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Climate Change Bill [HL]

Volume 698: debated on Wednesday 30 January 2008

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Brabazon of Tara) in the Chair.]

Clause 51 [Waste reduction schemes]:

On Question, Whether Clause 51 shall stand part of the Bill?

At long last we have arrived at Part 5, of which Schedule 5 makes up a great deal. Here we move from grave, major global problems and national targets to the back streets of England. I wish I could say that I am bringing a backstreet mob with me to deal with all this, but unfortunately it is just me. However, these are important issues and they must be properly debated.

I should apologise for the fact that I could not take part in the Second Reading debate, but I have read it in detail and with great interest. There was not a great deal of discussion of Part 5, which sets out the waste minimisation provisions, in particular the proposals to allow local authorities to charge for removing refuse under certain circumstances. The reason I have tabled a clause stand part debate is to allow a short general debate on these provisions before we get down to the detail, which I think will be helpful.

The Liberal Democrat view, with greater or lesser enthusiasm, is that if councils wish to try out these provisions, by and large we should let them do so. The Local Government Association is rather more enthusiastic than I about these proposals because it thinks that lots of councils will wish to be, in the words of its spokesman, “innovative and enterprising”. I wonder how many will be prepared to go ahead with the pilots; we will find out. My personal view is a sceptical one. I am not at all sure that this is going to be one of the major ways, or even an important minor one, in which this country tackles climate change, but I do believe that the House of Lords should scrutinise the legislation closely at this stage because it may be the only chance this part gets for detailed consideration. We have no control over what happens in the House of Commons, but quite often it does not get to the end of Bills, and it is obvious that Members of the other place will spend a lot of time on the major issues such as targets, greenhouse gas emissions reduction and so on. So this may be the only real chance the Bill gets for detailed scrutiny. If, in the Government’s view, the pilots are successful so that they come forward with what they called the roll outs across the country, that will be done by secondary legislation. Although we will be able to discuss it, clearly we will not be able to go through it in the detail we can today. We have got a job to do in the time left to us on this Bill.

This part of the Bill seeks to set up pilot schemes which will enable local authorities, in certain circumstances, to either charge or give rebates to householders for the disposal of their waste, and it suggests four kinds of pilots. We had a useful letter from the Minister on this matter, setting out in some detail the way the Government see this scheme going forward. The Defra website is a mine of extremely useful information on this—there is a great deal of information out there—but, on the other hand, the details and how it is going to work are not very clear.

There are four main schemes set out by the Government. First, there is a bin-volume based scheme, which some people call big bins and little bins. Secondly, there is a weight-based scheme, in which a chip placed in the wheelie-bin is able to measure the amount of refuse put out by each householder. This is a system which has led to a certain amount of deliberation in the national media and which some people call chip and bin. Thirdly, there is a frequency-based scheme where there might be a basic collection every fortnight. If you want a collection every week you can have it—or you can ring up and ask for a special collection—but you will pay extra for it. Fourthly, there is a sack-based scheme in which householders pay for sacks to set out their waste and everyone on the scheme perhaps receives a flat-rate rebate. Therefore there is a redistribution from people who put out more sacks to people who put out fewer sacks. It is what some people call “a pound a sack” scheme. It might be a pound, it might not; we will perhaps find out what kind of level the Government have in mind. In Maastricht, one of the places they highlight where this has worked, each sack costs a euro—and the way things are going a euro is not far off a pound; it is now worth about 75p.

Perhaps I may ask some general questions at this stage. First, is the principle right? Is it right to try to reduce the amount of waste produced—which everyone accepts has to be done—at the point of collection? Would it not be more cost effective and less administratively and politically difficult to take action in other ways—for example, by reducing the amount of packing at source; by going over to use-once bags rather than throwaway bags; by collecting kitchen waste, which is perhaps the main component of domestic waste so far as concerns global warming and greenhouse gases; and by tackling commercial and industrial waste? There are a number of amendments from both the Conservatives and ourselves on some of these issues later on, but the basic question is whether the principle of targeting people at the household is right. There is a major question mark over this.

Secondly, which schemes in other countries do the Government regard as the models to be copied or piloted here? The documentation the Government have produced lists a number of these but the information provided is sketchy.

Thirdly, will the Government tell us which councils they are talking to that might want to bring this in? So far they have refused to say. The Local Government Association has refused to tell me which councils it thinks are interested, but if we are going to judge whether these pilots are successful, it is very important that we have some idea of the kinds of areas they might cover.

Fourthly, the Government say that up to £18 per household cost savings might be made from a charging system, but does that come from the charging or from the related measures to recycle more associated with it? How reliable is that figure? As to the national saving of £94 million per year that the Government say might be made, what level of national take-up does that figure suggest will take place—100 per cent, 50 per cent, or rather less? Some people will say that this is about reducing the amount of stuff we throw away, that it is about climate change and the fact that the earth is heating up, and so is worth doing. But there is no point in going over to schemes that will not work and are not seen to be fair, because that will result in a public reaction that does harm to the whole campaign.

The other questions are: is the reduction in greenhouse gases, which this might result in, really going to be significant in terms of the overall targets? Will it be cost effective? Are there not better ways of doing it that will produce better value in terms of the investment put in?

I would be much happier with this measure if it were part of a comprehensive Bill setting out all kinds of ways in which local authorities and other public bodies could tackle the related problems of reducing the amount of waste, which is necessary regardless of climate change, and reducing the amount of emissions from stuff that goes to landfill or in other ways. If this were just one of a whole series of measures, with regard particularly to local authorities but also to other public bodies at regional, local and national level, we would regard it as being more substantial. It seems odd that this is one little measure tacked on to a major climate change Bill that is really quite different from the rest of the Bill. That, I suppose, is why I am moving these amendments on behalf of our party.

I put this forward with a reasonably constructive but sceptical point of view, and look forward to the Minister’s reply to it.

The Climate Change Bill is framework legislation, but here in Part 5 a very specific provision is bolted on to the Bill. To me it looks rather strange and out of place in the Bill, but there it is—no doubt, to stay. However, does it hit the spot? Five local authorities are to pilot waste-reduction schemes to encourage households to minimise and recycle their waste. The aspiration is to have zero waste from households going to landfill, an admirable goal.

Here I should probably declare an interest: I have been a councillor on Breckland District Council in Norfolk for the past 10 years. Breckland council currently collects over 42 per cent of waste for recycling, while I believe the national average is somewhere in the region of the mid-20s. Britain has an appalling record on waste management. Clauses 51 to 54 look only at a very narrow element of waste—householders minimising and recycling their waste—with carrot-and-stick incentives. However, it does not seem to tackle the issue of reducing the production of waste and packaging in the first place—waste minimisation—although there are signs that some retailers are committed to reducing packaging.

Why deal only with households? Why not all waste collected by local authorities from manufacturers, retailers, importers, service providers, state-related enterprises, offices, shops, schools and so on? Household waste represents only about 10 per cent of the UK’s waste overall. We are looking at only a fraction of the problem. Is that the intention?

At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said that 6 million tonnes of wood that could be used for energy go to landfill every year. He went on to say that this is an appalling waste. Will Part 5 of the Bill deal with that? If not, why not?

Earlier I talked about waste collected for recycling. It is all very well collecting all that waste, but does it get recycled in an environmentally friendly way? I would argue, no. The vast majority of our waste collected for recycling is exported. Twenty per cent goes to China, which hardly fits into the overall aim of the Bill. We do not have the mechanisms or the markets for recycling in this country.

The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh said at Second Reading:

“What cannot be recycled should be gasified … to produce liquid fuels or electric power”.

However, there is more than one solution to the problem. Perhaps what cannot be turned into fuel or power should be incinerated. The noble Lord went on to say:

“Incineration normally involves the production of environmentally unfriendly emanations which can be offensive to the local community”.—[Official Report, 27/11/07; col. 1136-7.]

At huge risk to myself, I beg to differ. The modern incinerators of today have three or four scrubbers up the chimney, cleaning and purifying the emanations so that the final emissions are inoffensive and clean, making the danger insignificant by EU standards.

We need to look at all aspects and solutions for waste management from all sources and not just target householders, who are only 10 per cent of the problem. In any case, research shows that nearly two-thirds of householders are committed recyclers.

Even if the pilots proposed in the Bill are successful and are rolled out nationally, with equal success, and if waste collected for recycling reaches 50 per cent, which is double the figure for today, and we find UK solutions to recycle environmentally, what will we have achieved? We will have found solutions for a mere 5 per cent of the UK’s waste. What about the remaining 95 per cent? We will have found nothing or, at best, very little.

These provisions tinker with the UK’s waste. We need to be bold, to grasp the nettle; we must find solutions for all UK waste. We need to minimise it in the first place, collect it efficiently and then recycle or dispose of it in the most environmentally beneficial manner. We must look at all the options and solutions. Only then might we find a solution for the Minister’s 6 million tonnes of wood currently sent to landfill. Let us not miss an opportunity. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Like my noble friend Lord Cathcart and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, I am not impressed by this rather odd little add-on to the Bill. My noble friend covered effectively the serious shortcomings in the legislation. It is odd that we are dealing with the matter in this way. One cannot be too hostile to pilot schemes of this kind, but one is entitled to ask why we have not been given a clearer picture of the way in which the Government intend to tackle the whole problem of waste.

It is clear that it is of great significance as far as the Bill is concerned, because, as my noble friend indicated, waste is a substantial contributor to CO2 emissions. When we come to meet the targets and prepare the budgets and when the Secretary of State has to produce his great plans so that he can meet those targets, waste will have to be covered. It is therefore odd that it is not in the Bill. I suppose that the Minister will say, “Well, it’s such a major set of policy matters that we will need to come back with separate legislation, and it will be part of a big Bill which at some time in the future we’ll produce”. It will be interesting if he says that, and we will want an indication of just when that legislation will come forward and its likely nature.

As for the pilot schemes, we are talking about giving incentives to ratepayers to dispose of their waste in a particular way. However, I suspect that we really should be talking about incentives for industry, as my noble friend said, and for all others who produce waste, to get rid of it in the right way, as well as incentives for local authorities to handle it in the most efficient way.

One of the difficulties that we face is the fact that waste legislation, notably the landfill directive, was devised before climate change became a great issue. Local authorities manage waste mainly on a weight basis. I am on the Science and Technology Committee, and we are undertaking an inquiry into waste. I do not propose to anticipate the findings of that committee as we are at an early stage in the collection of evidence, but we have already had powerful evidence from industry about what is going wrong and heard its concerns about the consequences. It points to the fact that, apart from anything else, there are about 400 different local authorities all pursuing different policies. That makes it difficult for industry to deal effectively and comprehensively with waste. If one local authority handles waste in one way and its next-door neighbour in another, it is difficult for industry, particularly the recycling industry, to work effectively. That is one problem. The Local Government Association briefing states:

“Local authorities know their local areas and are the best people to decide how to make the pilots work for the people they serve”.

That may be so, but do they know how to deal with the needs of industry?

My noble friend referred to the export of recyclable waste to other parts of the world, including China. This week, we were told by representatives of the IT industry that there was an acute shortage of recyclable plastic in this country for manufacture, including an acute shortage in the supply of plastic bottles. We were told that one of the reasons for that was the international recycling trade and the fact that the financial incentives encouraged disposal by export, probably to countries which recycled the material in a way that made a negative rather than positive contribution to climate change. We learnt that at present there are no adequate incentives to the recycling industry in this country to provide manufacturing industry with what it wants.

We heard particularly important evidence from the aluminium industry. Aluminium is an amazing product: 75 per cent of all aluminium ever produced is still in use today. It is not only recyclable but can be recycled to infinity. You can go on recycling it again and again, which you cannot do with plastics or paper because the nature of the product changes in such a way that you do not get an adequate end-product. However, you can do that with aluminium. A difficulty that arises because local authority schemes are based on weight is that aluminium, which is a relatively light product, is simply not getting through the right recycling system. It is disposed of along with kitchen waste. We all know what we do with those foil containers in which we cook our suppers—particularly when our wives are away—having acquired them from the supermarket. There is no incentive to deliver them for recycling, and they go into the general waste collection. That is what happens to them. As a result, the industry is simply not getting the amount of material recycled that it would like to see.

There are other problems. For example, you can recycle cans very easily, but there is a rather unfortunate tendency, particularly among the younger generation, to chuck them away and expect others to pick them up rather than to put them in places where they can be collected easily and recycled. We need incentives for them to do that. We were told that in spite of the industry’s efforts, over 90,000 tonnes of aluminium packaging in the UK, worth around £80 million, is still going to landfill. They say that that is largely because the packaging waste regulations and the landfill directive do not encourage local authorities to collect lightweight non-biodegradable packaging like aluminium.

We were told that for local authorities the collection of lightweight aluminium packaging is not a priority because their targets are weight based with strong incentives to divert biodegradable waste. Aluminium is the only packaging material that has been almost totally dependent on recovering material from the domestic waste stream to achieve its targets.

The glass industry gave us even greater cause for concern. Glass is a material that can be recycled again and again, but even those local authorities—this may seem absurd, but apparently it happens—that solemnly collect different coloured glass bottles in different containers because of the financial arrangements under which they work and the materials recycling facilities operate often commingle the collections again and throw them all in together. As a consequence glass reprocessors are increasingly receiving material of such poor quality that the only market for it is an aggregate for use in road building. The trouble is that the CO2 saving for aggregate use is negative, while if it can be used for recycling bottles and manufacturing it is substantially positive.

In addition, material has been provided and the case has been made to bear out the fact that there is a substantial energy saving for every tonne of glass waste used in new manufacture because recycled glass melts at a lower temperature than virgin raw materials. If we are recycling glass we save a substantial amount in quarry. There are great savings to be made if we can get it right, but because so much of our legislation was devised before the advent of the climate change agenda that is not happening and it is having a serious impact on our glass industry, which is ceasing to be competitive —which should concern us—because our continental rivals are doing the job of recycling much better than we are in this country.

If an industry is unable to meet its targets under the climate change agreements it loses an 80 per cent discount. That is worth £12 million per annum to the industry. The combination of the loss of that discount with the additional energy costs and the greater liability under the Emissions Trading Scheme is likely to see the UK glass industry becoming severely uncompetitive with the rest of the EU. Countries such as Holland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland already benefit from lower costs because their recycling and remelt performances are better than ours and they do not get penalised through having to pay a climate change levy.

Surely that should be a concern for the Government. They have been told all that: strong representations have been made. I have been reading from a letter to Ministers. Why is something not being done as a matter of urgency? Why are we having a trivial scheme pilot for five local authorities to see whether they can get householders to create a better split up of their household rubbish? I do not understand, when there are substantial issues to be addressed.

I say to the Government, if we are going to have provisions to deal with waste in the Bill let us have serious provisions that are going to make a difference, or specific information and undertakings about when they are going to come forward with effective legislation to change what is clearly a highly unsatisfactory situation.

As we enter the last laps of Committee, I hope that your Lordships will be pleased that we managed to get the announcement of the chair designate to the climate change committee before the end of Committee stage. I hope that that will be a reassurance for Report stage. Part of the Bill has been completely rubbished and dismissed as trivial or insignificant. All I can say to noble Lords is that they should thank their lucky stars that it is in the Bill anyway. That is the reality. Looking for a parliamentary vehicle and at the overall policy objectives, it was that or nothing, and the pilots are important, as I will explain. We do not consider this a trivial part of the Bill and I will not have the answers to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, in the sense of timing of other processes, because they will flow from the pilots, which are only about household waste.

There are plenty of other areas where we are working on minimising waste in industry. However, some interesting points have been raised and questions asked and I will do my best to answer them. I hope that it will set the scene. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, I will deal with some of the details in the amendments, although I hope that I will have to deal with each of the points only once if I can satisfactorily answer your Lordships.

Clause 51 introduces Schedule 5, which is a different exercise to the rest of the Bill. It produces a legislative framework for any waste collection authority to set up a waste reduction scheme. Waste reduction schemes may have an important role to play in encouraging people to throw away less and recycle more. We need to send less waste to landfill. At the moment, 3 per cent of all UK greenhouse gas emissions come from the methane from biodegradable waste in landfill. We have made good progress in recent years. I have answered Questions from this Dispatch Box in the past couple of years. Household waste recycling has quadrupled in the past 10 years. It is just over 30 per cent in 2006-07. But as has been said, we lag considerably behind much of the rest of Europe and therefore we need to do much better.

Householders have a vital part to play. As has been said, municipal waste accounts for over a quarter of the waste sent to landfill in England; and household waste forms a large part of that. The research shows that waste reduction schemes could help. For instance—I will probably give other examples as we come through the amendments—a scheme in Sweden saw residual waste fall by 45 per cent in the first year of the scheme and waste separated for recycling and composting rose by 49 per cent.

In Seattle, where householders pay according to the size of their bin, recycling tonnages have increased by 60 per cent and participation in recycling has increased to 80 per cent. What is said is trivial but we are proposing modest powers in this legislation to enable up to five local authorities to pilot waste reduction schemes. The factual briefing note that I sent to noble Lords recently included information about how these schemes could work in practice. In outline, under the proposed powers, householders who throw away the least will receive a rebate from the authority.

In some schemes, householders who throw away the most could pay more. However, all the money raised that way will have to be paid back to residents. That revenue-neutrality condition offers an important protection for local residents. It means that, overall, they do not pay any more to the local authority. The requirement on authorities to keep a separate account of charges and rebates under the scheme will allow residents to assure themselves and the people who watch local authorities that the revenue-neutrality requirement is being met.

The pilot authorities will be able to integrate the rebates and any charges within their local council tax system. The Government are keen to ensure that the necessary protections for people and the environment are in place, so the pilot schemes will need to take account of potentially disadvantaged groups—maybe large families, people living in flats, and so on—and provide a good kerb-side recycling service and have in place a fly-tipping prevention strategy. Those are all points that we shall come to in detail later.

These requirements will ensure that important protections are in place both for society and the environment. My plea to noble Lords is that we have to be able to give local authorities as much flexibility as they need, once we have set the basic framework. They are the professionals with enormous expertise—and, of course, with lots of experience of co-operating with industry as well. But we need them to look at cost efficiency and to reflect local needs and circumstances. The five areas will not all be the same, which is the whole point of the exercise.

That is why I say in advance that I will have to resist amendments that seek to impose unnecessary restrictions on authorities, including additional requirements around fly-tipping prevention, which they have to deal with anyway; packaged and kitchen waste; limits on the way in which local authorities can administer charges; and requirements that schemes cover the whole area, not part of it. We have to give local government some degree of flexibility. Similarly, we want to ensure that as central government, we have sufficient flexibility to amend parts of the proposed legislation in the light of what we learn from the pilots, which, after all, is what they are.

We have been careful to ensure that Parliament plays a full role in any such changes. These are new powers for England and we think that piloting is the sensible approach. Up to five pilots will allow us to look in depth at the impacts of a variety of schemes in different areas. In principle, piloting is a good idea. It was one of the things that shadow Ministers were warned about, on the approach to the 1997 election, by retired civil servants, business folk and academics when we were thinking about what we would do in government. They warned us that where there are new schemes, whatever they are, and we can pilot them, we should attempt to do so. Past evidence is that that is a much more successful way of legislating and bringing about change than a one-size-fits-all, do-it-overnight for the whole country approach. We have had too many disasters not to learn the lessons.

It is up to local authorities to bring forward their own proposals on how the schemes will work, including how long they will last, for example. We need to be responsive to the bids, rather than attempting to prejudge what we want them to look like. Of course, we will involve Parliament in the decision-making process.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, asked some specific questions, which I shall do my best to answer. He asked whether the principle was right and why we should target householders at the point of collection. Would it be more cost-effective and less administratively and politically difficult to take action in other ways, such as with regard to kitchen waste, use-once bags, and commercial and trade waste? The Government are clear that all sectors need to take action to reduce and recycle their waste. However, householders have an important part to play. As I said, 27 per cent of waste is sent to landfill.

This measure complements action elsewhere; it does not replace it. Nor is it forcing authorities to come forward as pilots. It is completely up to them to decide if it makes administrative and financial sense. Evidence shows that waste reduction schemes can make savings for authorities. The Government have already taken action on packaging. EU packaging waste targets to be achieved by 2008 have raised the recycling rate in the UK for packaging waste from 27 per cent in 1997 to 56 per cent in 2006. Meanwhile, industrial and commercial waste to landfill has fallen from 50 per cent to 44 per cent over a four-year period from 1998-99 to 2002-03.

The waste strategy for food waste from kitchens to 2007 already encourages local authorities to offer separate collections, and the waste resource and action programme—WRAP—is currently trialling separate collections with 17 local authorities to determine the feasibility of a wider rollout. WRAP and its partners are also running a campaign called Love Food, Hate Waste, whose aim overall is to reduce consumer food waste by 100,000 tonnes by March 2008. New targets are currently being drawn up to extend it.

The noble Lord also asked about schemes in other countries and whether we regarded them as models to be copied. Research was carried out for Defra last year, which provided a comprehensive review of the literature on waste charging, and modelled the possible impacts of similar schemes in England. It is published on Defra’s website with a peer review report. I circulated a factual briefing to noble Lords last week, containing examples of how different types of schemes operate overseas, including weight-based, bin-volume and sack-based schemes. We would like to enable local authorities in England to trial these different methods as well, but waste in England is not necessarily collected in the same way as it is in other countries, which have a different demography and types of housing.

