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A number of powers are also available to tackle environmental antisocial behaviour. Fly-tipping is a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of a £20,000 fine and/or imprisonment of up to six months. Prosecutions can be taken by the local authority or the Environment Agency. We have asked the Environment Agency to prosecute vigorously any person found to be illegally disposing of waste. The cost of cleaning up fly-tipped waste can be recovered from those responsible for causing the offence. The Environment Agency has set up an emergency telephone hotline so that members of the public can notify it of fly-tipping and swift action can be taken. The number, incidentally, is 0800 80 70 60.
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Powers available to local authorities for dealing with fly-tipping were extended by the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, which gave local authorities powers to stop, search and seize vehicles suspected of being used for fly-tipping and to investigate incidents.
Fixed penalty notices for littering are available and can be used by local authority-authorised personnel under powers in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 or the police under the penalty notice for disorder scheme. Under the local authority-operated scheme, if the person fails to pay within the specified period, the authority can prosecute them. Under the police route, if the recipient fails to pay or request a court hearing within the specified period, a fine of one and a half times the penalty is registered against them. If the fine is not paid then, the relevant court will take enforcement action against the individual as it would for any other fine, which may include deploying bailiffs to seize goods in lieu.
I note the point that my hon. Friend made about serving fixed penalty notices on those who refuse to give their name and address. In those circumstances, the police could arrest individuals under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to obtain their identity. However, we will continue to keep those issues under review, in the light of practical problems that are encountered.
Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 specifically allows the police to seize a vehicle in limited circumstances. There are already powers in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to seize vehicles where trespassers fail to comply with a direction to leave land. It is also a criminal offence to fail to comply with a police direction to leave land.
My hon. Friend asks me to consider the concept of extended trespass. I shall certainly consider it in more detail, but I remind him that the current legislation goes some way to dealing with this as it deals with trespassers who are
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I want to link this discussion to another matter. Action against illegal encampments cannot be considered in isolation from provision of authorised sites. Moving encampments around an area is an expensive and frustrating business that achieves little. He has illustrated that very well, but greater provision would help to end it. Our aim is for those who wish to settle to be able to do so lawfully on permanent residential sites. Those who wish to travel should be enabled to do so lawfully on transit sites or stopping places.
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Local authorities have the lead role in site provision. The Housing Act 2004 requires local authorities to carry out housing needs assessments for Gypsies and Travellers, as they do for the settled community. They will also need to draw up a Gypsy and Traveller accommodation strategy. These will feed into the regional planning process to enable an assessment to be made at regional level of the totality of need and the appropriate pattern of provision as between one authority and another.
Ultimately, local authorities will have to identify sites suitable for Gypsies and Travellers as part of their local development framework. The opportunity provided through the regional planning process to look across the region should help to counter the concerns of some authorities that they are being left to shoulder the burden on their own.
Jim Fitzpatrick: That is my understanding of the law as it is interpreted, but I will clarify the matter and write to my hon. Friend to ensure that he specifically and clearly understands the legislation.
I again thank my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North for raising his and his constituents' concerns, as that has given me the opportunity to underline the fact that the Government take these matters very seriously. We have a strong package of measures. We will be working with local authorities to ensure that they understand their powers and duties, to encourage site and service provision, to promote the effective use of enforcement powers and to tackle antisocial behaviour.
I understand that my hon. Friend is soon to meet the Minister for Housing and Planning further to discuss these issues. Furthermore, ODPM officials from the Gypsy and Traveller unit will be contacting Nottingham city council to discuss the difficulties that have been raised by my hon. Friend and to offer support in addressing them. Whether they go to Nottingham or Nottingham comes to London is a matter that will, I am sure, be subject to discussion.
I am confident that when local government and central Government work together and are supported by elected politicians at local and national level, we will start to see real changes on the ground, which will benefit Gypsies and Travellers and the settled community alike.