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Joan Ruddock: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to learn that I agree entirely with what he says. What he describes is clearly the best environmental option and should be encouraged, but there is nothing in the Bill that would stop a council adopting the approach that he describes. We would all favour doing much more of what he proposes.
Sir Paul Beresford: I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention, and I would have been surprised if she had not said that. However, the Bill might be used by some local authorities and councillors to turn the system. It would be useful if we could get a sensible answer from the Minister, explaining his approach. The disposal of garden waste and composting are important, but they can be achieved in other ways. However, the drive of the Bill must be to recycle glass, paper, rubber, metals and, especially, plastics. That is the point of my amendment.
Mr. McLoughlin: I am glad that my hon. Friend has mentioned plastics. The arrangements made by local authorities for the collection of plastics vary greatly. One of the excuses that many local authorities use is that the markets do not exist for the recycling of plastic materials. My understanding is that that is a misinterpretation of the case and that local authorities are not aware of the markets that are available. Plastics are bulky, especially the bottles containing soft drinks and the like, even when disposed of in normal domestic waste. At home, I try to put out our plastic bottles separately and it is surprising how much room is left in the bin for other items. It makes a tremendous difference. If my hon. Friend cannot address that issue, perhaps the Minister can do so when he responds to the debate.
Sir Paul Beresford: The other point that my hon. Friend did not touch on is the expense to the local authority of dealing with plastics, quite apart from the difficulty of disposing of them. Many of the plastic bottles have a different type of plastic in the top, so I hope that my hon. Friend takes the tops off the bottles he puts out, to make separation easier. That is an example of the real difficulties that recycling can present. Mole Valley has gone into the issue in detail and has set up special arrangements to tackle itthe composting of garden waste asideand I applaud it for that. It takes courage to do that, although the council also provides the collection that the Liberal Democrat council is promoting.
The opportunity to promote composting at home must be the right approach. I accept that if I lived in Deptford, and had a large window box and a small garden, composting might be difficult, but individuals in that situation can try an internet site called Wiggly Wigglers, which breeds worms for composting and supplies the necessary equipment to compost almost everything that is organic in the back garden, even if it is tiny. In theory, therefore, all peelings and other kitchen waste can be shoved into a Wiggly Wigglers bin. Perhaps I should not promote Wiggly Wigglers, because I do not know the company personally, but many other groups and local authorities provide the same service.
If we took the approach suggested by the Liberal Democratsfor their own propaganda reasonswe should recognise that it would affect the council tax. The council tax in my area has just gone up exorbitantly, for a variety of reasons that I shall not go into because I would be ruled out of order. If Mole Valley district council were to include garden waste in its recycling service without charge, to follow the trend promoted by the local Liberal Democrat councils, the council tax would be unbelievably high. One of the biggest factors in the increase in the local council tax in Mole Valley was that it had to resubmit the contract for waste collection, and costs went up dramatically.
As I have said, I would love to have my oak leaves collected, but we will discuss shortly the High Hedges (No. 2) Bill, and that would mean an enormous increase in the amount of hedge trimmings. Grass cuttings would be another problem. In my street, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, everybody cuts the grass and the cuttings would probably fill one collection truck. I hate to think how much that would cost. In fact, what happens in reality is that people compost grass cuttings, because they have been to the local authority's teach-ins and have set up a composting area in their back garden. Some people may even have some live worms from Wiggly Wigglers to put in the compost to speed up the whole process. That must be the positive way forward.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): My hon. Friend makes a good point. Surely it is absurd that we should even be considering creating much more waste by ludicrously cutting down loads of hedges that are good for the environment, and then place duties on local government to get rid of the material.
It will not help if the Government continue as they are, as I understand it, and take energy from waste and insinuate that that is part of recycling. Given my personal situation, matters are made worse in that the Government have agreed to allow an incinerator in the countryside, or have given a nod to the local authority. However, that is another issue.
Mr. Wilshire : I hope that my hon. Friend will refer to amendment No. 7, which stands in his name. I am anxious to hear an argument in favour of removing the provision that makes the authority consider whether the cost is "unreasonably high".
Sir Paul Beresford: I am almost going to thank my hon. Friend. However, in the past, in various Committees, for example, the boot has been on the other foot. My hon. Friend has introduced amendments and new clauses that have not always won support from me. If he supported amendment No. 7, that would lead to some difficulty. I will not be pushing the amendment.
Sir Paul Beresford: It may be that I shall end up disagreeing with myself on that amendment. I will not be pushing it. Unfortunately, in putting the amendments together, and in my discussions with my researcher, my understanding of the English language was not sufficient. As a result, amendment No. 7 was included. I suspect that the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford was smiling all over her face the moment she saw the amendment. It would be just about the last one that I would move in this place.
Mr. Wilshire: My hon. Friend should not be so concerned about what he has done. If he had not tabled the amendment, it would not have been possible for us to refer to the marvellous and sterling work on value for money that he did in local government. I am sure that that is why he tabled the amendment. I am delighted to commend him.
One would hope that the intellect of those drawing up those contracts would have provided for sufficient flexibility to allow a reaction to Bills such as this. I suspect that there is a possibility that that is not so, having examined Surrey county council's movements and actions with the county council contractor who will be disposing of waste. If we followed the lead of Surrey county council, we could be looking desperately to fill an incinerator. Demand could be put upon us as local council tax payers to fill these blessed incinerators when what we should be doing, and are doing, as can be seen today, is moving towards recycling. Possibly the judicial review that hit the incinerator plans in Mole Valley and therefore in Surrey, has brought the county council up short. It will be able to reflect on what we are saying today, and on what many of us have being saying for a considerable time, which is that recycling is appropriate and can provide much of the disposal that we seek along with a positive approach, bearing in mind that some of the materials that we want to recycle are finite. Both technically and in reality, we are going to run out of many materials that enable us to make plastic from oil.
Bearing that in mind, as well as the fact that these are probing amendments, I hope that the Minister will respond positively to some of the points that I am trying to get across. The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford may think that I am being tongue-in-cheek, but my amendments, as she will know from experience, are not. They are probing and thoughtful, tabled in the hope that we can get a more sensible, thoughtful and forward-looking reaction from the Minister that deals with rural areas, rather than just urban ones.