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Minor Amendment

Volume 408: debated on Friday 11 July 2003

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Amendment made: No 1, in page 2, line 32, after "45A" insert", 45B".— [Mr. Morley.]

Order for Third Reading read.

12.59 pm

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

The Bill is a simple measure but one that I believe will have far-reaching consequences. Our deliberations in Committee produced a final outcome that has overwhelming support not only in the House but in the country at large. I am delighted that the Bill has remained intact today.

Most people want to contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable environment, and they expect their elected representatives to provide them with a means of doing so. The Bill does exactly that. It places a duty on local authorities to provide for the collection of two separated recyclable materials by 2010. It gives local authorities just seven years in which to bring that about and to introduce this provision for all households. It further places a duty on the Secretary of State to report on progress.

I thank all those who have helped me to bring the Bill to its final stage, including my local authority, Lewisham; the Local Government Association; the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee; British Glass; Alupro; the British Paper Federation; Recoup; the Environment Agency; and the Waste and Resources Action Programme. I am sure that there are others that I have not listed.

My thanks go to my right hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher), who was the responsible Minister for most of the life of the Bill. He played a very constructive role. I also thank the Minister for the Environment for his support today. I thank the civil servants involved and the Committee Clerk, who have been extremely helpful to me in this process.

I thank as well the occupants of the Opposition Front Bench. Despite a significant number of changes of personnel and some reservations—

Indeed.

Despite the changes of personnel and some reservations, those on the Opposition Front Bench have consistently supported the principle of the Bill. I thank the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) for his support today. Similarly, I thank the Liberal Democrats for their constant support and in particular the hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) for her support today.

Thanks are also due to my 11 sponsors for their participation and strong encouragement. I thank my researcher, Heidi Alexander, for taking on all the extra work that a private Member's Bill entails. I thank also Martyn Williams and those in the parliamentary unit at Friends of the Earth, which has made sure that our postbags were constantly full. It obviously organised the most recent e-mail campaign, of which we have heard today and ensured that 360 Members signed the supporting early-day motion, as well as its amendments. The staff there provided me with valuable technical help throughout this process.

Tackling waste is an environmental imperative, and Britain has lagged behind for far too long. This is our chance to do better. I believe that the Bill will give us all an opportunity to recycle more and to contribute to a more sustainable waste policy in England and Wales, and I commend it to the House.

1.3 pm

I put on record my thanks and congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) for the deft way in which she has negotiated with the Government and steered the Bill through the House. It is complementary to the commitments that we have given through our waste implementation programme. We have to do a great deal more in the UK in reducing waste, and the Bill is an important part of that. I take on board the comments that have been made by bodies such as the Environmental Audit Committee. We take such comments seriously.

The Committee made the point that we would not meet the targets that we have set given the present rate of increase in recycling. It is increasing, but not at a satisfactory rate. We can change that rate and hit our targets, and I believe that the Bill will help us do that. I genuinely call on all Members, given the connections that they have with local authorities and organisations, to encourage them to take the opportunities that are being presented to them through the Bill, and to reduce waste streams on the basis of sustainability, the damage that is being done to the environment and the need to have a much more sustainable approach in dealing with energy, waste, landfill and incineration.

1.4 pm

I, too, wish to congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) on behalf of the Opposition. As I said at the start of our discussions today, she had a choice between, on the one hand, being inflexible and seeing her Bill run into the sand and, on the other, being flexible about a Bill which, we all hope, will become law. I believe that it will make a genuine contribution to all our efforts to increase recycling and reduce landfill.

Like the hon. Lady, I pay tribute to the organisations that have assisted us, especially Friends of the Earth. I hope that the Bill makes the targets that the Government have set themselves more achievable. As I have reminded the House, the Environmental Audit Committee fears that they will be missed by a wide margin, but let us hope that that margin is a little smaller as a result of the Bill.

1.5 pm

I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) on taking the Bill forward. As someone who, in the past, has come fairly high in the ballot for private Members' Bills, I remember the immediate joy, followed by sorrow, as I was inundated by letters from all sorts of organisations on which subject to choose to pursue. A lot of those subjects are worthy, and it is always a difficult choice to make. I therefore congratulate the hon. Lady warmly.