Therefore, it is not right to say that one system abroad would be better for England—or for the pilots—than another. We will encourage authorities to introduce their own versions, similar to or different from those abroad, but which are well thought out. Obviously they can learn from practices. They can certainly learn from the PR and explanations involved in putting across such schemes to citizens, and not to be frightened by the ill informed, ignorant journalism on this issue that we sometimes get from certain sections of the tabloid press. That is important because these schemes work. We are not reinventing the wheel; it is not as though this does not happen successfully elsewhere, even within the European Union. That is why the pilots are so important; we want to test the issues.

The noble Lord also asked which councils we are talking to. We are not talking at the moment. We have had discussions with local authorities, but there is no secret list in a drawer in Whitehall of councils that have been lined up to trial these schemes. That is the honest truth. We have not had authorities declaring themselves as potential candidates but we have had several informal conversations with authorities and other stakeholders who want further information.

We are at a very early stage in the legislation. The Bill has come to this House first. It can change as it goes through the parliamentary process but we would not expect to receive formal applications until Parliament has concluded its consideration. Also, we cannot be sure that the authorities asking for information now will be the ones applying formally for the pilot. It is therefore not appropriate to give names of local authorities with which we have had informal discussions. We will develop a more formal process of application, so will look again at that issue for sure. In terms of judging the pilots, we will develop and publish a set of criteria to inform our decisions on which authorities should run them, which is likely to be based on how well the proposal delivers positive environmental and economic results, alongside protection for householders and the environment. That protection is crucial, as is revenue neutrality, so that householders do not feel that they are paying twice for the service.

I have answered some of the points asked by the noble Earl. It is about household waste. The figures I used were given to me on one of my visits by Harper Adams college, which is looking at disposal sites and energy derived from wood waste. There is an issue of second-hand wood waste because it has resins, paints and glues, and comes under the waste directive governed by the Environment Agency on new use; the issue is not as easy as one thinks. But the idea of putting 6 million tonnes of wood into landfill is preposterous when we think of the energy that we can get from that in ways that are technically known.

In the waste hierarchy, waste minimisation and recycling are higher than energy from waste. Not to create it in the first place is certainly higher in the Bill. In this respect, we focus on waste minimisation and recycling at the top of the hierarchy. As to the point that the noble Lord made about 20 per cent of the waste going to China, recycling is good for the environment wherever it takes place, as long as it is recycled and undertaken in an environmentally sound manner.

I am well aware, from television, films and briefings, that that has not always been the case. It is illegal to export waste from this country for dumping, but all exports for recycling are subject to EC and UK controls in order to protect human health and the environment. People are sent out as inspectors to areas where the waste goes to recycling, not as a jolly, but to see that the environment is being protected as well as human health and that we are not causing problems.

That has added advantages. Waste may go to economies that can use this waste—I know that is not a good word—for recycling on a more massive scale than we can do economically. That is not easy in a small country, where economies of scale apply. Where recycling can be done in growing economies such as China and India, they can reduce their reliance on natural resources in the first place, on a much greater scale than we could here. That would be of much greater benefit to the environment, so there is a win-win situation there—as long as the recycling is carried out in an environmentally friendly fashion.

I have said that this is only a principled debate on Clause 51, as the noble Lord said. I apologise that it is not the full-blown exercise that was originally forecast, but I do not think it is trivial. This is relevant to the Bill. There is a connection between what we are trying to do on climate change and waste reduction, minimisation and recycling. This is a contribution. If this is done by piloting, it is much more likely to win public acceptance in the medium and long term, than if it were done overnight through a system imposed by Whitehall.

My Lords, before the noble Lord responds, can I ask the Minister a couple of things? I am very pleased with his response to this short debate and agree that we need flexibility. The pilot areas are referred to as “areas”. Could an area be the whole of a county, or are just one or two areas linked up? Will one specific local authority do the piloting? In some cases, a greater scale would bring greater rewards than having a smaller pilot.

My second question is about the exporting of our waste to be recycled. In principle I do not have any problem with that, but is there an equivalent carbon footprint to be taken into account when that sort of waste is moved? Clearly, if we are creating more pollution as a result of it, that should raise a question mark.

My final point is more personal to me. Within rural areas, collection of waste of any sort—as the Minister knows so well—costs more. Therefore, I do hope that one of the areas chosen for the pilots would include a rural area.

I thought that I had covered the first point of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, but probably not adequately. It will be up to the five local authorities to come forward with proposed pilots for areas in their boundaries. It may or may not be the whole local authority area. It will be entirely up to the local authority to decide whether it wants to participate in a pilot and to choose the part of its area that it is responsible for; that could be less than its full boundaries—it is entirely up to it—and we will assess the benefits of that. To that extent the answer is going to be left to local authorities. It would make sense for the pilot schemes to have a range, from the census point of view—local authorities may talk to each other and the Local Government Association will play a big role in this—so that the pilots are meaningful. They are a forerunner of national policy so it does not make sense to have them all run in the same kind of area. There will be flexibility.

That makes my point on the third question about the rural aspect of the issue. There are clearly massive differences between what would happen in the City of Westminster and in a rural area. The collection is different, disposal is different, the means of separating the household waste is different and the kind of schemes that one would put together are different, but that is up to the local authority and we do not want to prejudge that.

The noble Baroness’s point about transport is interesting. That would be covered when we get round to looking at the shipping aspect of the carbon footprint in offsetting the net benefits of taking the goods out of the country to be recycled; we hope that that will not be a matter for this Bill.

In welcoming the pilots, I have one question for the Minister—in one sentence. Will he satisfy himself that the administrative costs of the pilots are taken into account so that we know what those are?

The noble Lord is absolutely right to raise the issue, which comes up in one of the amendments. We want local authorities to come forward with pilots that are revenue neutral for the tax payer, which is important. Obviously there will an admin cost for setting up the scheme—work has to be done there—but local authorities can find savings by doing it within their overall budget. We hope they will come forward with the economics of specific schemes to address those issues. We have a tiny sum set aside in Defra, not to fund local authorities but to assist in oiling and certainly—maybe—for the evaluation. Evaluation of the schemes is important. But we must not let the issue of administrative red tape and burdens be such that it nullifies the schemes. There has to be a net benefit to society.

I thank noble Lords who took part in this brief general debate and the Minister for his comments. I was desperately trying to avoid saying at any stage in the debate that this is all a load of rubbish but the Minister pre-empted me, or half pre-empted me. But I will try to avoid saying it again. I will also try to avoid touching further on some of the issues that have been raised as they will be discussed in later amendments. I have one or two questions. All the stuff that has been produced about schemes in other parts of the world has not convinced me that those are more than a series of local individual schemes that work in some places. Where have schemes such as this one been tried but failed? Those are not in the list and are not being discussed, for obvious reasons. Those schemes stopped when they failed and they are no longer taking place. There may not be any such scheme. Perhaps every charging scheme ever introduced on the basis of the amount of waste thrown away has been successful. I wonder about that. I am not at all convinced by the information I have been given so far, including the stuff from the Defra website—which, as I said, is very useful.

I have to welcome the fact that the Government are piloting this—not the particular scheme but the principle of piloting things with local authorities. So many things are dumped on local authorities. They do it whether they like it or not and just have to make the best of it. The concept of piloting is a good one and I hope it spreads within Defra, the DCLG and other government departments. We will see. The Minister apologises for the fact that it is not a full-blown scheme. If it was a full-blown scheme, I would want to divide the Committee on it every 10 minutes. This is not the kind of thing you can impose without piloting at all. To that extent, I welcome it.

The Minister said that householders have an important part to play. Of course they do; their part is crucial. However, that is not the point at issue. The point at issue is whether the best way of getting householders to play their part is to impose financial penalties and to hand out financial benefits or whether it is to provide a good collection service that will encourage people to use it. All the evidence is that, where good recycling services are provided, the proportion of stuff that goes to recycling goes up and up. That is what has happened when local authorities have done this over the past few years. Local authorities now have a whole mix of different schemes in different areas. If all the best schemes from the all the areas could be carried out everywhere, we might achieve more than the Government will through their proposals.

On the question of which councils are involved, I am afraid that Joan Ruddock let the cat out of the bag when she said that the department was talking to 18 councils. If she has mentioned the figure 18, 18 names must exist. It is those 18 names that we are asking for but which no one will provide. That is not satisfactory. I accept that there may well be preliminary discussions, almost certainly with council officers. One wonders how many councillors on those 18 councils know that the discussions are taking place and what they think about them if they know. Who knows? We do not know where these councils are and we cannot find out. I cannot find a council that is enthusiastic about doing this, although perhaps other noble Lords know of some and we will learn of them later.

The Minister said that formal application processes would be developed. That introduces the question of timetables. Will this happen after the Bill has completed all its stages and becomes law, when it goes to the Commons or at some other stage? It would be interesting to know that.

Finally, the Minister did not answer my questions about the savings for households, particularly the national saving of £94 million. That is a specific sum, but we do not know how it was arrived at and what proportion of householders in England would have to take part to achieve such a saving. If the Minister has that information now, it would be helpful to have it; if he has not, perhaps he will find it and let us know.

I apologise for that. I will see whether I can get that information on the £94 million; it was not immediately to hand.

As I said, the local authorities that are in discussions at the moment will not necessarily be the ones that come forward with a pilot proposal, so there is no benefit to any of them. Let us not forget that we consulted fully on this. It is not as though the issue turned up in the Bill by accident. A full consultation on a scheme from Defra was launched last summer and ran over the summer period. It was much commented on in the media, although not all those comments were based on the facts.

Modelling done in Defra showed that savings of £94 million could be available to England if around 62 per cent of households were covered by a waste incentive scheme. The figure of £94 million came from modelling.

Apparently, my colleague Joan Ruddock mentioned authorities that had made inquiries for information. This was at a Select Committee hearing on 7 December. I think that she mentioned the figure 14, not 18, but I will not argue about that, as the issue is still the same and we are not going to publish any names.

There will be informal guidance in the spring, followed by a formal arrangement. At the moment, local authorities have no power to charge. We want to incentivise householders. We want them to see that there is money to be gained by doing this; we are not coming in and saying, “You’ve got to pay for this”. However, local authorities have no powers under existing legislation to do that. The chances of their treasurers and legal people allowing them to present schemes to the Government before the Bill gets Royal Assent are fairly non-existent, but we are planning for a fairly early Royal Assent, subject to consideration of the remaining stages in this place and the other place.

Clause 51 agreed to.

Schedule 5 [Waste reduction schemes]:

183BB: Schedule 5, page 55, line 36, after “waste,” insert—

“( ) to produce less commercial, industrial or service waste,”

The noble Lord said: I am sure that we are all sustained by the Minister’s optimism, as we have been throughout our consideration of the Bill. I start by congratulating him and the Government on the announcement of the appointment of the noble Lord, Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, as the chairman of the Committee on Climate Change. I speak for the Opposition and, I am sure, for the whole House in acknowledging the fact that a significant, distinguished and experienced person now has this important role. It is very good news for the Bill.

I say at the outset that we welcome the inclusion of the subject of waste in the Bill and the idea of piloting. The amendment is designed to address the area of waste—or, as it is now often referred to, strategic resource materials—that the schedule fails to identify. I say “strategic resource materials” as I think that the time will soon come when what we think of as waste and as a liability will be seen as a resource of value. My noble friend Lord Crickhowell identified many issues in this regard. Our amendment would broaden the scope of the waste reduction provisions to include industrial, commercial and service industry waste, particularly as those sectors inevitably produce much waste that is not greatly different from domestic waste. I acknowledge the progress that has been made by business and government in recognising the importance of commercial waste recycling. However, it is a remarkable deficit that there is no specific mention of commercial and industrial waste in the Bill.

As my noble friend Lord Cathcart has pointed out, many shops, offices and commercial premises produce waste that currently ends up in landfill. They are banned from putting hazardous waste in normal collection points and many of them are having great difficulty in arranging collection of small, often irregular, quantities. The rest of their refuse is often domestic in nature—paper, cardboard and discarded food—for which they adopt a variety of schemes. Food-contaminated waste is a real headache for businesses to get collected. I know that McDonald’s, although it is not necessarily seen as the hero of the hour on many issues, is extremely sensitive to opinion on this matter and spends a lot of time seeking to deal with this problem. Some businesses pay for council collection and there appears to be considerable scope for waste reduction schemes to include them. Others join together and book a skip from time to time, although certainly much of this waste does not go into recycling. Will the Minister explain why such a large sector of the economy and the community is apparently to be excluded from the important provisions of this schedule? I beg to move.

I am delighted to respond to this brief debate. My noble friend Lord Rooker has given us quite a comprehensive explanation of the policy objectives for this part of the Bill but, in the spirit of the Committee stage, I hope that I can help further with the noble Lord’s amendment.

The waste provisions are enabling powers allowing local authorities to provide a financial incentive for householders to produce less waste, as we have just heard. We have deliberately limited the scope of the schemes to the domestic sector. The commercial, industrial and service sectors already pay for what they throw away through contracts that they have with waste collectors.

That is an existing real financial incentive. Another scheme on top of that would be superfluous. Moreover, local authorities collect waste from relatively few organisations in those sectors. Normally, the organisations use private contractors. So even if those sectors were not already paying, giving local authorities powers to financially incentivise them would have a very marginal effect.

In contrast, almost all householder waste is collected by local authorities and, as we have just heard, household waste makes up nearly a quarter of all waste going to landfill in England. We are continuing to work to reduce waste being produced by other sectors as well. The Waste Strategy 2007 sets out our intention to set a new national target for the reduction of commercial and industrial waste going to landfill. However, it is not appropriate to include them in the householder scheme. The amendment proposes doing just that. So, for the reasons that I have set out, I hope that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing it.

In high streets where there are a number of houses and flats and a number of small shops all mixed up, one usually sees the waste van at a critical moment on a Friday when everyone is moving about and it is blocking the street completely. There is a mixture of householders and shops on such streets. Are the shops counted as householders? What the noble Baroness said about the disposal of industrial waste does not apply to them.

The noble Lord mentioned McDonald's, and I am constrained to say that fast-food establishments create waste that is the responsibility of local authorities. If you look at an area such as where I live in Camberwell, you see the detritus of their products all over the streets and the local authority has an obligation to clean that up. So they are creating an expense for local authorities that they do not reimburse. Any scheme—it may not be under this part of the Bill—that obliges the manufacturers or producers of fast food to pay a contribution to the local authorities in whose areas they operate, so that any expense for the collection of that refuse does not fall on the council tax payer, would be most welcome to everybody—to local authorities and the inhabitants who have to put up with that rubbish.

I come back with a rider. I wonder whether before the Bill came into being the Government took into account what I would still class as junk mail. I certainly raised the issue on Second Reading. Many of us as householders regularly get issued with a free this or a free that. Charities appealing for money will send you a free pen, or whatever. I wondered whether that side had been tackled at all or even been given any thought. We try to recycle it, as I am sure many others do, but most of it goes back. What I would call free advertising or promoting goods through the letterbox to the householder is a big industry. Have the Government taken that into account in their deliberations?

To come back on the junk mail/charity mail point, I know that thinking is going on in another part of government about how to make it easier for individual householders to get themselves off those mailing lists. That is a separate issue and it is hard to do. I accept that more could be done. As a former charity professional, it is very unfortunate that this issue continues to dog the image of charity fundraising. That is not quite for this discussion, but it is taken seriously.

To pick up the point about shops, shops have their waste collected separately and they pay the council or the contractor. We need to be clear that the sort of pilot schemes that we are talking about would be designed to take into account particular localities. A scheme might come forward to address the problems of people living in flats, who may face different issues from those faced by people living on a leafy estate. We very much hope that local authorities will think in very practical terms about the logistics of recycling and waste minimisation as people live their daily lives. That is how we have to make the incentivisation work.

On the question of McDonald's, and speaking generically about fast-food outlets, we would of course expect such businesses to be paying the business rate. As I understand it, local authorities go to quite some effort to ensure that they pick up the cost of litter collection around their stores. For example, sometimes you see individuals sponsored by those companies going out around the store collecting litter. Sometimes you see special litter bins in the area of the stores. However, the noble Lord highlights an important point. We must expect business to play its part in the same way as we hope that householders will. In the Bill, we are talking about creating provisions for some important pilots. I am not trying to suggest that the questions of the commercial sector are not important; we just do not propose to cover them in these pilot schemes.

The noble Baroness was very fair in what she said. I wanted to suggest that I thought it unfortunate that the Bill did not go further and extend the whole business of waste beyond the purely domestic sector. From what the Minister said in our first debate, it is a considerable achievement to have got this section in at all, so we welcome that. I hope that the Government see waste as a continuum from domestic through commercial to industrial levels. Once one leaves the conventional recycling area, an awful lot of waste that could be recycled is not. There are huge opportunities for improving the percentage of material that is recycled and reducing that which goes into landfill.

I mentioned McDonald's not because of the business of street litter but to emphasise how difficult it is for some commercial businesses. I believe that McDonald's is genuinely seeking to find ways to deal with its food-contaminated waste—all those cans, for example, which the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, mentioned, that end up in those little bins in those places where we eat far too often for our own good for the convenience of being able to get a quick meal. The truth is that McDonald's has a great deal of difficulty in finding agencies that will take that material away. The whole business of commercial disposal and recycling will need considerable development if we are to make the improvements that we need.

Given the nature of the debate and the very productive way in which it has opened up the issue, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

183C: Schedule 5, page 56, line 3, leave out “may” and insert “must”

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to the other amendments in the group in my name, Amendments Nos. 183D, 183ZA and 183ZB.

We are now firmly into Schedule 5. This group of amendments covers the questions of the areas to be covered by the pilots, the number of pilots, and how representative the pilots will be. Amendments Nos. 183C and 183D, which go together, would take out of the Bill the provision that the pilots,

“may cover the whole or any part of the area of a waste collection authority”,

and replace it with,

“must cover the whole of the area of a waste collection authority”.

The Minister briefly mentioned this provision in previous debates. It is not clear why a useful and sensible pilot would cover only part of a local authority. The Minister said previously that the reason was to give an authority the flexibility to decide for itself. But, throughout this part of the Bill, there are issues of equity and fairness. The purpose of the amendment is to probe how such schemes might work.

Some residents in a particular collection authority area would be covered by such schemes, but some would not. People in some places may have to buy bags at 20p or £1 a bag—whatever it is—but in other areas they would not. For those who have to buy them—who have to pay up front for a service that others are getting free—issues of equity and fairness will arise. The same applies for those who have to pay more for a bigger bin, a more frequent collection, or whatever. People will believe that it is not fair that others within the same council are being treated differently. The Minister may say that it is up to the council to cope with that but there is an issue of principle here which the Government have to address.

Amendment No. 183ZA deals with the number of pilots. I must say that the numbering of the amendments in this part of the Bill is a nightmare, but no doubt we will all cope. Amendment No. 183ZA is also for probing purposes. It would leave out the line that says that there can be only five pilots. The obvious question is: why five? Why not six, 10 or 50? What is the justification for five? One guess would be that someone has worked out that £100,000 is the amount that will have to be paid to a local authority to take part in the pilot, and that £1.5 million divided by five authorities over three years comes—if I have understood it right—to £100,000 a year. If that was the only sum that Defra could get out of the Government for this, there could be only five pilots.

The question of the number of pilots is also linked to Amendment No. 183ZB, which inserts into the Bill new wording to insist that the areas covered by the pilots should be representative. The amendment states:

“The choice of pilot areas shall be made so as to include a representative selection of types of properties and households, urban, suburban and rural areas, and other social and economic conditions”.

That is a slightly more detailed version of the Conservatives’ amendment in this group.

It seems self-evident that the more pilots we have, the greater will be the variety of areas that can be tested. Think of the types of area that could be included. There are far-flung rural areas: uplands, farms and hamlets. There are more compact rural areas with larger villages, and those could be very different in the lowlands. There are large council estates, some with blocks of flats and others with low-rise garden houses. There are new towns. There are inner cities with private flats, council flats, housing associations, town houses, and mixtures of shops and housing of the kind that the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, mentioned. There are garden suburbs. There are Pennine towns and villages in areas such as the one where I live, with higgledy-piggledy terraces and cottages. There is the question of students and of houses in multiple occupation generally, and probably lots of others that I have not thought of. There are many different sorts of area. If this is going to be rolled out to 60 or 65 per cent of areas across the country, those areas will have to be part of a pilot. One wonders whether that can be done with only five pilots.

The Government say that there are four types of scheme: the big bins and little bins, the chip and bin, the frequency-based, and the pound-a-throw schemes—or give them their official names if you like. If you have four types of scheme and nine or 10 types of area, it makes you wonder how five pilots will be enough. It may be that you cannot get more than five councils to volunteer, but that is a different matter. Nevertheless, if it is going to be piloted properly, it has to be piloted in lots of different sorts of area. The fear—it is a very genuine fear—is that it will be piloted in easy areas. It is easy to see how a wheelie-bin based scheme can work in a practical way in suburban areas where there are gardens, every house has its own entrance and it is easy to identify the bin for that house. It is easy to see how it can work in that sort of area, whether it is right or wrong. It is not easy to see how it will work in a lot of other areas. Unless the Government pilot in a sufficient range of different areas, a very substantial rollout is probably impractical, and if it were enforced, would probably not be a good idea. So will the pilots give a full and true picture? The question probed in the amendment is whether five pilots are enough. What guarantees can the Government give that the areas will be representative? I beg to move.

