh Assembly is putting into the project. Local authorities obviously need support—can the hon. Gentleman recall the figure and say whether it is sufficient for local authorities to carry out the Assembly's proposals? Which authorities are in a position to get the programme under way fairly soon?

Thankfully, I wrote the figure down earlier—it is £79 million for the initial period, and is generally seen as sufficient to get local authorities moving on the project. Local authorities' records, as the hon. Gentleman knows, are varied. I am afraid that his own area of Bridgend recycles 6.1 per cent. of materials; it is not the worst, but it is not the best either. The better authorities include, I am happy to say, my own authority, Ceredigion, as well as Conwy and Powys. Again, rural areas seem to be doing better than urban areas, which is a curious anomaly—one would expect recycling to be a bit easier in urban areas.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned Bridgend. I do not want labour the point, but it is about to move over to a 100 per cent. recycling scheme. Some people, however, are a bit worried because it involves incineration.

In that case, I will not go down that path. I am glad that recycling is at least part of the plans in Bridgend, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman is also pleased about that.

I pay tribute to the vast number of community organisations that have been involved in the recycling and reuse of materials over the past 15 to 20 years. When recycling was something done by bearded, sandaled hippies, it was community organisations that led the way.

I do not include Liberal Democrats, and certainly not hon. Ladies who sit for the Liberal Democrats, in that. My first recycling effort was collecting Corona pop bottles in order to take them back to the shop to get a few extra pence. When I began recycling as a student, I did it for a community organisation, the Aberystwyth recycling centre, which is still going strong and still running recycling, now in partnership with the county council, but at the time it was a voluntary community effort.

We tend to overlook the specialist aspects of recycling, which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew). Those include the recycling of batteries, some kinds of plastic, computers and precious metals, and the refurbishment of furniture for resale or reuse. That is still done by community organisations. Local authorities have not ventured much into those fields. There are organisations such as CRAFT in my constituency, which employs six people with learning difficulties, who work on renewing furniture that is then made available to people on benefit. That is part of a virtuous circle involving not just recycling, but social and economic benefits. That is sustainable development at work, but it comes about through the impetus, initiative and entrepreneurship of community organisations. Even at this stage, local authorities lag behind.

One of the major advantages of the Bill, although it is not explicitly stated, is that if we can set ambitious targets to be reached in the next 10 to 15 years, that will motivate local authorities to innovate in other areas as well. They will not reach a 50 per cent. target just by recycling and composting. They will also have to address the issues of minimisation, reuse, refurbishment and sustainable development. That is why the Bill is worthy of support by the House, in Committee and ultimately by the Government, through enactment and proper funding, to ensure that we reach the targets and that the hon. Lady's vision is realised.

12.2 pm

May I associate myself with the closing comments of the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas)? I have not heard a voice of dissent all morning, so I congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock). I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) on his thoughtful, sensible and praiseworthy approach to the Bill. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend suggests that I should be more effusive in my praise, but that is unnecessary, as anyone who reads his speech will recognise the wisdom of his words.

I begin with the difficulty that we all face when dealing with the subject of recycling. For example, the Bill contains three blank pages. It is important that when we deal with recycling matters, we do not miss such open goals. That brings me to the dilemma that I face in my constituency, where the councils of Herefordshire and Worcestershire have combined to consult the public on the issue of municipal waste management, in particular on what should be done with the solid waste. The councils have sent out a helpful leaflet—in fact, they sent it to me twice. In the spirit of recycling, it seems, it is important that we get plenty of paper and often. They have asked my constituents to choose from seven options.

I shall share the options with the House, as I know that there are experts listening who may be able to guide me. It is symptomatic of the problems that we face in this country that the options given to us are often difficult to understand.

