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House of Commons

Friday 24 February 1989

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Motorway (Finsbury Park)

9.34 am

Sir Hugh Rossi (Hornsey and Wood Green) : I beg to ask leave to present a petition to this House on behalf of my constituent Mr. Brian Simpson, which recites that he has suffered considerable and continuing hardship. In 1988 consultants employed by the Department of Transport published a London assessment study which, inter alia, involves the creation of a motorway running through my constituency between Highgate Wood and Finsbury Park. The publication of those proposals has caused widespread blight. In particular, the petitioner states that he owns two houses in the vicinity of the intended motorway, both of which now cannot be sold except at exceptional and substantial capital loss. Moreover, a bridging loan on one of the properties that he is unable to sell has already cost him some £14, 000 and is continuing to increase at a high rate.

The Minister has refused to implement circular 15/69, which it is believed empowers him either to declare that he does not wish to proceed with the proposals or to pay compensation to those who have suffered hardship. The petition reads :

Wherefore your Petitioner prays that your honourable House request the Secretary of State for Transport to act urgently to end the aforementioned blight, and request him to submit immediate proposals to bring financial relief and compensation to your Petitioner and to all other people who are suffering financial loss or other hardship arising from the blighting effects of options in the London Assessment Studies.

And your Petitioner, as in duty bound, will every pray, Etc. That is signed by Brian Simpson of 36 Milton park, Highgate, London N6.

To lie upon the Table.

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Orders of the Day

Control of Pollution (Amendment) Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

[Relevant document : First Report of the Environment Committee of Session 1988-89 on Registration of Carriers of Controlled Waste (HC 222).]

9.37 am

Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) : I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

First, I would like to thank all of those who have helped me with the Bill, especially the officers of the London Waste Regulation Authority, who have played a major part in turning an idea into a substantial Bill. I would like to thank them and the chair of the authority for their help and support. I have had, too, the co-operation of the Department in this matter and the benefit of a consultation exercise that it carried out prior to the drafting of my Bill.

I thank, too, my sponsors, several of whom are long-standing campaigners against this environmental blight, and especially, the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi), who chairs the Select Committee on the Environment, which this week published a report commending my Bill. I am pleased that there is such strong agreement in the House on the need to tackle the growing menace of dumping waste, or fly tipping, as it is more commonly called. I would like to thank, too, the Institution of Environmental Health Officers, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Road Haulage Association Ltd. for their support.

For those hon. Members who may not be familiar with the term fly tipping, I shall provide a brief explanation. Fly tipping is the dumping of waste or rubbish on land without the landowner's consent. It is also usually taken to mean the dumping of waste on ground even where there is consent, but the site is unlicensed.

Different kinds of waste are fly tipped. At the lower end of the spectrum there is the domestic waste fly tipper. That is the person who takes black- bag waste, as it is known in the trade, not to a council site, but to be dumped on the nearest available space on the street corner. That dumping is not the subject of this Bill. It is irregular, the amounts are small and registration procedures would be inappropriate as a means of dealing with it. That does not mean that all hon. Members would not be pleased if we could end that littering of our environment. The Royal Commission on the environment recently reported on the management of waste and recommended that the problems of domestic fly tipping could be dealt with by more effective public information campaigns, by publicising the civic tips and through the provision of more community skips. We would all welcome those provisions.

The problems of fly tipping are far more serious than the occasional dumping of a three-piece suite or fridge. There are two types of fly-tipped waste ; commercial or industrial waste which is collected by a waste disposal contractor who has been employed specifically to get rid of it, and demolition spoil, which is collected in tipper trucks. Most of us would know that as building rubble.

A contractor is paid by the producer of the waste, perhaps a building firm, to take waste from a site. Very

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often, the prime contractor sub-contracts and there may be a long chain of sub-contractors. It is extremely difficult at the point of production of the waste to know exactly where and how it will be disposed of. The two types of waste that I have described are creating major environmental and health hazards, particularly in our capital city, and on an increasing scale. This problem is costing the local authorities millions of pounds a year to clean up the mess. In London, the boom in building works, in particular around docklands, has lead to fly tipping on an unprecedented scale. Up to 90 per cent. of the fly-tipped waste in London comes from construction sites. It may be dumped on roads, open spaces, car parks, industrial estates and even into people's back gardens or outside businesses.