The first two amendments, if accepted, would make the Bill read:

“A waste reduction scheme ... must cover the whole of the area of a waste collection authority”.

This seems sensible as, once the scheme has been introduced nationally, the whole area of a local authority would have been tested by the pilot scheme. It will provide a fuller picture when examining the results of the pilot schemes than if there is cherry-picking. When we looked at Clause 51, the Minister said that councils should be able to do part of that themselves rather than the whole. But my council, for instance—Breckland Council—is a rural council which has five market towns. If Breckland Council was able to just test one of the towns, it would not be testing the rural part of this district. Therefore, we will not learn anything about the problems that the rural areas may have.

We believe that the choice of pilot areas selected should reflect the different types of authority in question and, in our Amendment No. 183ZAA, we wanted one which was predominantly rural in nature and one that was totally urban, to try to get the Minister to recognise that there is a need to test the different types of local authority. There seems little point in rolling out a scheme nationally following a pilot scheme if that pilot scheme has not tested the various constituent areas that make up a local authority. The Minister has already said that there was a need to target a range of different types of authority.

I say to my noble friend that I think there is some merit in what the Government are doing here. In the area in which I live, a council which is rather good at public relations is trying out, in one town after another, new ways of dealing with wheelie bins. It is not trying them out in all towns at once but in one at a time and it is adjusting the scheme when it has experience of each town. In that way, it is getting the public, who in our case are rather averse to the whole idea, more interested. It is working, so I think that there is some merit in this scheme, although the Bill does not apply to the area where I live. Our scheme may be totally different, although I suspect not when it comes to the issue of rubbish, so there is a different method from that employed in my noble friend’s local authority and I have some sympathy for the Government’s way of doing things.

I touched on this issue in general terms when I dealt with Clause 51. We have to trust local government. It does not make sense to be prescriptive in this part of the Bill, particularly when we are looking at piloting what would be a major national policy. Probably the best way to learn something is by letting local authorities have the chance to design a scheme that best fits their local needs and implement it in areas where they consider it to be most appropriate. For a start, that would increase the likely effectiveness of the scheme and we think that it would be good for the local population.

I doubt whether all five pilot areas would want to include all their residents, but I hope that we do not get the situation that happens now with residential parking schemes where some people have to pay to park in front of their house, while others in the next road do not. However, one person does not go knocking on his neighbour’s door, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, implied, saying, “You’re having to pay for something that I am getting for free”. Such schemes are usually implemented at the request of local residents anyway following a ballot and consultation but, even when there is a ballot, not everyone in the area will vote for it. This is a question of looking for local circumstances and meeting local needs.

The evidence collected from the pilots will be pretty crucial, and it would not make sense if they did not reflect the various parts of the country both demographically and geographically. Obviously, the local flexibility that comes from the pilots will go into a pool of evidence, and we think that, as they stand, the provisions offer the best terms.

I do not know why five pilot areas have been stipulated rather than six, but our view is that five local authorities—we do not know which ones they will be—looking at pilots in their areas is the right number. A local authority may say, “We want a pilot in this part and that part of our local authority”. It will still be a pilot but in two different parts of a local authority. If local authorities want to do that, it is up to them, and I do not think that at the moment we should put any hurdles in their way.

Obviously, we would like there to be a balance of urban and rural, and certainly high- and low-density, populations in the pilots. That is axiomatic. Of course, we have to look at local authorities’ current performance and at what they are able to do. Some local authorities might look on the pilots as a means of substantially improving their index of performance on recycling. Taking part could put them up the league as being good, competent local authorities, together with all the other good things that can flow from that, such as having the Government on their back less. Therefore, we want to ensure that the tests are effective and we think that five pilots would probably be sufficient. However, we are not being prescriptive about the size and nature of the pilots.

Amendments Nos. 183C and 183D would prevent an authority applying a waste reduction scheme to just a part or parts of its area. As I said, it is up to the local authority where the scheme is applied. It does not have to cover the whole area, although it can if the authority so desires. If it is an area with good recycling in place or one that has a type of waste collection system that could easily be adapted to a waste reduction scheme, the authority might want to seize on that and build on what it has. Instead, the amendments require that any scheme should apply to the whole local authority area, but we do not think that that makes sense in a pilot.

In addition, the amendments could significantly limit the number of authorities interested in coming forward to take part in a pilot, because they would reduce their flexibility administratively and financially and, from a professional point of view, as regards the collection of the waste. In some areas, it might be far too costly to roll out that kind of operation because of the nature of the housing in the area, whereas in the rest of the local authority area there could be great benefits for everyone. Therefore, we do not want fewer interested local authorities, as that would reduce our ability to select the best pilots. That is why I cannot accept Amendments Nos. 183C and 183D.

Amendment No. 183ZA would remove the limit on the number of areas which can pilot a waste reduction scheme. Currently, we say that there should be no more than five. As I have explained, we consider that having up to five pilots will allow us to test in depth a sufficient number of schemes around the country. The more flexibility we have, the more likely we are to get more local authorities coming forward as potential pilots. That will give us a greater choice and help to ensure that we choose those that better reflect the whole country. We believe that we can do that provided we get a good-sized sample. The sample can be broad but we want it to be manageable as well, and we think that we can get that with up to five pilot areas.

Amendments Nos. 183ZAA and 183ZB would place conditions on the types of areas selected for piloting. We will be looking for a range of areas. It would be preposterous if we did not pilot in any rural areas—we recognise the terms “rural”, “isolated” and “low density”—in areas where recycling materials may or may not be easily collectable, or in urban areas, where it can also sometimes be very difficult to carry out recycling programmes. We want to look at as wide an area as we can and not be prescriptive.

I am very conscious of what I said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. I never said that the money that we got in a little pot was for the local authorities and I did not mean to imply it either. I said that it was a small amount of money that could facilitate some of the pilots, and, as I have said, some of the pilots could save local authorities a lot of money—certainly for evaluation.

Regarding the calculation, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, was out by a factor of three. The £1.5 million a year for three years amounts to £4.5 million, which is somewhat more than the figure of £100,000 that he cited. It is not for us to pay the local authorities for the pilots. We are to discuss that with them when they come forward with a business plan, but that small sum of money is there for some of the incidental issues.

I am grateful for the Minister’s last comment correcting my arithmetic, or perhaps I misread the figure. I thought that it was £1.5 million over three years, whereas it is £1.5 million a year, which means that rather more money is available. Perhaps I may pick up that point. If local authorities do not get some government grant to introduce these pilots, I do not think that the number taking part will be five, as the Government say; I think that it will be zero, given the state of local government budgets this year. There has been a very tough settlement in much of the country—certainly for collection authorities, which are often district councils. They have been very hard-hit this year, as, I understand, have London boroughs. I do not think that people will come forward if they have to put the money up front to run the schemes.

The Minister may be right that local authorities will save loads of money, but I do not think that they will. It is a pipe dream, because the savings that they make will be offset by the costs of dealing with additional fly-tipping and so on. I accept that that can be tested in pilots but I do not accept that there are no significant set-up costs for at least some of these schemes. If we have a system in which people are provided with a rebate or are sent an extra bill each year on the basis of the volume of non-recyclable refuse that they put out, there has to be a system for measuring how much refuse they put out, which will require quite a lot of investment, and there has to be a bureaucracy in place for sending out the bills and chasing them up when people do not pay.

On the Government’s own figures, the bills might be only £20, £30 or £40 a year, and chasing them through the local courts is not a cheap process; it would certainly cost more than the amount of money that comes back with the bills, although I suppose people might have to pay the court costs as well. The idea that there will no substantial setting-up cost to run these pilots is totally unreasonable—indeed, it is just wrong. I notice that Mr Eric Pickles, with whom I normally do not have much in common apart from the city that we both come from, has been asking penetrating questions in the House of Commons about these setting-up costs and not getting satisfactory answers, so far as I am concerned. The Minister said that the Government wanted more flexibility and a good sample size. This is at the heart of the debate. More flexibility and a good sample size frankly do not add up to five pilots. This is an issue of principle, and we may wish to return to it at a later stage of the Bill.

The Minister also said that there are differences now because there is residents’ parking. If you go putting in the park—if parks still have putting greens—you pay for the putting because you are getting an extra service. Residents’ parking is just the same; you get a parking place somewhere in your street because you pay the extra money and other people are kept out. That is what a residents’ parking scheme is. As the Minister said, it is done by agreement, perhaps by a majority vote by people living in that street. You are paying for something extra. Under the Government’s scheme, people will be penalised or given a bounty for improving or worsening their behaviour. That is the difference. They are not getting a better service; they are being told that they will have to pay more unless they improve their behaviour. If they improve their behaviour, they will pay less. That is completely different.

My final point relates to wheelie bins in one area after another—a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, made. She is absolutely right; that is how councils by and large have been introducing recycling. They have introduced a pilot scheme into part of their borough and then extended it. The difference here is that there is a financial penalty, and people will have to pay more. That is what people will think is very unfair.

This group of amendments deals with issues of pretty important principle, to which we may want to return. At this stage, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 183D not moved.]

183E: Schedule 5, page 56, leave out lines 5 to 7

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 183E, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 183FA, 183ZZA and 183ZZB.

Amendment No. 183E is another probing amendment that deals with the types of premises to which the scheme may apply. It would delete paragraph 1(2)(b) of new Schedule 2AA in Schedule 5, which says:

“A waste reduction scheme … may apply to all domestic premises, to domestic premises other than those of a specified description or to specified descriptions of domestic premises”.

Again, the amendment probes the way the Government see this working. The previous group of amendments dealt with the way in which a scheme can apply to part of a district or a collection authority and not to the rest of it. Paragraph 1(2)(b) says that a scheme can apply to some types of premises and not to others within a particular part of the collection authority area. It would be helpful if the Government explained what this is and why it is, and again how they see the principles of equity and fairness applying if some premises and households in a ward, a village or a district are in the scheme and some are not. Is this not a recipe for setting neighbour against neighbour?

Amendments Nos. 183FA, 183ZZA and 183ZZB deal with composite hereditaments—I use the word “hereditaments” because it appears in rating legislation for properties, some of which are the sort that the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, talked about, which are partly commercial and partly domestic. Typically, they are workshops where the owner or operator lives on the premises, or small shops which people live above or behind and which are rated for commercial purposes at commercial rates while the rest of the property is not and is subject to council tax. These are often known in local authorities as mixed hereditaments, but the correct title as defined in the Local Government Finance Act 1988 is composite hereditaments. The last two amendments in the group simply define that this is what is meant.

It is not clear why a couple of corner shops on an estate or some other area of housing that are entitled to throw out domestic refuse each week or fortnight and that take part in the recycling scheme should be excluded from the system that applies to all the other domestic properties in the area. There is already a separate system for their commercial waste, which will be collected separately and charged for separately. There is no problem there; the probing question for the Government is why they propose that a composite hereditament such as the one that I have just described, which takes part in the normal domestic waste collection system, should not or could not be included in the Government’s new mantra of flexibility for local authorities and could not be included in the pilot scheme. I look forward to the Minister’s answers. I beg to move.

I think I can dispose of this quite quickly without going through my speech if I tell the noble Lord that the term “composite hereditament” is already legally covered by the definition “domestic premises” in paragraph 1(2)(b), to which he referred.

I am very grateful for that, but that is not the advice that I have had from local government lawyers who have looked at this. Perhaps the Minister will write to me and explain why he thinks that.

I do not have to write to the noble Lord; I shall answer him now. I have the finest brains in Whitehall drafting my notes. The term “composite hereditament”, which he read out, is already covered by “domestic premises”, as used in the schedule, so a separate category of composite hereditament is unnecessary. It means that “domestic waste” covers the element of waste collected from a composite hereditament, which means waste from domestic premises as opposed to commercial industrial waste, so the corner shop would get its domestic waste collected. That answers the noble Lord’s whole question, which is why I thought I could dispose of this quite quickly.

I think I am grateful for that. Obviously I will look at this again, but at this stage I am extremely grateful for what the Minister says. Will he respond to Amendment No. 183FA?

Amendment No. 183FA would apply schemes to “composite hereditaments” and

“in relation to… domestic waste”,

rather than “domestic premises”. As far as I am aware, I have already covered that.

It was my confusion: I do beg the Minister’s pardon, I meant Amendment No. 183E—the first amendment. I am getting confused by all of these numbers.

Amendment No. 183E would remove the language defining the unit to which the waste reduction scheme would apply. The unit is “domestic premises”, and that is the term used in existing waste language. Without the language in legislation on where the scheme would apply, the framework for a waste reduction scheme is legally insufficient. So, that defines domestic premises, and the local authority will decide in its pilot application which such premises are in its area. It will be up to the local authority to have a pilot area. We will not define it, but it will have domestic premises; authorities can choose some and not others. That is the basic meaning, and they ought to have that flexibility.

We are not having a meeting of minds here. Do the Government anticipate that there could be a street in which some domestic premises were included in the scheme, and some of a different kind—perhaps because they had three storeys rather than one, or were flats instead of houses—were not included?

Yes, that is exactly what I have just said. It would be up to the local authority to say which kind of domestic premises it wants to include or exclude from its pilot, and where they are. In some geographical areas, it might say, “We will take all the premises”; in other areas, it might say, “Because of the nature of some premises, they will not fit the pilot that we, as local authority A, are going to run”. But local authority B in its pilot elsewhere in the country, might say, “It would be our role to ensure that those premises might be included”. However, it is up to the local authority.

I will withdraw the amendment but, before doing so, the idea that some people will be paying extra to have their rubbish removed, while people next door are not—for some technical reason from the nature of their houses—is not the real world. A great deal of thought will have to take place before anyone could introduce such a scheme, which would cause mayhem and set neighbour against neighbour. That is what I fear. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 183F had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 183FA not moved.]

183G: Schedule 5, page 56, line 14, leave out from beginning to “and” in line 15

The noble Lord said: I will be brief in moving Amendment No. 183G, which is a probing amendment that asks the Government to provide some information on how they think this might work. The Bill, in setting out paragraph 2(1)(b) of the new schedule to the 1990 Act, says that

“the scheme takes account of the needs of groups who might be unduly disadvantaged by it”.

I cannot find out what that means from the useful letter that the Minister sent round with his fact sheet, or from other materials or anywhere on the Defra website. I really do not understand what a local authority is supposed to do to take

“account of the needs of groups who might be unduly disadvantaged”.

I will listen to the Minister before saying anything else. I beg to move.

As the noble Lord has just explained, this amendment suggests removing the part of the sub-paragraph ensuring that the position of those who might be “unduly disadvantaged” by a waste reduction scheme should be considered carefully when designing the scheme. I understand that this is a probing amendment, and I hope that I can answer the noble Lord’s probing.

This is an important protection, enabling authorities to make an independent assessment of their proposals. The existing sub-paragraph requires local authorities to look at how their pilot waste reduction scheme might impact on different groups. The authority would then decide whether special measures should be put in place to protect those who potentially face an undue disadvantage. That is a sensible public protection. A thorough assessment of impacts is also part of good policymaking and delivery on the ground. For instance, some groups have little or no ability to reduce their residual—that is, non-recycled—waste. We will be working with authorities to consult on and produce guidance on the types of groups authorities may wish to consider; for example, young families, low-income groups and the disabled.

Guidance will also cover ways in which local authorities may wish to take account of disadvantaged groups, as special provisions to counteract undue disadvantage are a common feature of many successful schemes in Europe and North America, as the noble Lord knows. Provisions often take the form of extra sacks, or allowances, or lower bin costs, or exempting groups from the scheme altogether. Ultimately, though it will be up to local authorities to decide how they want to go about that, according to local circumstances and priorities. However, as part of the designation process, we will want to carefully assess their proposals to run those pilot schemes.

We believe that the sub-paragraph as it stands effectively secures both public protection and local flexibility. On that basis and to ensure proper balance, I hope that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing his probing amendment.

I will withdraw it in a minute or two. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that there had to be thorough assessment of the policy impact. I wonder how many people would have to be employed, and for how long, to draw up these schemes, to produce all those impacts and to work out how it is going to work.

I can think of a number of disadvantaged groups. The Minister referred to some of them; for example, groups based on income, or retired people who might be excluded from it altogether. Then there is the question of which benefits, and so on. Will it be means-tested, and will there have to be another system—or, will it simply piggy-back on an existing means-testing system, for example on housing benefit? On family size, one fundamental problem in charging people more if they put out more refuse is that a household with more people living in it will, inevitably, have more refuse and recycling to put out. No matter how much recycling takes place, it will on average have more residual. So, is size of family a matter of disadvantage, or is it only a matter of disadvantage for a poor family?

The noble Baroness mentioned mobility—there are issues of mobility, disability, illness and so on. It has been suggested, for example, that there should be dispensations for people with children under 6 months. So it goes on. Where will it stop? Is disadvantage concerned with the type of house or property, or is that taken care of somewhere else? Might cultural issues come into this?

I return to the fact that setting up these schemes will require finance. It is inconceivable to have a scheme where, in some areas, perhaps 50 per cent of people will be excepted and for that not to involve the local authority employing more staff, investing in computer systems and in systems on the collection lorries. If people are to have a different number of sacks, which are being handed out as people go around—if that is how it will be—then there will be have a system that such-and-such a house gets so many sacks while another house gets fewer. This house gets one, and the house next door gets three. The bureaucracy involved in setting up and keeping tabs on such a scheme, even in this wonderful computerised world, is quite frankly mind-boggling. The more we hear about the detail of these schemes, the more unrealistic they seem to be. But the Minister has given us some more information which I will read carefully. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

183H: Schedule 5, page 56, line 15, leave out “and”

The noble Lord said: This is quite an important group of amendments because they relate to the conditions that will have to be met before a local authority can set up a pilot scheme. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said earlier that the Government would be looking at the criteria for judging bids, so it may be that some of these matters will be considered as part of those criteria. It will be interesting to hear what the Minister has to say about this.

A number of conditions are set out in the Bill, one of which states that there has to be an anti fly-tipping strategy, something that all collection authorities should have anyway. Amendment No. 183J would insert the word “successful” to lay it down that the authority had to have a track record of successful action against fly-tipping. Every local authority nowadays has strategies standing several feet high, but it does not mean that they are successful or even carried out at all. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his Written Answer given on 16 January to a Question for Written Answer, No. 1130, that I tabled. It has given me a lot of information about what the Government would consider to be a successful fly-tipping strategy, and I shall therefore say a lot less about it now than I might otherwise have done.

Amendment No. 183K is about packaging and echoes the point made earlier by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, about going back to the commercial source of some of the waste. The amendment suggests that, if you are going to target householders and potentially penalise them financially if they do not improve their behaviour in terms of the amount of residual waste that they throw out, fairness dictates that you should tackle one of the two main components of domestic waste, which is packaging waste of all kinds. The amendment provides that local authorities should have a strategy with the main local retailers to reduce the volume of packaging produced. This ought to be happening anyway, and it would have been a better subject for legislation than the one we are looking at now, so I suggest that looking at retailers should take place as well.

I turn to another highly relevant issue. I have a copy of the new and excitingly titled London Local Authorities (Shopping Bags) Bill, which seeks to reduce the number of use-once shopping bags in London. I think that it has been presented to Parliament and will be looked at in the appropriate way in the House. It has a great deal of good sense in it, and I wonder whether the Minister can confirm that this is the sort of practical thing that the Government might give a fair wind to when it comes before us. I will not say more about it now because I will have a chance to do that later.

Amendment No. 183L refers to kitchen waste, the other main component of residual waste that has to be reduced if the total amount of residual waste is to be substantially reduced. Kitchen waste is a major factor in hampering authorities that want to separate waste after they collect it rather than having kerb-side separation. If lots of kitchen waste is commingled—the word used earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell—it contaminates everything else. Even cans, which might otherwise be collected easily, are difficult to separate.

Home composting ought to be encouraged much more than it is, but you can only compost some kitchen waste, not all of it. Bread and things like that can be composted, but not bones and all the meat that people throw away nowadays. The amendment suggests that as a sine qua non for having a system that penalises people for throwing out non-recyclable, residual waste, there ought to be a local system of collecting kitchen waste. A number of local authorities do this very efficiently, and many others would like to but cannot because they cannot afford to set the system up. If the Government want to encourage local authorities to substantially reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill, that is the absolute top priority. I should also say that this kind of waste causes the methane that makes up 3 per cent of greenhouse gases. If the Government are really serious about reducing the impact of domestic waste on global warming, they will tackle kitchen waste as the top priority and not propose this rather tin pot scheme.

Finally, Amendment No. 183N probes the powers to amend the provisions that the Government are seeking here to see how wide they are and what is meant by them. I beg to move.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for clarifying Amendment No. 183J. We certainly agree with him that any scheme introduced should be a successful one. It is hard to see how a scheme can be defined as successful before it is introduced. But he said that this was to do with fly-tipping, so that may be another factor.

On the question of packaging waste, the Minister was kind enough to outline at the beginning the various schemes that the Government are proposing, but a lot of pressure must be put on the Government to seek a reduction in this kind of waste. However, it may be that simple things like plastic bags can be attacked at a more local level.

When speaking to Amendment No. 183L, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said that kitchen waste contaminated much of the general waste. We feel that it needs to be defined more closely. While it contains all the usual vegetable matter such as fruit peel and pepper cores, it can include other elements such as meat and bones. In the early days, people would not know exactly what it was that they were supposed to put in the kitchen waste bin.