Option one is:
"Based on achieving a combined level of recycling and composting of 33 per cent., 39 per cent. of MSW"—
municipal solid waste—
"would be sent to thermal treatment and 28 per cent. would be sent to landfill."
Option two is:
"Based on achieving a higher combined level of recycling and composting of 45 per cent., and a lower level of thermal treatment and the residual would be sent to landfill."
Option three is:
"Based on achieving a higher level of recycling and composting at 45 per cent., but 46 per cent. of MSW would be sent for mechanical biological treatment and the residue from this process along with other waste would be sent to landfill. Mechanical biological treatment can only reduce the volumes of waste by around 20 per cent."
Option four is:
"Based on achieving a higher level of recycling and composting at 45 per cent., a further 27 per cent. of MSW would be sent for treatment at an anaerobic digestion plant and the residue from this process along with other waste would be sent to landfill. Anaerobic digestion reduces the volumes of waste by around 40 per cent."
Option five states:
"This option is similar to option one, but involves both Worcestershire and Herefordshire having separate waste management facilities to enable them to operate independently. The option is based on achieving a combined level of recycling and composting of 33 per cent., around 45 per cent. of MSW would be sent for thermal treatment and the remainder would be sent to landfill."
Option six is:
"Based on achieving a combined level of recycling and composting of 33 per cent., a further 25 per cent. of MSW would be sent for thermal treatment and 16 per cent. would be sent for treatment at an anaerobic digestion plant. The residue from both these processes and additional waste would be sent to landfill."
Option seven states:
"This option aims to achieve an aspirational target for recycling and composting 45 per cent. of household waste. This gives an overall recycling and composting target of 49 per cent., a further 16 per cent. of MSW would be sent for thermal treatment and the remainder would be sent for landfill."
Those seem complicated choices for people who are not necessarily expert on the subject, yet they are the sorts of questions that we are asking households in my constituency to decide upon. They are also being asked to decide upon various different processes for other types of waste. That is unnecessarily complicated and shifts the burden of responsibility from the expert to the inexpert in way that is a shame, but riot shameful. I hope that my constituents will rise to the challenge and that we will deal with MSW in the most appropriate way. However, if anyone listening to the debate wishes to draw my attention to one of the preferred options, I should be grateful and I urge them to do so. The Minister may wish to guide me on that at a later date.

There are several reservations about the Bill, in particular, that its introduction may challenge the autonomy of local government and the need to resist further prescriptions from central Government without additional resources, and I hope that the Government will respond to that.

There is also a lack of a market for recyclables and a lack of a green procurement from industry, manufacturing and the Government, which places burdens on local authorities to find end users for the waste materials that they have collected.

The division of authority and responsibility for the waste collection and disposal authorities could mean the fining of one for the failures of the other. Again, I hope that the Government will address that problem.

One of the more minor suggestions that causes me concern is that kerbside collection is not always the most appropriate way to recycle waste in every area and bring-sites or bring-banks may prove more successful in inner cities where space is constrained.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the 20 per cent. from the landfill tax credit scheme is not sufficient to fund a nationwide doorstep collection and recycling scheme. Even if more of the landfill tax revenue were to be directly transferred to the local authorities, it would simply be redirecting money that had been paid by them for landfill. I hope that the Minister will address those problems when he replies.

I am a supporter of the Bill and a signatory of early-day motion 333A. I hope that the Bill will sail through. A 50 per cent. recycling target is utterly laudable and receives huge support form my constituents. I hope to see the Bill on the statute book at great speed.

12.9 pm

In adding my support to that of my Liberal Democrat colleagues, I am delighted that universal support has been expressed for the Bill. I congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) on introducing an important Bill on which she has done a great deal of work. She has encouraged the campaigners who wanted such a Bill by proposing a sharp target that can be readily identified and aimed at. Like other hon. Members, I have received a large postbag on the issue, and I congratulate Friends of the Earth on mobilising its membership, which I am sure has accounted for a large amount of that correspondence.

Like other hon. Members, I have extreme concerns about landfill and incineration. I have one active landfill site in my constituency, one that has been completed in recent years and another that is more than 40 years old. All three have caused tremendous problems at different stages of their development and they will continue to cause problems for the local area, probably for a minimum of 20 or 30 years to come. The gassing from older landfill sites will continue for some time. My constituents are only too aware of the problems associated with such sites. One of the answers is to try to reduce the amount of waste, and my party has repeatedly expressed support for waste minimisation methods.

Stockport metropolitan borough council is one of the foremost authorities on waste disposal and work with waste. In our area, we have seen that collection of waste from the doorstep is undoubtedly the best way of encouraging recycling. Waste recycling started in our area via voluntary bodies, schools and other organisations such as the scouts. Such organisations have collected waste paper for a long period and have had a dramatic impact on the community's impression of recycling. It would be a great shame if we were to think that adding doorstep recycling into the equation meant that we should remove all those other activities. Substantial community benefits are achieved through the involvement of voluntary organisations in collecting paper and so on. In my area, 642 tonnes of paper were collected last year by schools and voluntary organisations. Across Stockport metropolitan borough, they collected more than 1,000 tonnes of paper. We should remember that there are other community benefits to be had from the organisation required for such collection. Simply replacing one means of collection with another is not an option, and I am happy to say that Stockport council has not done so. Instead, it has encouraged both sorts of collection to continue side by side.