Very often it is extremely difficult to discover who has dumped the waste. It is possible for anyone to obtain a vehicle and become a waste disposal contractor. Someone can engage in the business of removing waste from industrial or commercial sites without any insurance that the waste will be disposed of at a properly licensed disposal facility. It is therefore extremely difficult to monitor and control what is happening.

The problem is further exacerbated in the south-east by a shortage of landfill sites. In London in 1985, only 25 per cent. of hazardous waste could be disposed of within London's boundaries and 75 per cent. had to be taken outside. In some cases, that meant a journey as long as 60 miles to a landfill site in Oxford. The situation is worsening. The number of landfill sites is dwindling. The sites are becoming filled and we will need more sites to dispose of waste in that way. For many firms there is a great temptation to save costs and make more money by making more round trips and dumping rubble on street corners instead of taking it to the appropriate place. The cost of disposing of waste in the proper manner is now about £200 a tonne. It is clear that the financial incentive to break the law is very strong. Hon. Members who represent south London constituencies and those from southern England as a whole will know that loads of docklands rubble is finding its way across the Thames on to our streets and open spaces.

In the preparation of this Bill, I had to ask whether this was simply a London problem. I needed to know just how widespread was the problem. Hon. Members may be surprised to learn of the scale of the problem and the costs involved. The London Waste Regulation Authority estimates that there are more than 1 million tonnes of fly-tipped waste on the streets of London at any one time. It would cost local authorities about £5 million to dispose of that waste. That is clearly an enormous burden on ratepayers.

In Lewisham last year, the council removed 10,230 tonnes of builders' rubble. The cost to the ratepayer was £68,540. For a rate-capped authority in London that is an expense which we can ill afford. some parts of my constituency--namely New Cross and Deptford--have been plagued by illicit dumping for years. That dumping often occurs at night and is often accompanied by threats and personal intimidation of local residents. The council is most concerned about dumping on the roads because it

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has a duty to keep the roads clear. In addition, it estimates that a large, but unquantifiable, amount is dumped on areas adjacent to the highway.

Other parts of London are suffering equally. The LWRA now has a hot line which allows people to telephone to inform the authority that an illegal act has been spotted. Fifty-four offences concerning tipper trucks occurred in Brent in the first quarter of last year ; there were 17 in Ealing, and 15 in Havering. In all, there were 258 incidents in London involving trucks, and other incidents involving skips and vans.

A small number of hazardous waste deposits were reported in the same period. Generally speaking--I must stress this--I am not concerned with hazardous waste. However, because of the mixture of rubble that is deposited, there is clearly a risk that some of it is hazardous. The LWRA estimates that around 15 per cent. of fly-tipped material could be toxic, containing such things as asbestos. Clearly, the problem is very serious.

The problem is not confined to London. South-east England also suffers. Without this Bill I believe that we would experience a dramatic increase in fly tipping if the construction of the Channel tunnel fixed link goes ahead.

However, I must admit that I was surprised to discover the extent to which fly tipping occurs elsewhere in the country. There are regular reports of dumping in Birmingham. Asbestos, drugs and even a dump of animal spleens have been discovered in Birmingham. An estimated £300,000 per annum is spent in Birmingham clearing up after fly tippers.

Fly tipping is not unknown even in our rural areas. in some of the most scenic parts of mid-Wales, fly tippers have damaged the evironment. In Surrey, rubbish was dumped alongside the green belt to a height of 25 ft until it threatened the very life of a copse of mature elm trees.

