In 1986, the latest year for which figures are available, 1,400 people were found guilty of offences under the Litter Act 1983.
Does my hon. Friend not think that that number makes a mockery of the Litter Act, in view of the appalling amount of litter that defaces our towns and cities? Bearing in mind that there are at least 90,000 constables in the police force, many of whom are bobbies on the beat, is it too much to expect each policeman to obtain one prosecution a year against a litter lout?
I am sympathetic to the point that my hon. Friend has made. Inevitably, the deployment of police officers is an operational matter for chief constables. I do not think that the criminal law can ever be the primary instrument for resolving this problem.
Does the Minister agree that it would be most unlikely for a prosecution to ensue if the piece of litter found was a copy of the speech by the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit)? Does he also agree that that speech is certainly part of the political litter of this country—
Does my hon. Friend accept that many people in this country believe that the United Kingdom is now the litter gutter of the world? The situation is disgusting and deplorable. Will he seek methods of reducing the litter problem of this country, if necessary by utilising the services and co-operation of those places that are sometimes partially responsible for it? I refer to food shops, pubs and other places from which food and drink are available. It is a disgrace. Will my hon. Friend attend to it?
Essentially, the solution to the problem lies in persuading people of their personal and social obligations not to create litter.
Is the Minister aware that last month litter was deliberately strewn around St. James's park, only to be collected by a lady of pensionable years and stuffed into a black plastic bag carried by a strange old cove covered in fag ash and muttering obscenities under his breath? Can he cast any light on this bizarre incident, and have the two litter louts concerned been prosecuted?