|Previous Section||Home Page|
Miss Widdecombe : The hon. Gentleman is quite right ; he is not my hon. Friend. Is it not the case that society's habits as a whole are dictated by those of the individual and that the Prime Minister's message is about the responsibility of the individual to contribute to society? The kind of matters that we have been discussing this morning are the responsibility of individuals. If individuals picked up their litter, did their social duty and played their part as active citizens, that would make for a decent society. So it is down to the individual.
Mr. Banks : But society is more than just the aggregate of the individuals who live within it. Society collectively sets the norms and the values that are then translated into the action--social or anti-social--of individuals within society. That is the way it works ; it cannot work the other way round. We cannot say that society is merely a collection of unrelated individuals. That is where the Conservative party gets it completely wrong. It says that society is no more than the market and that, if we allow individuals to act on their own, there is, somehow, a secret means by which they will all end up acting responsibly.
There is a fundamental division between us. I believe, and so do my colleagues, that we achieve progress only if individuals work together. The collectivist, Marxist approach--which believes in progress on the back of an amorphous thing called society--is inadmissible because it does not work. That is not to say that I do not believe strongly in a sense of community. But a community is a collection of individuals, not a mass.
Mr. Mans : Am I right in saying, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman's vision of what society should be like is the sort that existed in this country in the late 1970s, which resulted in the winter of discontent, waste paper and rubbish not being collected and even the grave diggers going on strike?
Mr. Banks : The mere fact that a Labour Government were in power does not alter the fact that it was also a capitalist society. One of the problems with the Labour party is that it still thinks that it can administer capitalism better than the capitalists. I do not believe that to be so. Socialism, for me, is not a fringe benefit of an efficient, capitalist system. Socialism for me is completely and utterly opposed to capitalism. That is where I part company with some of my colleagues. I believe in Socialism and collectivism. That is the big difference between me and Conservative Members, and, indeed, between me and some of my hon. Friends.
Ms. Abbott : Conservative Members deny the efficacy of collectivist solutions to problems, but they would be the first to argue for collectivist solutions in some areas. They do not argue that people should have their own private armies. They believe that there should be a collectivist solution to the defence of the realm. If collectivism works in defence, it ought to work in relation to litter. If Conservative Members reject collectivist solutions to the litter problem but accept them for defence, may it not be that they take the defence of the realm much more seriously than the environment and litter? Collectivism does work. There are certain areas in which collectivism is the only successful way in which to organise affairs. To look at the increasing litter menace in London, particularly in Hackney, and then to say that there is not a role for the state by means of a collectivist solution is absurd.
To return to social attitudes towards litter, it does not necessarily follow that the only socially responsible societies are to be found in Socialist countries. It is far
Column 637more likely that they will be found in Socialist countries, but Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland are capitalist countries, where there is a much more socially responsible attitude towards street cleanliness and litter because society in those countries is much more socially and economically cohesive. There is less disparity of wealth and opportunity in Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Denmark than one finds in this country. One does not necessarily have to live in a Socialist society, but one has to be living in a society that is a damned sight more fair and just than this society is under this Government.
Public property in this country is treated as second rate and with contempt by the Prime Minister. She dislikes anything that is public. For all I know, she might even hate public lavatories. Anything that is public is second rate and must be sold off, given away or, even worse than that, allowed to become run down. That is what has happened to far too many public services. It has to be set against her attitude, and that of the Government, towards private property. That is sacred and sacrosanct. This attitude goes right the way through our society because that is the example which has been set at the top.
Tenants on council estates are made to feel second-class citizens by a Government who put all the emphasis on the economic benefits of owner- occupation. I travel around London a great deal on public transport. People in London seem to regard buses and the train carriages as mobile litter bins. They do not consider that the trains or the streets belong to them. That is because of the philosophy promoted by the Government--from the very top--that public property is second rate. People would not drop rubbish in their own living rooms, they would not stick chewing gum on their own sofas and chairs, but they certainly do that on the Underground in London. They would not scrawl artless graffiti on the outside walls of their homes as they do in streets and on trains. They would not let their dogs crap on the carpet as they do outside the home. They do not recognise streets and public places as belonging to them and I blame the Government for that attitude.
Mr. Burns : I know that the hon. Gentleman has a great reputation as a wit, but surely he is stretching the bounds of belief by trying to claim that the unfortunate habit of sticking chewing gum under the seats on public transport, dogs fouling public places and graffiti started on 3 May 1979. Regrettably, society has had to suffer those problems under Conservative and Labour Governments. I suspect that some of those problems in a more prehistoric form were suffered under Liberal Governments many decades ago.
