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Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:54 pm on 10th January 2005.

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Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Shadow Minister (the Environment), Environment, Food & Rural Affairs 5:54 pm, 10th January 2005

The hon. Gentleman is making an important point and one with which we must deal. There is a difference between people who are willing to litter the countryside or have their land used in that way and those who are innocent victims of others who arrive at night, dump stuff and disappear, to leave others with the cost. I am worried about the Bill requiring owners to clear their land if they were not responsible for the litter or the dumping.

It is amazing that the Tories are not supporting the Bill. They say that it

"focuses predominantly on urban issues while neglecting rural areas".

That is flawed thinking. Does the Opposition's amendment mean that it does not matter that streets look like tips? Does it mean that people should have to tolerate mess day after day? Does it matter that not enough is being done about abandoned cars? Do the Tories think it acceptable that someone living in a private house should set up a car dealership and park cars along the road to the detriment of the entire community? That is being allowed in Guildford, and nothing is being done to eradicate the problem. I am astonished. Do the Tories want fly-tippers to keep the means by which they commit their crimes and not have the vehicles that are being used for that purpose seized?

It seems that a hugely imaginative step is being proposed. It is one that the Environmental Audit Committee recommended, as did other bodies. We can start to see some remedies taking effect. If we are to have more building in the south-east on brownfield sites, we need to manage the waste that will be produced. Construction waste must be better managed and we must introduce legislation to deal with that issue, but the Tories oppose that approach. Will they be happy when construction waste continues to appear on farmland, in quarries and on commons? Is that what they want? They do not want to deal with fly-tipping on farmland, even though the National Farmers Union supports the Bill. Are they no longer talking to farmers?

The Local Government Association, which is chaired by the Tories, is backing the Bill. As I have said, the Tories are not doing so in the House. The Tories do not want spot fines for those who drop chewing gum on the streets, yet councils face enormous costs in clearing that nuisance. Westminster city council—I think that it is Tory run—spends £90,000 a year on removing chewing gum. There are 300,000 pieces of gum in Oxford street, but nothing is being done to change the disgusting habit of throwing used chewing gum on the streets. It seems that that is what the Tories want. Their approach is opportunistic. They are running after a bandwagon that is missing.