Plastic recycling is undoubtedly a problem. I was the chair of environmental health in Stockport between 1995 and 1997. In all the time I was involved with collection of recyclable materials, plastic recycling was the hardest nut to crack in Stockport, as I am sure it has been throughout the country. It is very difficult for a local authority to solve the difficulties on its own. Government help or better regional strategies are needed to try to solve some of the issues not only in ensuring that collection occurs but in deciding what is done after the materials are collected if there is no proper market for them. It is difficult to establish continuity in the market for plastics.

Stockport council is the highest achieving metropolitan authority in the north—west. According to the new counting methods, it recycles 11.23 per cent. of waste. It has the difficult targets of 22 per cent. for 2003–04 and 33 per cent. for 2005–06. However, several initiatives have been proposed. Stockport council has beacon status and has educated and informed other local authorities—and, indeed, other countries—about some of its recycling methods. It expects to meet the targets for 2003–04 and 2005–06.

I am proud to have taken part in decisions on implementing the boroughwide doorstep paper collection. Last year, it collected more than 5,500 tonnes of paper. The amount of paper collected increased fivefold after the introduction of doorstep collection. Clearly, it makes a tremendous difference. We also have 159 recycling sites in the borough. Some people prefer to use them and it would be a pity to remove them because of doorstep recycling. They have been sited in locations that are easily accessible, and to which people drive anyway—a workplace, a local health centre or a shopping centre—so they do not necessarily make additional journeys to recycle. I advise multiple methods to increase recycling and reduce the amount that goes to landfill.

In the past year, we have recycled more than 2,000 tonnes of glass and more than 40 tonnes of plastic. The total for recycling paper through voluntary organisations, paper banks and doorstep recycling was more than 8,000 tonnes. That is a dramatic amount. The council recently celebrated the collection of 100,000 tonnes of paper in the past few years.

A new scheme, which provides green wheelie bins for garden waste, has been introduced. Before it started, it was estimated that 12,000 tonnes a year of garden waste would be collected. The scheme has proved so successful that the figure was revised upwards to 15,000 tonnes. About 18,000 containers have been distributed to households so far, and the refusal rate has been less than 1 per cent. The take-up has been huge.

Will my hon. Friend advise me on how to convince Conservative and Labour councillors on Guildford borough council of the worth of such schemes? After a successful trial for collecting garden waste that increased recycling by 1.5 per cent. and would have led to a 6 per cent. increase, they voted down the scheme. Will she give us some words of encouragement that we could use to convince the councillors who oppose recycling?

I can only marvel at their opposition. They should visit Stockport and see what is being done.

I am pleased that the council is working to provide green wheelie bins for garden waste and some domestic food waste. However, that is happening in the leafy parts of Stockport. In Reddish, the old black bags continue to be used. They suffer attacks by, for example, foxes, so much household waste in such areas is strewn around the streets. Is not it time for Stockport to consider the poorer as well as the rich parts of the borough?

I thought when the hon. Gentleman came in that he would probably make a point along those lines. I accept that most of the initial implementation of the green waste scheme has taken place in the Cheadle area, but I think that he misunderstands the position if he thinks the green wheelie bins were introduced to replace black bags. In fact, green wheelie bin collection supplements black bag collection. I think that if he puts the case for rapid implementation of the scheme in his area to the council, it will be brought in throughout the area just as doorstep collection of paper was: virtually no part of Stockport does not enjoy that service now. Some flats, of course, will not have much garden waste. I am sure that if he works closely with his local authority it will be keen to work with him—just as it is, I think, our purpose today to work together on an issue on which there is no difference between the parties.

A further 15,000 green wheelie bins have been ordered, and will soon be provided throughout my borough. I was not convinced that those resistant to the idea of recycling would be all that keen on the bins, but my husband—who took longest to get the recycling message in our household—is now an avid user of the green bin. He is happy to go into the garden and fill it up every weekend if he gets the chance. There is hope for us all now that my husband has got the message.

