Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, this instrument seeks to correct an error in the 2012 regulations. The error concerns the formula used for calculating the glass remelt recycling target for producers of glass packaging. The consequence is that the proportion of producers’ glass obligations that have to be met by evidence from remelt applications is inadvertently higher than the intended 63% for 2013-15. This instrument corrects that mistake by substituting an amended formula which ensures that the 63% glass remelt target is correctly applied to a producer’s glass recycling obligation for 2013-15 and 64% for 2016-17. My officials have worked with the Environment Agency to correct the error and to check that no further changes are needed to the 2012 regulations.
Prior to the 2012 regulations coming into force, Defra carried out a written consultation, with officials engaging with a broad range of representatives from industry, regulators and other interested parties. The consultation included the correct target of 63% but the draft regulations accompanying the consultation contained the error, which went unnoticed at the time. To correct it, we recently completed a public consultation on this revised draft instrument. We invited views on the plans to correct the error and there were no responses.
In practical terms the error has had no impact on business, with UK environment agencies using a correct version of the formula and enforcing against the intended 63% target. This instrument does not impose any new burden on any business. However, I apologise unreservedly for the error and hope that I have adequately explained that this instrument is intended to do no more than correct a mistake. I commend the draft regulations to the Committee.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for introducing these regulations, and in particular for his apology. He will not be surprised, and may be relieved, to know that I do not oppose them since obviously it is appropriate to correct the error. Indeed, when I first looked at the regulations I naively did what people do, and that is simply to look at them. Of course, there is no mention of the error. I looked at the impact assessment, where again there is no mention of the error. My first question to the Minister, therefore, is what has been the impact of the error? What has been the cost to the taxpayer of getting this wrong and having to reconsult, even though there were no responses to the consultation?
The Explanatory Memorandum is perfectly clear: the instrument corrects an error in the formula for calculating the glass remelt recycling target for producers of glass packaging. He is not yet on his feet in the other place, but we anticipate from the media that the Secretary of State for Education will shortly be announcing changes to the national curriculum, among which will be that primary school children will have to learn their fractions. It is worth asking when Ministers will learn theirs too, so that we do not make these errors in the future.
The regulations are fine and they do a perfectly good job. I note in passing that these are regulations which the Government support—and that occasionally the Government support regulation. These are also regulations from Europe—and occasionally the Government support regulations from Europe. These are also regulations that gold-plate EU regulations, so there are times when the Government support the gold-plating of EU regulations. As I say, that should just be noted in passing. Having dealt with these regulations around a year ago, we are here because an error was made, so my only question of any substance for the Minister is: how much is it costing us?
My Lords, as always, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his comments. Before I address them, perhaps I could say that the target we are talking about offers both economic and environmental benefits for the United Kingdom. As valuable resources for our industries become scarcer and more expensive, we need processes in place to recycle and recover them in order to retain as much of their value as we can in the economy. Indeed, the Government want the United Kingdom to move towards a zero waste economy; that is, an economy where resources are fully valued. We want to see material resources reused, recycled or recovered wherever possible, and only disposed of as a last resort. The targets in these regulations play an important part in achieving this ambition. They will help the UK to go further in recovering the value of discarded packaging materials and help to tackle the wasteful practice of burying these resources in landfill. Overall, we estimate that the whole package of targets will provide a net benefit of over £180 million to the UK economy over the period from 2013 to 2017. Over 95% of those benefits will come from revenue generated from recycled materials. We will also see greenhouse gas savings associated with diverting waste from landfill and energy savings from replacing virgin materials with recycled ones.
The Government recognise that the economic benefits will not be shared by all. These regulations will place an increased cost burden on the producers of packaging materials. However, the recycling targets will help to support wider growth and the creation of jobs in the recycling sector. I am pleased to say that when we consulted on the regulations, most businesses, including the majority of those on which the increased costs will fall, supported our approach. As I said, I am sorry for the error made in the 2012 regulations and I thank the noble Lord for taking the time to debate this instrument today. It will permit producers to continue to meet their obligations under the correct glass remelt recycling target.
We have not calculated the cost of correcting the error. I do not anticipate that it will be material. It will consist basically of official time to check the regulations and prepare amended regulations. As I said in my opening speech, the effective cost of the correction is nil, because everybody has been operating on 63% anyway. The only other thing I would say to the noble Lord is that I always enjoy being ragged by him about my mathematics. With those comments, I commend the regulations.