Mr. Banks : I am not trying to suggest that in this highly sophisticated forum. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) has managed to totter into the Chamber. His presence always adds something extra. A frisson goes through us all as we see him lower his bulky frame into the seat. I hope that he will make a speech, if he can prop himself up. I notice that he carries a stick and I wish him well, but I notice that it has not stopped him leaping up with an alacrity that is certainly denied slimmer and less agile Conservative Members. I welcome him to our proceedings, late though his presence is.
Column 638In reply to the hon. Member for Chelmsford, I am not blaming the Government entirely. However, those trends have been increasing as it is all part of capitalism ; but I have done that one already. All those tendencies have become worse since 1979. That is because of the philosophy of the Government and the attitude struck at No. 10 Downing street and throughout the Cabinet.
Miss Widdecombe : The hon. Gentleman gave very loud support to my deploring the habits of Members of Parliament. Does he attribute the disgusting habit of Labour Members to the philosophy of the Conservative Government? If that is so, how can we influence them in other matters?
Mr. Banks : I blame the Prime Minister for what happens on Labour Benches. Members of Parliament are no different from other members of society. They may be slightly madder than most, or even slightly more anti- social than many ordinary members of the public, but they are still subject to the same attitudes and influences because they are members of society. In a sense, the Prime Minister's attitude must permeate through the Labour party as well as through the Conservative party.
Mr. Harry Greenway rose--
Mr. Greenway : The hon. Gentleman is making a serious point when he says that his colleagues in the Labour party do not have the character to maintain their Socialist way of life without being knocked off it by anyone else. As the hon. Gentleman is making so many political points, which he is quite entitled to do, I point out that the borough that he represents has had a Labour council for 60 or 70 years, yet has more litter and graffiti than almost anywhere else, except perhaps Tower Hamlets which also had a Labour council for the past 60 or 70 years, except for the past two or three years when it has had an equally bad Liberal council. The Labour council in Ealing has cut street cleansing and litter collection, but has put up the rates by 32 per cent. and has increased staff substantially in the gay and lesbian unit for homosexuals.
Mr. Banks : The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) is well known for his antipathy towards his local council. The hon. Gentleman, who represents one of the constituencies under that council, could be of more assistance by arguing in favour of more resources for his borough to deal with many of the pressing problems that exist there rather than producing his usual anecdotes about gay and lesbian groups. When I check up on what the hon. Member says about his borough, and I always do that, I often find that his "facts" and reality do not always coincide. I suspect that was another example.
It is not down simply to the boroughs. I am talking about attitudes that affect everyone, even Labour Members. People do not consider dropping litter as a particularly heinous crime. It is part of the attitude on both sides of the House. The hon. Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) rightly attacked all hon. Members. We are not isolated from the attitudes of people outside the House of Commons. When I asked other hon. Members why they drop rubbish, one hon. Friend replied, "If I collected it up, they would probably sack the cleaner." He considered that
Column 639he was part of a job creation scheme trying to foster employment among cleaners. Perhaps under latter-day Tories, that is precisely the case and perhaps my hon. Friend had a far more sophisticated political attitude than I do. Perhaps he knows that, under the Government, if everyone stops dropping litter they will not encourage services and re-employ the people who were picking up the litter : they will sack them. Perhaps my hon. Friend had a point, but because of my background I could not go around dropping litter even if it were part of an extended job creation programme.
Let me say something nice about the Government--I can probably do that for the next 30 seconds or so. 1990 is to be Tidy Britain Year. I welcome that initiative. I must say to the Minister that every year should be Tidy Britain Year. However, I trust that it will not be a year of silly gimmicks such as those from the Prime Minister in the past. For example, the Prime Minister's interest in litter and the state of London streets seem to date precisely from June 1986 when she was coming back from Heathrow airport to No. 10 Downing street in her bullet-proof Daimler--she does not travel on the train--having visited Israel where she was particularly impressed by the cleanliness of the streets. It was a shame about the dead bodies on the West Bank, but the streets were nice and clean. That obviously impressed her so she decided to call in another of her initiatives. We had that ludicrous photo-opportunity in St. James's park when specially placed, no doubt sanitised, litter was put down for the Prime Minister to spike and put into a black plastic bag which was being held by a very sullen and embarrassed-looking Secretary of State. However, he always looks sullen. If someone told him that he had won £1 million on the pools he would manage to look miserable about it. However, he looked particularly miserable and sullen and embarrassed on that ludicrous occasion. If the Prime Minister had been collecting a few choice dog turds, I might have applauded her and thought that at least she had the courage of her convictions, but very nice clean litter was put down for her to stick in a bag. It made her look extraordinarily silly, almost as silly as the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth, who is rising to his feet.
Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth) : I have sat here for quite some time listening to the hon. Gentleman. Although I am hobbling, at least I am not at home watching the Test match and have come here to do my duty in Parliament. I have listened for quite some time to the hon. Gentleman's insults to our Prime Minister. He has forgotten that when the Prime Minister came to office she wanted to change people's attitudes. She felt that if they owned the properties in which they lived they would start to take pride in them. They would not send a card to the council if they had a draught under a door or if a cupboard would not fit ; they would start to mend it themselves. They would not throw litter into their own front gardens and then phone the council to come and clear it up because, in trying to enable everyone to become a home owner, the Prime Minister was trying to build character. I like to think that it is the same character that has brought me here today.
Column 640England being slaughtered in the Test match. I am sure that he is here because of his civic duty rather than wanting to close his eyes to yet another English massacre.
I do not think that the Prime Minister has brought about the pride or spirit about which the hon. Gentleman spoke. As I have said, she has encouraged selfishness and greed and stress on the individual. As long as the individual is doing fine, devil take the hindmost. That is the Government's philosophy. It does not build community spirit. It makes those who are doing OK feel good, but it makes a large number of people who are casualties of the system feel that they are pariahs or that there is something wrong with them. Litter is symptomatic of the attitude that the Prime Minister has spent so much time encouraging.
The hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth is a valiant defender of the Prime Minister. I hope that sooner or later he will be suitably rewarded either with political office or some honour. He is a champion in his ability to defend the indefensible.
I was talking about 1990 and Tidy Britain Year. I trust that it will not consist of yet more ineffective initiatives and photo-opportunities for the Prime Minister and Ministers. For example, UK 2000 was an initiative launched in 1986 under the chairmanship of Richard Branson--Mr. Rubbish as he became known. That has not worked. It was launched with an enormous amount of shouting by the Prime Minister and Conservative politicians, but its litter programme has disappeared.
At the invitation of the Department of the Environment the Tidy Britain Group, formerly the Keep Britain Tidy Group, reviewed its strategy and approach in 1987. The result was a clean-90s programme launched by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State in March 1988. As I have said, that was when we had the ludicrous photo-opportunity with the Prime Minister picking up litter. The Tidy Britain Group became the sole Government agent in litter matters from April 1988. It took on a more active campaigning role. Government funding for the group increased in 1988 -89 from £560,000 to £1.2 million to finance the clean-90s campaign. The funding was further increased by an announcement on 15 December last year saying that the grant would be pushed up to £3 million for 1989-90. That is pathetic. That is a Britainwide initiative yet the Government are providing only £3 million at a time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer is bragging about the kitty being awash with money. Of course, he cannot spend any of it because of the problem that would cause for inflation and, although the figures are appalling now, they could get worse. The Chancellor could spend more of that money on providing additional resources for the Tidy Britain Group and for the initiatives that the Government keep saying they want to deal with litter.
It is noticeable that the Tidy Britain Group has been looking at the litter problems around motorway service stations and beside major trunk roads. One of the service stations it has opted to study is near Grantham. I wondered why it chose a service station near Grantham when it could have picked any service station on any motorway. Of course, even Conservative Members can grasp the reason for that. It is a gimmick with no resources behind it. It is a chance for a good photo-opportunity for the Prime Minister or Ministers and will provide a few more television slots. Ultimately, it does not amount to
Column 641anything. If the Government cannot be judged by actions rather than words and gimmicks, the Minister--I have a high regard for her as a person--and her colleagues cannot be serious about the problems of litter in this country.
We need a series of proposals and we need to change the law in respect of litter dropping. Police enforcement of the Litter Act 1983 has been described by the Tidy Britain Group as pathetic. In 1987 the Metropolitan police made 18 prosecutions--one for every 1,500 officers. The average fine in 1987 was £35, which is less than the cost of bringing the prosecution. The possible maximum fine available is £400. Fines as low as £5 do not encourage police officers to recognise that enforcement of the litter law is important or act as a deterrent against dropping litter. The police say that the requirement to prove intent causes difficulties.
There needs to be a strengthening of the law, and dropping litter should be an absolute offence without having to prove intent to leave it behind. It is ludicrous. Someone can drop a cigarette packet and when challenged by a police officer say that they intended to go back for it later. In that way, they have not committed a crime. That reduces the law to an absurdity and that is why niether enforcement officers nor members of the public take it seriously.
The police force's current commitment to policing by objectives and priorities may have inhibited police officers in their enforcement of the litter laws, considering that they have little priority and it is not a cost-effective task. When we complain to the police, when the London group of Labour Members of Parliament meets the Metropolitan police Commissioner, he says that he does not have the bodies to be able to do anything about it. He says, "Would you rather I reduced the number of crimes of violence, car thefts and burglaries or chased litter louts?" Of course, there is only one answer. If it means that we have to provide more resources for the police, so be it. That is what the Government should do. That would be willing the means to fulfil the ends.
