|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Alun Michael: It really is irresponsible of the hon. Lady to repeat suggestions that have already been rebutted. She knows full well, because I made this absolutely clear in Committee, that all the Bill does in relation to chewing gum is ensure that those who are in any doubt about whether dropped chewing gum is litter have the matter clarified. The suggestion that it involves additional costs or additional requirements is an error on the part of Westminster city council. I have pointed out to her previously that her reliance on Westminster city council as her only source of advice and suggestions is a mistake on her part.
Miss McIntosh: On Second Reading, the hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) quoted a similar figure from Kensington and Chelsea, so we are in no doubt as to what the costs are. The Minister obviously was not listening when I said this very day from this very Dispatch Box that he has singularly failed to clarify that point, which involves the staggering sum of £9 million.
I commend the Library table to the House, because on fixed penalty notices, assuming a 75 per cent. take-up rate on street litter clearing notices, only £75,000 would be earned as revenue across the board, whereas the total cost would be £342 million. That is a new figure.
I was under the impression that the Minister said that the cost of removing chewing gum does not incur an additional cost to local authorities, but I can only say from my experience in the Macclesfield borough, where the shopping precinct is blighted by chewing gum, that adequately and properly removing it from the pedestrian areas involves a huge cost. If I have misheard the Minister I apologise, but I hope he can clarify precisely what he said.
21 Feb 2005 : Column 104
Alun Michael: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) has quite misunderstood what I said. I was referring to the provisions of the Bill, which do not change in any way the onus on local authorities to remove staininga very expensive and difficult problem for all local authorities. He is absolutely right on that. The claim made by Westminster city council and conveyed by its messenger on the Conservative Front Bench in Committee was that the Bill will place on it a new obligation to remove those stains. That is not the case. We simply discovered that some local authorities were being advised that there was a doubt as to whether chewing gum when dropped was a piece of litter. The answer is that it is already, but the Bill puts that beyond all doubt. That is the only change in relation to the issue, but it was misinterpreted by Westminster city council.
Miss McIntosh: Without going over the ground that we covered in Committee, I think that Westminster city council has a valid point. The point that I made on Report was simply that, due to the size of a blob of chewing gum, it is difficult to catch someone in the act of dropping it. That is the point that Westminster city council raised through us in Committee and on Report today. Unfortunately, when someone steps on chewing gum as soon as it has been dropped but before it has been identified as litter, a stain is left on the floor. The Minister is being disingenuous in raising the issue, which will doubtless be revisited when the Bill reaches the other place for, I hope, more in-depth scrutiny.
The Minister spoke about the serious issue of fly-tipping, which according to Environment Agency estimates, costs local authorities £100 million to £150 million to remove 50,000 fly-tipping incidents a year. The Minister mocked my claim that the Bill pits urban against rural areas and put it on record again today that the Environment Agency is responsible for removing fly-tipping from publicly owned land in a town or urban area. In relation to a piece of land being rural and privately ownedour amendment on the matter was rejectedthe Environment Agency, which is responsible for implementing this part, has said:
"There have been a number of cases where the landowner has been a party to the unlawful deposit. However, in most instances the landowner is a victim of this crime and may either choose to pay for the clean-up themselves or else do nothing. The Courts may award costs if these have been presented during the prosecution case, but cannot require the wastes to be removed or the land cleaned up."
I submit that that means that it is all right for the Environment Agency to pay for and use local council tax payer's money to remove waste that has been fly-tipped on to publicly owned land in an urban area, but it is not empowered, under either existing legislation or the Bill, to so relieve a perfectly innocent landowner who has had no knowledge of, and has not given his consent to, having waste fly-tipped on to his land. It is the landowner's choice to remove that from his privately owned land, and he must bear the expense. That is
21 Feb 2005 : Column 105
distressing and unacceptable, and has been a source of great concern to both the National Farmers Union and the Country Landowners Association.
Paddy Tipping : The hon. Lady makes a false argument. In urban areas, there is both publicly and privately owned property, as in rural areas. The Bill applies across the board, and it is a false dichotomy to pit urban people against rural people, which shows that she is wrongly and falsely pursuing another interest.
Miss McIntosh: I have had excellent co-operation with ENCAMS and the Environment Agency in my area. They are alert to the fact that the Government have signed up to a number of directives that have led to an increasing incidence of fly-tipping, often with a criminal element involved. That is why we take this issue seriously. The onus should be on the Environment Agency to remove this stuff, and if it can identify the criminals who have placed it on private land in the country, it should prosecute them, which would help to defray the costs. Signing up to the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive and the landfill directive has seen increasing amounts of white goods being fly-tipped in rural areas. As co-disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes is no longer allowed, there are not sufficient sites to take those and landfill is closing down. I believe that we will return to this issue ad nauseum. The Bill provided an opportunity to rectify that balance and ensure that landowners were put in the same situation as others.
It is fair to add that the National Farmers Union welcomes many aspects of the Bill, although it has raised a number of concerns with us. I want to put those on record, because the Government failed to consider them sympathetically and act on the amendments that we tabled on the NFU's behalf. On gating orders, the union said:
The NFU believes that farmers could be seen to be being victimised. The union would have welcomed Government guidance enabling authorities to deal with illegal deposits of waste, but I made that point at some length a moment ago.
21 Feb 2005 : Column 106
"The NFU is concerned that the identification of the true culprit can be difficult to establish, and that the landowner or occupier is more easily established . . . The NFU would urge that landowners and occupiers should not have to pay for costs of enforcement, recovery, or clean-up until the final outcome of any appeal is known."
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|