There is a wide variation in the amount of recycling that is done throughout the country. Daventry holds the record, recycling 44 per cent. of household waste, whereas the average council recycles only 13 per cent. Councils in the north-east have a much poorer record, collecting on average only 6 per cent. of recyclable household waste. Although Daventry's system costs money, it is a fact that waste collection does cost money, which we sometimes overlook. There has been a large recycling factory in my own constituency for many years which recycles 95 per cent. of lead in car batteries. It does an extremely important job, but it faces problems of marketability and profitability when there is a dip in the price of lead. There are difficulties in the economic process of recycling lead when it falls below a certain price.

The hon. Lady's Bill specifies a time for the introduction of its provisions. Local authorities have an important role to play but the Government, as the Minister accepted, have a major role to play as well in making sure that there is an end use for recycled material. If we can find, end uses, there is no question but that recycling will be successful. I want to underline that, and urge the Government, whose commitment I do not dispute, to redouble their efforts to make sure that markets are found and recycling is practicable. Most people I meet want to recycle their household waste—they do not want it to go into large landfill sites when it could be used for practical purposes.

I hope that this worthy Bill not only focuses our minds on the issue of recycling but sets us another target. I know that targets are not too popular with the Government at the moment. They are happy for them to be set for everyone else but, having listened to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry last week, it seems to me that they want to divorce themselves from their own targets. I hope that the Bill gives the Government a target so that they can redouble their efforts on finding markets so that recyclable material can be used.

1.9 pm

I congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock). In the 16 ballots in which I have participated since first coming to the House, I have never been placed at all, let alone achieve a position where it is possible to do any good.

While we support the Bill and its implementation, I hope that it will not be offered as the sole solution to a serious problem. The removal of waste that can be recycled is part of the solution. I still think that there is a great need to focus on reducing the amount of material that is there to be recycled, because that will help to keep down the cost to the council tax payer and taxpayer, and probably keep down the cost to the purchaser of the product in the first place.

I wish the Bill well. It is a sensible, practical, realistic measure. My only reservation is that there is more to do. I know that when the hon. Lady's Bill is passed, as I am sure it will be, we can count on her not to say that that job is done, but that it is partly done.

1.11 pm

I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) on all the work that she has done and the opportunities that she has taken to overcome difficulties and continue when all was despair before us. I also pay tribute to the Minister and his predecessor for accepting that targets would be useful in this case, and for taking away the original targets and saying, "We do not want those targets, but we will not walk away from the Bill. Let's get together and see what we can achieve." That compromise will deliver real success. This is a Bill that we want and desperately need, which will make a real difference to sustainable waste management.

None of us want incinerators in our constituencies. We all want to see waste reduction, more recycling and much more public awareness of sustainability. The Bill will do much to support the public demand that we do not have incineration.

I thank all those who have supported the hon. Lady and all of us working with her, and I congratulate the hon. Lady on her work today.

1.12 pm

I congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) on the Bill and thank her for her tolerance of what she found a little surprising but at least understood. We got an impression of the importance of some matters to certain people a moment ago. That reminded me of some of my local government days, which in turn reminded me that when I first became a councillor recycling was called totting. The first time that I heard the word recycling used by the bin men in south London was when they were caught emptying a large storehouse of fur coats and fashionable gear: on being asked what they were doing they said that it was part of their recycling programme.

The reality is that the Bill, which I hope completes its passage through Parliament, is another step. We could have gone further and we should have gone further, and I know that the hon. Lady would have liked to have gone further, but she was handcuffed and coupled to the floor by the Minister. That said, I congratulate the hon. Lady and wish the Bill well.

1.13 pm

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to say a few words. Despite what the hon. Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford) says, at times I thought that I had the Minister in handcuffs.

I simply wish to thank all those hon. Members who have attended the debate today for the way in which it has been conducted, and, in anticipation, add my thanks to my noble Friend Baroness Gale who will sponsor the Bill in the other place. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.