Such waste is a hazard and a spoiler for everyone who wants to enjoy the countryside or the local urban environment. To deal with the problem of waste disposal, authorities can and do prosecute fly tippers under current legislation. However, the law is inadequate in several respects. In London, prosecutions are made under the Control of Pollution Act 1974, primarily using sections 3 and 93. Other waste disposal authorities in London boroughs also use the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978. Under section 3 of the Control of Pollution Act it is an offence to

"deposit controlled waste on any land or cause or knowingly permit controlled waste to be deposited".

Section 93 of that Act gives the waste regulation authorities the power to request information relevant to the carrying out of its duty. The London Waste Regulation Authority has made extensive use of section 93 in an attempt to obtain information from owners of vehicles about incidents of fly tipping. However, it is extremely difficult to track down who is responsible.

On numerous occasions, the LWRA has served section 93 notices on so-called owners of vehicles and then has discovered that the vehicles are registered in the name of companies which are not themselves registered. Even when the company is registered, it has proved impossible to trace the directors, so the officers of the authority are severely hampered in their ability to use section 93 to stop fly tipping.

There is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of those who operate the controls that more prosecutions could be brought if evidence were easier to obtain. At present,

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unless fly tippers are caught in the act by the police, the authority or a reliable witness, it is impossible to prosecute. If at the time of the offence the vehicle registration number is noted down and traced, the driver may not be caught. If the driver is apprehended but runs away, there is no proof that he is responsible, and the law is being evaded in many ways. Even when the responsible person is caught and prosecuted, those of us trying to deal with the menace of fly tipping are disappointed that the fines are often minimal and do not act as a sufficient deterrent because the money paid to the court is more than recouped in another day's illegal activity.

Mr. Robin Squire (Hornchurch) : I fully support the Bill. Does the hon. Member agree that the responsible waste disposal contractors are among the first to be calling for tougher action through their organisations, because their reputations are on the line?

Ms. Ruddock : The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. I have received a number of letters from major contractors who support the Bill, are delighted that it has been introduced and have already consulted the Government about other proposed measures. They are quite clear that stronger regulation is in the interest of legitimate trade.

The number of prosecutions is disappointing. There were 66 in 1984, 53 in 1985 and 70 in 1986 ; therefore, there is a great deal of work to be done.

My purpose in promoting the Bill was to provide a more satisfactory framework within which officers attempting to curb the menace of fly tipping could act more effectively. I must stress that the Bill does not replace section 3 of the Control of Pollution Act as a means of prosecuting fly tippers. The Bill does not address the problem of catching fly tippers in action ; it acts as a deterrent by enforcing registration procedures. Under the Bill, a fly tipper may be prosecuted for not being registered, although it might still be difficult to catch people in the act of fly tipping. If a person were caught fly tipping and found not to be registered, he would suffer the double penalty of being prosecuted for non- registration and for fly tipping. I hope that the Bill will bring the operators of illicit disposal trucks under much closer scrutiny and therefore reduce fly tipping which, as the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) said, brings the legitimate waste disposal industry into disrepute. Part I of the Bill amends the Control of Pollution Act by introducing a system of registration for carriers of controlled waste. Part II authorisies the impounding of vehicles suspected of having committed an offence under section 3 of the Control of Pollution Act when it has proved impossible to trace the owner of the vehicle. The definition of controlled waste in the Bill is the same as in the Control of Pollution Act :

"household, industrial and commercial waste or any such waste". I should emphasise that the Bill applies to individuals and companies who run a business or make a profit by the carrying and disposal of waste. Therefore, the Bill raises no issue of civil liberties. There is no question that somebody moving personal domestic waste would be affected by the Bill, which seeks to deal with people who profit from moving waste.

The system of registration set out in the Bill is relatively simple. It is not intended to be a deterrent to legitimate small or one-person businesses. It provides that the carrier

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will supply to the waste regulation authority information about the business, the directors, the managers and partners, the address of the principal place of business, details of any waste disposal licence and unspent convictions. The authority would charge a fee for registration--I am sure that it will be a small fee--which would be introduced by regulation, and in return the carrier will receive a certificate.

