Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:37 pm on 10th January 2005.

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Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:37 pm, 10th January 2005

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The central purpose of the Bill is to improve the local environment, which directly affects people's quality of life. In my Department's five-year strategy, which we published last month, I set out our key objective of achieving environmental leadership. That is at the heart of our international agenda, but care for the environment begins at home.

When asked what is most important to them about the environment, most people mention the state of their own neighbourhood. That is not to say that there is not general concern about instances or levels of pollution, or concern about environmental hazards. When asked whether they have anxieties about the environment, the vast majority of our fellow citizens answer yes, but go on to talk about their locality, and especially about comparatively small-scale defacement of streets and parks, about run-down and decaying areas and about litter and dumping, over which it appears to them that no one takes action and no one cares.

Contrary to the reasoned amendment, that concern is felt and expressed just as much in rural areas as in urban areas. I was surprised to learn from their amendment that the Opposition appear to be so little in touch with concerns in rural areas as not to realise that.