I have a question for the Minister. There is no great move in this country, as one finds in other parts of the world, to have what are called garbage disposal units. In a country area such as the one where I live, kitchen waste is not a problem because the dogs and the chickens out the back will eat a certain amount and you can compost the rest. But in a densely populated urban situation, kitchen waste is what makes people worry about whether their rubbish will be collected once a week or once a fortnight. There is a machine that can churn it up and put it down the drain, but whether that is frowned on in this carbon-saving world I am not sure. Perhaps the Minister can help us.

We agree with Amendment No. 183N. As we have said before, the Government seem to delight in Bills that do not have enough detail in them, and this clause is one more attempt to give the Government powers to legislate without having to consult Parliament. We support the idea that a recycling scheme should be more closely defined.

I had not intended to speak again in Committee—no doubt, the Minister will be greatly relieved to hear that—but, as the noble Lord moving the amendment mentioned my name and as I am genuinely puzzled by Amendment No. 183L, which deals with kitchen waste, I wish to ask a question.

I do not know what kitchen waste is. In my borough, Wandsworth, we have quite an efficient council. I split up the paper, vast quantities of which come uninvited through my door, including mail order and all the communications that come to Members of the House. It is unwanted and unread, and I have to dispose of it. One container takes the plastic wrapping which, irritatingly, is on all the paper and has to be separated from it and put in another container, otherwise the paper is not taken. I have a container for bottles, and the rest is kitchen waste. The tops from the bottles, which I solemnly unscrew, I pop in there, and the aluminium containers for the food that, I confess, I occasionally buy from my local supermarket when I am looking after myself tend to go into the same container. Basically, for most households, kitchen waste is the residue. I do not think that many households actually separate out the food content from all the other content of the rubbish. It is not clear whether that is what the mover of the amendment wants us to do or whether it is practical in operation.

In my home in Wales the situation is similar. We are in a remote area, and so we do not have such a good separation unless we go down to the disposal area. We put all the bottles, plastic or glass, in one container; we do not put paper in another container because it is not collected, and we have to burn it on the bonfire in my garden or dispose of it in some other way. Again, the residue is the kitchen waste, and you put everything else into that container. It is not a large quantity; it is the smallest quantity.

In this legislation we have a problem not only with definitions but with suggestions that we break up things in a way in which most people do not in the normal course of their life and which they might find quite difficult. We must have practicable, workable schemes. The scheme in Wandsworth to which I referred is quite practicable and workable. If you take all the other items that I have not included in the list in the back of your car down to the rubbish collection area, you can dispose of your garden rubbish, batteries and all the other things in separate containers. It is very efficient, and it works quite well.

I hope that we will not be running a scheme that forces the ordinary citizen, including the old-age pensioner, to start worrying about what they put into the container in their kitchen where the balance of their rubbish goes. Let us be practicable about the schemes.

I found the debate extremely interesting, and a thought leapt into my head that I wish to share. A couple of times now, we have spoken about what to do when the wife is not around to help you with your cooking and how that might promote the need to recycle fast food canisters and so on. The Government are soon to encourage the introduction of basic cookery lessons for all children at school, including boys, and part of good cooking is about learning how to make lovely, appetising food out of left-overs. I am reminded by my noble friend that it is never too late to learn to cook and that it can be a creative and rewarding experience, even for older men in their retirement. That is something that some Members of the Committee may be interested in. I am sure that there is an all-party group on cooking somewhere that we could get going. I am not being flippant. Certainly, my mother and grandmother knew how to make the most amazing food, almost out of nothing sometimes, and it is a skill that young people would do well to acquire.

The amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, prompted this interesting discussion. Paragraph 2 of Schedule 5 places a small number of conditions on waste-collection authorities when introducing a waste-reduction scheme. That is to ensure that schemes do not have negative social or environmental consequences that are easily avoided, as we discussed on the last group of amendments. On this basis, we require authorities to take account of groups that are unduly disadvantaged; to have in place a fly-tipping prevention strategy; and to offer all residents a good recycling service. However, it is most important that local authorities have enough flexibility to run waste-reduction schemes in the way best suited to their area. We do not want to impose conditional restrictions on them that do not necessarily deliver materially different outcomes.

Amendment No. 183J would require that an authority had a successful fly-tipping prevention strategy in place before setting up a waste-reduction pilot; and the first part of Amendment No. 183K states that the fly-tipping strategy must meet the standards set out in guidance by the Secretary of State. It is nice to hear the noble Lord proposing adherence to guidance issued by the Secretary of State because often I find myself having to give reasons why the Secretary of State should be allowed powers to issue guidance. I wholly support the need for all local authorities to take strong and effective action on fly-tipping. I am sure that the Committee will agree with that. That is why we require a fly-tipping prevention strategy to be in place before a scheme is set up.

I know that it is obvious to say, “How do you know that there is a scheme set up? You cannot start the scheme before the strategy is there”. What comes first, the chicken or the egg? The pilot scheme designation process will also assess the quality of a pilot’s fly-tipping prevention plan, and we have identified that as an important step.

The second part of Amendment No. 183K would require pilot authorities to have in place a strategy that they had agreed with local retailers to minimise packaging. That is an important part of the jigsaw. However, we believe that the levers for bringing about meaningful changes in packaging levels lie primarily at national and international levels, not at a local level. That is not to undermine the efforts that could be made locally, but we do not see the need to include in this Bill reference to our committed work to tackle the packaging issue, which is going on elsewhere in government. We do not feel it necessary to put that in this Bill at this point when we are trying to set up these pilot schemes. We are taking action nationally, and we have already delivered real changes.

Amendment No. 183L specifies that authorities wishing to introduce waste pilots should provide for kitchen waste to be collected separately. For the purposes of this amendment, we presume that “kitchen waste” means food waste. The Bill already requires participating authorities to provide a good recycling service to households in the scheme. That will be defined in guidance to which authorities must have regard, and we will be looking at the quality of recycling services in designated authorities as pilots.

Although food waste is an important waste stream to be tackled, the lack of a separate food waste collection does not necessarily denote a poor recycling service. Only 10 per cent of authorities have a food waste collection, and only one out of five of the top recycling councils in England in 2005-06 operated a food waste service. Yet, they all had recycling and composting rates of 50 per cent or more. It is not as straightforward as direct cause and effect, but we are saying that it is important.

We are talking about giving powers for pilot schemes. You could argue that the more diversity there is in the pilots, the more benefit to policy making in this important area. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, many components of kitchen waste may best be treated by home composting. It may not be the best environmental option for every authority to collect all kitchen waste separately. Guidance is therefore the right place for detailing the operational aspects of a good recycling service. It can be more readily applied to different types of authority to reflect their different demographies, infrastructure and access to markets for recyclers.

Amendment No. 183N would make it harder in the long term to change the conditions of the scheme in the light of experience. Once the opportunity to make changes at repeal or roll-out stage has passed, any changes would have to be made via primary legislation. We do not think that that is appropriate. Even though we consider that the conditions are extremely important, and we would not change them lightly, they are already subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, which affords sufficiently strong protection. We need some flexibility because it is important to learn from the pilots and future possible schemes, should they be rolled out more widely, and to put those lessons into practice to the benefit of all. We recognise that we need to work with Parliament on this, and we think that the proposals for the affirmative procedure are appropriate for the type of changes and the level of significance that we are talking about.

I hope that noble Lords will accept that we see as extremely important issues such as the fly-tipping strategy and kitchen waste. All those factors are tested in pilots, which we are committed to seeing make a real contribution to our knowledge and understanding of how to achieve the overall goal: reducing the waste in landfill and the impact on climate change. I hope, with that, that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing his amendment.

I am grateful to the Minister for that full reply. On the last issue, she has almost convinced me that she may be right. The real concern is that the powers might be used in future, if there is a roll-out, to make things less flexible for local authorities and impose more uniformity on the basis of pilots that are flawed because they have not tested all the areas. However, I hear what she says about that.

On packaging, I was disappointed that she said that the Government did not think local campaigns had much of a role to play. The whole movement in this country against use-once bags, as they are now called, has come from grass-roots campaigns, and there is evidence that that campaign is continuing to build momentum throughout the country. Targeting local supermarkets, particularly if local authorities had powers to do so, could make a huge difference to the amount of packaging waste that people have to throw away. That is one of the main components.

The question of kitchen waste caused a lot of debate. An increasing number of authorities—the Minister said it was 10 per cent—are collecting kitchen waste. The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, asked what kitchen waste was: basically, it is food waste that, I hope, cannot be composted in someone’s back yard or garden, such as chicken carcases, meat bones, the remains of take-aways that contain gravy and so on. It may be that noble Lords have impeccable recycling and refuse disposal habits and do not chuck away vast amounts of food, but many people do. Earlier the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, referred to the Waste and Resources Action Programme, WRAP, and its campaign called “Love Food, Hate Waste”. I have a great press release about it here—I will not treat the Committee to it because it is actually from the Liberal Democrats, not WRAP itself—that says that 6.7 million tonnes of unused food are thrown away each year, about half of which is still edible at the time of disposal. Half of it can be prevented from being thrown away simply by people not wasting food.

Noble Lords have talked about going back to old habits, such as making soup from left-overs, which some of us do a bit but perhaps not as much as we ought to. Those habits have to return, there is no doubt about that, but then there is still all the residual stuff that can and must be thrown away. If it goes to the right places and is treated by the right processes, which I think would involve quite a lot of heat, it can be turned into compost even if it is not vegetable remains. There is an increasing drive for that. Cambridge City Council does it very well, and friends of mine on Eastleigh Borough Council are introducing it steadily across the borough. Many other councils, including my own, would like to do it and simply cannot afford to or they do not have the facilities in the area; there is no local firm that can treat the waste after it has been collected. More government action on recycling food waste would have a huge impact on what we are talking about here, which is climate change. It is the food going into the tips that causes the methane. What the Government were saying was a bit complacent.

One noble Lord talked about garbage disposal units. That reminded me that, when I was a kid in our back street in Bradford, we had things called pig bins that stank to high heaven. All the food went in them; then it was taken away and fed to pigs. Nowadays, quite rightly, you could not do that.

I am grateful for everything that has been said in this debate, and I will read carefully the Minister’s remarks. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 183J to 183L not moved.]

183M: Schedule 5, page 56, line 25, at end insert—

“( ) Each waste collection authority which makes a waste reduction scheme shall issue a statement with the annual council tax bills setting out the quantities and proportions of the different recyclable materials that have been collected, the means by which they have been re-used and recycled, and the locations in which they have been re-used and recycled.”

The noble Lord said: I will be very brief on this one. The amendment proposes that each waste collection authority which makes a waste reduction scheme shall issue an annual statement with the council tax bills—it does not really matter when they are issued—to say where the recycled material ends up. We talked earlier about the fact that some of it goes to China, which may be a good or a bad thing; then again, it may not be, because it is going in the empty containers that bring toys from China. Whatever the arguments are, there is a real interest from the people who make the effort to recycle in their area to know where the recycling ends up and whether it is somewhere sensible and practical. This is a matter of good practice that all local authorities should carry out, and I move the amendment merely to highlight that. I beg to move.

We in some ways support the principle of the idea, but could it be done without too much tedious detail, which would probably defeat the purpose?

This is a very interesting amendment. I shall try to be quick in responding. As I have said three times, we have placed a small number of conditions on introducing a waste reduction scheme, which are aimed at making sure that schemes are fair and effective. However, it is important to keep the number of conditions to a minimum to avoid overprescribing from the centre and unnecessarily adding to local authority costs. While communications are key to the success of any waste reduction scheme, it is an area where guidance for local authorities, rather than extra legislative requirements—which may be heavy-handed—is appropriate.

Amendment No. 183M would require authorities that run a waste reduction scheme to send out a statement on what recyclables are being collected and in what quantities, and how and where the material is reused or recycled. While we agree that this information may be of interest to local residents, it should ultimately be a matter for the local authority to decide whether, when and how to publish it. There are many creative ways in which local authorities could, if they wanted to, go about communicating that information. They could perhaps do it through their websites, which would not create the need to recycle more paper and provide an opportunity for much information to be made available. However, as I have said, we in any case intend to cover effective communications in our guidance to local authorities. We will consult formally on guidance. It is not appropriate to put a requirement in the Bill. I hope that, having heard those undertakings, the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

I am grateful for those comments. It was a kite-flying amendment. The answer to the question of the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, is that local authorities all know where their waste goes. If they do not, they are failing in their duties to make sure that it goes somewhere useful. Some authorities are not too happy to publicise that information because they are not proud of where some of it may go. The more this is out in the open, the better, but the Minister is right: it should not be in the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 183N not moved.]

183NA: Schedule 5, page 56, leave out lines 34 to 36

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 183P, 183Q and 183S, which are in the same group. We move on to charges and issues relating to them. Amendment No. 183NA is a probing amendment. The Bill states:

“The scheme may provide for the incentive to be provided … by means of rebates from council tax or by other payment, or … by means of charges under paragraph 4 or 5”.

The charges under paragraphs 4 and 5 are fairly clear and straightforward. They involve providing containers. One charges £1 a bag, or whatever it happens to be, or one charges more if they have a larger quantity of waste—I presume that they would be sent a bill for that. However, if one is talking about rebates from council tax, one is opening a can of worms. I presume that the rebate would have to be calculated over a period and then be rebated from council tax at some point in the future. How much delay would there be before one could rebate the council tax—council tax bills are sent out before the end of a financial year? Would the period be relatively short, or would the rebate be calculated for the month, every three or six months, or the whole year? How will one deal with that in areas where there is a substantial turnover of population? One could be in the position of paying rebates, or perhaps imposing penalties, on people who would be long gone. That would not seem to be an efficient way of going about it. Even in relatively stable neighbourhoods, the turnover of population can be 5 or 10 per cent a year, as those of us who are interested in the registers know.

Providing incentives via the council tax seems to require substantial additional bureaucratic systems, which will require money to be set up in the first place. It is not clear from where that will come if it does not come from the Government’s £4.5 million, and it is not clear how it will work. I look forward to what the Government say. I suspect that such schemes will turn out to be far too complex, and that any council which wants to go in for the pilots will go for the much easier option of charging per bin or bag. It is a probing amendment.

Amendment No. 183P suggests that rebates and charges apply only to people in the scheme. With the balancing-out system that the Government are proposing, the charges on some people may be balanced out by the benefits to others—in the short run at least, that is not a problem. The real problem arises if it applies only to some people in the local authority district, the costs of administering it are not taken into account in the calculations and everybody pays them. Unless those setting-up and administrative costs are paid for by the Government through the grants, which I presume would not be possible following a rollout, or unless they are being balanced by savings in waste disposal charges and perhaps in the frequency of collection if the system works really well—it is clear that that will not happen initially and will take some time, even if the systems are wonderfully successful—they must be taken into account. The amendment probes how far people will have a financial imposition made on them for the benefit of others when they are not taking part in the scheme.

Amendment No. 183Q probes the meaning of the words,

“person by whom any charge is payable”,

because I do not understand them. I would like an explanation. I beg to move.

There seems to be an acceptance that everyone covered by a scheme will use all of it. It is quite conceivable that there are houses that do not use glass bottles. Tins, too, are not always part of the larder, except for emergencies that rarely occur. Most of all, there are many houses, particularly in the rural areas, where food waste, grass cuttings, fallen leaves and the like are an important ingredient of the compost heap. Are such people to be charged for something which they will not use?

Amendments Nos. 183Q and 183S refer to sub-paragraphs whose explanation, in the Explanatory Notes, is simply a repetition of the wording in the Bill. The person liable for any charge would be the householder, so we agree that these subparagraphs should be removed, unless the Minister can give examples of other persons who might be liable under various schemes.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for discussing charging. I regret that my reply will be a bit longer than his opening speech but it is important to put the issues on the record. I think that I will be able to satisfy him and it is important that we get the correct message across to those outside.

As he said, paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 of Schedule 5 deal with charges and rebates for households under a waste reduction scheme. The key element of any scheme is that households throwing away the least residual, non-recycled waste will receive a rebate from the local authority, so there is an incentive there. As I said earlier, in some schemes, households throwing away most could pay more. I emphasise the word “could”. There are different methods for local authorities to implement charges and rebates; they could offer rebates from council tax or by other payments to those producing least waste.

It is worth putting on the record that over last summer there was a large consultation on this whole issue, as I said. During the consultation local government specifically asked the Government to consider linking charges and rebates to council tax as an option because it thought that it could reduce administration costs in certain circumstances. Therefore, the measure could be potentially advantageous for householders. Also local government thought that it might be easier for householders to understand the connection between the two issues. As I say, local government specifically requested the option of linking charges and rebates to council tax. However, it is not our preferred way. We want councils to have more flexibility to suggest systems with the option of linking them to council tax. Under paragraphs 4 or 5, they could charge in relation to numbers of waste sacks, sizes of bin or the amount of waste—I presume this is its weight—being thrown away, or they could operate,

“any combination of those means”.

That is a very important provision at paragraph 3(2)(b), which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, did not read out. He read out only part of the paragraph. Therefore, there is maximum flexibility for local authorities to design a scheme. They will be free to integrate rebates and charges within the council tax system, if they wish to do so. That is the key message.

Amendment No. 183NA would remove a provision which allows local authorities to provide for an incentive by means of charges under paragraphs 4 and 5 of Schedule 5, or by any combination of those means. The power to charge, combined with a duty to pay out an equal amount in rebates, is an essential part of these proposals. As I said, revenue neutrality is very important. People should not think that this is a stealth tax or another impost on the community. The positive effects of charging on waste minimisation and recycling have been demonstrated on occasion abroad. I take the point that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, made earlier. I do not want to make commitments on which I cannot deliver but I shall do my best to find out if any such schemes have been introduced abroad and have failed. It is important to learn lessons from others. It is useful to learn from success but it would be useful to know about schemes that have failed, even those that were tweaked and failed. As I say, the positive effects of such schemes have been demonstrated. I gave the example of the town in Sweden where the introduction of charging saw levels of residual, non-recycled waste fall by nearly 50 per cent and recycling rise by almost 50 per cent in the first year alone. We believe that our proposals for charging and rebating provide authorities and the public with a comparable incentive. I know that it is a probing amendment but we do not therefore support the amendment to remove the power to charge. Technically speaking, to assist the noble Lord in drafting, Amendment No. 183NA would be unsuccessful in removing the power to charge as it has no practical effect. Local authorities would still be able to provide rebates under paragraph 3(1) and charge under paragraphs 4 and 5. So we think the current drafting is preferable. It makes clear that incentives can be provided through rebates, charges in relation to receptacles or amounts of waste, or any combination of those means. These are all crucial to authorities. That is a very important point.

Amendment No. 183P would require that rebates and charges should apply only to occupiers of households covered by the scheme. Theoretically, this would prevent the extreme case arising of an authority collecting charges from one specified group of residents and deciding to make all the rewards available only to another specified group. However, as the noble Lord implied, this approach would have such obvious risks and downsides that it is extremely unlikely that the situation would ever arise. A special provision in primary legislation is therefore not necessary. We would not expect to see it in the pilots, where the process of being designated by the Secretary of State provides a further assurance.

We also wish to resist Amendment No. 183P to allow authorities to deal effectively with everyday situations where, for example, someone moves out of the area. The local authority may still wish to collect charges owed by them, or give them rebates they have earned, even though they are now living in an area outside the scheme. This is a necessary local authority discretion that the current drafting allows. It is again a matter for the local authority.

Amendments Nos. 183Q and 183S would remove powers for authorities to decide who in a household is responsible for paying a waste charge or receiving a rebate. This again would mean that the authorities, though empowered to design and implement a scheme for householders, would not be empowered to say who in that household could get a rebate or receive a charge. Though we are keen to make sure that schemes are as fair as possible—that is why we have put in place key provisions, such as the protection of disadvantaged groups—we do not want to create unnecessary administrative burdens for local authorities that achieve very little in practice. These amendments would create administrative difficulty and costs for local authorities. They would, for example, not be able to ensure that people moving in or out of the area pay only what they owe, and receive all the rebates they have earned, in the same way as for utility bills when people move house. This is a common occurrence. Tens of thousands of people move home on a regular basis. It is normal practice to calculate the relevant amounts with regard to utility and council tax bills. Therefore, this would be an unnecessary restriction preventing authorities from collecting the money they are owed by residents.

We believe in giving authorities flexibility to suit the conditions. The noble Lord raised some extreme cases which we would not expect the pilot to come across. As I said, we have the safeguard that the local authority pilot will be approved by the Secretary of State. We will be working with local authorities and the public in producing practical guidance for authorities and guidance on appeals processes to ensure that fair schemes are put in place. We do not want to impose an unnecessary administrative burden but we want the measure to be fair.

I am extremely grateful to the Minister for that long explanation. This is one of those occasions when we have to say, quite genuinely, that we will read it in Hansard, try to understand what it means and consider our position further.

I have one or two further comments on the whole question of charging and these amendments. The Minister appeared to say that there could be instances where people were due rebates for the period when they were living in a property, behaving themselves, not putting much stuff out and therefore getting all their brownie points, but if they moved away they did not have to be paid, even if the authority knew where they were. That does not seem to be equitable. If people have earned a bonus of, for example, £20 or £30, why should they not be paid it along with everybody else? I think there are limits on how far flexibility can be taken in this when people will believe that they are owed that money.