A pilot scheme in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell) has extended the paper collection system, which is now a multi-material collection, including glass and cans. The value of such schemes is demonstrated by the fact that there has been a 75 per cent. participation rate, and a doubling of the quantity of paper collected.

Other innovative schemes have been introduced in Stockport. Home composting, for instance, has been linked to low-energy light bulb sales. Recently 1,900 composters were sold to members of the public in Stockport; at the same time 11,000 low-energy bulbs were sold. That happened in a single day. The bulbs will save enough energy in a year to light Stockport's streets for a month. Such schemes show how much Stockport is doing.

More than 70 per cent. of schools in the borough have been involved in the schools waste action club. In the past year, 22 have had SWAC visits, 21 have had dustbin/recycling assemblies, four have engaged in paper-making activities and five have engaged in waste audits. Cycler the rapping robot has visited three schools, and two have introduced composting. Someone said earlier that people needed to see what happened to waste and where it went. Accompanied external educational visits have been arranged for interested schools to sites such as the Adswood eco centre, the Bredbury refuse treatment plant and the Bolton thermal recovery facility.

1 said earlier that Stockport was the highest achieving metropolitan authority in the north-west; in fact, I understand that it is the highest in England, and a leader in the field of waste management. I would like to pay tribute to Paul Dunn and the waste management team for their excellent work over a number of years. They really have put Stockport ahead of the field among metropolitan boroughs, but they would be the first to accept that that is nowhere near good enough and that much more needs to be done.

As this is a discussion that cuts across party lines, I would also like to pay tribute to the Government's input. There has been funding in recent years to support the expansion of recycling in Stockport. The Greater Manchester waste disposal authority has had a £2.5 million grant from the Government to improve 22 civic amenity sites, and £200,000 has come into Stockport for additional garden waste vehicles. Such has been the success of that scheme that another vehicle is now needed to enable all the waste to be collected. A further £750,000 has come in for additional vehicles and containers for the multi-material collection. I hope that those sums will soon be evident not only in what was described earlier as the leafier parts of the borough, but in the parts represented by the hon. Members for Stockport (Ms Coffey) and for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett).

12.26 pm

May I, too, heap compliments on the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock)? The Bill has obviously received overwhelming support in the House from all the parties present today. Indeed, this issue has resonated throughout our constituencies, if my postbag is anything to go by.

For some of my constituents, the term "kerbside recycling" is a bit of a misnomer, because they live so far from any recognisable kerb that they would not know where to go to find one. Indeed, the reason that they live where they do is that there are no kerbs anywhere near them. The terms "doorstep" or "roadside" recycling are, however, readily recognisable. In rural areas, recycling presents real problems in terms of how people access the recycling centres, because the journeys involved are often very long and some people do not have access to private transport. Public transport is obviously not really suitable for taking rubbish to recycling centres, and it is an expense for local authorities to get round all the houses to collect sorted and recyclable material.

I would like to compliment the way in which the Bill has been drafted in terms of the devolved settlement for Wales and the responsibility that has been given to the Assembly to set targets for recycling and composting rates for waste collection. It is important to have national targets, but they are sometimes more easily achievable if they are broken down. Wales certainly wants to play its part in achieving those targets. The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) has already pointed out that the target that has been set in Wales is probably higher than the one set in England, although it is not as high as the one in the Bill. That target is achievable, and we must not duck the responsibility to achieve it, because it is almost the minimum that we should be going for.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) talked about the low cost of primary products being the one thing that makes it difficult for recycling to achieve good economic results. If the cost of such products were a good deal higher, the whole business of recycling would become a profitable rather than a loss-making operation. More people would then want to be involved in it, which would make the whole operation a lot easier for local authorities.

Some elements that go into recyclable products, such as timber used in paper making, are renewable, but oil, which is the basis of most plastic produced in this country, is strictly finite, so we should conserve and look after it to the very best of our ability, as less of it will be available to succeeding generations. That raises one little issue. Clause 2(3)(a) refers to waste disposal and collection authorities publishing a report on the "volume of waste collected". I am not sure whether targets are set on weight or on volume.

The hon. Gentleman is the first person to spot the deliberate mistake. The Bill should refer to quantity. Weight is used currently, but there are arguments for volume. We shall seek to make that small amendment in Committee, should we get there.

