Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:41 pm on 10th January 2005.

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Photo of Paddy Tipping Paddy Tipping Labour, Sherwood 5:41 pm, 10th January 2005

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. The issue is one of trust and devolving resources. We must ask people how they would spend the money, and the response will differ across the country. To be candid, we have not been good at doing that, but I hope that we will get better at it.

Local authorities face costs—for example, the Bill contains provisions for gating orders, building on the provision in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to close footpaths in high-crime areas. We all thought that that was a big step forward, but it has proved to be enormously difficult. One of my local authorities, Gedling borough council, expended a lot of staff time on trying to resolve those issues in the Bigwood area. I accept that some alleyways are the focus and locus of antisocial behaviour, but we have to be careful about using gating provisions. We have to consider why the provision in the 2000 Act has not worked. It has not worked because, at times, there is a clear conflict between the need to deny a venue for antisocial behaviour and people's legitimate right to take a short cut to school, to work or to the bus station. Many of the details of gating orders will be set out in regulations to be published later by the Secretary of State. I think that the Standing Committee should analyse the provisions so that we can be sure about simple matters such as who does the gating, who pays the costs of gating and who maintains the gates.

Local authorities will give priority to the issue, but I think that the most important thing we can do is to raise consciousness of the fact that antisocial behaviour and environmental crime are nuisance behaviours. Alongside the provisions of the Bill, we must drive forward a programme to ensure that people understand the significance of clean, green and prosperous communities. Cleanness and greenness will increase the prosperity of neighbourhoods, so that they are places to which people return rather than places from which they flee to rural areas.

The Bill refers to changing the regulations on the financial position on waste. I am rather disappointed that there is no suggestion of direct or variable charging. The Government have a good record on recycling: people said that we would never reach the 17 per cent. target, but we are on track to do that and we shall do more. Alongside the current measures, however, there is a strong case for financial instruments so that people who recycle more are rewarded in some way—perhaps by a reduction in their council tax. I have examined the long title fairly closely and I believe that the issue is one that the Standing Committee may discuss at some length.

The Bill paves the way to a better future. People want a better place to live. Hard-working people have high aspirations for their families. They know that houses in clean, green, well-maintained streets are more valuable, but what could be more valuable than a place that is safe for children and is not polluted by litter, antisocial behaviour, noise and light? The Bill contains new measures on all those problems. It gives people the tools for the job. We must provide the resources and find the processes that will make it work.