March 20th, 2010 by Richard Lord
Thank you Sir. At face value this does look like a benign Requete and I shall be speaking on the Requete and the Amendment together Sir. It appears as though it merely revokes the delegation of responsibility to PSD to sign off on the final contact with Suez, and I do accept that if the Requete is approved and PSD comes back and the States then approves the subsequent report and reaffirms their commitment to engage with Suez the risk of the Requete would appear to be relatively low, but it is clear that that is not the intention of the signatories of the Requete, and it is at that point if PSD is required to come back to the States, and then the States throws out the Suez proposal that we know that the risk to the States become very much greater and less definable, because it is at that point that we will have added an extra step to the procurement process, and it is the reopening of the procurement process that creates this legal, and contractual risk to the States that at this stage we do not know what sort of limited that is.
Sir, Deputy Lowe quoted from the Requete yesterday but I think it bears repetition, “Your petitioners believe that it is desirable to enable consideration to be given during the period before the finalisation of the contract with Suez of other options for Guernsey’s waste disposal. They, the petitioners understand that the onus remains firmly on those who wish to propose any alternative solution to secure sufficient public and political support for their project to justify consideration of it by the States. It is clear that the intention of this Requete is to reopen the procurement process while leaving Suez hanging to one side as the preferred bidder. It is a device potentially to introduce an alternative contractor, alternative works out with a competitive rigorous, tender process as applied by the States over the last two years. And, Sir, I think it would be bordering on the reckless for the States to support the Requete and I will be rejecting it.
However, the contractual and legal issues surrounding the Lowe Amendment are different and I was grateful for the advice of Her Majesty’s Controller offered yesterday, confirming what Deputy Lowe had said towards the end of her opening speech. We know there is a cancellation fee if the Suez project is thrown out by the States, if Deputy Lowe’s Amendment is approved today, but the risk is much more definable. T and R’s letter of comment indicates the ceiling of the cancellation fee that would apply and I assume the cancellation fee must have been inserted for exactly this kind of circumstance and that was confirmed. The controller’s words were “the risk to the States is lower with the Lowe Amendment than with the Requete” and plainly it is a cleaner and more honest approach if you don’t believe the Suez project, if you don’t believe mas burn incineration is right for Guernsey, the honest and clean thing is to vote for Deputy Lowe’s Amendment. And I think probably, although clearly PSD want their proposals to remain unchanged and unamended, but it seems to me that the worst thing for PSD to emerge from today is with uncertainty. It would be far better for PSD to know where they are, and to start from a clean sheet of paper than to have all the uncertainty and the risk hanging over them that the Requete brings with it. The requete also fails more fundamentally in my view because it does not address the reason for the mass burn incineration proposal in the first place, and that is the flawed, underlying waste strategy of the States.
Now the way I read it, the risk of the Requete is not balanced in any way by speaking to the need to change the underlying waste policies of the States. Deputy Lowe’s amendment rescinds the resolutions that have led us to mass burn incineration being the end solution, and does speak to the need for a new direction in the waste strategy of the States. Now whatever the fate of the Requete today Deputy Kuttlewascher has started the process of reviewing the decision of last summer and for that, although I can’t support his Amendment, I thank him, and I think he deserves credit for that, but Members – the debate today – The Lowe Amendment is where this debate is at. Like other Members I have done the maths and the Requete is dead. It cannot win. There are too many Members who will support the Lowe Amendment but will not support the Requete. So Deputy Lowe’s amendment is the only game in town. Either we are going to emerge from here going ahead with Suez, basically have reaffirmed our commitment to engage with Suez or having chucked it out via the Amendment.
And in any event there is no point voting for the Requete if the Amendment is lost because if the Amendment loses that demonstrates that the States does not have the stomach to reform the underlying waste strategy that has lead us to mass burn incineration. Sir, I remain satisfied, as I was last summer that against the existing tender criteria of 2008 and 2009, and against the underlying waste policies of the States the Suez proposal remains the most appropriate for Guernsey.