I thank the hon. Lady. That issue has been raised with me by my local authority. It is keen to recycle plastics, but they do not contribute a lot to the targets that it is trying to achieve as the weight of that product is not great. As I have said previously, however, plastics are the one thing that we ought to be concentrating on, as they are based on oil, which is such a limited resource for future generations.

It is important that young people and communities in particular are involved in recycling projects, and I shall draw two examples to the attention of the House. The first is in the constituency of my hon, Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) at Cae Post near Trewern, where young people have been involved in sorting plastic for recycling. The effect has been to find customers for plastic that was not thought to be of high enough quality to recycle, which not only provides employment for young people who have found it difficult to get jobs, but ensures that plastic that previously went to landfill or to incineration now goes to recycling.

The second example involves the fact, which a number of hon. Members have mentioned, that plastic is used to a greater and greater extent in the agriculture sector. It is difficult to dispose of in an environmentally sensitive way, but the young farmers' club in the Brecon area in my constituency has put in place a system whereby the young farmers, working together in their clubs, bring all the plastic to one collecting site on a particular farm. A commercial organisation called P. and M. Birch then collects it on a reasonably economic basis, although it needs some funding from the Assembly and local authorities. Plastic that has either accumulated on farms or would have been burned by farmers is now disposed of perfectly properly and in an environmentally sensitive way.

That point supports what I said earlier. This is a UK Bill, of course, but it would have huge effect in Wales. For example, if the Government decided to introduce a plastics tax—a tax on carrier bags is the most obvious example that might be the first to be introduced—that would affect the Bill and the target at Welsh level. Therefore, it is surely right that the Bill has a UK target, but that, as the hon. Gentleman and I have said, we work in Committee to ensure that it gives the National Assembly maximum flexibility to meet its own target. Of course, the Assembly's money will be spent on these matters, as he has just emphasised.

I agree that it is important for the Bill to have a UK dimension, and there should be flexibility within it so that the Assembly can play its part in meeting the UK targets.

The Bill will take us further down the road that so many of us and our constituents want to take. I wish it well.

12.34 pm

I apologise for not being present during the main part of the debate. I do not wish to detain the House for more than a few seconds. I wish to draw to the Minister's attention the excellent progress being made in the London borough of Bromley, where my constituency is located, which has rolled out 119,000 green bins over the past six months and, as a result, pushed up the rate of recycling considerably.

I draw to the Minister's attention—it may have been already—the excellent work being done by London Remade, which hon. Members on the Labour Benches, at least those representing London constituencies, and Conservative Members may know quite a lot about. Only a week or so ago, my Committee, the Select Committee on Environmental Audit, had the pleasure of visiting many of the schemes that it is backing, with Government help. I pay tribute to the Minister for that. It is doing excellent work, which should be further supported.

I flag up the fact that the Select Committee will be bringing out a report on waste shortly. As the Minister is a member of the Committee, I am sure that he will look at it extremely sympathetically.

12.36 pm

I sincerely thank my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) for presenting the Bill to the House. It is remarkable and indeed meritorious that so many hon. Members have attended on a Friday to support the Bill. I do not think that it is unprecedented but it is pretty unusual that there has been consensus across the whole House on the Bill; the characteristically curmudgeonly speech by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) can probably be interpreted as being in support of the Bill. That is striking.

The Bill addresses a key environmental challenge and is one which is certainly a Government priority. My hon. Friend said that it was a passion for her. It is also a passion for me.

In 1997, the Government inherited absolutely the wrong structure for waste management. Eighty-five per cent. or more of household waste was being landfilled. In 1992, the recycling level was 2 per cent. In 1997, it was 6 per cent., I think the lowest in Europe. There were 20 or 30 incinerators and, as far as I know, no effort was made to achieve waste minimisation.

That is all being changed. The level of landfilling of household waste is going down, albeit too slowly. On business as usual, there is still a serious prospect of a doubling of the level of landfilling in this country over the next two decades, when we have to reduce it by two thirds, but we are making a start in the right direction. The number of incinerators is down to 14 in the United Kingdom. Considerable effort is being put into waste minimisation, although I would be the first to say that it is nowhere near enough. In terms of recycling, the latest figures I have are around 13 per cent., which is more than double the figure in 1997, although it is still very low.