The registration system will allow any person who is convicted of an offence related to waste disposal to be removed from the register, and it would then be illegal for that person to carry waste. That should reduce the number of illicit operators. The Bill gives a police officer, on the advice of the officer of the regulation authority, the power to stop a vehicle and require the driver to produce his authority for the transportation of waste. The Bill makes it an offence to carry waste without being registered, to supply false information to the authority, or to fail to supply and update information as required. Hon. Members will acknowledge that the registration scheme is relatively straightforward.

Part II of the Bill may be a little more contentious. I must inform hon. Members that, had we more time, we would have wished to consult much more widely. We had some difficulty in drafting part II, and I am conscious that it might not be perfectly drafted, but I hope that hon. Members will accept that any drafting errors can be adjusted in Committee.

The registration scheme will greatly aid the identification of illegal carriers of waste ; in time, and given the diligence of the authorities, it should reduce the numbers of illegal operators. As I have said, vast sums of money are involved in those illicit operations, and I believe that the huge profits to be made from fly tipping will still induce some criminals to continue the practice. Those who persist are likely to be the most unscrupulous operators. The advice I have received from the London Waste Regulation Authority officers and from the police, who are currently attempting enforcement in my own constituency, is that new measures are required to deal with the residue of offenders. Such a provision is made in the second part of the Bill. Impounding a vehicle may sound draconian to some right hon. and hon. Members, but the Bill presents it as a measure of last resort against those who organise their affairs in such a way as to circumvent existing law on pollution control. A vehicle will be impounded only if the waste enforcement officers cannot trace its owners, have applied to the courts and obtained a warrant, and are accompanied by a police officer. Impounding is justified in view of the immense cost that society pays as a consequence of the fly tippers' activities.

There are precedents for taking such action. New York city operates a similar law for offending fly tippers. There, the vehicle is not released until the fine has been paid--which is rather more draconian than my proposal. That action is taken with up to 1,000 vehicles per year.

I introduce this Bill to try to improve the quality of life for the ordinary people of my constituency and for the constituents of all right hon. and hon. Members in areas where fly tipping is a problem. Soon after I came to the House, tenants living on the Silwood estate in my constituency approached me in despair about gross pollution of the environment, both from fly tipping and from constant violation of licence conditions at several local waste transfer stations. Ten thousand tonnes of waste have been illegally dumped in the vicinity of that housing

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estate--tonnes and tonnes of rubble, concrete, wood, metal, rubber, glass and other hazardous material. Roads have been blocked, a new industrial estate has been severely blighted, and residents' lives have been made utterly miserable by airborne litter, dust, dirt and mud underfoot.

That is the hazardous environment in which the elderly and disabled walk with trepidation. It is the environment in which children face real danger in everyday play, and in which the law-abiding resident is affronted by gross squalor and decay. It is time that we gave the responsible waste regulation authorities more powers for dealing with that menace to people's lives and to their environment. I believe that my Bill offers them those powers.

10.2 am

Sir Hugh Rossi (Hornsey and Wood Green) : I congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) not only on introducing this important Bill and on seizing her good fortune in the ballot to do so and not wasting it on something else, but on the way in which she presented her Bill to the House, with complete clarity and conviction.

The Select Committee on the Environment recently concluded an inquiry into the problems associated with the disposal and management of toxic waste. The Committee hopes to report to the House on or about 8 March, and it would be improper of me to anticipate the contents of that report, as I would risk placing myself in breach of privilege if I did so. Nevertheless, when the hon. Lady's Bill came to the Committee's attention, its members immediately agreed to anticipate their main report by extracting certain conclusions and presenting them to the House immediately, as a report on the particular problem of fly tipping. It is on that first report of the Environment Select Committee for the current Session, "Registration of carriers of controlled wastes : Recommendation regarding the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Bill", that I address the House. I begin by reading the Select Committee's recommendation : "We welcome the proposals contained in the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Bill, both as the first stage of a more general duty of care' in waste management, and as a major contribution to tackling the problems of the illegal dumping of waste. We commend it to the House, and trust that it will have the support of Her Majesty's Government."

