§ 3. Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle)
What progress the Government's packaging recovery note scheme has made in encouraging the growth of new recycling initiatives. 
§ The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Michael Meacher)
The UK's packaging recovery system, including the packaging waste recovery note and the packaging waste export recovery note, has succeeded in increasing the UK's packaging waste recovery level from some 30 per cent. in 1997 to 48 per cent. in 2001.
§ Gregory Barker
I welcome that increase, but the Minister would admit that we still lag way behind our European partners in recycling rates. Does he agree that that disappointing performance is not the fault of Wastepack, and can he give examples of further initiatives that have been taken since the new Secretary of State was appointed last year?
§ Mr. Meacher
I am very surprised that the hon. Gentleman refers to relatively poor performance, given that I have said three times in the past 10 minutes that there has been an improvement of some 60 or 70 per cent. since 1997. Performance was extremely poor before 1997, and the hon. Gentleman's Government were responsible for that through their arrangements with industry. We have made a dramatic improvement, although it is not enough and I entirely accept that we must go considerably further. I agree that our performance is not outstanding compared with that of other EU member states, but it represents a major improvement and we are on a steady and rapid upward curve.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to Wastepack. We did not achieve our recovery obligation in 2001£02 because Wastepack, one of the 19 registered compliance companies, failed to meet its obligation by a large margin of 235,000 tonnes. It is based in Scotland, and is therefore a matter for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. I understand that the Scottish Minister for Environment and Rural Development is considering whether to withdraw approval from the scheme. However, the UK achieved its recycling objective and its material-specific targets. Despite the Wastepack episode, UK industry did well last year.
§ Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central)
What progress has been made in extending the packaging waste regulations to wood recycling? The introduction of packaging recovery notes—PRNs—would encourage recycling schemes for timber, thus reducing the amount of new timber that we must use in this country. As far as I know, the regulations do not extend to wood products.
§ Mr. Meacher
My hon. Friend makes a good point. The scheme has been primarily aimed at paper and board 942 and has not concentrated on wood as a form of packaging. Discussions have taken place about that in Europe, and I agree with my hon. Friend that we need clearer targets and a clearer commitment to reduced wood packaging.