It is a question of enforcement and the resources to carry it out. If the police had to pay the bill for clearing up the massive amounts of litter dropped on our streets, they might change their views on whether it is cost -effective to stop the rubbish being deposited in the first place. The best approach is to devolve the responsibility to local authorities together with responsibilities for traffic wardens, on which negotiations are currently taking place. There has been mention of the Westminster initiative and the City of Westminster Act 1988. That gave the local authority employees power to issue fixed penalty tickets for litter offenders. In practice, some 70 to 80 employees, while engaged on their normal duties, are given that power. They have approached about 700 people in the past year. They always give the offender an opportunity to pick up the litter before issuing the ticket. Only four people have refused to pick up the litter and were issued with a ticket. One refused to pay the £10 fixed penalty and was subsequently fined £40 with £35 costs.
The scheme has not had a major impact but it may have started a change of attitude in the areas in which it operates. That is why the local authorities, the Association of London Authorities and the London Boroughs
Column 642Association have asked for the powers to be given to all local authorities. I hope that the Minister will say something about that. On the matter of enforcement, the Government must strengthen and simplify the litter laws and specify a higher minimum penalty with an absolute offence for dropping litter. They must ensure that the police are aware that enforcement of the litter laws is a priority. They must also ensure that the magistrates impose realistic fines on those convicted of littering. Also, they must give all local authorities power to enforce the litter laws.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) talked about privatisation. The Government find it easy to lay the duty of care for a clean environment on the local authorities. That is what the Secretary of State has said. At the same time, they tie hands of local authorities with legislation on competitive tendering. I do not believe that competition will improve cleansing services. Accepting the lowest quote will not ensure clean streets, but will involve local authorities in a constant round of performance monitoring and of imposing penalties, as they have had to do in Wandsworth and Merton. When those penalties mount up to such an extent that the private company must default, the local authority will still be responsible for clearing up the streets. However, it will no longer have the resources or the work force to do the job. Placing responsibility entirely on a local authority and allowing ratepayers to take it to court is wholly misdirected. I have tried to make the case for increased resources for local authorities. The London borough of Newham is divided by the A11 and the A13. We must tolerate the environmental pollution of hundreds of thousands of vehicles screaming through the borough. In fact, vehicles do not scream through the borough, because if hon. Members know what the A11 and A13 are like they will be aware that it is quicker to walk over the roofs of the cars rather than drive. Further problems are caused by people throwing their litter out of car windows, and their cars' exhaust fumes pollute our environment.
Commuter parking in the borough makes street cleansing more difficult. Cleaners cannot get into gulleys, which leads to the need for night and weekend cleansing. However, that involves more resources for the local authority because it demands higher wage rates and better conditions for the people who do that filthy but vital work.
I should like to make a firm proposal. All hon. Members have their own proposals, and earlier the hon. Member for Basildon suggested a good proposal. I wish him well tonight on his midnight patrol. After close examination, we now understand that his patrol will begin at 9 pm. I hope that he manages to survive. If he does not, as Basildon is a marginal seat another Labour Member of Parliament will be elected. I shall not tell any of my friends in the east end to hang around in Basildon from 9 pm onwards, but at least the hon. Member for Basildon has some pride in his local community. I recommend the hon. Member for Basildon's attitude to his local authority to the hon. Member for Ealing, North, because if he was as supportive of his local authority as the hon. Member for Basildon is of his council, Ealing would be a much nicer place to live.
Column 643cleansing. My duty is to oppose such cuts and achieve proper cleaning of our streets to get rid of the epidemic of rats and litter.
Mr. Banks : Since 1983, I have never heard the hon. Gentleman say a nice word about his borough, and he should examine his conscience carefully in that regard. He should argue for more resources for the London borough of Ealing, instead of continually asking for it to be rate capped. He should take a leaf out of the book of the hon. Member for Basildon.
I should like the London borough of Newham and other areas to have street wardens, who could deal with the range of street problems such as illegal parking, litter, unlicensed vehicles, and owners who allow their dogs to foul streets and paths. They should have the power to enforce socially responsible attitudes on our streets. However, that would deal only with the symptoms of the problem ; its core goes deep into the philosophy of this Government and the social attitudes that they encourage. Those attitudes will not change until the Government change.
All shops should be required by law to provide bins outside their premises. The hon. Member for Chelmsford mentioned cash dispensers. The Midland bank has installed a cash dispenser at Forest Gate that provides receipts. People who use it leave their receipts all over the ground. The Midland bank should be required to put a litter bin immediately under its cash dispenser. It certainly makes enough money from the overdraft that I have with it to provide bins below cash dispensers throughout the country. Indeed, it could probably finance the cost of every bin from my overdraft.