The Committee reached that conclusion because, when receiving evidence relating to toxic waste, it was told by the London Waste Regulation Authority in particular of the enormous problems faced by waste disposal authorities throughout the land because of illegal fly tipping.

The hon. Lady, in her excellent speech, said that 1 million tonnes of waste are on sites in London at any one time. I can add to that, because the Committee received evidence from the London Waste Regulation Authority that a survey of its north area revealed 1 million tonnes of illegally dumped waste--not waiting to be dumped, but already dumped--in Tower Hamlets alone.

That shows the measure of the task confronting local authorities in having to clear up illegally tipped waste. The cost of doing so is paid not directly by the producer of the

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waste or by the cowboy carrier who dumps it, but by the general body of ratepayers who, through their council, must ensure that the nuisance is cleared up.

Illegally dumped waste is not merely a nuisance ; as the hon. Lady said, there is also real risk attached to it. The Select Committee found that between 15 and 20 per cent. of illegally dumped waste contains toxic or dangerous matter. The hon. Lady referred to asbestos. I can add to that and suggest that cyanides from gasworks are also being found, together with refrigeration units, which are a source of chlorofluorocarbons. If CFCs are left in refrigeration units that rust and rot away, they will find their way into the atmosphere and add to a problem with which we are all concerned--the depletion of the earth's ozone layer, which is currently the subject of great public debate. Serious connotations are attached to illegal fly tipping.

The hon. Lady mentioned also the inadequacies of the existing law. First, there is the difficulty of mounting a prosecution, establishing who dumped the illegal waste in the first place, and taking that person to court--all at the great expense of collating sufficient evidence to satisfy the magistrates as to the identity of the particular individual who disappeared in the middle of the night after dumping his load, and who was responsible for that illegal act.

Finally, there is the insult to the waste authority of the derisory level of fines imposed by magistrates. The Select Committee found that in dealing with water pollution as well as with illegal waste, magistrates do not understand the environmental consequences of the offences upon which they are asked to adjudicate. They impose derisory fines, which the perpetrators willingly and readily pay as a minor overhead expense in their overall operations.

One piece of evidence that greatly struck us during the inquiry shows that it is not merely a London problem. Mr. Khan, of the South Yorkshire hazardous waste unit, described a case in which a farmer was paid by a waste producer to get rid of a load of rubbish. It would normally have cost about £300 to dispose of that load. The farmer came along with a trailer, picked it up and got rid of it for £150. The waste producer was £150 in pocket. He paid cash, no questions were asked, and away went the load to be dumped. The Yorkshire waste authority then had the problem of trying to trace the man. A passer-by happened to see what was going on, and tried to take the registration number of the vehicle, but could take only the first three letters. Hon. Members can imagine the time, trouble and expense of tracing all vehicles in that area with those first three registration letters, and eliminating them one by one. Eventually, somebody was traced and there was a prosecution. What did the magistrates do? They fined him £100. At the end of the day, the cowboy was still £50 in pocket. It was not as big a profit--no doubt, tax-free--as he would have hoped for, but nevertheless a profit. That activity must be brought to an end. The difficulty is that hon. Members cannot interfere in magistrates' judicial discretion. We cannot tell them what penalty to impose. We can certainly suggest minimum and maximum fines, but, within that band, it is mostly a matter for them, and, in what they consider to be mitigating circumstances, perhaps even the minimum fine is not adhered to.

The word must go out from the House to the Magistrates Association : "Please, please, rethink your

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policy on the penalties you impose for perpetrations of this kind, because they are serious--much more serious than you realise. Please read the excellent reports that are produced from time to time by the Environment Select Committee, and you may appreciate the problems with which the community is faced."

We concluded that the phenomenon of fly tipping occurs for four major reasons. First, the high cost of waste disposal means that the rewards for unscrupulous operators are high. Secondly, waste producers have no responsibility for their wastes if they pay a contractor illegally to dispose of them. Thirdly, it is difficult to identify and prosecute illegal disposers of waste. Fourthly, fines for convicted offenders are derisory. My next point relates to a consequence of fly tipping. To prevent fly tipping, because prosecution is so inadequate, waste disposal authorities have been inclined to reduce the costs of disposing of material in their landfill sites.

