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I think we would like to seeit may be up to the individuals concernedmore information for magistrates on what powers are available to them. I know that vehicles can be confiscatedI hope that that will be applied to repeat offendersbut it is obviously a very stern disincentive to anyone who might carry out that activity. There are those who have a reputation for fly-tipping. I gather that the Environment Agency may have a power to take vehicles when the offence is discovered. Perhaps the Minister could tell us how that is likely to apply.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, for bringing this subject to debate. She is to be congratulated. People feel strongly about the subject and many feel that nothing is being done. I do not accuse the Government of that. Much may be being done but the perception is otherwise. I too am grateful to the Countryside Alliance for their briefing.
I shall start my contribution by relating direct experience. I declare an interest as a farmer and someone who, in many ways, is a victim of fly-tipping. This morning, I spoke to my nephew who has to deal with it daily. He said, Can I have a video link so that I can tell them? I thought it might be more dispassionate if I relate what he said to me.
I wish to do justice to the anger felt by those who regularly have to deal with fly-tipping on their property. As he said they are losing the battle and the problem is getting worse. I do not live near a large metropolitan area; I live near a country market town; but my nephew tells me that at least once a month he has to send out a tractor and trailer with a couple of chaps to clear up the rubbish that he has discovered around the place. He is not prone to exaggeration and I believe that that is an accurate account of how frequently he has to do that. He also has a truck and frequently picks up stuff. He has to collect litter from roadside verges, green lanes, hedges, dykes, gateways and sometimes well into a field. People will not take rubbish to a tip but they will put it 50 yards into a field. It is quite unbelievable. It can be just general rubbish, as my noble friend the Duke of Montrose has mentioned, but much is in plastic bin liners, so people have put it in bags but have failed to put it out for domestic collection and it is dumped on someone else's land. There are tyres, fridges, TVs and general builders rubble, frequently containing asbestos and sometimes clearly hazardous waste. That is dangerous for cattle
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Theoretically, local authorities will come along and clear roadside verges, but they are overwhelmed. If one does nothing about it and waits for them, one just encourages more litter. As the noble Lord, Lord Dear, said, litter encourages litter, and fly-tipping encourages fly-tipping. Local authorities will collect things from the yard, such as WEEE items, but we have to pay. For asbestos, we may have to ask a specialist contractor to take it away; otherwise, we have to take it to the site to get rid of it.
As has been said, 67 per cent of farmers report incidents of fly-tipping, though I suspect even more experience it. The Flycapture report states that local authorities prosecuted in 2006-07 only 1,371 people. There seems to be a disparity between peoples experience of the problem and how often people are brought to book for it. My nephew tells me that he has found envelopes with addresses on them, taken them to the authorities and said, Look, this person has dumped rubbish on my land, but no prosecution has ever resulted from such an incident.
A Written Answer of 3 December 2007in Commons Hansard at col. 777W lists fly-tipping incidents reported in the West Midlands during the three years ending in 2007. The region contains 34 councils which are responsible for waste disposal, 20 of which, including Birmingham City Council, did not report a single prosecution. Some incidents involved very hazardous and polluting materialswe are talking of genuine criminal activity in certain cases.
Many of the problems that trouble private landowners and public authoritiesthey, too, are victims of fly-tippingare low-level. They are a consequence of idleness, unwillingness to pay and a minimal risk of being found out. However, someone has to pay; in many cases, it is the farmer. A report for the Environment Agency, which the Countryside Alliance has reproduced, cites £47 million as the per-annum cost to land managers and farmers. I believe that it may be more.
Is this guidance still operational? If so, does the poor landowner have to pay for the various permissions and does the Minister find such charges fair? Does the Minister agree with Joan Ruddock, who said in a Written Answer on 20 February that,
As I said, I do not accuse the Government of doing nothing. The Minister will no doubt tell us that the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 give local authorities and the Environment Agency powers to tackle fly-tipping, and courts the power to impose penalties. The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 introduced specific measures to deal with fly-tippingI have the details in front of me. The Government have a waste strategy for England which they produced last year. So I do not accuse the Government of doing nothing, but we can do more. There is no quick fix, but we can do some things, which I hope have emerged in the debate today.