I think some of the opposition to the incinerator is based on misinformation. However, I still oppose the underlying waste policies of the States. I still think that mass burn incineration is a suboptimal form of residual waste treatment for Guernsey, and I still think that the mentality that has led us here, that we will collect all of your rubbish, we will bring it to one facility, and we will burn it for you is the wrong approach to waste management. I still support what I regard as the only credible alternative, which is a complete reform, and policies of waste minimisation, segregation, higher rates of recycling to drive down the residual waste stream in the first place, and that has to be based, as Deputy Le Pelley indicated yesterday in what I thought was an excellent speech, and given that he is a member of PSD, a very courageous speech, it has to be based on a fragmented, diverse, multi-facility approach to managing waste probably involving some or all of kerbside collection, Mechanical Biological Treatment, Material Recovery Facilities, composting on a much larger scale. These alternatives to reduce the residual waste stream are not pie-in-the-sky. They have been laid out in minority reports, amendments, Requetes, independent reports that have been commissioned by the States in some cases over many, many years.
As it is, Sir, we have a depressing self-perpetuating waste strategy. We do not place enough emphasis on waste minimisation, segregation and recycling. That means we need a large, single facility to deal with our residual waste. That favours mass burn incineration and once that incinerator is up and running it will further depress any efforts towards segregation, minimisation, and recycling, and thus in time an illusion will be created, and it will be an illusion, that the supporters of mass burn incineration were right all along because they have got us onto a circle, and today we need to jump off it.
Sir, I hope the supporters of Deputy Ogier’s Requete in 2004 will support the Lowe Amendment today. The states were told in 2004 that it was highly unlikely that the Lurgi plant was over-sized. That was proved to be a nonsense. The States was told in 2004 it was highly unlikely that Guernsey’s recycling rate would ever go beyond 28%. That was when we were still below 20%. That has been proved a nonsense, and the States was told in 2004 it was highly unlikely that the waste strategy could be improved. That has been proved to be a nonsense. Deputy Allister Langlois who I think, apart from the Ministers who spoke after Deputy Lowe had opened debate on her Amendment, I think Deputy Allister Langlois is the only member so far to have spoken against the Amendment, he said that the successful passage of the Ogier Requete had basically left the States in a better position today than it may have been at the time of that debate. But all of the arguments he used yesterday against the Lowe Amendment were exactly the same arguments that we used by those members who spoke against the Ogier Requete of 2004. The issues haven’t changed. The arguments are exactly the same. The case for the Lowe Amendment is strong today, probably stronger, as was the case for the Ogier Requete in 2004. The Ogier Requete, and those who supported it, have been vindicated in the intervening years, but the job is only half done, possibly only a third done, and that is the way it will remain if Deputy Lowe’s Amendment is rejected.
Now, no member can stand here and say the States has covered itself in glory in the way it has managed its waste policies – not just this States but going back several States, and I am genuinely concerned about that. I think that my support for, and commitment to our model of government is well-known, but I do have a concern today about the way that any decisions the States makes will reflect on our government.
And it has been a messy process but nonetheless, many of those things could have been said in 2004, and I am absolutely convinced that if the Lowe Amendment is approved today, in five or ten years time, future States will look back, as we look back today it was right to pass the Ogier Requete in 2004. They will look back and say it was right to pass the Lowe Amendment in 2010.
It has been said that Deputy Ogier was ahead of his time, and I think that is probably true, but the message that I have had listening to colleagues over the last few weeks, and listening to voices in our community is that time has caught up, and I think what Deputy Le Pelley said yesterday is absolutely right. This is the time to seize the day. This is the final chance. Now there is no question that in bringing the Suez proposal to the States, PSD has acted in accordance with States resolutions. It has complied with the policy direction of the States. And at this point Sir I just want to say a brief word. I have in the main supported the campaign that has been led from outside of the States that has been against mass burn incineration, but there has been a slightly personalised element to it, directed at Deputy Flouquet, and I wish to disassociate myself from that. Deputy Flouquet, he proposed an Amendment, I think this was said yesterday to knock mass burn incineration completely out of the matrix of options during one point during the last States, and he has had to put up with a great deal of, at times, personal abuse for carrying out the will of the States.