I think that I carry the whole House with me when I say that my hon. Friend made a powerful case for her Bill. There is no question but that there must be an increase in doorstep recycling. We believe that the targets that I have set of doubling the level of recycling, reuse and recovery by 2003–04 and trebling it by 2005–06 for every local authority will almost certainly require doorstep recycling almost universally across the country. Otherwise, those targets probably cannot be achieved.

My hon. Friend made a powerful point when she asked why we had such high levels of landfill in comparison with other countries. It is because, in so many cases, there is no doorstep recycling at present and because recycling facilities are too far away for many people. Clearly the Bill is a serious attempt to address that issue and I welcome it in that sense.

This country remains dependent on the least sustainable form of waste management, which is landfill. Even now, we still landfill nearly 80 per cent. of household waste, which is a wholly lost opportunity. Landfill has been referred to today as almost a medieval practice; we are piling it into the ground. I agree. It is certainly in opposition to sustainable development. In addition, landfill is also the source of 25 per cent. of the UK's emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, adding to climate change problems.

The landfill rate is still well above the European average and our rate of recycling, which can gain value from waste, remains at about 13 per cent. in 2001–02, well below the European average. The Government are taking waste management seriously and we have done a great deal to address waste problems. First, we are proposing to triple the level of the landfill tax from £13 to £35 per tonne. We have published the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill to tackle the immediate problem of our over-reliance on landfill in the municipal sector.

The Bill will introduce a landfill allowance trading scheme to help the UK meet the reductions in landfill needed to meet the landfill directive.

We must get people to understand that we have to reduce the amount that goes to landfill to no more than two thirds of the levels of 1995, which are much lower than today. That is a huge switch; we have heard today about the 30 million to 40 million tonnes that would otherwise be landfill that must be disposed of differently. Members will welcome the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill in that regard and we will debate it next week.

In addition, the strategy unit report has made a series of recommendations to the Government and we have listened carefully. In answer to the question as to when we will publish our conclusions, the answer is shortly, and shortly means shortly.

I repeat that we support the Municipal Waste Recycling Bill's objectives but, as some Members recognised, we have some problems with it. The first question is the requirement for a strategy to be prepared within six months to achieve a 50 per cent. municipal waste recycling rate. We are not clear that that would fit with the rather more comprehensive waste strategy 2000, which looked at the whole of the waste stream and not just municipal waste, and addressed the whole of the waste hierarchy, not just recycling.

The Government are considering the issues as part of the response to the strategy unit report, "Waste not, Want not". We think that it is important to focus on the action needed by central and local Government to meet our published targets, rather than to publish a further strategy so soon after others have been produced. At least one hon. Member said today—this chimes with what external commentators have said—that a significant proportion of local authorities are not going to meet their more modest 2005–06 targets, let alone the much higher ones for a further term ahead. Our efforts are rightly concentrating, therefore, on delivering the already stated targets.

Although I do not want to place too much emphasis on the administrative issue, it is important to point it out. It would not be appropriate for the Secretary of State to prepare a strategy for the whole of the UK in a devolved policy area. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams) mentioned the importance of the role of the National Assembly for Wales, which is absolutely true.

Speaking just about England, we would have to look very carefully at the proposed 50 per cent. target, which is far beyond the current target of recycling 30 per cent. of household waste by 2010. It is also above the figures of 35 per cent. by 2010 and 45 per cent. by 2015, which were recommended by the strategy unit when it examined the targets. We are looking at these issues in response to the strategy unit.

No—I just want to finish this point because it is rather important. The Government as a whole are not yet persuaded of the practicality of delivering a 50 per cent. target, given that resource allocations beyond the spending review of 2002 have not yet been determined.

If it is on that point. I should first point out to hon. Members that this has been a consensual debate, and although I do not intend to depart from that in any way, I am conscious that others also want an opportunity to speak.

The key point is that the landfill directive is bearing down, requiring local authorities to choose now between the alternatives. They can choose either incineration or recycling, but if the recycling target is lower than 50 per cent., they will, I suspect, opt for incineration, particularly given the absence of an incineration tax.