Everyone has mentioned the issue of improved access to civic amenity sites. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, gave a vivid illustration of the difficulties she had with her single sheet of asbestos. The noble Lord, Lord Dear, made it quite clear that in some cases the tips are so far away from where people live that it is difficult for them to get there. My noble friend the Duke of Montrose mentioned the hours that the tips are open. They are civic amenity sites and should provide a civic amenity.
I am fortunate to have a sunshine home in France, which I enjoy greatly. There they have a different approach which may be worth considering. This does not remove all fly-tipping but it localises the centralisation of the municipal tip. The déchetterie is nearbymost people can get to itand you can recycle everything. There is no doorstep collection in rural areas in France; people have to take their waste to a central depot. So what they are saving in that they are reinvesting in this. There is less fly-tipping there than here at home.
We should also encourage greater support for the relationship between local authorities, farmers and public bodies who have to deal with this problem. It should be solved by co-operation, not by putting landowners under the pressure of feeling almost the guilty party when they seek to dispose of waste that has been illegally dumped on their property. I hope we can give a proper briefing to prosecuting authorities and magistrates on the cost of fly-tipping and the damage it causes.
I do not know whether the Flycapture database includes every reported incident that takes place on private land. It has been mentioned before that the statistics are questionable. Certainly a million incidents in Liverpool seems beyond belief. It is difficult to reconcile with figures from elsewhere.
My noble friend the Duke of Montrose referred to the Climate Change Bill and the five pilots therein. It is important that we encourage the local authorities which commit to these pilots to monitor fly-tipping incidents in parallel, both before and after the introduction of the schemes, because we would not want a situation arising whereby in order to provide more efficient local waste collection systems we also increase the amount of fly-tipping. There needs to be a reconciliation between these issues. The noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, has some interesting ideas about ways in which we might ameliorate this problem.
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Along with others, I welcome the debate introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market. It has been really useful. We could have spent more time discussing this issue in the Climate Change Bill, although it is ancillary to the five pilots. No pilot will be allowed to go ahead unless it has an active plan for dealing with fly-tipping; that is part of the process. Any council which wants to become one of the five pilots to test out different systems for household collection recycling has to have certain rules for the kerbside collection of a number of different items and a good plan for dealing with fly-tipping.
I, too, compliment the Countryside Alliance on its report. It is first class. It came out some time ago now and nobody has done anything better. If I could stand here and say that we could accept and implement all the recommendations I would be happy to do so. They are all sensible and practical. Of course there are cost issues on some of them.
This week, Joan Ruddock, the Minister for fly-tippingand this is the first time this week that no one has blamed Defra, which is nicemet the Countryside Alliance to discuss its report. So there are ongoing discussions about this. As I have informed my colleagues, when they get the Climate Change Bill in the other place I suspect that there will be a lot more interest from the elected Members of Parliament on the clauses at the end of the Bill relating to waste, than there was in this House, simply because of the pressure from local authorities and constituents. I suspect that they will hone in very much on that.
Funnily enough, this morning I was on a brief visit to look at some areas of catchment-sensitive farming practices alongside the River Kennet near Hungerford. Although it was not the purpose for my visit, as I was leaving I said to one of the two farmers that I had met, I have got to go now and get back to the House of Lords, but, by the way, what is the story on fly-tipping around here? His immediate estimate was that it had doubled in the previous two or three years. I did not see any rubbish this morning. I was around tracks; it was certainly fly-tipping country. I do not want to encourage anybody, but the view was that it had doubled and was becoming a real nuisance. So it is a serious issue.
