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Linda Gilroy: The hon. Gentleman has just mentioned climate change, which is not, as far as I can see, mentioned in the reasoned amendment. I bring him back to the issue of chewing gum. The reasoned amendment says that the Government are failing
Will he be clear on what precisely he means by that? What producer responsibility would he expect? The answer would be of great interest to the hundreds of my constituents who earn their living in the Wrigley's factory.
Mr. Yeo: My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) is in discussions with Wrigley's[Interruption.] We are not jumping to conclusions. She will deal with the problem because it is part of the Bill in which she takes a close interest. She will deal specifically with the concerns raised. Of course I understand that a business will be anxious about the possible impact of more stringent legislation on one of its products.
The Bill is being introduced at a time when the issues with which it deals are becoming more urgent and serious. However, it does not provide evidence of a coherent Government strategy to deal with waste and pollutionthings that damage the quality of many people's lives every day. Although we will use the Committee stage to make improvements, we remain concerned about the effectiveness of some of the provisions, the enforceability of others and the meddlesome nature of yet others. We are doubtful that local authorities, on which more responsibility is being placed, will be keen to embrace all the new measures unless they are accompanied by extra cash to implement them. The Bill ignores too many things. For all those reasons, I urge the House to support our amendment.
Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) (Lab):
The Bill is significant in that it recognises and responds to the needs of local residents. For the past couple of years, I have had the great privilege of touring the country and talking to groups of people about what they would like future policy to contain. What struck me was the priority that they gave to their local environment. They want their local streetscapes lifted and their environment enhanced. That applies in both urban and rural areas.
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I note with interest, for example, that the National Farmers Union, the Country Land and Business Association and the Campaign to Protect Rural England broadly support the measures. If read carefully, the Bill can be seen to work for both urban and rural communities. For their own political interests, some people want to drive a wedge between the urban and rural communities whereas they are, in fact, integrated and need to work together.
Mr. Drew: My hon. Friend can add to that list the Local Government Association, which also comprises Conservative authorities. It does not argue that the Bill imposes additional costs. It is very much four-square behind it.
Let me mention some of the groups that I met. Kay Henshaw and her neighbours on Wigwam grove, Hucknall were fighting for the removal of litter and fences and for trees and grassland to be maintained properly. When the people in Rainworth were asked for their priorities, they wanted cleaner and safer streets, more trees, more flowers and better maintenance of grassland. The people who formed the Ollerton traffic action group wanted to stop traffic ingressing into their area. I also met farmers such as the Hammond family, who farm close to Bestwood country park, who were concerned about fly-tipping and abandoned cars on the urban fringes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell (Mr. Challen) made a good point about the importance of urban fringes. We must build on the work of the Countryside Agency to ensure that our urban fringes are more than places where cars go to die and are not the final recipients of refrigerators. Urban fringes offer exciting opportunities. Reforming the system of paying farmers gives us an opportunity to intervene.
I argue strongly that people support the Bill because they know what happens when their neighbourhood is blighted. We all know too well what happens where streets are littered, where pavements are cracked and not repaired, where gardens are overgrown and where cars are abandoned or are repaired on the street. The Bill tackles that for the first time. It is in those neighbourhoods that we get crime and antisocial or nuisance behaviour. People feel strongly that if we can build cleaner, greener, stronger communities, and if we can adopt an attitude of no tolerance not only towards crime but towards environmental crime, we can build better communities. That is what inspires people. What hard-working people want is a better environmenta better place to bring up their children.
I believe strongly that the Bill provides a cornerstone for building such an environment. It will not be easy, but there are indications in the Bill that we are going in the right direction. There is a clear recognition that the problem cannot be solved by one Department, one agency or one group of people. The measures in the Bill are closely intertwined with those for dealing with antisocial behaviour. We have to take a comprehensive
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approach to lifting our communities and to building better, safer places. That is why it is important that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and other Departments, such as the Home Office, are involved in promoting the Bill.
It is significant that, building on the antisocial behaviour legislation that the Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality was instrumental in piloting through the House some years ago, crime and disorder reduction partnerships are to take environmental nuisance behaviour into account when making their plans. If we want cleaner, safer neighbourhoods and communities, it is fundamentally important that those working partnerships put that aspiration at the heart of their plans.
I am pleased that town and parish councils are to be given new powers, a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew). If we believe in localities, we must trust local people to make decisions, and we must be big enough to recognise that the decisions that they make will not always be those that we would make. It is right that things should be different in, say, Nuneaton, Newcastle and Nottingham. There are different problems and different solutions, and we must empower people to move towards those solutions.
We need to involve people in this process. First, we must empower local authorities, which are increasingly recognising the importance of high quality streets and communities. But they must not be shy of involving local people in those discussions because, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, people know the needs in their area, and they know the solutions, too. Local authorities need to think more strategically. They need to empower local groups to take action themselves. We must move forward on the new localism agenda. We should not be afraid of volunteerism. These are people's streets; these are people's communities; these are people's problems. We must help them to find solutions.
Mr. Challen : Does my hon. Friend agree that although the Opposition seem to fear that fixed penalty notices might simply become a new revenue stream for local authorities if those notices are in the hands of town and parish councils and other local authorities, there will be greater accountability and transparency in the way that money raised from them is spent, if it is spent, on cleaning up local communities?
Paddy Tipping: My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. The issue is one of trust and devolving resources. We must ask people how they would spend the money, and the response will differ across the country. To be candid, we have not been good at doing that, but I hope that we will get better at it.
Local authorities face costsfor example, the Bill contains provisions for gating orders, building on the provision in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to close footpaths in high-crime areas. We all thought that that was a big step forward, but it has proved to be enormously difficult. One of my local authorities, Gedling borough council, expended a lot of staff time on trying to resolve those issues in the Bigwood area. I accept that some alleyways are the
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focus and locus of antisocial behaviour, but we have to be careful about using gating provisions. We have to consider why the provision in the 2000 Act has not worked. It has not worked because, at times, there is a clear conflict between the need to deny a venue for antisocial behaviour and people's legitimate right to take a short cut to school, to work or to the bus station. Many of the details of gating orders will be set out in regulations to be published later by the Secretary of State. I think that the Standing Committee should analyse the provisions so that we can be sure about simple matters such as who does the gating, who pays the costs of gating and who maintains the gates.
Local authorities will give priority to the issue, but I think that the most important thing we can do is to raise consciousness of the fact that antisocial behaviour and environmental crime are nuisance behaviours. Alongside the provisions of the Bill, we must drive forward a programme to ensure that people understand the significance of clean, green and prosperous communities. Cleanness and greenness will increase the prosperity of neighbourhoods, so that they are places to which people return rather than places from which they flee to rural areas.
The Bill refers to changing the regulations on the financial position on waste. I am rather disappointed that there is no suggestion of direct or variable charging. The Government have a good record on recycling: people said that we would never reach the 17 per cent. target, but we are on track to do that and we shall do more. Alongside the current measures, however, there is a strong case for financial instruments so that people who recycle more are rewarded in some wayperhaps by a reduction in their council tax. I have examined the long title fairly closely and I believe that the issue is one that the Standing Committee may discuss at some length.
The Bill paves the way to a better future. People want a better place to live. Hard-working people have high aspirations for their families. They know that houses in clean, green, well-maintained streets are more valuable, but what could be more valuable than a place that is safe for children and is not polluted by litter, antisocial behaviour, noise and light? The Bill contains new measures on all those problems. It gives people the tools for the job. We must provide the resources and find the processes that will make it work.
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