That leads to my second question on whether people who move away can be chased for any money that they owe. From reading the documents that the Government have produced I understand that the amounts that people could get from this in benefit, or in bounties, or which they owe because they have not been recycling properly, might be quite low. I assume that there will be a de minimis so that people will not be sent bills for £1, but where is a sensible level? If the level that is being talked about is under £100 per year—it might be £20, £30 or £40—what are the administrative costs for an authority of chasing people for that money? It seems that the difference between that and utility bills is that utility bills are usually higher than £20, £30 or £40 and often a great deal higher nowadays. That is the case with council tax generally. One of the problems underlying the proposals is that the amounts of money being talked about are not high. Administrative costs in relation to them might be a serious problem.

Finally, the Minister said that potential cases in extreme would not be expected to be seen in the pilots. That goes back to one of our fears that the pilots will be in easy areas and the difficult problems that we all know are going to be there. If the pilots are going to be worthwhile we have to tackle some of the difficult problems. Perhaps not the most extreme ones, but if it does not tackle difficult inner city areas, difficult council estates, other difficult areas or far-flung rural areas it is not going to be of any value, but that goes back to the point that we made earlier.

As I said, I will read carefully what the Minister said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 183P not moved.]

183PA: Schedule 5, page 56, line 38, leave out from beginning to end of line 8 on page 57

The noble Lord said: This is clearly a probing amendment. It would take out a great chunk of the Bill. I am not seriously proposing to do that, but the amendment gives us an opportunity to have some discussion over the way that volume-based schemes might work. As I understand it, the two types of volume-based schemes being considered are different sizes of bins—big bins and little bins—or charging people per sack. I am not clear about whether charging people per sack will always be on the basis of selling people the sack, which they are allowed to fill up and put out, and therefore the number put out will depend on how many sacks people have bought, or whether people will have a variable number of sacks and the charge will be on the basis of how many they put out at any given time and therefore they will have to be counted as the collection takes place, in the same sort of way that counting will take place on weight-based schemes. Some clarification might be helpful.

It would be easy for people to order a little bin when they need a big bin. It seems that there will be a great incentive for people to say that they will make do with a little bin but it will not cater for their needs and then there will be the problems of what they have to do with the waste that is left over and the sort of problems that in many areas will occur with weight-based schemes: people will either put them in someone else’s bin, which if people have already paid for that bin might not be a huge problem, but again will lead to neighbour disputes, or alternatively they will get rid of it in some other way and put it in the backyard of an empty house or on a piece of waste land.

We are having an increasing problem of people putting black bags in ordinary litter bins. The council in its wisdom thought that having a big increase in the number of litter bins was a wonderful idea to help keep the place tidy, but people are stuffing their black bags into litter bins. If they are clever and do not put incriminating material in; that is, material that identifies the people doing it, it is difficult to stop them. There are many associated problems. The Minister will say that that is what pilots are for, but it is right that we should consider some of the problems before they happen, not least because it may be the last ever time that we can do that.

From all the material that the Government have produced I have no feeling for how much they think sacks might be sold for. Are we talking of a minimal level, such as 10 pence, or are we talking of a significant level, like the Maastricht example, which is one of the success stories that the Government are talking about, where they are 75 pence—a euro—at the moment? If they are ordinary plastic sacks and they are identified only by having words or a logo on them I can see people doing well with a black market in them. I can see that growing up quickly and the whole system will break down. I look forward to what the Minister has to say about the way in which volume-based schemes might work. I beg to move.

In the spirit of this being a probing amendment, charges to receptacles provided for homeowners, tenants and others to sort their rubbish into is in our view fraught with difficulty and probable dissension. There are, for example, those who will not use the things because they do not have the rubbish of the kind indicated and those whose health or age render them incapable of the work involved. Has there been discussion with local authorities that have already instituted the separation of domestic waste? I believe that councils provide the bins free of charge and the only rule is that they may not be overfilled. I understand that in large parts of towns the system works without difficulty.

The noble Lord has raised an issue relating to the ways in which local authorities might be able to charge. I want to reinforce—at the price of repetition, but it is absolutely the case—that the money raised in charges would be used to pay back rebates to residents. We want to be are able to pilot a wide variety of schemes. Paragraph 4 allows authorities to run schemes where people might buy sacks or pay more for bigger bins. The schemes would encourage householders to reduce the volume of the waste they throw away as opposed to recycling.

Similar receptacle-based schemes are operating successfully overseas, both in Europe and in the United States. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, mentioned the sack-based scheme in Maastricht, where there was a phenomenal increase in waste separated for recycling, from 45 per cent up to 65 per cent. We want to give authorities the freedom to trial these sorts of schemes here. Paragraph 5 allows authorities to charge in relation to the amount of waste produced. This could be done by weighing or measuring the volume of waste, for example.

As set out in the consultation paper, we would also like the legislation to allow for charging according to how often residents have their waste collected. We would like authorities to have the power to charge in relation to tags—which answers the noble Lord’s question about the sacks—which would need to be attached to sacks of waste. So there are a number of options here, and during the Bill’s passage, although I cannot say in this House, we may bring forward amendments to clarify the situation.

Amendment No. 183PA would remove paragraph 4—a blockbuster option—and therefore the option for schemes to charge in relation to waste receptacles, bins or sacks. As I have explained, we think that the option is necessary. It gives powers to authorities to run the schemes, which have a proven track record overseas. I am not a world traveller, but overseas cities and rural areas are not too dissimilar to ours, particularly in the European Union. The noble Lord referred to schemes that are operating with bins for food waste and green waste up and down the country, quite successfully to the best of my knowledge. Local authorities are involved. I do not know how many authorities are involved in food waste collection, for example, but we are piloting quite expensive schemes—running to several millions of pounds—around the country using small-scale anaerobic digesters fed by kitchen waste and green waste collected by the local authority. They are very much experimental but such experiments need a few million pounds of capital investment. Work is under way, but it is up to the local authorities. I do not want to pre-empt—nor should we try to do so—what aspect of it the local authority seeks to charge for in respect of getting a buy-in from its residents so that it can organise rebates and charges. That will be different in different areas, which is the beauty of the pilots.

I think that was helpful, and I thank the Minister for his reply. He mentioned anaerobic digestion, which I forgot to mention earlier when we talked about food waste. That may be an important way forward, providing not just a means of disposing of food waste but one that is commercially viable and resulting in good quality compost.

The Minister referred again to the fact that money raised from people who do not behave themselves will go to those who do, and that the scheme will be revenue neutral. He is not saying where the administration and set-up costs will come from. We understand that on the pilots some of that money may come from part of the £4.5 million, but there is no guarantee of that. I think that that is a reasonable summary of what the Minister said earlier. If that is the case, and the set-up and at least the initial administration costs are not covered by government grants, the pilot schemes will have to find extra resources. They will have to find extra capital funds for set-up costs and extra revenue for administration costs. Therefore, it will not be revenue-neutral. It will be paid for by everybody who pays council tax in the area. Those who have nothing to do with the scheme and are not part of it will be paying towards it. We need to understand that revenue neutrality is superficial; it is between those who get a bonus because they are saving on putting out waste, and those who are charged because they put out too much.

I do not think that we have heard how much it might cost a litter collection authority to carry out a pilot on whatever scale. The information has not been provided. Until we have it, we do not have an adequate basis on which to judge whether the pilots should take place at all. If there is a general rollout, one assumes that there might be a nominal increase in the council’s revenue support grant, but one can assume that there will not be dollops of money for every council that wants to roll it out. Local people will have to pay for it. I do not see how that can be regarded as revenue-neutral. It will require an increase in council tax or a reduction in services to pay for it. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

183PB: Schedule 5, page 57, leave out line 4

The noble Earl said: The three amendments in this group are also probing amendments. I shall speak first to Amendments Nos. 183PB and RA.

If charges for the provision of receptacles for holding residual domestic waste and for collecting that waste are higher than the related costs, the population affected will regard it as another form of council tax. Should such charges not meet the costs, the population will see that some members of society are being subsidised while others are not. There is already a debate about whether householders should pay any extra for providing their rubbish ready-sorted for the council. The imposition of a charge greater than the cost of the provision will not add general support to the introduction of these schemes even if there is a counter-council tax rebate.

Under sub-paragraph (4), which would be deleted by Amendment No. 183QA, it appears that an authority would be allowed to charge for providing a rubbish bin under the Environmental Protection Act, and to charge under the aegis of a waste reduction scheme. Will the Minister please explain the purpose of that, or have I misunderstood? Will he further tell us whether the sum will be levied on a one-off basis or whether the intention is that the authority will in effect rent the receptacles to householders through a repeated charge? I beg to move.

I hope that I can answer the noble Earl’s questions. Because our debates get compartmentalised, I always feel that I have to say on every group of amendments that the schemes are not intended to raise revenue for local authorities—nor are they related to the cost of the service, by the way. This is fundamental to the process. The aim of the waste reduction charge is to incentivise people to throw away less. That is what it is about. All the money paid to an authority would have to be paid back out again as a rebate. The Government have not changed the way in which local authorities are funded to deliver waste services. As a result of the recent local government settlement, authorities are fully funded from 2008 to deliver waste services through a mixture of central government finance and council tax. There is no incentive for an authority to increase the charge beyond the level needed to affect behaviour. Evidence from Europe suggests that an incentive of about £30 to £50 can be effective in changing behaviour.

As has been said, we are dealing with relatively small sums of money, and the Government retain a reserve power to cap the level of the charge, by the way. The deletions suggested by Amendments Nos. 183PB and 183RA appear to be intended to provide that any charge would need to be related to the relevant authority’s costs, which would not be the desired effect. Together, the amendments would create legal uncertainty on how an authority could choose to set its charges under the scheme, in other words whether they should be linked to costs. This uncertainty would put local authorities off from applying to conduct pilots. This would limit our ability to select good quality schemes.

As I have already said, the intention of the schemes, and any charges and rebates under them, is to incentivise householders to change the way in which they consume and dispose of goods. Charges are therefore not intended to raise revenue for the authority, nor should they be related to the cost of services. Waste services continue to be funded through a mixture of central government and local tax. By seeking to recover costs, Amendment Nos. 183PB and 183RA would undo this well established arrangement. The last local government settlement was only a few months ago. The aim of Amendments Nos. 183PB and 183RA may be to offer protection against the excessively high charges being levied. We believe the draft clauses already provide sufficient protection against this scenario. To start with the Secretary of State will be able to assess the suitability or otherwise of the proposed charges by the designation process and the legislation allows the Government to cap the payments if necessary.

Even without these constraints, there would be no incentive for local authorities to impose charges beyond what is necessary to incentivise behaviour, because all the revenue must go back to the residents. There is no bypass for local authorities to seek to use an excuse about raising more money, let us say, from those who they say are not co-operating and are throwing lots away, because whatever they charge, even if it is disproportionate and not related to their costs, it has to be paid back to the residents. So there is no way they can do it as a revenue-raising mechanism. We are not talking about large sums of money. From the evidence in Europe, not from the evidence here, £30 to £50 can cause a change of behaviour.

On the noble Earl’s final point, I fully understand why Amendment No 183QA is there. It is a complicated area and I am going to stick to the words I have in front of me. I think this is important. Amendment No. 183QA has no legal effect, but it would take away a useful clarification that charges under a waste reduction scheme are different from charges under Section 46 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Under this section, authorities may charge for waste receptacles. The provisions in this Bill, as drafted, confirm that the new waste powers are different. Waste legislation is a complex area and because of this we want to avoid creating additional confusion. We think it is important to minimise uncertainties for those implementing the pilots as well as those participating in them. Clarifying that a distinction does exist between our new powers in this Bill and those already contained in previous legislation assists in the process. That is why we cannot accept that amendment, but I realise that the noble Earl asked this for a different reason. I hope I have satisfied him.

I thank the Minister for explaining, on Amendments Nos. 183PB and 183RA, that it is not a revenue-raising exercise and emphasising that the charging is to incentivise people’s behaviour towards how they consume and dispose of their goods. I think I will have to read Hansard tomorrow to fully understand the response on Amendment No. 183QA, but at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 183Q and 183QA not moved.]

183R: Schedule 5, page 57, line 14, after “amount” insert “by weight”

The noble Lord said: I thank the Conservatives for moving the last amendment, which gave me a few moments out of the Chamber. I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 183R and 183T in the group. There are some Conservative ones in the group as well, covering much the same ground. The first amendment here gives us an opportunity to discuss weight-based schemes. I am proposing that when the Bill says that the,

“charge under this paragraph ... must be related to the amount of residual domestic waste”,

it should say “by weight”, to make absolutely clear that this is a weight-based scheme; I am not sure it is otherwise. This is the sort of scheme which has given rise to a great deal of controversy in various tabloid newspapers and elsewhere, when people discovered that, in many places, the wheelie bins, which are in existence and use already, actually have a little chip in them. All sorts of amazing stories went round about the ability of this chip to do all kinds of things, such as analysing exactly what was in the bin as well as magically weighing it and telling who was putting stuff in and out.

Clearly it is much simpler to identify whom the bin belongs to, so that it can be weighed as it goes on to the lorry; the chip will say which address the bin belongs to. However, even that greatly simplified scheme seems slightly fantastical and unlikely to take off in many parts of the country. I see how it can work practically in suburban areas where each house has a driveway and a gate and where the bin is identifiable not only by its chip but physically and geographically as belonging to a particular property. In many areas of the country, however, where wheelie bins work well, this is not the case. There are communal collection points at the end of the street or another designated place; everyone has to put their bins there, the bins are collected together and you take your bin back.

In those circumstances, and even in areas where perhaps a bin is placed outside someone’s backyard behind a terraced block or in areas of flats where the bin might have some geographical identification, there will be a huge temptation, if you are charged by the weight of stuff in the bin, to put your stuff in someone else’s bin. This will happen all the time. People laugh when you say that, but it already happens. Because the council will take only what is in the bin and the lid has to be down for the bin to go on the vehicle, people put their rubbish into someone else’s bin. It is usually done with the neighbour’s consent. People do not mind as long as the rubbish has been packed in a nice, neat and clean way; it is a sensible way in which neighbours can organise the rubbish. However, if you are being charged for it, all mayhem will be let loose. Any council that goes in for this kind of scheme needs to be certified. I would like to hear from the Government where and how they think that this kind of scheme can possibly work. As I said, because this scheme has been put forward as the one that is likely to take place, it has already discredited the whole idea of charging.

Amendment No. 183T was tabled to probe the whole question of charging in advance. When people move, can they come back to the council for a rebate? Would that be worth while if the rebate is only £25? The idea of an estimate on account or in instalments seems a nightmare of bureaucracy—an additional system of accounting and charging that councils could well do without. That amendment is essentially the same as the one tabled by the Conservatives, who might like to go into this in more detail. I beg to move.

On Amendment No. 183R, we are not in favour of charging at all. Some existing schemes work in that rubbish is sorted before the binmen get to it. The success or otherwise of the recycling part of the exercise is nothing to do with the householder. We are aware that sufficient recycling facilities are not yet available to deal with all the sorted rubbish that is coming in voluntarily to collection centres. In the circumstances, we feel that it is premature to impose much detail on the nature of the schemes that waste authorities may choose to use.

The next three amendments, two of which are ours, cover the same ground. Our Amendments Nos. 183TA and 183TB are probing. They are linked but relate to two different aspects of the charge payments. The first deals with payments in advance. The imposition of an advance charge based on an estimate of the waste that is likely to be collected raises a number of questions. Who will do the estimate? What data will be used as a basis for that estimate? Will there be any opportunity to appeal either the estimate of quantity or the level of advance charge? New paragraph 9 in Schedule 5 refers only to the right of appeal against the,

“liability to pay a charge”.

Will arrangements be made to accommodate those who are not in a position to pay in advance?

Our second amendment deals with payments on account or by instalment. Where the waste collection authority operates through the council that collects the local council tax, will charges for residual domestic waste collection be separated from the council tax? If that is the intention, will the householder receive separate bills requiring separate payments? If, however, the charge is to be collected as part of the normal council tax, what is the purpose and meaning behind new paragraph 5(4)(b), which allows for payment on account or by instalment?

I support my noble friend's amendments and sympathise with those of the Liberal Democrats. I hope that, when she comes to respond, the Minister will tell us a little more about what the Government envisage being the actual amount to be charged on. There are many different schemes. One is based on weight, which I think is quite a good suggestion and would encourage people to recycle bottles, for example.

On our amendment on payment in advance, it would be helpful for the Minister to explain why the Government have chosen that line rather than paying after the amount has been collected. That is not explained in the Bill and it would seem sensible to judge it at that time. Bearing in mind that, in many areas of the country, 25 per cent of the population moves every four years, a lot of people will be moving into houses. If you are basing the scheme on payment in advance and you do not know who will be living there and therefore how much rubbish or waste there may be, it is quite difficult. I am intrigued as to the thinking behind that and why it is proposed in the Bill.

All this talk about one's bins outside one's house makes me feel very homesick, when I think about walking up my garden path and seeing my lovely bin and my recycling stuff outside. I hope that I will be able to see it this evening at some point.

On the question of charging for bins, I pick up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, about people's behaviour: that once the pilot comes into force, everyone will start putting all their stuff into everyone else’s bin. We need to give people slightly more credit than that. It is possible, through a pilot, to make available lockable bins, should people want to access them. In schemes that have already been up and running overseas, that has been an option. The lockable bins have not been very expensive; I think that the equivalent here would be about £3. Take-up of lockable bins has been very low. We need to be careful about pre-empting the findings of the pilots. The whole point of this is coming up with incentives for people to change their behaviour. I do not accept the noble Lord’s analysis.

I hope that I can answer the significant points raised in what has been an important and useful discussion. New paragraph 5 allows authorities to charge in relation to the amount of waste produced. That could be done by weighing or measuring the volume of waste, as the Committee is aware. Under those sorts of scheme, data on how much people throw away may not be available for some time. In addition, it is neither effective for changing behaviour nor fair to residents for the authority to wait for months and months before beginning to collect any charges or pay out rebates.

We are talking about a scheme to change behaviour. Obviously, it will depend on what works in the pilots, but there must be a link between cause and effect. If people have to wait a very long time to see the cause and effect on charging, local authorities would benefit from the option of handling the charging differently. Instead the local authority should be able to use existing sources of information to estimate how much waste different households will throw away. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, made a point about people moving. People do move and obviously an effective scheme will be able to deal with that fact. Assessments of likely waste produced will have to be done much more often, I would think, although the pilots may prove me wrong. But payments would be adjusted as necessary in future rounds of the schemes to fit with actual amounts of waste produced. This is exactly how utility bills work. Similarly, local authorities working closely with their communities should have the flexibility to determine how payments are made. This will enable them to administer the scheme efficiently. This is why we want to give them powers in new paragraph 5 of the schedule to specify payment methods.

Amendment No. 183R would specify that charging for the amount of waste meant charging by weight. In fact, charging for amounts of waste could cover more possibilities than simply charging by weight. For example, it could mean charging in relation to the volume of waste—we have talked about large bins and mini-bins. This provides an important flexibility for local authorities that reflects the diversity of systems across the country. Similar schemes are operating successfully overseas, in both Europe and the United States, and we want to give local authorities the freedom to trial them here. It is important that we are able to pilot a wide variety of schemes to see what works well in different areas.

Amendment No. 183T would remove the possibility for estimating waste levels in advance and billing households accordingly. It would also prevent the authority from requiring, even after the event, payments on account or by instalment. Amendments Nos. 183TA and 183TB together have the same effect as Amendment No. 183T. We know from consulting with local authorities that being able to bill in advance or specify payment on account or by instalment could be very important for administering waste reduction schemes effectively. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, asked about people on low incomes. We have already debated the question of taking into account the needs of disadvantaged groups. I made the point earlier that their needs could be taken into account by varying the arrangements for payment or reimbursement. We are, I hope, talking about changing people’s behaviour so that they can receive reimbursement. I hope that would be one of the main effects of these schemes; it certainly would be the effect of a successful scheme. The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, asked who would make the estimates in putting together the arrangements for advanced payments. Of course it would be the local authority. We will come on to appeals in later groups and my noble friend is about to come on to the connection with council tax in the next debate.

The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, talked about the need for people to have access to recycling. I have said many times that we do not want to put too many requirements on pilot schemes, but one of the requirements is that they have adequate roadside recycling. We are talking here about giving local authorities the powers that they need to go about billing and, most importantly, reimbursing residents who are part of the schemes in the way which fits most suitably with the needs of their communities and the scheme that they are piloting on our behalf.

I am grateful to the Minister for her response but perhaps I may press her a little further. First, I can clearly see the advantage for the authorities that carry out the pilots in being able to bill in advance, but I cannot see the advantage for the consumer. One may well be reimbursed if one operates the scheme sensibly but, for many families, the charge will be made up front and they will not get anything back at the end.

Secondly, the Minister said that people might have to wait months and months. Perhaps she could tell us how long the Government see the pilots running. I had assumed that they would not run for months and months. Clearly, they need to run for a reasonable length of time so as to come up with something concrete but at the moment it is not clear from the Bill how long that will be. Therefore, looking at this matter from the consumer’s point of view, the scheme seems to be geared towards helping the local authority much more than the consumer.

I thank the noble Baroness for that intervention. She is absolutely right: we must not allow this to appear to be about helping local authorities rather than their communities. Local authorities are there to serve their communities. Sometimes in Committee, we pore over the detail and tend to forget that the overarching objective is to change people’s behaviour. I believe that behavioural change will come with the incentive of reimbursement, and that reimbursement needs to be well managed if the scheme is to be effective.

