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

My hon. Friend has made an interesting point, which I am sure will be explored in Committee. Obviously there are problems with authorities' going on to private land without permission, but I take his point—as I am sure all Members do—about the problems that can be caused in certain localities, and the dangers to children.

The Bill allows authorities to tackle a not uncommon neighbourhood problem by making it an offence to repair or sell a vehicle on a road as part of a business. It will also make dealing with offenders more cost-effective, securing better value for money for the taxpayer. It is both expensive and time-consuming for local authorities to have to prosecute offenders through the courts, and their full costs are often not recovered even in the case of successful prosecutions. We are told that that is one key reason why authorities can be reluctant to prosecute for environmental crimes. To allow and encourage better enforcement, the Bill significantly increases the number of offences for which fixed penalties can be used as an alternative to prosecution.

The Bill makes a number of other changes that should promote enforcement. In particular, for the first time local authorities will be able to retain all receipts from fixed penalties. That too will help to offset the cost of enforcing the legislation. It must be right for offenders, rather than council tax payers, to bear the impact of such costs whenever possible.