Fast food chains should be required to collect litter within a quarter mile radius of their shops. Most people who use such shops dump their litter within 400 yd of the shop. McDonalds, Wimpy, Kentucky Fried Chicken and other such shops that purvey fairly disgusting food should collect litter within a quarter mile radius of their shops.
We cannot deal with the problems of litter by gimmick or exhortation, even if the gimmick and exhortation emanate from 10 Downing street. We need legal remedies such as those that I have specified and investment in infrastructure and cleansing services. Above all, if we are to achieve a long-term solution to litter and mess in our streets, we need a change in social attitudes. We need to restore pride in public ownership and the community, which we will never get from the Prime Minister or the Government. However, we certainly shall get it from a Socialist Government led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock).
I did not expect my motion to be called today as originally it was number three in the ballot. Although, fortunately, my motion now appears second on the Order Paper, I am aware, from my 20 years of opposition in Sheffield and on South Yorkshire county council, that people such as myself are unable to control time. I note that Opposition Members keep entering the Chamber and preparing to make speeches.
Column 644I am sad to see that no other hon. Members representing Sheffield constituencies are present to discuss regeneration of Sheffield.
Mr. Patnick : We know not yet ; miracles have happened before. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West, in his own inimitable manner, attacked my hon. Friend the Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens), who is a thin, shy, unassuming and quiet person. He was upset by the attacks made by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West, and on his behalf I spring to his defence. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West is a man of few words, which are often spoken at great length. His attacks on my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Environment were not only in bad taste but were unwarranted, and I do not understand why he had to make them. There is plenty of scope for debate on litter without a need to make personal attacks. On 1 November 1988, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister congratulated the Keep Britain Tidy efforts and said that she was ready to use the law. She said that if necessary, individuals would be forced to take responsibility for the areas immediately in front of their premises. My right hon. Friend called for a new clean-up campaign which should be supported actively by every individual. She said :
"There could be a major improvement in the appearance of our towns and cities if people did not throw down litter".--[ Official Report, 1 November 1988 ; Vol. 139, c. 820.]
She said that if litter were thrown down, people should pick it up.
The hon. Member for Newham, North-West nearly fooled me. I thought that he had become the invisible man, but he had merely moved around the Chamber. The hon. Gentleman said that we should use the arm of the law and referred to the police. I envisage a new arm of law enforcement, similar to the lollipop ladies and gentlemen, which would have a specific responsibility to deal with litter and graffiti. Although those who throw litter and spray graffitti on the walls are breaking the law, we should not use the police to deal with them. It is wrong, too, that traffic wardens are responsible to the police, although they deal with road traffic offences. I believe that an establishment within the bodies involved in law enforcement could be created to ensure that those who drop litter, spray paint on walls and put up posters illegally feel the force of the law.
The Tube, railway and bus stations, the airports and railway carriages are natural and national litter magnets. It is odd that the cleanest spots in London are the platforms at Westminster Tube station. Spain, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) referred, is litter -strewn. Footpaths are paved for only part of their length. The most litter -strewn country that I have ever seen is Gibraltar.
Litter is a phenomenon that I have come to know. When I was a member of Sheffield city council, it was normal for members to throw all the papers that they did not need on the floor. When I asked why, I was told that if the papers were left on the desks, the cleaners would put them into the members' lockers, so the next time the members opened them, they would see all the papers that
Column 645they wanted disposed of. The Sheffield city council chamber is a quaint place in which to work. It now has an ample number of litter baskets.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) and the hon. Member for Newham, Noth-West pointed out, there is nowhere in the Chamber to put papers, save for the slots in front of the Benches. It is normal for Members to throw their papers on the Floor. Those who look into the Chamber when television is with us will be able to see the way in which we generate paper and what we do with it. We must set an example. Something needs to be done about the paper bombardment. Recently, I was a member of the Committee on the local Government and Housing Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) had a good idea. He placed a large paper sack at the back of the Committee room, into which we were able to throw all our waste paper.
The battle against litter is never-ending. Litter reflects a lack of civic pride and says more about a place than any publicity machine. Residents require clean streets and pavements, grass verges to be cut and cars not to be parked on grass verges or pavements. The first step in dereliction is the growth of litter, which is followed by the growth of graffiti, followed by fly-posting.
