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Baroness Byford: I have already spoken to the Minister, who was kind enough to write to me following our debate at Second Reading in a letter dated 4 April. Since this is the only way I can ensure that it is put in the public record, I have had the Minister's approval to read out the section dealing with the issue. It is an important matter and should be recorded. Pieces of paper related to the Bill sadly can get lost. I am grateful to the Minister, who in his letter addresses litter clearing notices and fly-tipped waste:

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7 p.m.

The letter continued:

which we are now debating—


 
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I apologise for that rather long submission but it is important that landowners should understand the commitment that the Government have given. I am grateful to the Minister for allowing me to read out his letter and for bringing forward the amendment today.

Lord Greaves: I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, for reading the letter. It will be very helpful to have it in Hansard.

The only point I wish to make is that whichever party forms the government of this country after 5 May—it may be us; who knows?—I hope that it will produce the necessary guidance quickly. The powers in relation to fly-tipping and littered land in urban areas are very important and the sooner local authorities have those powers the sooner they will be able to tackle some of the eyesores that exist at the moment. These are proving intractable for the reasons set out by the Minister.

Lord Cameron of Dillington: I am still not very relaxed about Clause 20. I have a series of questions—most of which probably reflect my ignorance of the way in which these things work—about which I hope the Minister will be able to reassure me.

First, what is the legal difference between littering and fly-tipping? In other words, what clarity do I have, as a farmer whose land has been despoiled by a visitor to the countryside, that the mess created falls under Clause 50, of which I approve, or under Clause 20, of which, in its current form, I do not?

The Minister has kindly agreed to provide statutory guidance to local authorities but I remain slightly unconvinced by that route. Without the guidance being on the face of the Bill, what is to prevent the "appropriate person", or a future "appropriate person", changing the guidance without Parliament having a say? To what extent will the guidance become an implicit part of the Act? As I said, these questions are based on ignorance of the way in which these things work.

My last question is a probing one. It seems from the answers that we have so far received that Clause 20 is specifically directed at the urban environment and at land which, when littered, creates a nuisance—an effect which may devalue people's property or damage the quality of their lives. I get the impression that the Government do not intend it to apply to farmers—or to anyone in a rural situation for that matter. I hope the Minister will be able to clarify that.

If that is the case, could not the Government agree to an amendment to Clause 20? At page 16, line 33, proposed new Section 92A(1) states:

I would look to see added to that,

I apologise for suggesting a verbal amendment but the circumstances are quite strange in this wash-up Session. That, of course, may not be the exact wording, but I remain convinced that the clause needs to be more focused. Implicit in the Minister's letter is an
 
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acknowledgement that the Government have not yet got it right. I would prefer to see the clause amended rather than qualified by "easier-to-adjust" statutory guidance.

Lord Whitty: The problem with the non-amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, is that there is no pre-existing definition of "litter" or "fly-tipping". Therefore, any definition would require lengthier amendments than the one that he informally proposed. But the guidance will clearly make the distinction, and that is the way in which we have approached this matter. The guidance, of course, will be augmented by my assurances, both at Second Reading and today, and, indeed, by the parts of my letter read out by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. She clearly regards me, on occasions, as much more convincing in writing than in person in the House.

We are dealing with two different kinds of litter. It is not rural against urban or open land against curtilage land, but there are different kinds of litter. That will be made clear in the guidance, which, in the circumstances of the structure of the Bill and pre-existing legislation, is the best we can do. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, it is of course important that we introduce the guidance as rapidly as possible. We can then begin to ensure that local authorities follow the guidance and use these powers.

As to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, in relation to placing a requirement on the local authority or Environment Agency to take responsibility for clearing fly-tipping, that is not in the Bill. No doubt, had we proceeded normally, amendments would have been brought forward in that regard. Of course, that would place a significant burden on local authorities or the Environment Agency and would raise a wide range of other issues, including resourcing. We have not thought it sensible to engage with such issues in the Bill.

With that, I hope, clarification—the noble Baroness has helped me to get my words on the record—I ask the Committee to accept the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 20, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 21 to 30 agreed to.

Clause 31 [Extension of graffiti removal notices to fly-posting]:

On Question, Whether Clause 31 shall stand part of the Bill?


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