I do not believe that that is so. One requirement in accepting a waste plan that involves incineration is that it should not pre-empt the possibility of future recycling targets. Reference has been made to the "hungry mouth" of an incinerator, and the degree to which it can pre-empt the recycling of materials. That would be a prime consideration in deciding whether to give approval to such a plan.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Does he accept that recycling levels have remained extraordinarily low for too many years, and that although local authorities make the right noises, they have not done enough to improve their recycling performance? Is it not time that we set a challenging target, in order to achieve the recycling levels that we want to see?

I am constantly being told not only that the targets that I set a few years ago are challenging— "challenging but achievable", according to the usual Whitehall terminology—but that they will not in fact be achieved by a significant number of local authorities. I am determined that they do achieve them, but to go significantly beyond them—almost twice as far—is a move to which we should first give very serious consideration. We shall undoubtedly consider this matter in Committee.

On the further important issue of municipal waste strategies, guidance for local authorities establishes a framework for the issues that need to be addressed in preparing such strategies. However, there are wider considerations, such as how mandatory strategies would fit in with the local government freedoms and flexibilities agenda. Such issues need to be balanced. The Government have stated their position publicly. We said that
"decisions on municipal waste strategies and waste recycling plans will be taken in the light of the Strategy Unit's waste report"—
these are the key words—
"after which there will be no more than one waste related plan."
That remains our position.

Having said that, let me accentuate the positive aspects of the Bill. It requires that strategies include policies to enable householders to dispose of waste sustainably and to have provision at or near their home—in other words, it requires that the proximity principle be accepted and adhered to. We strongly agree that giving as many householders as possible an opportunity to participate in recycling is crucial, as it ensures a clean and secure source of recyclate for reprocessing and maximises the opportunity for everyone—including the elderly and infirm and those without access to a car—to participate.

The strategy unit recommended widespread roll-out of kerbside collection, but it is not contentious to point out that that has to be combined with the provision of accessible bring-sites, especially where kerbside collection is not practical or economic—perhaps the type of housing makes the provision of kerbside collection difficult, for example, high-rise blocks—or where it is wholly uneconomic, for example, in very rural areas. I listened carefully when, in her opening speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford drew attention to an example of what I consider to be good practice by quoting the case of a caretaker taking a basket from outside a flat to the collection point. We must ensure that such examples are disseminated.

Furthermore, it is important to realise that collection is only part of the cycle of recycling. There is little use in rapidly and significantly increasing the amount of recycling only to find that there are no markets for the recycled material and it ends up in landfill. Reprocessing facilities and, above all, markets for the final product are needed. Several hon. Members mentioned that. By itself, dictating collection will not secure recycling. That is why it is important that we look at the issues in the round.

The Bill would provide a power for waste disposal authorities to direct waste collection authorities in the manner in which waste is to be collected. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire mentioned that. The waste disposal authority would thereby have a power to determine the way in which a collection authority fulfils its statutory collection responsibility. In effect, it would make the collection authority an agent, and do so at the collection authority's expense. That is not the Government's solution. I draw the House's attention to the fact that the Government have already tabled an amendment to the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill that tackles the same issue, but in a different form. That Bill gives a power to direct the form in which the waste is delivered so that it can be easily recycled.

Almost all of the many contributions to the debate were supportive of the Bill. I have taken note of several points to which I would reply now, were I not conscious of the passage of time. It might be for the greater convenience of the House if I say that I shall reply to them in writing. Let me conclude by saying that the Government take seriously the whole issue of sustainable waste management. We have sympathy with the Bill's aims, but I emphasise that a number of amendments have to be made in Committee if the Bill is to secure the Government's support. On that basis, I am content—perhaps I should say pleased—to allow the Bill to proceed to Committee.

12.48 pm

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall reply to the debate.

First, I thank all right hon. and hon. Members who have attended today's debate, those who have made such powerful and interesting speeches, those who have sat on their speeches because they want another Bill to be considered today, and all those who have given me support both inside and outside the House.

I will not take time now to answer the points made. However, I would like to point out that Delleve Plastics is the company that has had to import plastic bottles, so all the hon. Members who mentioned difficulties with plastics should refer to that company.

I thank all the sponsors of my Bill, especially those seven who contributed to the debate. I am delighted to have had the support of all the Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen today——albeit with reservations in some cases.

In particular, I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment. I thank him for sharing his passion with us:, we all know it is genuine. I thank him for saying many positive things about the Bill. I look forward to working with him in Committee to deal with the points about which he has reservations.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 ( Committal of Bills ).