The assurance was given by Baroness Farrington during the Report Stage of the Waste Minimisation Bill. It was approved unamended with all-party support.
Earl Attlee said the Bill as drafted would grant powers to local authorities to take any measure to promote waste minimisation, but without any obligation to consult those affected by such decisions, in particular. He said it would be difficult to draft a simple amendment, but hoped that guidelines issued by ministers would make it clear authorities would be expected to consult as appropriate.
Baroness Farrington said the legislation would allow local authorities, where they choose, to investigate and promote methods of minimising the amounts of waste generated locally.
'This Bill starts to address that problem - not least by removing the uncertainty about whether authorities can undertake waste minimisation activities. It will allow local authorities, for example, to inform householders about some straightforward actions that they can take to prevent waste, such as stopping junk mail', she explained.
Baroness Farrington said the government would encourage and expect a council to consult interested parties, but it should be appropriate to the type of action proposed. It would not be sensible to consult every business in the area about a leaflet to be sent only to householders. The Environmental Protection Act 1990, which the Bill will amend, places no statutory requirement on local authorities to consult businesses or other organisations before reaching decisions on waste management. Any such requirement in the Bill would therefore place a stricter and additional onus on authorities, that would be illogical and inconsistent.
Baroness Miller said she believed the Bill would work very well in unitary authorities. But in two-tier areas where the collection authority was the district council and the waste disposal authority the county council there could be difficulties where partnerships and co-operation had not developed.
She added: 'I support the proposal that businesses and others should be consulted, but I fear that where partnerships are not working well, consultation first by the collection authority and then by the disposal authority could make the effect of such consultation and the kind of work the Bill envisages rather weaker'.
Baroness Miller suggested the new regional development agencies should examine how to improve matters where authorities were not working in partnership and added: 'Perhaps I may ask that, as long-term measure, the governmentshould look again at the financial consequences of having one authority responsible for collection and one for disposal. That does not make for a coherent picture and makes worthy measures such as those provide for in the Bill much harder to put into effective practice'.