Clause 5 — Street litter control notices
Statements of Taxation
Anne Main (St Albans, Conservative)
I congratulate my hon. Friend Philip Davies on his forensic evaluation of the measure and rise to support his amendments. I have listened with growing concern about the lack of justification for the use of a sledgehammer to crack this particular nut. I am amazed that Chris Williamson, who tried to defend the proposal, could not answer some of the significant questions he was asked. I have heard of no pilot study showing an attempt to deter bad behaviour, such as the dropping of cigarette butts, and facilitate good behaviour, such as the provision of ashtrays and similar street furniture. Let us be realistic. It is only a relatively short time since the previous Government put in place new regulations that led to more smoking outside, but local authorities have not had time to catch up with the fact that people are dropping cigarette butts because there is a lack of places to put them. Many local authorities have recognised that.
I do not think that we need new legislation to burden businesses with additional costs. We should be encouraging local authorities to work with local people to ensure sensible, reasonable and proportionate behaviour, but this is not a sensible, reasonable or proportionate proposal. Businesses might suddenly have an additional charge
placed upon them so that they have to clean up a stray cigarette butt that someone has casually thrown out of a car window. It should be the polluter who pays. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Minister said that the Government’s position is that the polluter should pay. This proposal is not that the polluter should pay, but that the poor sap who ends up with litter in front of his door should pay, which I think is outrageous.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley said, big businesses can often swallow such charges. They shrug and say, “Yet another piece of legislation placed on our shoulders, but we’ll cope.” That is not the case for small businesses. Smaller businesses often have smaller premises and are shut at night, and in the morning they might find a whole raft of cigarette butts to clean up because they are down an alleyway or in a smaller part of town. Many of the smaller businesses in St Albans are down small, historic streets and suffer from antisocial behaviour, such as people urinating at night or dropping cigarette butts. I do not believe that those businesses, many of which take pride in their premises and already clean up in the morning, should have to pay a financial penalty for something that is in no way their fault.
I know that other hon. Members want to speak on the matter, but I do not think that any justification has been given today for creating more legislation. I am a natural conservative and believe that we should be chopping regulations. I thought that we had a pledge that for every bit of new legislation that came in we would throw out another, but this is another regulation on businesses, particularly small businesses, that we are supposed to be supporting. There is no getting away from it: this has to be a money-generating scheme for local authorities.