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Mr. Edward Davey: I agree with my hon. Friend. In my constituency, Clarence street, at the heart of the town centre, is littered with chewing gum. That causes a serious problem, and the local authority has been spending a lot of money on it. It seems that some chewing gum companies are reluctant to spend money on telling people about safe disposal because they are worried that it might put them off buying their product. We will have to be much tougher on those companies and possibly force them to take that approach, because they will not do it willingly.
Sue Doughty: My hon. Friend makes a strong point that bears out my remarks. The consultation cannot be allowed to be a soft option. We should consider alternatives such as the penny-a-pack levy to be fed back to those who have to clean up this mess. Tough action is required. I hope that this will not be a lightweight consultation, because it cannot be allowed to be a soft option. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.
Mr. Peter Atkinson
: I shall be brief because we want to hear what the Minister has to say. I support new clause 10 because the problems with chewing gum need to be tackled. The Liberal Democrat spokesman said that it was a question of consultationI fear that more is needed and that we should send a tougher message to chewing gum manufacturers, conveying that they are partly responsible for the damage that their product does. That point applies to all litter. The manufacturers of soft drink cartons should also have some regard to the biodegradability of their products. As I said earlier, many seem to end up on British roads.
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People's behaviour is influenced by the state of the environment. Many years ago, when I was a councillor in London and we had taken over from a fading Labour council, we spent much more money and cleaned the streets. That had not been done properly in the time of Labour rule. One consequence of keeping the streets clean is that people throw far less litter. If one drives along a road such as the A1, where stretches are covered in litter, it is easy to think, "Well, I'll just chuck the can out of the window because it won't make any difference to the messy road." That applies to chewing gum. If the street is littered with chewing gum, it is a great temptation to throw it down and not dispose of it properly.
In Chicago, the mayor has made a tremendous effort to keep the city clean. It is interesting to observe that the citizens of that city, which was once filthy, are meticulous about putting their rubbish in litter bins. If we set a good example, people will follow it. That is why I believe that a message to manufacturers about taking some responsibility, rather than consultation, is needed.
Alun Michael: I suppose that I should begin by welcoming the fact that one or two Conservative Members appear to have woken up to the importance of the Bill. However, on Second Reading, they opposed it and even failed to turn up to debate it, and they did not make major contributions in Committee. They therefore have a cheek to make such contributions to today's debate.
I must resist new clause 2 on a ground that I hope that the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) will find immediately convincing. It is unnecessary because section 89(7) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 already requires a code of practice to be issued on the discharge of the litter clearance duties. That has been achieved through the code of practice on litter and refuse of 1999. Subsection (9) allows the code to be modified or withdrawn and reissued. We plan to consult on a new version of the code in the summer to take into account the changes for which the Bill provides. I assure hon. Members that we will cover standards for litter involving gum and smoking-related products in that code.
New clause 10 is unnecessary and its principles have been debated in detail in Committee. The hon. Lady has a predilection for pointless regulation while resisting well considered efforts to tackle the real issues. The Government are already working with local government and the chewing gum industry through the chewing gum action group to tackle the problem of discarded chewing gum. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Linda Gilroy) referred to that a few moments ago. I set up that action group in autumn 2003.
Members of the group represent the interests of both the chewing gum industry and local authorities, including Wrigley as the largest manufacturer in the UK, the Local Government Association, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management and ENCAMS. We sponsor ENCAMS to run campaigns on behaviour change, which is at the heart of the matter. The group's remit is to find sustainable solutions, through a partnership approach, to the irresponsible disposal of gum.
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My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton referred to the segmentation research, which arose out of the group's work. The group considered the research and asked why people behaved in such a way. The segmentation research demonstrated that different groups in society dispose of their gum in antisocial ways for different reasons. That is why the campaigning work, which is being designed and worked on in conjunction with the industry and ENCAMS, is tailored to the genuine reasons for people's behaviour.
We have gone beyond simply saying that things are better elsewhere to asking how we can effect change by first understanding behaviour and then finding the levers that will lead to better behaviour, and litter disposal that does not cause the problems that hon. Members described. The action group is looking at national and local initiatives. The market research project will inform a national awareness-raising campaign that will take place later this year, which will be complemented by sustainable local campaigns around enforcement and innovative disposal solutions. There is no single solution to this; it is a question of carrot and stick and of behaviour change. It is a question of encouragement as well as exhortation.
I am pleased by the way in which the industry has responded over the past 18 months. It is now contributing financially to the measures that the group developed. I spent some time at Wrigley in Plymouth a couple of weeks ago, with my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton, and I am convinced that the managing director, Gharry Eccles, and his team understand that, in regard to the more responsible disposal of gum, it is in the best interests of their company and the industry, as well as those of the wider public, to change the way in which people behave.
The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) sounded almost European in his wish to learn from other countries. I share his wish for better standards, but we must understand the problems of this country first. He clearly had not bothered to research his subject before coming into the Chamber to speak on it; otherwise he would have been aware of the work that the industry is now doing with us. It was unfortunate that he sought to attack the industry, and Wrigley in particular, in his speech.
Mr. Gummer: I am proud to make the statement that I am a European. I am a European, I am proud of it, and I shall continue to be so. I should like to make a point to the Minister that I think is reasonable. I did not suggest that the industry had done nothing; I suggested that it had not done enough. I ask the Minister again to give us some time lines in regard to what the industry is going to do, when it will do it, and how soon we can expect to see any alteration. If he could do that, we would be happier with what his committee has been doing.
Alun Michael: I was being generous to the right hon. Gentleman, but if he does not want my generosity, he can do without it. I was about to say that I should not be too hard on him because he is now supporting a Bill that his party opposed on Second Readinga point that needs to be made to Conservative Members time and again.
Amendment No. 3 will be resisted because it is unnecessary. Clause 18 will make it an offence to drop litter anywhere in the open air, including on land beside railways, railway carriages and buses. It will cover structures such as bus shelters and railway platforms that are covered but accessible to the public. It will also cover land to which the public does not have access, such as boarded or fenced-off land adjacent to railways where dropped litter can easily accumulate.
Subsection (3), by virtue of section 86(13) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, will exempt land that is both coveredalbeit open to the air on at least one sideand not accessible to the public. Littering in such areas is really a matter for the occupier to deal with, as it does not impact on the quality of the local environment. The amount of litter likely to end up in such areas when thrown from a railway, railway carriage or bus is minimal.
I must point out to the hon. Member for Vale of York that, when she was talking about transport undertakers, she confused clause 18, which deals with the offence of dropping litter, with clause 20, which is about litter cleansing notices. Amendment No. 3 does not affect the latter. Railways are under a statutory duty to keep their relevant land clear of litter, and that is not affected by the Bill. Litter cleansing notices could be issued in respect of other railway land, but we will issue guidance to ensure that they take account of operational needs after full consultation with the relevant operators. I therefore ask the hon. Members not to press their amendment and new clauses to a vote.
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