That leads to another problem. The lower the cost of operating a landfill site, the less technologically advanced is the operation of that site. That affects not only publicly owned sites but privately owned sites, because they must compete with the low price base set by local waste authorities. The result is that, although facilities are cheap, they are not being run as they should be to make them totally safe to the public. That is a disastrous consequence of fly tipping. For those reasons, the Environment Select Committee willingly and with alacrity produced a special report to support the hon. Lady's timely Bill. The Bill endorses what the Department of the Environment is suggesting it will do about the duty of care. Having heard all the evidence, my Committee decided that some things should be done that have not been done hitherto. One was to impose a duty of care. That duty of care is intended to place upon all people who handle waste, from cradle to grave--the producer, the carrier, the ultimate receiver or disposer--a duty to ensure that that waste is properly handled in the right scientific, chemical, biological and technical way so that it is rendered harmless and presents no hazard to the public.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford) : My hon. Friend is talking about waste carriers and local authorities. He will know that there is a distinction between the rules of negligence insofar as they apply to local authorities and ordinary commercial people. Has the duty as it is expressed in the Bill taken account of the significant difference that exists in law, which would have quite an impact on the way in which it would work?

Sir Hugh Rossi : My hon. Friend is trying to draw me into the major conclusions of the main report, which is to be published on 8 May. I should be at some risk if I were to say what is in my mind. No doubt I would be arraigned and placed before the Bar for being in contempt of the rules of the House. Therefore, I ask my hon. Friend to compose himself. All will be revealed about my Committee's views on the duty of care on or about 8 March --whether it should be strict liability or subject to reasonable care, whether it should be a statutory offence or dealt with as a tort in civil law. I hope that my hon. Friend will find our conclusions to be of some use.

Ms. Ruddock : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the duty of care is still in the Department's mind? It is not part of the Bill, and it might be worth clarifying that point.

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Sir Hugh Rossi : I entirely accept that. The Bill should be read in the context of the Government's proposals, on which the Environment Select Committee has commented.

The hon. Lady is right. She wishes to impose a duty of registration on carriers, which is important to enforce the duty of care. Unless it is known who is carrying waste, it is not known who is responsible and who should be penalised if the law is broken. Registration is a sine qua non of any duty of care that may be imposed subsequently in law.

The Committee considering the Bill will have to decide whether, as part of a licence the name, address and telephone number of the carrier should be emblazoned in large characters on the sides of every licenced vehicle so that it is known who is carrying what. If the police saw waste being carried in an unmarked vehicle, that would enable them to stop it and ask questions. If the vehicle were marked, the contractor would know that he was at risk if he was spotted dumping waste by someone who had a bit more than a registration number to jot down. That suggestion should commend itself, without reservation, to all hon. Members.

The hon. Member for Deptford has not gone far enough in part II of the Bill. I should be far more draconian, but the hon. Lady has the gentleness of an hon. Lady and perhaps does not want to be too hard or harsh. Perhaps it will be possible to make the impounding of vehicles permanent.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : Confiscation.

Sir Hugh Rossi : Confiscation. The Standing Committee will have to decide whether it needs the imprimatur of a magistrates' court to say that the police can seize a vehicle and deprive the contractor of it. It will have to decide whether the police will be able to confiscate or whether there will be recourse to the courts.

It may be a deterrent if magistrates have the ultimate right of confiscation. If an offender appears before them for the first time, a significant fine may be sufficient, but they may say to a repeated offender, "You have been warned and now you will lose your livelihood ; we shall keep your vehicle." There will be problems with the method of sale of the vehicle, because I am sure that the authorities will be disinclined to become involved in the storage and sale of vehicles. I hope that that suggestion will help to strengthen the Bill, which needs to receive the full acclaim and approbation of the House.