On the question of how long the pilots will last, that will be very much up to the local authorities. Obviously, the pilots have to be long enough for them to bed in and for their effects to be properly measured and reported on. However, if they go on for too long, we will all tire of waiting. The question of how long they continue will be decided through the designation process. I think that I have picked up the noble Baroness’s points but I apologise if I have not.

I am doing my best to scrutinise the Bill in a responsible, sensible and constructive way but, the more I hear about it, the more I think that it is completely bonkers, although I do not blame the Minister for what she is putting forward.

The noble Baroness talked about disadvantaged groups. In my part of the world, when wheelie bins and recycling came in across a great swathe of the borough all at the same time, it did wonders for neighbourhood cohesion, as the Government might call it, or community spirit, because people mucked in and helped each other to understand the new system. People who had not been talking to each other started to talk to each other, and they started to look after the older residents and so on. It was fantastic. However, if there is an old lady in the street who is thought to be disadvantaged and does not have any rubbish, everyone will put their rubbish in her bin because she will not have to pay, and it will all be done as part of local community cohesion. If people respond to financial incentives and penalties, as the Government claim, they will do so in the way that is best for them. They will fiddle the system, just as people do all the time if they can get away with it.

Then I wondered what would happen if there was a large family of six or more adults living in one house and they ordered one mini-bin under a system of big bins and little bins. Would the council say, “No, we won’t allow you to order one mini-bin; you’ll have to have a big one. In fact, if there are six of you, you’ll have to have a super-bin”. Would the council be able to dictate the size of bin or would people be able to have one little bin? If the latter were the case, I do not know what they would do with the rest of their rubbish. The whole system is open to fiddling.

The noble Baroness painted a wonderful picture of her recycling system at home, which she felt terribly homesick for. That is because the Minister is a public-spirited citizen who responds well to what I assume is a good system in her borough, as do lots of other people. I come back to the point that we will get more people to recycle and to save waste by putting in systems that they can sensibly operate. A lot of people, especially people as old as us who were brought up after the war, have real guilt and angst about the amount of rubbish that they throw away.

Lockable bins? Well, okay. On bills in advance, will councils give rebates in advance as well, or will they bill in advance and give a rebate after the event? Is that how it will work? I cannot imagine councils being anxious to send people their rebates and bonuses in advance. We get estimated utility bills, but if we think the estimated bill is out of sync, we read the meter, ring up the utility company, tell it that the bill is wrong and tell it what the number is. It then sends us another bill for less. That is how it works. You will not be able to do that with rubbish. You cannot weigh your own rubbish, or will there be a market for rubbish-weighing scales for everyone? I do not know.

My final point is that there is a fatal flaw in the argument that on the one hand the initial bills can be estimated on existing sources of information, and that on the other hand the purpose is to change people’s behaviour. If you do not send the first bills on the basis of their changed behaviour, the whole system will be brought into disrepute. There is something wrong about sending out the bills on the basis of historical behaviour before people have changed their behaviour. This will not work. I feel really quite grumpy about the debate on this set of amendments, because this is cloud-cuckoo-land stuff. Having said all that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 183RA to 183TB not moved.]

183U: Schedule 5, page 57, leave out lines 29 to 31

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 183U, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 183V. I do not know to whom new paragraph 6(2) applies. Does it refer to the council and the people operating the system, or to the people who are subject to the system—the residents? The substantive amendment in the group is another probing amendment on the general duty to collect. Clearly I do not wish to remove that general duty; I merely wish to probe. Is there not a lack of logic here? If people do not operate the system at all, do not pay their bills and continue to behave in a way that the Government think is undesirable by throwing out too much rubbish—if they are the “can’t pay, won’t pay” type of person whom we had with the poll tax, will that not undermine the whole system? In particular, if the population is transient, if there is a wilful refusal to pay or if it is impossible to track people down in HMOs and so on and the Government say that the rubbish will go on being collected anyway, which clearly it must for health and environmental reasons and for the amenity of the neighbours, will not the whole system be brought to its knees by people not co-operating with it? I beg to move.

It is quite interesting to see this group of amendments being moved by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. As he was saying, the collection of domestic rubbish was not begun to make life easier for the inhabitants of individual dwellings. The first urban sanitary Act in England dates back to 1388. It followed the Black Death when the fleas that carried the bacteria lived on the rats that lived on the garbage, so whichever schemes are introduced to raise the proportion of our waste that is recycled, they must never take priority over the regular collection and disposal of rubbish. We are content that the Bill carries a reminder of the civic duty in this context.

I have now forgotten my punchline. The noble Duke’s last point was going to be my opening gambit.

First, I will answer the question of whether local authorities will still have a duty to collect waste. Yes; all local authorities will have to meet the requirement under existing legislation to collect household waste. In August 2005, Defra advised that waste collection authorities need not collect household waste outside the main receptacle, so long as they had sent out a notice under Section 45 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 setting out the arrangements for presenting the receptacle for waste collection. As at present, if people do not comply with the authority’s requirements on presenting waste for collection, they might be subject to a fine or a fixed penalty.

Under Section 45 of the 1990 Act, authorities have a general duty to collect household waste. Section 46 of the Act gives authorities powers to determine the arrangements for waste collection—the size and number of bags or boxes, and so on. When an authority uses its Section 46 powers to prescribe such arrangements and a resident does not comply with those requirements, an authority has no further duty to collect his waste other than to keep the relevant land clear of litter and refuse. To that extent, we are keeping up the process: there is also a duty on residents who, in the end, could receive a fixed penalty notice for not following some of these rules. It is not a free-for-all to do what you want out there. As the noble Duke said, there is an obvious public health protection.

I turn to our response to the amendments. Some waste reduction schemes may involve charges for those residents throwing away the most non-recycled waste. In our view, general compliance and non-payment of such charges need not be a significant problem where the local authorities communicate well with residents who understand why they are being asked to pay. I do not want to wind him up, but I had always thought the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, was the epitome of a defender of independent local government. Yet he has shown a distinct lack of confidence in that tonight, bearing in mind that we wish to have discussions with local government. As I said earlier, one facility in the Bill was the request of consultation with local government so that it can choose to do as it thinks best for its area. I hope that it is taking account of one of its champions not exactly sticking up for local government here.

We will obviously want to look at the issue that the noble Lord raises within the pilots. Clearly, those will have to be brought forward with a business plan and with a communication plan to residents taking full account of the extreme cases that the noble Lord raises. However, it is essential that local authorities have powers sufficient to recover debts in the small proportion of cases where residents fail to pay. Enforcement options would be as for a civil debt, and have broadly similar sanctions as with non-payment of council tax—but, we envisage, without the draconian measures of imprisonment and bankruptcy. I wanted to get that out of the way before we start any other questions.

Amendment No. 183U would mean that local authorities could refuse to collect waste from a household which has not paid its charge. We do not think this an appropriate response to non-payment and think that the general duty to collect should still apply. That would avoid the situation, as raised by the noble Duke, of residual waste being left to pile up outside as a public health hazard. As I have explained, there are other courses of action for the authority to deal with non-payment, which it is well accustomed to using for, say, some cases of parking fines or for council tax—although not in the extreme position.

Amendment No. 183V looks to change the wording of the provisions to say that a failure by any person to pay charges that they owe does not affect the authority’s general duty to arrange for collection of household waste. Given what I have already said, we do not consider that Amendment No. 183V adds anything to the provisions as they stand and therefore does not add to the Bill one way or the other.

I have not been asked this, but I shall answer it anyway: how much will it cost an authority to collect debts? We do not hold data centrally on the costs to local authorities of enforcing fixed penalties. In any case, costs will vary according to the nature of the scheme. As a rough comparison, we know that council tax collection costs are about 1.8 per cent of the total yield. That squares as probably the most efficient tax to be collected. I recall that many years ago I was responsible in the other place for organising the opposition to the infamous poll tax and I had to defend the rates. One of the great defences of the rates was that they were so cheap to collect—a penny in the pound. They were cheaper than all the other taxes such as VAT and corporation. But the poll tax not only cost a fortune to collect; it cost the Government power in office.

I will defend myself briefly in a minute. I think that if any local authorities are daft enough to bring in some of these measures, it will cost them their power in office; who knows—we will see. I am grateful for the response, and again I shall read it carefully, especially that on the first amendment.

There is a difference between using amendments in order to probe how the Government think something is going to work and what one would do if it came to voting in the Division Lobbies. If it came to a vote, I would ask for maximum freedom for the local authorities concerned. Amendments can be a way of probing what the Government mean. They seek to take out a particular clause so that the Minister is, I hope, encouraged—I was going to say forced—to explain the how the Government think something is going to work. When we discussed whether Clause 51 should stand part of the Bill, I said that this may be the only chance anyone gets to go through the Bill in this kind of detail. As long as we get home at a reasonable time tonight, we have a duty to do that. The Commons may or may not do it, that is not in our power. The problem is that when the pilots come back and are thought to be successful, the rollout will be by affirmative instrument. We will be able to debate the instrument, but not go through it in detail and certainly not amend it. It is very important that we understand what is in the Bill and how it may work, and it will be set out in Hansard for others to read and pick up on the arguments. It is then up to the Government to win the debate not just in this Chamber, but out in the country.

Having said that in self-defence against the shocking attack on me by the Minister—I point out, for the record, that that is said with irony—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 183V not moved.]

183VA: Schedule 5, page 57, line 38, at end insert—

“( ) In making the calculations under sub-paragraph (1) the waste collection authority shall take into account the administrative and other costs that are attributable to the scheme, including any costs that are offset by any contributions made by the waste disposal authority and the government.”

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 183W. This goes back to the question of revenue neutrality. We have covered a lot of this so I shall not go over the same ground again. Can the Minister tell us how he thinks this is going to be financed if it comes to a rollout affecting 62 per cent of the households in the country? How on earth can the costs of setting up and administering it, at least in the early days which perhaps will be informed by the pilots, be met? Does he have any views about that?

The second amendment seeks to scrutinise a bit of the Bill that seems to contradict what the Minister has been saying about how this will always be revenue neutral on the basis of charges made against people being used to provide rebates or bonuses for those who do well. On page 57, new paragraph 7(2) and (3) seems to imply that the Secretary of State may, by order, amend this and change it so that it would not be revenue neutral in the future. Is my interpretation correct and, if it is, would the Minister comment on it? I beg to move.

Amendment No. 183VA refers to new sub-paragraph (1) and the waste collection authority. It is slightly hard to follow because new sub-paragraph (1) states:

“the aggregate amount of charges … must not exceed the aggregate amount of the rebates or other payments”.

It sounds like a closed loop system in which the moneys that are collected from the public will all be recycled, so how the local authority will cover the costs which are bound to aggregate over and above that is an interesting question. I think that is partly what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is probing for.

The amendment appears to offer the local authority the possibility of making money by collecting,

“any contributions made by the waste disposal authority and the government”.

We would like to know what the Government consider will be the outcome on that matter.

We agree with Amendment No. 183W and that the Secretary of State should not have the power to upset the balance of charges and rebates without first bringing the details and reasoning for it to Parliament.

I, too, was worried about that last point. I try to keep ahead of things but I should have asked about Amendment No. 183W this morning. There is a protection in the fact that the affirmative resolution procedure will provide powers to Parliament, and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee would have to be satisfied with the process.

On revenue neutrality, it is a closed loop, as the noble Duke said. But, as I said in an earlier debate, local authorities could save a lot of money by such a scheme. Leaving aside the incentives and the charges, they could save a fortune in landfill costs, for example, which they can keep or use to reduce the council tax overall for everyone in the authority. That is part of the infrastructure. So there are potential savings. The closed loop comes in with the direct charges and the rebates.

If as a result of getting a change in behaviour of residents the local authorities end up with their costs of disposal being a lot less overall—which we think will be the case—those will be savings to the country at large and would not be counted for or against the individual participants of the scheme. So there is an opportunity there. I am not saying but implying that when local authorities come forward with their proposals for pilots, part of the business case will include the overall savings—in other words, the cost of running the scheme. As I have implied, it is a very small amount of money. I still live in the real world and £4.5 million is a lot of money to me, but in the scale of local government it is only a couple of decimal points when adding up the figures. So the money is there but no decisions have yet been taken on that.

The revenue neutrality simply means that the local authority does not make a profit out of the residents taking part in the scheme. That is the bottom line so far as the residents are concerned. But if they can see that the local authority is going to save money overall and keep costs down, that has got to be a good thing for those both in and out of the scheme.

As I have said, the amendment requires the revenue schemes to be neutral so that no profit is made, which is a key element of the pilot schemes that we wish to organise. It is part of the definition of piloting that we may need to alter the way schemes work in the light of experience, but at this stage it is impossible to guess what might happen. That is why we need the powers to amend the various elements of the framework, including, for instance, exactly what conditions local authorities have to meet before running a waste reduction scheme. We need to respond to what comes out of the pilots.

We want the flexibility to amend the revenue-neutrality condition. In the unforeseen event that we need to make an amendment, as I have said, it would come back to Parliament. The Minister would be given a pretty rough ride if they did not have a good reason for amending it, because it is a key part of the scheme that we want in the pilots.

Amendment No. 183VA seeks to allow the authorities to use the money raised from waste charges to cover the costs, but that could create an additional burden on local residents who could end up paying more overall to the authority. It could also reduce the amount of money available to reward the householders who were benefiting from the scheme. It would hinder efficient administration if they had less incentive to keep the costs down, and that would not be fair; it would look like a rip-off. On the other hand, if the offsets were greater than the costs incurred, that could result in the savings achieved being passed directly back to the local residents covered by the scheme via the rebate. That might appear to be a good deal for the residents but it would limit the authority’s freedom to invest the savings where it chose; for example, in other priority services.

I have not been misleading. Earlier I said, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, that local authorities could potentially save a lot of money from running such a scheme. Even though the incentives and charges to residents are ring-fenced, there could still be other pots of money for local authorities to save. That money is for the greater good of all ratepayers in that authority.

I want to ask the Minister a specific question, so perhaps I can ask that straightaway and he can answer it. How is it going to work in two-tier areas, where the county council pays the waste disposal charges and the district council as the waste collection authority—if there are additional expenses in running the scheme, which there clearly will be—will have to pay?

That is a good, specific question to which I have a specific answer, although it is not written down here. That will be in the business plan of the pilot programme put to the Government. It is self-evident that if five areas are going to implement a scheme and one of them is a two-tier area, that will require the two-tier authority to come forward with a plan that delineates between the ratepayers for the district and for the county, which is what the noble Lord is referring to. It will be up to local government to come forward with a plan, and I look forward to noting that. That is a legitimate question that would have to be covered in any business plan put forward to central government.

I am grateful to the Minister for clarification on that. It is quite likely, or at least I hope it is, that one of the trials will involve that combination of authorities. What happens if two authorities—two counties, for want of a better expression—decide to form a pilot scheme together? Is that possible, or does the Bill as it stands limit pilots to a single authority? I am not quite clear on this. To give a bad example, if Leicestershire decided to do a deal with Nottinghamshire to see if they could achieve better savings by doing it together, would that be possible?

That is a brilliant question for which I need some additional advice, and I am not certain whether I will get it. I know there are facilities for this in local government. Three district councils combined their environmental services for food safety—I will not say which ones I think they were, but they were in the south Midlands area—to run a joint service for checking restaurants, pubs and so on. They had a plan—

It is a single waste collection authority that would come forward with the plan. That will be a single unit of local government, even if the waste collection authority happens to cover two local authorities. That is probably not an adequate answer. If I get any better particulars, I will write.

Waste partnerships were made possible by the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act, but that is perhaps a little premature. Some £4.5 million for an ordinary shire district is still a lot of money. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 183W and 183X not moved.]

183Y: Schedule 5, page 58, leave out lines 23 to 34

The noble Lord said: The amendment would remove a new paragraph on “Separate account to be kept”, which instructs waste collection authorities to keep a separate account for the money that they take in from the extra charges for people who throw away too much and hand out to people who throw away less. I do not want to take the provision out of the Bill—it is merely a probing amendment—but wish to ask one or two questions in relation to it. It states that a waste collection authority is to keep a separate account of any rebates, other payments or any charges received. It then states:

“Any person interested may at any reasonable time and without payment inspect the account and make copies of it or any part of it”.

If they are obstructed, a penalty is incurred. I am not clear about how much detail about individuals such an account would contain. Is it a general account, relating to the amount of money collected and paid out over a period, or would it go down to the level of showing who has had to pay extra charges and who has been given rebates? I do not want to ask any further questions until I receive an answer to that. If the account does not include such individual details, which could be inspected by anybody, I will be happy to withdraw the amendment. If it does include them, I would be concerned about it. I beg to move.

As we discussed earlier, the requirement for waste reduction schemes to be revenue-neutral is a key element of the proposals. We want to make sure that schemes are transparent for residents. It is essential that they can easily access information about total amounts of charges and rebates. This allows them to feel assured that any revenue collected by authorities is being paid back in full through rebates, thereby fulfilling the revenue-neutrality condition. This is why new paragraph 10 of the schedule requires authorities to keep a separate account of charges and rebates under a waste incentive scheme. It requires that the account is made available for inspection by members of the public. The new paragraph is not about placing extra burdens on local authorities, nor is it about making transparent information about residents that one would not normally expect to be made public. It is about giving residents confidence in the scheme, keeping them motivated to reduce their waste and allowing them access to information that they have every right to see.

In practice, there is unlikely to be much extra effort involved for authorities in collecting the information. They will need to have the information in place in any event. I do not wish to labour the point, but residents will want to be able to see revenue-neutrality. They will not expect to have their behaviour publicised. The noble Lord has raised an interesting point, but I hope that, following that reassurance, he will consider withdrawing his amendment.

I think I have the reassurance I wanted that it will be summary accounts and not detailed individual accounts that could be accessed. Although we are all entitled to see the details of our own accounts, that is a different matter altogether. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

183YA: Schedule 5, page 59, leave out lines 15 to 17

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to probe what sort of modifications to enactments relating to council tax the Government have in mind. Will they simply make room for two lines on the council tax form, one levying a charge for domestic residual waste collection and the other applying a rebate from the tax as a whole, or will they impose new conditions on the calculation of council tax, its formulation or the way it is levied? I beg to move.

This is a legitimate and practical question but unfortunately, at this stage, one to which I do not have an answer. What would a combined council tax and waste bill look like? I have not taken advice on this. I do not know how such a bill is envisaged. There are some possible variants but we want to work further with local authorities on this. I do not know how far the work with local authorities has progressed. We need to assure local authorities and the public that we have the necessary flexibility here and that the information is transparent and straightforward. Residents will demand nothing less. Their behaviour in this regard will change only if they know why they are doing something and what the cost or saving of doing it is. The relevant information must not be buried in a footnote or in the great tranche of leaflets that nobody ever reads that come with your council tax bill. It must be as up front as the information on the police or the fire brigade in two-tier authorities. That is my personal view but I believe it would be very unwise for us not to make it as transparent as that.

As I said earlier, this flexibility is there only because local government raised this issue during the formal and informal consultation process. A waste disposal authority may well suggest a system that has no connection whatever with the council tax. The system has inbuilt flexibility, which is why I cannot give any indication of what a bill would look like. However, residents must be able to understand it and it must be credible in terms of being no different from what they see in the rest of their bill.

I have an answer to a point made by the noble Baroness which I hope will be helpful. I am keen to get as much information on the record as I can in Committee as that will help us on Report. One pilot is the area of one waste collection authority but there are two types of relevant authority structure. In the two-tier structure comprising the districts and counties, the district is the waste collection authority. The unitary authorities are the waste collection and disposal authorities but one pilot is the area of a waste collection authority, or part of it. As regards the relationship between the two, particularly in the two-tier structure, we would expect a waste collection authority coming forward as a pilot to be able to demonstrate an excellent working relationship with its disposal authority. That relationship will underpin the success or failure of the pilot.

I understand what the Minister has clarified for me and I am grateful for that. However, it still did not quite answer my question—although he did earlier—as to the fact that the Bill constrains the possibility of two wider areas getting together, which might enhance a pilot. Before the Bill finally leaves us, I sow a seed in the Government’s mind that it might be advisable for an area to be considered over the border, if you like. You could get greater savings if two came together than if one were considered in one area. However, as I say, I understand and accept the point he clarified and I am grateful for that.

I too am grateful to the Minister for explaining that it was not necessarily possible to give me an absolute answer. I am reassured by the fact that he is determined to make this process practical and transparent. We can ask nothing more of the Government at this stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

183Z: Schedule 5, page 60, line 5, at end insert—

“(5) The revocation of a scheme does not affect the duty of the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a report under section 53 of the Climate Change Act 2008.”

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 183ZD and 183ZE in the group. They are about the reports that will come back to Parliament on the pilot schemes that have taken place, assuming that they get that far. The first amendment is to establish that there will be a report back to Parliament on schemes that are halted half way or at some stage during their procedure for whatever reason, stating that:

“The revocation of a scheme does not affect the duty of the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a report”,

so that if a scheme is set up and is run for a period of time but does not run its course, there will still be a report back to Parliament. The argument is that we want reports back on failures as well as successes.