Sheffield, where I have lived all my life and which I represent, built an incinerator to burn rubbish at Bernard road in Sheffield. The idea was that the heat produced would be used to give some local council dwellings hot water and central heating. In the mess that resulted from the Local Government Act 1972--which I accept was introduced by my Government--when better was thought to be greater, the monster of the South Yorkshire county council was set up. One stupidity was that Sheffield city council collected the waste and South Yorkshire county council disposed of it. The incinerator at Bernard road no longer belonged to Sheffield city council but belonged to South Yorkshire county council. The waste was collected by the city council, taken to the county council for disposal, the county council burnt it and produced heat. It was not Sheffield city council's heat ; it had to be sold to it. It was nonsense. We were generating rubbish, having the rubbish collected and taking the rubbish to the incinerator, but it was burnt there and we had to buy the heat from the power station. If ever Topsy ruled and if ever bureaucracy went mad, that was an example, and if there was ever a reason for getting rid of the metropolitan county councils, that was a good reason, if not the only one.
In South Yorkshire, we had a catchment area of 1.3 million people, as opposed to the 600,000-odd in Sheffield. We did not manufacture enough waste. There was not sufficient rubbish for the power station to burn. Sadly, an alteration had to be made at times to the incinerator to allow it to generate heat and give hot water in periods when rubbish was not available throughout the county. Imagine the hoo-ha when the huge district heating system broke down. I subscribe to the theory that the larger and more complicated something is, the greater the likelihood of it going wrong. Sure enough, the system used to go wrong and the problems had to be seen to be believed. There was a shortage of rubbish despite the increase in packaging.
Column 646When one buys a shirt from one of the major stores, one has to remove the pins, the collar stiffeners, the lovely little piece of plastic in the front, the pieces of cardboard and, depending on how up-market or down-market the shirt is, a lovely piece of tissue paper. There is always a plastic bag surrounding all the other packaging. If the shirt is really up-market, it will be inside a box that has to be thrown away. I have no shares in Marks and Spencer, but I have seen sweaters hanging up there with only a little label with the size printed on it. That is a good step forward. However, despite the increase in packaging, we were short of rubbish to burn in South Yorkshire.
Sheffield also uses a combined heat and power and recycling process. It was pioneered in Sheffield and my hon. Friend the Minister was there recently to open the project. We build housing away from the incinerators and disposal areas because nobody wants to be near an industrial area, and I agree with that. None the less, industry is a source of power. We can all remember the cooling towers that seemed to give off sufficient heat. Surely there must be some way to use that heat. Sheffield has pioneered that project, among others.
As I said in an intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), litter, fly-posting and graffiti are one and the same problem and when combined with vandalism, the decline of our area begins.
I listened to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West when he was talking about the piece of paper that comes out when one goes to a cash dispenser. Some banks give a choice about whether one wants a printed receipt. Banks could--and I am not referring to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West-- take action to eliminate that piece of paper. I am sure that few people know where to put the piece of paper when they take it out of the machine. I have heard that only multi-millionaires do not have to worry about money. Most of us when we take money out of a cash dispenser are pleased when something comes out and most cross when there is nothing there. We are shocked when the machine shows our balance. I have said, "Oh God", a number of times when I have read the balance figure. We could be positive and ask banks to get rid of those slips of paper.
Posters are stuck on anything which does not move : shop windows, walls, telephone kiosks and any bit of street furniture. Fly-posting brings down the tone of an area. It is highly likely that the perpetrators of these blemishes on the landscape are totally unaware of their contravention of the law and the risk of prosecution. Like general litterers, fly-posters leave their trademark. They probably would not do so if they had even a basic knowledge of the law. they may have a good reason for believing that nothing drastic will happen to them if they flout the law.
Many authorities take great pride in the smart appearance of their area. However, it must be admitted that vast areas have some increasingly tatty and uncared for parts, and fly-posting contributes a great deal to that. Usually, the advertisements give sufficient detail to track down those who have stuck them up.
My understanding of the law is that the person putting up the poster is the one who is prosecuted. That is wrong ; I believe that the advertisers should be stopped from fly-posting. We have all seen the posters advertising anything from pop concerts and records to political fringe party meetings. Those posters are stuck on telephone kiosks and any piece of street furniture which does not
Column 647move. I have even seen them on traffic lights, nailed to telegraph poles and put around lamp stands. Something should be done about that.
I do not wish to advocate legal action on a large scale, but warnings by letter of the consequences of further breaches of the law to the more obvious and persistent offenders, together with the help of local newspapers, might do the trick. There is an increasing number of environmental interest groups. The deterioration of the urban and, to a lesser degree, the rural scene, by litter of all types, including fly- posting, is the subject of much complaint. Extensive powers have already been given to public bodies to tackle fly-posting. There is sufficient legislation to do so, but there must be a willingness to take action.
An article in The Times in 1987 said that a bus company was considering suing vandals who had caused £2 million worth of damage to its vehicles with spray cans. Such actions of vandalism are the worst type. Stiffer sentences were urged in an article on graffiti vandals which appeared in a publication in Sheffield more than a year ago, on 10 June 1988. It said that the battle against graffiti was costing the council £250,000 per year.