10.23 am

Mr. Paul Boateng (Brent, South) : As the first Labour Member to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock), I congratulate her not only on introducing this important measure but on the way in which she did so. It exhibited the combination of style and elegance for which she is justly famous and the content that one has come to expect from her. She should be congratulated by all hon. Members, and I know that we are united in our approval of her and this measure.

My hon. Friend the Member for Deptford was diffident and perhaps over- modest about part II, which deals with impounding vehicles. Many who must live with the consequences of the activities of these cowboys believe that they should lose an arm or a leg or even worse, never mind their lorries. They experience, day in and day out, what

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dumpers do to their environment and living conditions. Dumpers are potential horsemen of the Apocalypse because CFCs, cyanide and the like are found in the debris that they dump. They create hazards for children living nearby and health hazards, because all too often rats and vermin are found among the waste materials that they dump with such impunity. They make the lives of people living on estates surrounding dumps a living hell.

Residents of the Brentfield estate in my constituency have experience of illegal fly tipping. They have found--this is characteristic of the way in which these cowboys operate--that a dump need not be a large site. Dumpers comb our cities and major conurbations looking for any site that will enable them to offload their illegal waste. A relatively small site in my constituency became increasingly congested as waste was dumped, initially by commecial interests but later, in the wake of the small-time illegal operators, came the additional problem of domestic waste. Domestic waste is not within the ambit of the Bill, but is drawn like a magnet to other waste that has been deposited.

One of the attractive features of the Bill is that it goes to the heart of the problem by empowering the impounding of vehicles. I concur entirely with the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) in commending the suggestion that the Standing Committee should go further, to make that impounding permanent.

I am not sure that I would leave impounding to the discretion of magistrates. All too often, for some strange reason, magistrates are not prepared to be as robust as they might be in dealing with this sort of activity. It is to be hoped that, with the greening of the Prime Minister, we shall see the greening of the magistracy. We hope that they will become as concerned and engaged in environmental issues as they are in other law and order matters. Dumping is a law and order matter, relating to the safety and security of our community. It is important that that safety and security should encompass the environment as well as other matters that traditionally have fallen within magistrates' ambit.

The Bill is a welcome measure. It will be especially welcome in London, which bears the brunt of this problem. I am sure that it will be welcomed by local authorities. I have the honour of serving on the Environment Select Committee, the distinguished Chairman of which is present this morning--the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green. When one heard and considered the evidence of the London Waste Regulation Authority, it was clear how great was the scale of the problem in our city. It would be wrong to believe that that problem was somehow limited to the immediate geographical area surrounding the docklands developments. In fact, the cowboys are operating all over London ; at present, we have a particular spate of such operations in north-west London and in my constituency.

Mr. Cash : Can the hon. Gentleman tell me whether the Committee considered the question of those places and premises in respect of which planning permission has been given and where buildings have been constructed where waste has been placed? How can one deal with that problem? It seems that many of the difficulties about the

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way in which gases, for example, have been escaping have been precisely that toxic waste has been put on sites where it should not have been.

Mr. Boateng : The hon. Gentleman has strayed somewhat from the ambit of the Bill. Under the Bill, if an unlicensed and unregistered carrier were to dump waste illegally anywhere, he would be subject to the rigour of the law wherever the rubbish was dumped, whether there was planning permission for building or not. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will find amplification of the point he has raised when he reads the report to which the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green referred.

The particular concern of local authorities in London and the reason why they welcome the Bill so much--I know that my own local authority, Brent, welcomes it--is that those authorities are already hard pressed in their capacity to cope with the problem of waste and refuse disposal in any event. When the waste that is the stock in trade of the cowboys, whom the Bill seeks to bring to book, is dumped in the local authorities' area, in addition to their concerns about domestic waste, that imposes an additional burden on the resources of the council and stretches already over-stretched departments throughout London.