The other two amendments in the group take us back to Clause 53 and out of Schedule 5 at last. It is a question of how the reports to Parliament will work, and the two amendments tackle what should be in the reports. In Clause 53 the Government suggest that the reports should contain a description of the scheme, a comparison of schemes and how they differ from each other and,

“an assessment of the scheme’s success or otherwise”.

That wording should be substantially expanded so that the report to Parliament covers the important factors. Amendment No. 183ZD reads,

“a description of the area in which the waste reduction scheme was operated, including the nature of the properties and households and the social and economic conditions in the area”.

The Minister may say that that is going to happen anyway. If he gives me that assurance, that is better than nothing, but it would be better in my view if it were in the Bill. In Amendment No. 183ZE, I suggest that there should be information about the way in which the scheme is operated, namely,

“(i) the changes that took place in the quantity and proportion of domestic waste that was recycled;

(ii) the changes that took place in the quantity and proportion of domestic waste that was collected as residual waste;

(iii) the problems, if any, that occurred in particular types of properties and households, the measures taken to overcome those problems, and the success or otherwise of those measures;

(iv) the problems, if any, that occurred as a result of the unauthorised disposal of waste, whether by fly-tipping or otherwise, the measures taken to overcome those problems, and the success or otherwise of those measures;

(v) an assessment of the extent to which the scheme could be extended to some other areas or generally”.

There may be other things that are necessary to report as well but those are the ones that seem obvious to me.

There is concern about what is going to happen once the Bill is passed and pilots take place, because once the reports come back it is all in the hands of the Government. We are not talking about another five or 50 pilots. We are talking about a rollout with which the Government hope that they will cover 62 per cent of the country, according to the statistics. That is a big issue. There is concern that the parliamentary scrutiny and decision-making at that stage will not be as deep and effective as it could be. It will be by affirmative instruments. We will be able to debate them; we will not be able to amend them. The number of times that affirmative instruments are kicked out is rightly not often. I propose that it be clearly written, either in these words or in words that the Government prefer, that the report back to Parliament should be clear in analysing how the projects have worked and what success they have had in these areas, and perhaps others, so that if the report is debated—I understand that it will be laid before Parliament and not debated automatically—we will have more information. I beg to move.

I do not want to comment on the levels of scrutiny between the two Houses because it varies. There are pluses and minuses in both, but I can think of no other issue that will be gone through in more detail by the elected Members of the House of Commons than the collection of waste by local authorities from their constituents’ homes. There is no doubt whatever about the issue being properly scrutinised, if it becomes the policy, at a street-by-street, postcode-by-postcode level. We would not do that in this House because we are not elected and we represent no one but ourselves. The other place will have that information. I am not saying that we should not do it, but I reassure the Committee that no rollout will be done without full parliamentary scrutiny.

We want Parliament to be involved at every stage of the process in developing our policy on waste reduction schemes. That is why the Secretary of State should report back to Parliament on how each of the schemes has fared, including any schemes that are later revoked, giving reasons why they have been revoked. We expect that to be rare, but it could happen. The designation process will look carefully at the viability, and we hope that any that cannot last the course would not be designated in the first place, but I am not saying that everything is perfect and that we will get everything right. We have that facility for reporting back. Clause 53 sets out what must be included in the report as a minimum. It was never intended as a comprehensive list. In practice, there are likely to be many other areas, as well as those suggested in the amendment, that we would wish to cover. We do not think that primary legislation is the right place to list every detail of the report but we are keen to discuss its formation with Parliament, the public and local authorities. We want an evidence-based evaluation of the pilots. The lessons from the pilots have to be pretty powerful to inform the decision on whether the power should be made more generally available.

Amendment No. 183Z would require the Secretary of State to report back to Parliament even on a pilot that had been revoked, but Clause 53 already requires that. Amendment No. 183ZD would require the Secretary of State’s report to include information about,

“the nature of the properties and … the social and economic conditions in the area”.

To provide a full and useful evaluation, it is likely that we would wish to include other details, for example, background information about the nature of the pilot areas. We note with interest the importance that noble Lords attach to these details, and appreciate that they represent sensible areas for the report to cover, but we do not think that listing such areas of interest is suitable for primary legislation. However, they should form part of the wider debate to take on board for evaluation.

Amendment No. 183ZE would establish various criteria for assessing the success of the pilot schemes, which are listed in proposed sub-paragraphs (i) to (v). We agree that it will be important to define success criteria and to publish them in advance of the pilot starting. However, we note again with interest the areas flagged by noble Lords as part of the discussion. We may end up with similar criteria to those suggested. It is important to draft the criteria in collaboration with the local authorities and other stakeholders. I do not want to say during the discussions, “By the way, we have decided this at the centre”. We shall be having discussions, which is the only reason we would agree with Amendment No. 183ZE, with which we are on board in principle.

At this time of night I am fairly satisfied with those answers. They are as good as I had hoped for and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 183ZZA and 183ZZB not moved.]

Schedule 5 agreed to.

Clause 52 [Waste reduction provisions: piloting]:

[Amendments Nos. 183ZA to 183ZB not moved.]

183ZC: Clause 52, page 23, line 13, at end insert—

“( ) The period specified under subsection (3) shall be the same in each order which designates a pilot area.”

The noble Lord said: I think that my brain is slowing down at this time of night.

Amendment No. 183ZC is about the length of the period that the five pilots should run for. It suggests that the five—or whatever number of pilots that the Government in the end decide to run—should run at the same period for the purposes of reasonable comparison. That is a fairly simple point; it seems common sense to have them running at the same time for the same length of time to make reasonable comparisons.

I also want to ask the Minister about the timescale for the pilots. How long is it expected that each pilot will last? Is it possible that there will be a different length of time, even if this amendment were not agreed to? Are we talking about two years, three years or five years? How long is this new system expected to take before the behaviour change that everybody is talking about will come about? Is it possible that some of them might be open ended—that they might start for two years with the possibility of extending for another year, if that was thought to be the sensible thing to do? I beg to move.

Both of these amendments concern issues that we feel the Government have not properly covered in the Bill, although I accept that the Minister has tried to cover some of these areas of interest in the answers in the previous debates. At this stage our main concern is to bring our concerns to the attention of the Minister.

Amendment No. 183ZEA is a probing amendment that is intended to establish the precise cumulative effects of Clauses 52, 53 and 54. Clause 52 starts with a waste collection authority proposing a waste reduction scheme. Clause 52(2) states:

“Not more than five areas may be so designated”.

This has been interpreted in the Minister’s letter of 14 January, which states:

“Up to five waste collection authorities to pilot waste reduction schemes”.

However, I am still uncertain whether this will mean that each authority will be able to pilot a number of schemes, or whether they will be limited to one each. Will there be a time limit imposed after which no further pilots will be allowed? The Explanatory Memorandum does not provide an answer to this point and I would be grateful for further clarification from the Minister.

Clause 53 requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on operations in each pilot area. Clause 54 also allows the Secretary of State to apply the waste reduction provisions generally if he is not minded to alter them. This seems to imply that a scheme could be rolled out nationally without him having to seek approval from Parliament. He will have to use the affirmative procedure only if he wishes to amend a scheme. Perhaps the Minister might correct me if I am wrong in that analysis.

Clause 54 allows the Secretary of State to take action after he has reported to Parliament,

“in relation to one or more pilot areas”.

Does this mean that the other pilots may still be running but he does not have to wait for their outcomes? If so, might that result in the choice of a scheme that could shortly be proved to have been bettered by another? The overall picture is of a system that allows the Secretary of State to impose a waste collection scheme nationally after it has been trialled in a limited area or an area that is not necessarily representative of the country as a whole. I am not suggesting that that is the purpose of the clause, but it may be the consequence if the trialling is not cleverly done. Moreover, no time limit is imposed on the duration of the piloting phase, either for each waste reduction scheme or for the whole phase of pilot schemes. Could the latter still be running many years from now, for example?

I have just two further questions, to which I am sure the Minister will have the answer. We will almost certainly find from the pilots that things will work in one area in one way and equally well in another area in a different way, which means that we may want to finish up with two or three different systems across the country. Will that be, as I hope it will, what I would call an allowable result? My second question relates to the fact that a pilot implies a scheme that runs for a limited period, after which you sit down and assess the results. Let us say that a local authority has a successful scheme that is running extremely well and it wants to keep the scheme going. Will the fact that the scheme is a trial mean that at the end of the trial period the authority has to dismantle it, even though it is a success, while the Government sit down and measure the degree of triumph that the authority is enjoying?

In the case put by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, I hope that the answer will be no. My caveat is that, if the pilot in that example covered only part of the local authority area, you would not envisage it going on for ever, however successful it was, because then you would have two tiers in that area. The pilot would have to close so that there could be a rollout. I cannot go beyond that.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, picks up a good point. We have never said this, but it is not the case that the reports and evaluations of all five pilots have to be in before a decision is made. However, I want to make it absolutely clear that, although the trigger mechanism is not necessarily with Parliament once the legislation is in force, the Secretary of State has to come back to Parliament to report on at least one of the pilots before any rollout can take place. This cannot be done just by getting the Bill on the statute book, going away, chatting to the local authorities and rolling out the five pilots without coming back to Parliament. Before any action is taken on a rollout, at least one of the pilots has to be reported on to Parliament. That is an extreme case, but once we have the results from three or four of the pilots we may have found a way forward. I do not know—this is not my day job—whether we are envisaging the same thing all over the country; I suspect not, because things are not the same now.

The amendment is about the pilots all running at the same time regardless of what the individual local authorities want. We need flexibility for local government. In practice, some authorities may want to run the pilot on a council tax year and some may want to run it on a calendar year. Others—this is the example that I have here—may want to introduce a new service in their area, such as a food waste collection service, and will think, “We can link this with the pilot, as it is a change of circumstance overall”. The timing of the start of the pilots must be up to the local authorities, albeit within reason—if there are five good ones that tick all the boxes, we would go ahead without waiting for the sixth one where the local authority said that it wanted to do it at another date. That is the reality there; that is why flexibility is needed on the timing of the pilots. It would not be practical or sensible to have them all starting and finishing on the same date.

We would not envisage a pilot running for less than a year. Whether it is the calendar year or the council tax year, I do not know. That is up to local authorities. You would want to go through the annual—the seasonal—cycle. I suspect that waste collection has a seasonal cycle to it, like a lot of other things, for reasons that we can all understand. So it would probably be for not less than a year, but I cannot say that it would be for not more than so many years. We want local government to come to us for that. However, the pilots will not be open-ended. Clause 52(3) states that they will be limited by the designation, but the designation will be as a result of local government coming in with an idea for a pilot in the first place. Once the period is over, the powers will cease to exist for the authority and we would not be able to extend it.

In practice, we would want to wait for the best evidence for a rollout, so we are likely to wait for reports on more than one pilot, but I agree that, the way that the Bill is drafted at present, it allows it after one. We may want to come back to that issue. The noble Lord asked whether there is a cut-off point after which no pilots can run. The answer is no, because we are in the hands of the local authorities. It will be up to them to come forward with schemes that run for the amount of time they think fits their circumstances, but they will have to have an end date, which prevents there being an unnecessary length of time. Those are quite legitimate questions, but I am simply not in a position to answer. All that I can say is that the nature of the flexibility that local authorities may require is covered in the Bill. We will have had to take cognisance of that when they come forward with their business plans and their waste collection plans.

I am very grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has been going through the amendments. I understand the need for flexibility; after all, pilot schemes will be different, let us hope, so they will be arranged in different ways. The underlying concern lies more with the parliamentary scrutiny that may be available to examine the schemes at a parliamentary level. It is clear that the Secretary of State will be evaluating them from the Government's point of view, but Parliament, too, has a clear role in evaluating the virtues of the schemes and in establishing a proper dialogue with the Government on the issues.

Will the Minister consider before Report whether the Government may present amendments to make it clear that that is the Government's intention?

I go well beyond what I have written in front of me here, because I am not happy with the situation and, as we are in Committee, we have plenty of chances to look at the Bill. I will just go through part of my Q&A brief, because it meets that point. I hope that I will come up with a solution. As I said, we need to evaluate at least one of the pilots before there is any rollout. That is the evaluation of that particular pilot, of course. That is not necessarily the green light to go for rollout. In a way, the way that the Bill is drafted, the green light is not required. That is where I am a little unhappy about the way in which I have been asked the question.

I will read what I have here, even though I am not happy with it, but I put it on the record because we must make progress on the Bill. Why does not Parliament have to agree before the powers are rolled out to all the authorities? That is the question, because that is the reality. Parliament will have already agreed the waste provisions in the schedule, and the Secretary of State will have to report back to Parliament on at least one pilot before making a decision on the rollout of the powers. Because of our firm commitment on learning from the pilots before reporting and deciding whether to roll out further, in practice it is likely that more than one, if not all, of the pilots will have been reported on to Parliament. Where we want to make changes to the waste reduction provisions before rollout, this will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. This gives Parliament ample opportunity. Where we did not want to make a change in the waste reduction provisions before rollout, it would not come back to Parliament. So there will be different schemes around the country but I will certainly take this away and have it looked at again. I want to be satisfied that the degree of parliamentary scrutiny is okay and, if it is not, I will have to have discussions with my colleagues. That is as far as I can go tonight but I hope it reassures the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that I am not closing the book and saying, “That is it”. I am not; I want to go away and think about it.

So am I. We started talking about the period of the pilots and we have got into some extremely important aspects of this Bill. On the basis of what the Minister has said, we look forward to what he has to say in future. We will—as I am sure the Conservatives will, too—go away and think very hard about how the process of reporting back to Parliament and making decisions is going to work. I was interested in what the Minister said about a council changing from operating a pilot in part of its area to rolling it out across its whole area. The Minister suggested that if it did not do that, it would be a two-tier area. My understanding is that the whole basis of the schedule, which we are assuming would get carried forward in the rollout with any necessary amendments that the Government think fit and that we agree to, is that there can continue to be two-tier areas—for example in a district where one scheme operates in a town and then no scheme or a very different scheme operates in the country.

Forgive me. I was answering the specific question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. He asked why, if local authorities have a really good pilot going, they should have to stop it. Unless that pilot covered the whole area, they would clearly have to stop what they were doing to cover the whole area. Otherwise they would have a successful scheme that does not cover the whole area. Also, the pilot has to have an end date. My answer to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is that they would have to stop, but for more than one reason. They would have to stop because they had set an end date for the pilot and they would have to stop if they wanted to extend the pilot to the whole of their area. To that extent there would be a change.

We are getting into too much detail now. The pilot would stop but it would not be a pilot then. The pilot would have a designated end date and it would stop. It would have to come back to the rollout procedures under the Bill. The local authority cannot just decide to stop the pilot and say, “We are going to do it this way for our area”. That is not the idea at all.

It seems a nonsense for an authority to have to stop, because the rollout has not happened yet nationally and may not take place for several months, and then have to wait a year before starting up again. If a local authority has a scheme that is working successfully, either for the whole area or part of the area—I am open to the belief that that may actually happen; I do not think it will but I will be the first person to praise the noble Lord if it does—it would be ridiculous if it then had to stop because the pilot had finished and then start up again a year later once all the deliberations in Parliament and Government had taken place. If an authority has invested in all the equipment and so on for a scheme, it would be daft for it to have to stop for a year for purely legalistic reasons.

I need better advice on this, but we have to be realistic. There will be five pilots in the whole of England, and it will not be technically possible for them to continue until there is a national rollout. A couple of the pilots may be duds and three of them may be okay but we do not know in which order they will come. Perhaps it will be possible to transmit ideas from the successful pilots to those that have been less successful. However, there will probably be a cut-off point for them: they are pilots, after all. This is not a question of subterfuge—of slipping in the scheme through the back door. We have to view them as pilots. A pilot has a down side—that is, it comes to an end and then you have to decide what you are going to do. The pilot might be evaluated while it is still running. As I said, it will continue for at least a year and probably longer, but I cannot say how much longer.

I am now convinced of what I thought when I listened to the discussion. When the pilots start is not an issue but when they end needs to be given considerable thought—particularly the relationship between the ending of the pilots and the start of the rollout, but we will think about that.

When I tabled the amendment, I thought that there were issues here to be discussed but I was not quite sure what they were. I am very grateful to other noble Lords—particularly the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith—for teasing out those issues, as I now have a better understanding of what the difficulties are. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 52 agreed to.

Clause 53 [Waste reduction provisions: report and review]:

[Amendments Nos. 183ZD and 183ZE not moved.]

Clause 53 agreed to.

Clause 54 [Waste reduction provisions: roll-out or repeal]:

[Amendment No. 183ZEA not moved.]

183ZF: Clause 54, page 23, line 40, leave out “one or more” and insert “the”

The noble Lord said: Some of the issues covered by this group have already been discussed, and I do not want to go into them again. However, the amendment that I specifically want to speak to is Amendment No. 183ZH, which concerns the powers to make new subordinate legislation under rollouts.

It seems that the Secretary of State will have remarkable powers not only to change the Bill in setting up the rollout schemes and to amend the Bill in all sorts of ways but to make subordinate legislation. I am not clear that the subordinate legislation in subsection (3) on page 24 of the Bill is covered by the affirmative resolution procedure, as the rest of it is. I therefore tabled this amendment to ask whether it should be and, if it is not, to ask why not. I am moving Amendment No. 183ZF in order that I may ask that question under Amendment No. 183ZH. I beg to move.

I am a little disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, did not make quite as much of Amendment No. 183ZG as he did of Amendment No. 183ZH, because it appears that it would reduce the amount of wording in the Bill. It would be interesting to hear the Government say why they need both paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 54(2) if they could be telescoped in that way.

With regard to Amendment No. 183ZH, it seems that any order would cover any subordinate legislation, and I do not see why we need to specify that.

I know that my noble friend has already agreed to consider an amendment similar to Amendment No. 183ZF, but I am not sure that he agreed to consider one similar to the others. Therefore, I shall take a little time to go through my note in the hope that I shall be able to help the noble Lord so that he can withdraw the amendment this evening.

After reporting back to Parliament on the pilots, we might wish to take one of three possible courses of action. First, if the pilots are successful, we may want simply to enable all English authorities to introduce a waste-reduction scheme, or we may first wish to revise the provisions in the light of lessons learnt during the piloting phase before rolling out the powers to all authorities. Finally, if we consider that the pilots have not been successful, we may wish to repeal the powers so that authorities cannot run the schemes. As I have said, the key point is to report back to Parliament when we have good quality evidence from the pilots; indeed, we have just had a detailed debate about when that might be. This is more important than needing to report back on each and every one of the pilots before we can submit proposals to roll out the powers more widely.

We recognise the need to get Parliament’s consent to any amendment or repeal of the provisions. Therefore, our ability to amend or repeal would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. Following a recommendation by the Delegated Powers Committee, we have also decided that subordinate legislation that the Secretary of State makes under amendments to the waste reduction provisions should be subject to some parliamentary procedure. We would need to decide case by case which procedure would be most appropriate according to the nature of the subordinate legislation that we are proposing. We do not want to waste Parliament’s time on minor technical details.

As with Amendment No. 183ZEA, which we covered in the last group, the intention behind Amendment No. 183ZF seems to be to require the Secretary of State to report on all the pilots. My noble friend has already said that he will consider that.

On the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, the most important point that I am trying to make is that the Government propose to accept the recommendation of the Delegated Powers Committee that any such subordinate legislation that comes out of the reporting process and any changes that need to be made would be subject to a parliamentary procedure, depending on the size of the change that we make. If the amendment is consequential, it would be a very small matter, which would be dealt with proportionately. We do, however, accept the Delegated Powers Committee’s recommendations.

With that rather rambling submission and given that we are already considering my noble friend’s suggestion to look at parliamentary reporting, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

I am a little confused. It is normal to set out in primary legislation which orders and regulations are subject to the affirmative procedure, given that the great mass of them are subject to the negative procedure, but the clause seems to leave this open-ended. I think the Minister said that it would be open-ended but that they would do the right thing at the time. The clause seems to say that the orders setting up the rollout will set up new subordinate legislation—sort of subordinate to the subordinate. I do not know whether that is normal procedure or how it works, but that is how I read it. I do not think that that is normal, but no doubt people will tell me if I am wrong. Given that the Minister was not quite sure what she was reading out, will the Ministers at least agree to look at it again?

May I offer a little clarity? My noble friend has agreed to consider the previous amendment, and he has just reminded me that he is very willing to think further about this group, too.

I am grateful, and on that basis I can do nothing else; I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 183ZG and 183ZH not moved.]

183ZJ: Clause 54, page 24, line 12, at end insert—

“( ) An order made under this section may confer powers on waste collection authorities to operate waste reduction schemes, but each waste collection authority shall have the power to decide whether or not to operate a scheme in relation to the whole or any part of the area of the authority.

( ) A waste collection authority that is operating a waste reduction scheme under an order made under this section may cease to operate the scheme at any time.

( ) A waste collection authority that is operating a waste reduction scheme may vary the scheme at any time in accordance with the provisions of an order made under this section.”

The noble Lord said: This is the last group to include an amendment in my name, and this one stands on its own as it is an important issue. I hope that the Government will be able to give us absolute and categorical assurances on this; if they do not, we have to come back to this major issue.

Amendment No. 183ZJ says two things. First, if a waste minimisation scheme—this applies to many potential schemes—is rolled out after considering the results of the pilots, it must not be compulsory for local authorities to take part. It must be voluntary for waste collection authorities to decide for themselves whether they shall,

“operate a scheme in relation to the whole or any part of the area of the authority”.