Something must be done about the subways, which are a part of town and city life. They should be for traffic, not people. Pedestrian subways are a breeding ground for litter, graffiti, fly-posting and vandalism. They should be closed, and alternative ways found to enable people to go about their daily business. The underpass between King's Cross and St. Pancras, an area I know well, is not a nice place, late at night, but it is the only way to cross that area. There are subways in Sheffield permeated by a similar atmosphere. One feature I have noticed since becoming a Member of Parliament and travelling to London is the fly-tipping and tipping of waste that takes place in London on roadsides, near roundabouts and underneath motorways. All sorts of places seem to be a magnet for people who want to get rid of a load of rubbish. If they do so, they are not only committing a prosecutable offence but damaging the environment. I live next to countryside in Sheffield and I see many respectable people wheeling barrows full of clippings and rubbish to tip in the beautiful bluebell woods, which are one of Sheffield's features. They would not leave a pile of rubbish on their own carpet, yet they are prepared to leave it on the carpet which belongs to everyone, of grass and the natural environment.
As I explained, I was a leading member of the opposition in Sheffield council. Sheffield has some quite innovative schemes in place. For example, we have a collection scheme for garden refuse and large, strong plastic sacks are provided. We also have an abandoned car collection scheme, which I greatly admire. One of the greatest things that Sheffield has done in the fight against litter and pollution was to be among the first cities to enforce the clean air legislation. That cost a lot of money. Everyone used to think of Sheffield as a blackened city but now it is clean and attractive. One of our great problems is created by starlings, pigeons and now, seagulls, which seem suddenly to have found that the city is better than their normal habitat.
Sheffield also has a furniture collection scheme. One can ring up and a van or lorry will arrive on which one can load one's rubbish. Like other cities, we have bottle banks. I agree with the hon. Member for Newham, North-West
Column 648and my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford that we should reimpose a deposit system for bottles. At the moment, we put bottles in bins or bags and they add to the volume of waste. It is a waste of our natural resources to have a firm churning out bottles only for them to be thrown away. That does not seem sensible. Bottle banks should be placed outside large stores. They should be obliged to provide such a facility. Many stores are into the environment. As part of that environmental kick they could provide bottle banks. Some stores put waste paper bins outside. There is a branch of McDonald's in Victoria, not far from where I live. McDonald's is one of the firms that employs people to pick up the litter round their premises and sweep the pavements. The larger stores have an obligation to do something to help people dispose of bottles. It would be progress indeed if companies were prepared to do that.
I thoroughly enjoy reading newspapers but they are the bane of my life. My late father used to keep newspapers around so that eventually one could not get near him without pulling a newspaper away. I inherited that tendency. It was in my genes. I discovered that I was doing it at home. My wife used to throw the papers in the bin and I could be seen at midnight with a torch searching for a newspaper that I considered vital. It was a beautiful sight. I always found the wrong newspaper and, in any case, it was never as important as it seemed. I now realise that following in my father's footsteps and hoarding newspapers in not a way forward. In Sheffield I take about four newspapers a day. We have to do something with them. We can burn them, or throw them in the bin, which means that they will be tipped but there seems to be no collection service. We have bottle banks so why do we not have newspaper banks in which to throw newspaper for recycling?
As I said earlier, we do not use our resources very well. We should give people an incentive to take their litter to a given point in the fear that they will pay a penalty if they do not. The police have far too much to do in maintaining law and order on the large scale, but although litter offences may be minor offences they can cause great upset. We should find a way of imposing a penalty on those who leave litter. I agree with the hon. Member for Newham, North-West that we do not want a £10 or a £5 fine, but we could have an on-the-spot fine.
Mr. Dickens : My hon. Friend has been telling us some of Sheffield's success stories. He may be pleased to hear that in one of the villages in my constituency we have a road cleaner called Raymond Watkins. He is such a good road cleaner that he will do anything at any hour of the day to keep the village clean. Such is his reputation that people no longer throw rubbish away because they know that poor old Raymond will have to deal with it. The local authority has suggested that Raymond Watkins should move to another place, and 300 people have signed a petition pleading with it not to move him. We should not forget that much can be achieved by example. It is a question of attitude, although we tend to forget that. It is terribly important that we should set a good example at home and at school.
Mr. Patnick : I accept what my hon. Friend says about street cleaners taking pride in their work. I usually meet one in the mornings because his beat is close to where I collect some of my four daily newspapers. He is always
Column 649smiling and happy. There is a very good fish and chip shop near where I live, but unfortunately the birds take the fish and chip wrappings out of the bins and strew them over the pavements. That street cleaner's first job is to clear up the mess left by those birds.