I think that I can answer most of the points when I turn to my speaking notes. I turn to the statistics. Noble Lords will have read the briefings and those from the department, and I read the very interesting brief from the Countryside Alliance. I knew that Liverpool was the culture capital of Europe this year, but I do not think that it really wanted to be the fly-tipping capital of England. The way the figures are recorded has made it so. It is quite clear that it has penalised and counted people as fly-tippers who have put out rubbish a day early. It is not good for us in
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There is no argument that, whether it is rural or urban, fly-tipping undermines the quality of life. The noble Lord, Lord Dear, is right that although the percentages look smaller for the countryside, the impact on life is greater because the rubbish is not hidden up back alleys and so on. It is visible and dumped in such a way that it encourages others.
We are in the early stages of collecting data on this. There is no doubt that over recent years fly-tipping has increased. We have 1.3 million recordable cases in England. We use the figure of 1.3 million. It would be ludicrous to use the 2.6 million because the other 1.3 are all from Liverpool. It just does not make sense. We have examples. I will not name the authority, but I will give an example. A small district council in 2005-06 had 41 recorded incidents. The other district councils in that county had around about 300 to 400, and one had 900. The following year, 2006-07, all the other councils were still about the same, but the council that had 41 now had 277. Clearly, the 41 figure was wrong; it was undercounted. It is a serious issue. It really does not matter what the statistics are. It is costing landowners and local authorities a fortune, and it is diminishing the quality of life for people in urban and rural areas. We have to do more about it.
The Waste Strategy for England, published in May last year, included a waste crime action plan. That sets out measures that we are introducing over a period of time to deal with fly-tipping. It focuses on better prevention measures and simplifying legislation and guidance to encourage compliance. That is fundamental, as is simplifying access to the recycling sites. I agree that they should all be called recycling centres. It is a complete nonsense to have different titles for what are, in effect, the same things.
The plan also focuses on enabling more joined-up action and prosecutions by the Environment Agency and local authorities. There is a fear in local authorities that the lawyers and compliance people will say to them, You cant spend all that money on prosecutions. It isnt worth it. You dont get the money back, because the money goes to the Treasury. Give them a warning. Some local authorities are more active than others in this regard. I do not have the figures to back this up but I am told that Leeds, in particular, is very vigorous and has succeeded in cutting the amount of fly-tipping. This morning, I was given the example of two adjoining counties, one of which has a much more vigorous attitude to prosecution. The local people I was with from the Environment Agency and Natural England said that there was less fly-tipping in the county where it was known that prosecutions were followed vigorously. Therefore, taking such a stance can have an effect on peoples behaviour, and we want to ensure that the enforcement tools are practical.
Next month, site waste management plans will become mandatory for all construction projects in England worth over £300,000. I accept that I am not
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Later in the spring, we will consult on our plans to strengthen the powers of local authorities to stop, search and seize vehicles suspected of being involved in illegal waste activity. I think that that partly covers one of the questions that I was asked about seizure. Effectively, there will be a consultation process. These powers will allow local authorities to take habitual offenders out of action much more easily and, it is hoped, undermine their illegal activity. I fully accept that local authority officers can sometimes be intimidated by these people, and I appreciate their difficulties.
We will also consult on our plans to reform controls on the transfer of waste. We need to ensure that waste producers and carriers take responsibility for the waste in their care. Householders and businesses can be duped into paying illegal operators whom they believe will deal with their waste and relieve them of their responsibility, but then these operators dump the waste around the corner. The waste duty of care is the main control that we have to ensure that waste is handled responsibly, and we have to ensure that the registration system is more effective and user-friendly. We also need to make sure that people are more aware of their responsibilities by giving them access to the information that they need to be certain that their waste is being removed legally. The fact that there is a duty to do that is important.
