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Lord Whitty: My Lords, I appreciate the tone in which those two interventions were made, although the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, ranged rather widely to include the constitution and the Prime Minister's choice of election date: far be it from me to comment on either of those.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that the Bill will affect, for the better, a lot of people's lives, even in its present form. Any legislation can no doubt be improved by scrutiny by the House, but the Bill is, of itself, valuable. Given the circumstances and the parliamentary timetable with which we are faced, it will be worthwhile legislation. The assurances that I have tried to give in the letter and at Second Reading have met many of the points raised. However, there will be other points, including gating, and the responsibilities for clearing fly-tipping waste, as raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, to which the House will need to return at some point. In the mean
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time, I hope that the assurances that I have given give sufficient security for the House to pass the Bill today, subject to the amendments to which I will now turn.
The noble Lord said: The amendment will change the wording of Clause 3 to make it an offence to expose or advertise two or more motor vehicles on a road within 500 metres of each other, rather than, as the original Bill said, when they are parked on the same road. That deals directly with a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, at Second Reading, to which I think other noble Lords referred as well. It will ensure that the offence can be committed whether cars are parked on the same road, on different roads at a crossroads, where a series of roads come together or where one road changes its name. So long as they are within 500 metres of each other, we can now take action to stop the use of the highway for a sales pitch. I think that that is the desired outcome we were all seeking, and I ask the Committee to accept the amendment. I beg to move.
Lord Greaves: I am extremely grateful to the Minister for the amendment, which does exactly what I asked for at Second Reading and which I think was also raised in the House of Commons. I assure the Minister that the problem is one on which some of us will report back very soon with regard to whether the provisions are working or not.
Baroness Byford: At Second Reading, I raised the question of what was and what was not a road. Can the Minister give us slightly greater clarity on that? In country areas where people do exactly the same thing but are half-parked on the verge, or on the verge in what I call "old spa towns", will that be covered in guidance or whatever the Government introduce? I raised the issue at Second Reading, and I would be grateful for clarification.
Lord Whitty: The provision relates to the highway, which includes the pavement to the highway, but it would not include grass verges, as I tried to make clear at Second Reading. That is partly because the nature of ownership and the status of verges varies considerably, and we have had to stick with the definition of the highway. It relates to roads, pavements and their equivalent but not most grass verges.
Baroness Byford: Perhaps I may raise the issue again with the Minister because it could be a problem in villages where the same sort of action could take place. This is just a nudge to ask whether it is something that the Minister could consider in the longer term. Obviously, we are running out of time with the Bill, but it is equally irritating, if you live in a rural village, to have
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it spoilt by people doing exactly the same as they do in towns. Just because a verge is not considered a highway does not seem to be adequate grounds for not trying to do something about it.
Lord Whitty: I can undertake to look at this again, but it is quite complex because of the status and ownership of the land. What might be regarded from any common-sense point of view as grass verges in some villages I can think of reveal complexities in ownership. Substantial problems could arise in dealing with those issues. While I take the point made by the noble Baroness, I do not think that I would be able to deal with it within the context of this clause, even if we had the time. I hope that the noble Baroness will take my assurance that I will look at the matter again for the future.
The noble Lord said: The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, raised this concern in relation to the provisions on fly-tipping. Indeed, at Second Reading several noble Lords were concerned that litter clearing notices might be used by local authorities to require occupiers or landlords to clear fly-tipped waste from their land. They feared that this would circumvent the safeguards for occupiers and landowners set out in Section 59 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which gives such a power to enforcement agencies in the case of fly-tipped waste, but contains a defence that the occupier did not himself deposit or knowingly cause or permit the deposit of the waste. As I made clear in my response to the debate, it would not be appropriate to use this clause in those circumstances because it relates to litter clearing notices rather than fly-tipped waste.
We will make that clear in guidance and, if accepted, this amendment will put that guidance on a statutory basis. It will require principal litter authorities to have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales in relation to any aspect of the discharge of their functions in respect of litter clearing notices under new Section 92A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which will be introduced by this clause. Currently the clause allows guidance to be given only in relation to standards that may be specified in a notice for the clearance of litter or refuse from the land.
I shall clear up any remaining confusion about the powers under Clause 50, to which cross-reference was made at Second Reading, in relation to removing fly-tipped waste. As I said, Section 59 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 enables the enforcement agencies to require an occupier who knowingly allows his land to be used for fly-tipping to remove the fly-tipped waste. Clause 50 will extend this power to landowners, but only in the situation where there is no occupier. In addition,
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the occupierand under Clause 50 the landowner as wellwill still have the defence that I referred to under Clause 59 of the Environmental Protection Act that they did not knowingly cause or permit the deposit of waste.
The change will help the enforcing authorities to bring irresponsible landowners within the remit of legislation without penalising the victims of fly-tipping. It will help deal in particular with problems that have occurred in urban areas where sites with no occupier, but clearly a landowner in the form of an absentee landlord, are used as illegal waste dumps. Such landlords are not covered by the present provisions, and in effect such a landlord has allowed his land to be used as an illegal waste dump and is thus the target of this clause. However, the defence of not knowingly having permitted land to be used is still valid and, indeed, is extended to the landowner. I beg to move.
Lord Dixon-Smith: This is a welcome clarification. The fact that the authority must have regard to the guidance, which the Minister has assured us will be appropriate to meet our concerns, relieves us all. While I support the amendment, my only remaining concern is that situations can arise where waste is fly-tipped, but no one will clear it up because the landowner has committed no offence and the occupier either cannot be found or has also committed no offence. Nevertheless, the waste has been dumped and has to be dealt with. I fear that that will be a continuing residual problem and there is real concern that the liability will fall on the responsible landowner who wishes to keep his land in a fit state.
The alternative is for every landowner to erect along his boundaries with the highway a six or eight-foot high fence that is deer-proof and proof against people tipping anything over it. That would not improve the look of the countryside.
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