I recently wrote to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office asking whether anything could be done about fly-posting. It appears that, as ever, there is a strong law on that, but no one wants to enforce it. Under section 6 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1984 any advertisement must receive either the deemed or the express consent of the local planning authority or the Secretary of State. A condition of that consent is that before any advertisement is displayed, the permission of the owner of the site must be obtained. We all know that those who put up fly posters do not bother to do that. If they see a nice stretch of wall, a shop window boarded-up or a "To Let" sign, they stick their posters all over it. It is cumulative, because someone else then puts his poster over that poster and then another person puts another one over that. It looks so tatty. Sheffield city council actually employs men with steam guns--they are masked and look as though they come from Mars--to remove fly posters.
Believe it or not, Sheffield city council leases premises to the very people who put up fly posters. If there is to be a concert in council-owned premises and fly posters advertising that concert are put up, the council should take action against those who perpetrate that crime on the environment. Unfortunately, that just does not happen. It is surely not difficult to discover who is running the concert, who is appearing, where one can buy tickets and so on. There are statutory fines for offenders who paint graffiti on walls. One of the problems with graffiti, especially that done with spray paint cans, is that there does not appear to be any way of obliterating the paint once it has been sprayed on. Some of that graffiti is not only racist, it is obscene. Some of it is just childish in the extreme. It makes me wonder what sort of intelligent person uses a spray can. Some of the graffiti appears to be quite professional.
Many hon. Members have said that the people who use spray cans to write graffiti are artists. As one comes by train to London one sees graffiti on the walls of various buildings, but graffiti is another sin or crime against the environment. We need graffiti-proof paint. One thing that I have noticed since I have been a Member of the House is that Tube trains have had to have graffiti removed from them. I do not know which is worse, graffiti or the marks that remain when it is removed. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to come up with a spray-paint-proof treatment for railway train carriages. Somebody could say, "The next thing that they will do is spray-paint the walls." That is not where it is done. It is obviously done in sidings where trains are parked.
The Criminal Damage Act 1971 provides that
"A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another intending to destroy or damage"-- It is always hard when one reads legal expressions ; they never make sense except to lawyers- -
"any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged shall be guilty of an offence."
Column 650In my language, it is an offence to damage somebody else's property. When an hon. Member puts down a resolution in the House, it needs either a semicolon or a colon to make it read.
The maximum sentence, covering a wide range of activities, is 10 years' imprisonment, if the offender is convicted on indictment--that is, after a trial by judge and jury in a Crown court rather than before a magistrate. Graffiti writing will invariably be regarded as one of the less serious forms of criminal damage, and offenders are likely to be dealt with by a magistrate.
The Public Order Act 1986 also covers several relevant offences. Graffiti that is likely or intended to stir up racial hatred may render the writer liable to prosecution under section 18 of the Act. The Attorney-General's consent is required before proceedings for an offence under that section can be brought. The maximum penalty for a person convicted on indictment is two years' imprisonment, a fine, or both. If the person is convicted summarily by a magistrate, the maximum penalty is six months, a fine or both. There is little case law on either of those provisions, but it seems likely that, in certain circumstances, they extend to graffiti writers.
Obviously, the police will take the first steps in the process leading to trial. The new enforcement arm that I continue to advocate should be responsible for that. Whether an offender is reported, arrested or merely cautioned is a discretionary matter for the police officers concerned. When the process is started, it is for the Crown prosecution service to decide to bring charges. If it decides to charge someone, it will also choose the offence with which that person is to be charged. The Crown prosecution service examines two sets of criteria--evidential sufficiency and public interest--as the Crown prosecutors' code explains.
If a person is tried and convicted of criminal damage or of an offence under the Public Order Act 1986, a variety of penalties will be available within the statutory maximum. The Home Office has provided a guide book summarising the penalties for offenders in different age groups.
The Criminal Justice Act 1988 replaces youth custody and detention centre orders with unified custodial sentences. Parents can be ordered to pay any fines, costs or compensatory orders imposed on their children, and the Act extends that provision to fines imposed when juveniles breach supervision or community service orders. Vandalism is a key factor in parliamentary debates on the subject of litter. There are discussions with people working in Government Departments, local authorities, the police and the academic world, but there has been little if any systematic research into vandalism nationally, so my remarks illustrate only one small part of the subject. It is important not to get vandalism out of proportion. Although a great deal of damage is done to property such as buses, trains and telephone kiosks, it is not really vandalism--in the sense that public telephones, for example are not wrenched from their mountings and thrown away.
I shall bear in mind the remarks of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West about the right housing policies being axiomatic in solving many problems. The current trend of devising more humane designs and layouts will help, particularly if special attention is paid to eliminating features known to encourage vandalism. The move away from smaller housing units was started in the 1960s by a Conservative Government, even though