Believe it or not, we are still going to spend money on research into why illegal waste activity occurs. It is evident from what noble Lords have said that it tends to happen where the sites are some distance away. However, the one that I use near Bishops Cleeve seems to be a bit closer to where the noble Lord, Lord Dear, lives. It is within Gloucestershire, so it should be all right for him to use it. Although I cannot say that people are not turned away, I have never seen it happen. There may also be an issue of practicalityfor example, there may be a problem relating to the size of vehicles or the opening hours. Some sites open seven days a week and close only on Christmas Day. However, others do not open seven days a week and that causes real difficulties. Opening is also restricted during hours of darkness.
We hope to do some further research into organised waste crime. In some parts of the country, waste disposal is an organised criminal activity. There is a lot of money to be made from it because payment of the necessary taxes can be avoided. I know that we are dealing with England but my experience in Northern Ireland was certainly that organising the illegal disposal of waste was a major activity. On the other hand, the more we can do to encourage recycling and the creation of businesses and assets out of recycling, the more people will realise that there is gold in waste. There are plenty of examples of that around the country but on a much smaller scale.
Many authorities work closely with landowners. I fully accept the difficulty that landowners face. With regard to the fly-tippers charter, it was thought that if everyone knew that what got dumped in the countryside would be taken away, that would simply encourage people to avoid the proper landfill arrangements because they could have their waste taken away for free. However, the present situation is clearly unsatisfactory. We need to build up a better picture of the problem of fly-tipping on private land, and we are exploring the possible development of the Flycapture database to capture such incidents.
At a national level, Defra and the Environment Agency meet bi-monthly with major stakeholders such as the NFU, the CLA, Network Rail and the National Trust through the National Fly-tipping Prevention Group. Their objective is to explore ways of improving the system of controls over fly-tipping. I understand the concerns that have been raised, and I will write to noble Lords regarding the detail of some of the points. If a landowner has to move fly-tipped waste from his land, he must use a registered waste carrier, and it is very unfair on him if he has to make arrangements to do that.
Standardising practice in recycling centres, as I call them, is difficult because each local authority has to deal with its own area and you cannot have a one-size-fits-all system. It might be possible to do something about the days and hours of opening and about not excluding cars. Someone said that their car was too long to be able to use a recycling site. However, if it was a car, it was not a van, and there is a limit to what you can get into a car, however big it is. It is ludicrous for someone to be turned away because their car is too big. If you take an estate car to these sites, you should not be turned away. We shall need to look at this matter because difficulties can arise where people live on boundaries between local authorities.
The ratio of prosecutions to fly-tipping incidents is low but, as I said, local authorities will have to be told that they must act proportionately, and they will be given that information by their lawyers.
Data show that there is no obvious correlation between collections on alternate weeks and an increase in fly-tipping, but there might be if the nature of the collections, charges and penalties and so on were changed. Therefore, the five pilot areas must have an anti-fly-tipping strategy in place; otherwise, they will not be allowed to act as pilot areas.
We will certainly take any ideas that have been put forward today and put them into the pot for the Minister. We may need to look at different methods of enforcement. If you give people a financial incentive and create businesses, it is possible to snuff outor at least controlan activity. That has happened with parking, although the system is abused by the clampers, but it has certainly been better at keeping the traffic moving than was the case in the past.
The noble Lord said: First, I thank the British Council for its work on the migrant integration policy index. My thanks also go to the Migrant Policy Group in Brussels, which co-ordinated the contents of the research that provides the basis of my contribution today. The debate comes at a crucial time, with the Prime Minister and the President of France today discussing the issue of immigration. Only this morning we saw a most disturbing report on the treatment of asylum seekers in this country.
MIPEX uses indicators to compare the legal provisions across Europe to promote the integration of non-European Union migrants. This is a timely measure. There is often a confused debate in this country about a cohesive society, particularly when issues of multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism surface. There is a kind of schizophrenia on matters of immigration on the one hand and community cohesion and a pluralist society on the other. The progress that we have made in achieving some sort of multi-culturalism is too valuable to be played in a cynical manner. This is often backed up by a perception of the majority population that, despite all our history and all our pride in tolerance, the majority are somehow not able to live as part of a community of communities.
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