They already have to cope with rate support grant which is all too often inadequate to cover the needs of the local authorities. When the cowboys are inhibited in their action, the authorities will be able to concentrate where they ought to be concentrating--on ensuring that domestic waste and waste arising from legitimate commercial activities is properly, efficiently, and regularly collected in a way that it is sometimes not, much to the justifiable consternation of local residents and ratepayers who have to meet the cost of the activities of the cowboys.

The Bill will be broadly and warmly welcomed by all who are concerned about the issue. It will not cause concern to anybody--except, of course, the cowboys and the illegal dumpers, who come from outside the areas in which they dump their loads. They do not have to live with the consequences, as do the residents of Brentfield estate, Alperton, Wembley and Harlesden, with whom I recently looked specifically at local sites that had been the subject of illegal tipping.

Tenants and residents associations throughout my constituency have shared their concern about the issue and they will welcome the Bill. Already, as they hear reports of our proceedings, the cowboys will be wringing their hands in angst and consternation at the likely loss of their vehicles. If that does anything to deter them now, my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford in proposing this Bill will already have done a good service, not only for the people of London, but for people up and down the country who care, as we all do, about their environment.

10.35 am

Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich) : I want to add my words of congratulations to the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) on proposing the Bill, and I want to say a brief word in support. The Bill, is concerned with the environment, with law and order and with the quality of life. We have produced more waste in this country without providing a proper means of managing waste disposal. We have worked on an ad hoc basis and on procedures that may have been appropriate before we became a give- away throw-away society, but which are not

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now. The means we have for disposing of household waste, building waste and industrial waste are more adapted to the Victorian era than to the 21st century. In its modest way, the Bill is a first step forward.

All of us have articles at home and items in the garden of which we want to dispose and with which the local waste disposal arrangements of the borough council are inadequate to deal. There has been a development of civic tips, which provide an opportunity for those of us who are mobile and who have our own vehicles in which to carry and deliver the waste, but there is a real problem for those who have to get rid of old mattresses and sofas and who do not know what to do with them. Any of us who have engaged in our own building works and who have hired a skip to take away the rubbish will know that one has to ensure that the skip is delivered in the morning and then one has to mount guard over it. I have had a skip delivered to my home the night before. Darkness fell, and in the morning the skip was full. I was clearly providing a service for the locality, but not a service that I wanted to provide.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : The hon. Gentleman highlights the problem of getting rid of bulky refuse. Many councils have depots where such refuse is accepted, but some people do not have the wherewithal to carry it to the dump. When I was the chair of the public services committee on Lambeth borough council, I had a scheme for siting skips at strategic points around the borough and taking them away regularly. They never went away until they were overflowing and they were filled quickly. Perhaps other councils could continue such schemes.

Mr. Bowden : I remember when the hon. Gentleman was the chairman of the Greater London council and if he achieved one thing well on that council, it was the recycling of rubbish. If one issue predominated in the chamber when he was there, it was a preoccupation with rubbish. On the point about civic tips, the hon. Gentleman brings to mind a point that I was going to make as a matter of principle. What is rubbish for one person may be of value to another.

I recall that during one period when there was inadequate removal of garden and domestic rubbish, my neighbour loaded up his car one morning with black bag and garden rubbish and went off to the Southwark civic tip. He went with his car loaded and returned with his car loaded because when he was at the tip, discovered that someone--I know not who--had thrown away a number of collapsible garden chairs of the type found in parks in the past. He came back triumphantly with the chairs, and gave me one of them, saying that there were more there. I immediately went and packed up my car with such rubbish as I could find and returned with a number of chairs, which are now among my garden furniture in London. The other day, I was interested to discover that similar items are available in Heal's and Habitat at a price of £50 or more.

The words "rubbish" and "waste" can be offensive, because what is rubbish to one person is not necessarily valueless to another. Perhaps we should be discussing rubbish or waste recycling, and ensuring, for example, that builders rubble, which it is completely inappropriate to throw on farmers' land or into someone's front garden, is recognised as just the sort of hardcore material required for building work elsewhere. The Bill seeks to address precisely this aspect--waste recycling and management

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