The Local Government Association agrees with me, at least on this; it would be quite wrong to have a national scheme, or even to have a menu or series of schemes, which was compulsory for all local authorities. In the spirit of what the Minister was saying previously, when he admonished me for my centralist proposals, it ought to be thus.

My problem is that I do not trust future Governments—I talk not of this Government, but all future Governments, under any party—not to take powers if they have them, or not to do things that were not originally intended if they are not stopped from doing so. That is why it ought to be set out in the Bill, in appropriate language—which I do not suggest mine is—that local authorities cannot be compelled to take part in these schemes.

Secondly, I suggest that local authorities should have the power to vary or to end a scheme once it has been set up. A scheme may have to be set up for a given period of time, so my wording that they,

“may cease to operate the scheme at any time”

may be a little too strong. However, local authorities taking part in a scheme really need the ability to close it down if they think it is not working satisfactorily for their area. A local authority may decide that for various reasons; it may be on practical terms, or because it costs too much to work, or because there is a local political debate and control of the council changes to a party or parties that do not agree with it. That is what local democracy is all about, and a local authority ought to have the ability to close down a scheme if it so decides.

I therefore propose that a scheme must be voluntary and that it can be closed down or amended at any time to better suit local conditions. I beg to move.

We have some sympathy with the intention underlying this amendment, but await with interest the Minister’s response to and clarification of it. There seems to be a parallel here with recent developments in the argument about biofuels. The UK Government and Europe seem to be set on stressing the use of renewable materials mainly in relation to transport—specifically, road transport. However, the Select Committee, in its recent report, feels that that emphasis is misplaced and that it should be directed toward the use of renewable energy sources to supply heat and power.

Our interpretation of Clause 54 is that, in essence, once a scheme or two has been piloted, the Secretary of State may pick up the principles on which the pilots were based and instruct that everyone adopts those principles. If we are right, that would leave the individual waste authorities the freedom to adopt one of the schemes that has been trialled, or to create one of their own. The Government will merely set the targets for recycling and for reductions in waste going to landfill, and will insist that the authorities must act. The danger we see is that the principles may be wrong. One size might not fit all, and therefore this amendment does not reduce our fears because it does not address the nub of the problem. We are anxious to hear the Minister’s comments, which we hope will cast light on this issue.

I might be missing something here. This is all about giving local authorities the opportunity to come forward and be designated as one of five pilots to look at a whole range of ways of running waste reduction schemes aimed at reducing landfill and thus benefiting the local authority. We are looking for very much a bottom-up approach initiated by those local authorities that want to get involved in these pilots.

The amendments would have no practical effect because the Bill already gives local authorities all the powers listed in Amendment No. 183ZJ, so the only difference between the amendment and the Bill is that the powers are placed in the clauses of the Bill rather than in the schedule, which means that they will not be amended at the point of rollout. Under the current drafting, the powers would stand. The point I am trying to make is that here we are talking about the powers to establish pilots, and I hope that, as we discussed earlier, noble Lords will accept that we think it is important that local authorities should be able to decide whether they consider it appropriate to set up a scheme in their area. Further, they have the flexibility to operate a waste reduction scheme in either the whole or part of their area.

I thank the noble Baroness for allowing to me speak. Clause 54 is not about the pilots; it concerns the rollout. The purpose of my amendments, along with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, which are related but referred to a different issue, concerns whether or not there will be a compulsion on local authorities to take part after the legislation for the rollout has been approved by Parliament.

I want to say for the record that no authority will be forced to use these powers. They are enabling powers, and no authority will be forced to roll out in whole or in part of an area. I hope that that answers the question of compulsion on rollout. Given that there is now an opportunity to see this statement on the record, I hope that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing his amendment.

I want to be sure that I am straight on this. The noble Baroness is saying that a local authority has the freedom either to adopt one or part of one of the schemes or to set up one of its own, provided that it meets the reductions required of it.

We have been very specific in earlier debates about the kind of criteria for the pilots. The whole point of the pilots is that we will learn from them and, as I said in response to the earlier group of amendments, there are a number of things that we might do as a result of the pilots. We may find that the pilots do not work and we want to repeal the powers set out here. Local authorities would then not be allowed to take forward these schemes. But they will not be forced to use these powers because, as I have just said, they are enabling powers. I hope that I have been of help.

It does help but I do not understand why it should not be on the face of the Bill. As I have said before, it is not clear from the Bill as it stands that the orders setting up the rollout, if that is the phrase we should be using, would not involve compulsion.

A great deal of the Bill is all about the pilots and asking local authorities whether they wish to take part. If they do, they should come forward with schemes drawn up for their areas and the Government will choose five of them. But once it gets to the point where the reports come back to Parliament on the success or otherwise of these pilots, and the orders and the subordinate legislation for setting up a permanent system are introduced, we are not clear exactly what the parameters and structure of that permanent system will be. That is why there is a concern that the Bill as it stands might allow a Government to make the scheme compulsory, and it would be helpful to understand why the Bill makes that not possible.

If an authority comes forward, will there be a menu or a series of different schemes? Is it anticipated that there will be one national scheme or will there be a whole series of things that can be done from which local authorities can choose? That is the point that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, was making—I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Taylor—and it is absolutely crucial.

Once a local authority has adopted a scheme, can it change it, amend it or opt out of it if it finds that the scheme is not working? None of these options is clear to me from reading the Bill as it stands. They might be very clear when we finally read the orders that may be brought forward in three years’ time, or whenever, after these pilots have taken place, but it will be too late then. It would be very helpful if the Minister could answer these questions so that we can understand how they relate to the Bill.

I apologise unreservedly if I am not being clear. I shall be happy to go through Hansard, look at the noble Lord’s questions systematically and make sure that we have a note of them before Report. I accept that they are very important.

I am conceptualising the situation from the point of view of a local authority which currently does not have the power to undertake any of these schemes. We are legislating to give local authorities these powers but we are not going to force them to take them up. We are looking for innovation, enthusiasm and drive in the pilots but we are realistic about the fact that they may not work. We do not want to prejudge matters and so we are trying to create a framework within the legislation which allows Parliament the right scrutiny and accountability through the affirmative resolution process. We want to ensure that where small changes need to be made to subordinate legislation we do not use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. We are trying to reach a position where local authorities can get on with doing something they want to do. The Local Government Association has been rarely prayed in aid today by the noble Lord but, as far as I am aware, local government is keen to see the powers within this legislation enacted.

I am happy to take up the noble Lord on his offer of systematically going through the questions. It is always useful to have these debates because matters can be cleared up in advance of Report. I am happy to progress in that way.

I hope the Minister will forgive me, but the concern we are expressing is not about the intention; rather, it is that the way the Bill is constructed might present an opportunity at some time in the future for a nationally agreed, centrally imposed scheme to be forced on local government. There is nothing expressly in the Bill to say that that is not the intention, or that it could not conceivably happen. None of the noble Lords present today, including the government Front Bench, would be particularly happy to see that happening or to think that we encouraged it to happen late at night at the end of a lengthy discussion. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and my noble friend Lord Cathcart have been trying to encourage the Government to look at the wording to see if they could put a safeguard in.

I have said that we will do that. I have been given a helpful note that reminds me that the enabling powers could be changed from enabling to compulsory only by primary legislation. We can put that on the record now. I hope that is a useful answer.

On that basis there is more reading in Hansard for us all, and more looking at the Bill. I am grateful for what the Minister has said. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, might think it is all sorted out, but I am not so sure, and I do not think the rest of us are. We want to think about it again to make it absolutely clear.

There are other issues about whether a local authority that operates a scheme can close it down and under what circumstances, and whether it can amend it. Then there is the wider issue that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, raised, about just how wide-ranging the powers are likely to be after these pilots. Will there be one scheme that is thought to be the winner, or will there be a series of different schemes? The Minister is shaking his head, so that is good news, but it is not clear.

One of the reasons I take part in all this is that I am a great believer in Ministers standing up and making statements from the Dispatch Box when we are making legislation, here and in the House of Commons, because they have some force of law when judges come to interpret that legislation. What is proposed is very different from what a Government might do in the future with subordinate legislation, which is a different matter altogether, and that is what is concerning us. However, we are half way to a meeting of minds, and on that basis I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 54 agreed to.

Clause 55 agreed to.

Schedule 6 [Renewable transport fuel obligations]:

183ZK: Schedule 6, page 62, line 6, at end insert—

“(3) It is the duty of the Administrator to ensure that only renewable transport fuel that—

(a) causes or contributes to the reduction of carbon emissions over its total lifecycle from planting or production to use, and(b) contributes to sustainable development and the protection or enhancement of the national or global environment generally,qualifies as a permitted fuel under this Act.”

The noble Lord said: I congratulate my noble friend Lord Greaves on his scrutiny of the previous section on these schemes and getting through that part of it by almost 10.30 pm.

As no doubt everyone has noticed, this amendment should really be a substitute for new Section 125A(2) rather than an additional clause. The renewable transport fuels obligation is important not just as part of the UK’s climate change strategy but at European level, and has been an area of great debate and focus, particularly over the past year, in terms of the contributions that biofuels make to tackling climate change—or indeed the negative effect they can have on it. Although the way in which the Government have written the Bill recognises the issue, we believe that it needs to be strengthened.

In the amendment we have tried to clarify what carbon reduction means. We want to be explicit that it is over the total life cycle from planting to production, and that it has to be seen from a global as well as a national perspective. We also want to introduce the idea that for fuels to qualify at all under the RTFO, they have to have these qualities.

The European Commission, in setting its own target last week of 10 per cent for biofuels by 2020, went far beyond the Bill and our amendment to define a qualifying fuel for the relevant directive as showing a 30 or 35 per cent reduction in carbon emissions on normal fuels. Do the Government now intend somehow to incorporate that same definition into this section of the Bill? How do they see the two being reconciled? I beg to move.

The amendment raises an interesting point: renewable fuel must be genuinely renewable. The market for renewable fuel has in places had disastrous effects on the environment where it is harvested. Palm oil plantations have caused huge amounts of deforestation. The New York Times ran a headline last year that pointed out that what was once a dream fuel might become an eco-nightmare.

Efforts to reduce emissions should not come at the expense of the environment. Indeed, the effect of deforestation on the atmosphere could be considered greater than that of the emissions. Thus, we support the idea behind the amendment.

However, ensuring that renewable fuel contributes to the reduction of emissions over its total lifecycle seems to be out of any agency’s or body’s jurisdiction. It is produced, transported, purchased and sold by potentially different combinations of various entities. It would not be in the RTF administrator’s power to ensure that the fuel met the standards of this amendment, however laudable they might be.

As the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said, this is an incredibly important amendment. While the Government cannot accept it, we agree with the sentiments behind it, although it would involve some practical difficulties.

The amendment would place a new duty on the administrator of the renewable transport fuel obligation to ensure that only biofuels that delivered carbon savings and contributed to sustainable development and the general protection of the environment should be eligible under the obligation for certificates.

We agree that it is important that the obligation does not lead to the supply of unsustainable biofuels and delivers carbon savings. The Energy Act 2004 already allows the issuing of certificates to be linked with carbon saving and sustainability. In addition, we propose in paragraph 2 of Schedule 6 to introduce a new duty on the administrator of the obligation scheme. The Renewable Fuels Agency, as administrator of the scheme, will have a duty to promote the supply of renewable fuel which delivers carbon savings and contributes to sustainable development or general environmental protection. Action that promotes good biofuels will have the effect also of discouraging biofuels that have a negative environmental impact.

The amendment would oblige the administrator to refuse certificates for some biofuels. The Renewable Fuels Agency would be required to judge whether biofuels were eligible for certificates by applying complex criteria and methodologies to determine their environmental and sustainability characteristics. Unfortunately, there are not yet sufficient international standards to create consensus on what criteria and methodology are appropriate. If the agency were to refuse certificates on the basis of its own criteria at this stage, it would be likely to lead to challenges by suppliers who did not agree with the criteria or the way in which they were applied, and to difficult questions of compatibility with European Union law and World Trade Organisation rules. 

Also, in some cases not all of the necessary data are likely to be currently available to suppliers and it will take time to develop the required information supply chains from feedstock producers. It would be wrong to penalise suppliers in the mean time.

We are taking steps to address the concerns about the carbon savings and sustainability of biofuels. The obligation will include a reporting requirement from day one of the obligation, under which any transport fuel supplier wishing to claim a certificate in respect of any biofuel must submit a report detailing its environmental impacts. The Renewable Fuels Agency has published the detail of these reporting requirements and the reports will include information such as the carbon intensity of the biofuel, origin of the feedstock, any environmental or social standards in operation during the cultivation of the feedstock, and changes in the land use—a very important point.

Last June we announced our aim to reward biofuels under the obligation in accordance with the carbon savings that they offer from April 2010. We also announced that it is our aim to reward biofuels only if the feedstocks from which they are produced meet appropriate sustainability standards from April 2011, by which time we expect to see the development of such international standards. Both aims are subject to important provisos concerning compatibility with World Trade Organisation rules and EU technical standards requirements, and consistency with the EU policy framework for biofuels.

As has been said, the European Commission has proposed a binding sustainability framework for biofuels as part of the Renewable Energy Directive published in draft a few days ago on 23 January. The UK Government will continue to negotiate at EU level to ensure that this framework is as robust as possible.

The sentiments behind the amendment are ones with which the Government agree, but for the reasons I have given it is not possible to accept it at this stage. The noble Lord asked about the European Commission’s proposal to define qualifying biofuels as those delivering at least 35 per cent carbon dioxide savings and whether we would incorporate those into the renewable transport fuel obligation. The answer is yes. We will need to amend the renewable transport fuel obligation to incorporate the sustainability criteria in the draft Renewable Energy Directive when it is agreed. We are pressing for those criteria to be as robust as possible; that is an important point. Basically, we are with the noble Lord on the amendment. We have to overcome the technical and international rule difficulties but we are pushing to get this agreement in place so that we can proceed in this direction.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Given the reporting that has to be made to the administrator by the fuel supplier, are there any circumstances—even if a very negative report is made by the supplier—in which the administrator can disqualify that fuel from being counted? Does he have that power or is that not the case and it is just a matter of embarrassment to the fuel supplier?

I am only going by the words that I read out. I said that if the agency were to refuse a certificate on the basis of its own criteria at this stage, it might lead to challenges by the suppliers. I also said that there is a duty on the agency to promote renewable fuels and that the detail of the reporting requirements has been issued. They include, for example, changes in the land use and the cultivation of the feedstock. It will be a bold supplier who supplies information that the changes in the land use were deleterious to the environment and then expects everyone to buy the fuel. That may be open to challenge but we must take a lead on this. However, I think that is as far as I can go tonight.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Since we tabled the amendment I believe the European Commission has announced that it wishes to introduce legislation before the end of next year. I wish to examine the matter further but in the mean time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 6 agreed to.

184: Before Clause 56, insert the following new Clause—

“Large corporations

(1) All public limited companies listed in the FTSE 350 during a financial year must in their statutory company report for that year include within their annual report a section reporting on their greenhouse gas emissions.

(2) The report must include the company’s—

(a) plan and strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,(b) greenhouse gas emissions for the financial year being reported,(c) equivalent figures for greenhouse gas emissions for the previous three years, and(d) estimate of emissions for the next three years of trading.”

The noble Lord said: This is a new area of the Bill that we want to introduce under the miscellaneous provisions. The Government would be pressing at an open door in terms of major corporations. We are not talking about small to medium-sized enterprises. The Bill could take the opportunity effectively to amend the Companies Act to ensure that the major listed plcs on the Stock Exchange were mandated as part of their annual reporting to report the situation on carbon emissions. I understand entirely that the amendment as we tabled it would probably be rather too detailed for the Bill. The amendment tabled by other noble Lords, including my noble friend Lady Northover, may be more appropriate, but we feel strongly that such reporting should be included.

I refer particularly to a report that has been sent to many of us from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the FTSE itself, which from a survey that it undertook in 2007, Climate Change: UK Corporate Reporting, found that 80 per cent of recipients—major corporations—already included reports or policy statements on climate change. Beyond that, 57 per cent of companies disclosed short- or medium-term targets relating to carbon emissions. Much of that is already going on. We feel strongly that there should be a unified way of doing that. At the moment those corporations report in various different ways. We feel that there is a strong argument to have a proper accounting and reporting basis for this and that that would be a major way of pushing forward without further actual laws or regulations, but bringing into corporate reporting and the corporate sector their performance in terms of their own carbon footprint and supply change. I beg to move.

I would like to speak to Amendment No. 184A, to which the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has given a positive nod. We are using the Companies Act and the European legislation for a business review, and to extend it to ensure consistent and effective reporting of carbon usage by all listed companies. We all know that much of the reduction in carbon is going to have to be achieved by commercial private enterprises. I have heard the noble Lord’s fellow Minister in Defra say that capitalism got us into this mess and it is going to have to be capitalism that gets us out of it. Although Governments play a part and regulation, taxation and support for trading schemes will undoubtedly guide business behaviour, unless carbon is rooted into the central fundamental considerations of business values and objectives, we are not going to achieve the kind of technological changes that will be required to meet the Bill’s tough targets.

To get that kind of behaviour change, internally managers and decision-makers in companies have to see the importance of the carbon objective; and externally shareholders, investors and the general public need to see, as part of the company’s reputation, the way in which they are achieving carbon reductions. As a result, the carbon accounting becomes an important part of the reputation and success of those companies. It is also of course useful to the decision-making bodies of government, the Committee on Climate Change and the other agencies involved to have a consistent, effective and mandatory system of reporting by all companies.

During the passage of the Companies Act, which, some noble Lords will remember, went on for a considerable time, there was some resistance by the Government and others to such provisions under the business review on the grounds that they would be resisted by business and seen as a burden. I think that things have moved on. At the previous CBI conference, 82 per cent of companies voted for a positive, mandatory system. As the noble Lord has already said, there has been a significant increase, particularly in the larger companies, in reporting. The amendment would make it mandatory and consistent and give a power to the Government to set the standards in consultation with industry on how carbon usage is reported. The Government may not like the terms of the amendment, but the principle of effective, consistent and mandatory carbon reporting ought to be part of the Bill, and a major part of the leverage that we have in achieving carbon reductions in the private sector.

Many of the amendments proposed by the Opposition in Committee so far have dealt with the transparency of government actions and decisions on climate change. We have felt that we have had the support of the Government in trying to achieve this, but, if the challenge is to be met, there needs to be a way of determining as accurately as possible how we contribute to it so that we know where improvement is possible. That can happen only if large companies take on this mantle and begin reporting on their carbon footprint, ideally in the way in which revenue and profit are reported now. We congratulate the businesses that have already begun to do just that voluntarily.

At present, there is no consensus on methodologies for measuring the carbon footprint of companies’ services, supply chains, products or general operations. Thus, although in principle we welcome the amendment, we cannot offer our support until more work is done towards establishing national and international consensus on how companies measure and report their emissions footprint. It is only through such practice that useful comparison will be enabled, providing customers with a genuine way of discerning between different choices in the market.

My honourable friend Peter Ainsworth, in another place, has called for the Royal Society to take forward the process of establishing a mechanism for achieving consensus. Until that is done and until another adequate way is agreed in calling for mandatory disclosure of carbon usage, we will not achieve the laudable intentions behind the amendment.

I shall be quick, as I have only a couple of minutes before this place closes down.

The primary objective of company reporting is to provide information for shareholders and investors. The Government want to encourage full and transparent corporate reporting. For that reason the House agreed the provisions of the Companies Act 2006 on the business review. They require directors of listed companies to include in their reports information on environmental matters, including the impact of the company’s business on the environment. The business reviews of these companies must also include key performance indicators on environmental matters where necessary to understand the business.

As the Committee knows, the new provisions came into force only on 1 October last year for financial years beginning on or after that date, and company reports under this new regime will not be published until late 2008 or early 2009. Obviously, we expect many companies to include information about climate change and other environmental issues in their reports. Although I support the intention of the amendment, I would be concerned that introducing provisions to require disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions would pre-empt the outcome of the narrative and reporting provisions of the Companies Act 2006.

Information is already available to companies to support them in reporting on environmental issues, including their greenhouse gas emissions. That relates to statutory guidance in Amendment No. 184A.

The arguments for and against the introduction of statutory standards were considered by BERR—the DTI, as far as I am concerned—as part of its consultations on the Companies Act. We think that we now have the right balance, as the debates in this House and the other place during the passage of the Companies Bill demonstrated. To help companies in the process, best practice guidance is prepared by the Accounting Standards Board—a body of the Financial Reporting Council—in the form of a reporting statement to support companies with their reporting on environmental impacts. My department has also produced a set of key non-financial performance indicators to assist companies in reporting on environmental matters. Defra is also supporting work by stakeholders to develop an international standard for reporting on climate change issues. We think that publishing UK statutory guidance would pre-empt the outcome of this project; it is a question of timing. We cannot support the mandatory blanket requirements on companies to report on the CO2 emissions or issue statutory guidance, given the timing, the nature of the amendments and the work that is already going on. This is going to happen but not in the way and at the speed suggested by the amendments. I am sorry that I have had to be so brief.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I understand the question of timescale, but perhaps we could find a reasonable timescale within which standards need to be agreed. This has to happen; business itself thinks that it needs to happen. I am slightly disappointed by the response of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, but there may be ways round the issues that he raised. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 184A not moved.]

Clauses 56 to 60 agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 11.01 pm.