So I have no problem with the position of PSD in defending the Suez proposal. However, in policy terms I am disappointed that PSD has pursued some resolutions with more vigor than it has pursued others. We have a recycling target by States resolution of 50% in this year. Now I see from the Public Services Department opposition to the proposals Deputy Parkinson brought for his Requete to introduce kerbside recycling. By the figures produced by PSDs own consultants that could get us to a recycling rate of very nearly 50%. If you chuck kerbside collection of wet recyclables in, you go above 60%. N0w I see PSD opposing that twice, three times I think in the last year actually. Well, that is their policy position but I don’t see any alternatives from PSD. I don’t see a real determination and drive from PSD to get to that 50% figure. They have been under States Resolution for sometime on the question of Materials Recovery Facilities, in-vessel composting. I don’t see much progress on those fronts, and this is not necessarily or even the fault of the Public Services Department, certainly not alone, but it is ludicrous that we still have a charging policy for the disposal of black bag waste that is based on property. Surely in 2010 if we are serious about minimising waste, and diverting it from landfill, we ought to have a charging policy based on User Pays. But there has been no progress on these fronts at all and it is no good to pretend, as the supporters of PSD no doubt will in this debate that efforts to minimise and segregate and recycle waste will be driven forward if we end up with mass burn incineration.
Minimisation and segregation and recycling needs a massive effort, huge investment, and the imperative will be lost completely if we have a mass burn incinerator, which to a degree will rely on recycling, potential recycling in the waste stream for fuel.
Sir, we will be conducting a U-turn if we vote for the Lowe Amendment today. I don’t know what happens if you conduct two ‘U’ turns as the States will have done – the last States and this States. That’s an ‘O’ turn I suppose.
But we won’t be the first government to do that. We won’t be the first authority to do that.
In the UK in 2009 alone, several mass burn incinerators have been rejected after they were originally approved. I think Cornwall was mentioned yesterday. North Yorkshire has recently rejected a 60,000 tonne incinerator at the planning stage. Derbyshire has overturned a mass burn incinerator, and only last month Aberdeenshire Council, having previously approved incineration threw out a £50 million proposal. The reason is very simple. Communities are turning away from mass burn incineration. This campaign there has been from the public is not a surprise because wherever mas burn incineration is proposed it attracts vehement opposition.
Guernsey is not unique in going through the mill of mass burn incineration. Sir, the truth is the outcome today hinges on the votes of probably no more than half a dozen States members. They know who they are. They know in their heart, and in their head that mass burn incineration is not the right solution for Guernsey. And their position today is the same as mine was two or three weeks ago – torn between sticking to previous States’ resolutions and taking up the challenge of rebuilding the waste strategy from the ground up because that is where their heart is. Now the question is whether they are too tired, too dispirited having fought all these battles before, to rise to this challenge one more time, and it will only take one more time because we are nearly there.
So I plead with those members not to allow themselves to be backed into the corner of voting in a way that endorses the idea that taking tens of thousands tonnes of rubbish, a valuable resource, and turning it into thousands of tonnes of toxic ash is the best solution we can offer our community. Because we can do better than that.
Sir, I hope they have the appetite, despite having been thwarted in the past, to develop a waste strategy that they truly believe in. It is a huge challenge but it can be done, and it can be done in his house, and it can be done by this house, and it will be if Deputy Lowe’s amendment wins. It is not good enough today to say ‘I voted for mass burn incineration reluctantly out of pragmatism but my heart wasn’t really in it’ because I have heard some members saying that in the run up to this debate. In the final analysis it doesn’t matter where your heart is. In politics what matters is the way you vote, and a vote against the Amendment, is not just a vote to proceed with the PSD – Suez proposal. A vote against the Amendment is a vote to lock this island into a flawed, second-rate waste strategy for the next 30 years. Sir, the Suez plant will work. It will do what it says on the tin. I have no question that we will afford the repayments, but I just cannot rid myself of the notion that if it is built it will stand for a quarter of a century or more as a momument to this Assembly’s lack of vision in not embracing a modern, progressive, and truly sustainable waste strategy. The final chance we have is here today. I urged Members to support the Lowe Amendment.