New Clause 2 — Duty to keep land and highways clear of litter

Orders of the Day — Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 21st February 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Votes in this debate

'In section 89 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (Duty to keep land and highways clear of litter), after subsection (4) insert—

"(4A) The appropriate person may by regulations make provision about the standards to which persons must keep land clear of litter under subsection (1) above in respect of different kinds of litter.

(4B) In particular, such regulations may make particular provision about discarded chewing gum and the discarded remains of other products designed for chewing."'.—[Miss McIntosh.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 10—Street litter: chewing gum—

'After section 93 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (c. 43) insert—

"93A Street litter: chewing gum

(1) The appropriate person shall consult litter authorities and other persons and bodies as he thinks appropriate regarding—

(a) the most effective methods for removing discarded chewing gum and the remains of discarded chewing gum, and

(b) how producers and consumers may be made jointly responsible for the disposal of discarded chewing gum and the remains of discarded chewing gum and shall publish the results of that consultation.

(2) The appropriate person shall implement policies to increase public awareness of the penalties for the illegal disposal of chewing gum.".'.

Amendment No. 3, in clause 18, page 14, line 40, at end insert

', subject to subsection (4) below.

(4) But land adjacent to or in the vicinity of railways, railway carriages and buses shall be deemed to be open to public access for the purposes of this Part.'.

Government amendments Nos. 26 and 27.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport)

New clause 2 elaborates a duty in section 89 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to keep land and highways clear of litter. It would make specific provision for the Secretary of State to issue regulations to establish standards in respect of discarded chewing gum different from those that apply to other litter. It would allow for the subsequent consultation of local authorities and others about the proposed regulations. Those regulations and the consultation on them would provide an opportunity for consideration and discussion of the costs of gum clear-up, and of the standards that realistically could be achieved.

We discussed clause 27 at some length in Committee. For the first time, the definition of "litter" covers discarded chewing-gum, the discarded remains of other products designed for chewing—I presume that means bubble gum—and the discarded ends of cigarettes, cigars and like products. One of the clause's perceived benefits is that it would strengthen the ability of local authorities to enforce the provision making the discarding of gum a fixed penalty litter offence. We have had numerous discussions with Westminster city council, whose record on the clearing of litter is second to none. In its view, the discarding of chewing gum is rarely seen, and the scope for applying fixed penalties for litter offences to this problem is slim. One of the problems is being able to identify the point at which chewing gum is discarded.

New clause 10 would insert a new section 93A in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. That would be a positive step in bringing all parties together to look at more imaginative, socially responsible and environmentally friendly ways of disposing of gum. With a general election not too far away, we hope, as an aspiring Government, to work with producers and consumers to consider ways of introducing biodegradable gum and wrapping paper. The thrust of the new clause is very much in that spirit. We would work with relevant parties, including the litter authorities and such other persons and bodies as the Secretary of State thought fit, to consider

"the most effective methods for removing discarded chewing gum and the remains of discarded chewing gum".

The House will recall that the Government spent £60,000 to study the ways in which people dispose of chewing gum, but they were unable to come up with a best means of removing it. We believe that all parties could work on this together, and we would like to see how producers and consumers could be made jointly responsible for the disposal of discarded chewing gum and its remains. The results of the consultation would be published.

The Secretary of State would also implement policies to increase public awareness of the penalties for the illegal disposal of chewing gum. It is all very well having fixed penalty notices, but this is very much a matter of educating and informing people, in particular schoolchildren. That is the right way forward. We await the Minister's response with interest, but it is my intention to press new clause 2 to a vote.

Amendment 3 is to clause 18, and would mean that

"land adjacent to or in the vicinity of railways, railways carriages and buses shall be deemed to be open to public access for the purposes of this Part."

The public pass close to such land and they throw litter on to it. The amount of litter thrown, and the costs to the railway undertakings, are substantial. We hope that the Minister is inclined to look sympathetically on the amendment.

Clause 18 provides for the extension of litter-dropping offences to land to which there is public access. It appears to be a weaker proposal than that set out in the "Clean Neighbourhoods" consultation that took place in July 2004, which seemed to envisage that such offences would be extended to all land without caveat. We were thus surprised that the Bill excluded land to which the public do not have access, including boarded-off or fenced-off land adjacent to railways that is maintained by such bodies as Tube Lines and Network Rail. It would clearly be beneficial to them if amendment No. 3 were adopted and the caveat removed.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal 5:15 pm, 21st February 2005

Will my hon. Friend help me by explaining why she thinks that the Government have specifically excluded such undertakings? It is difficult to expect private people to carry through such obligations when they see that they do not apply to other areas. Some of the filthiest places that impinge on the eye of the beholder are those along railway lines and close to railway stations.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport)

I would like to help my right hon. Friend, but I have great difficulty in doing so. The consultation process that took place in July 2004—prior to the Bill's publication—led private undertakings, including Tube Lines and Network Rail, to understand that land on which the public do not walk, but on which they tend to throw litter, would be covered.

The problem is extremely costly. Trains must often be stopped so that tracks on which litter has been thrown may be accessed. The cost of a train being delayed by an hour while litter is picked up is £25,200. However, there would be a multiplying effect if trains had to be stopped during peak time. If a London terminal station had to be closed for eight hours for such a purpose, it could lead to a cost of more than £2 million. There is great concern about the problem. Network Rail recommended during consultation on the Bill that local authorities should only as a last resort serve notice to enable such private undertakings to access tracks, and even then, only at the safest and most cost-efficient times.

These are not just probing amendments. We hope to elicit from the Government an assurance that such private undertakings will be put in a much stronger position, especially as envisaged under amendment No. 3. The private companies understood that they had been given certain assurances at the time of the consultation process, so we hope that the Bill will reflect that. Clearing such litter is extremely expensive, and the safety aspect of the procedure must be considered given the proximity of litter to tracks and trains. Transport operators think that they are the victims of antisocial behaviour, because it is the travelling public who tend to throw rubbish on the railway. Not only private companies such as Tube Lines and Network Rail, but bodies such as the London Transport Users Committee, are appealing to the House to support the amendment.

We could have gone further and asked for vehicles to be included under the scope of the provision, and perhaps the Minister will comment on Government amendments that relate to the exclusion of buses. We especially wish to press new clause 2 to a Division.

Photo of Linda Gilroy Linda Gilroy PPS (Rt Hon Nick Raynsford, Minister of State), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

I declare an interest as someone who chews gum, as someone who has a large number of constituents who work for Wrigley's, the main manufacturer of gum, and as someone who shares the exasperation caused by litter, including the inappropriate disposal of gum. I want to see an end to that as much as anyone does.

Understandably, people get hot under the collar about the impact of carelessly thrown gum. If we are serious about finding a solution, we need to ask why other European countries do not have the same problem, although their people chew as much gum as ours do. The simple answer is that other countries' citizens do not chuck their gum away in the way that some of our citizens do.

The chewing gum action group, convened by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has been meeting for just over 12 months. Wrigley's plays an active part in that. Through something that the group calls segmentation research, which the Standing Committee considered, it has discovered that people who cause that nuisance do so for a variety of reasons. Gum disposal psychology could form the basis of an interesting debate, but as I only want to make a short contribution, I shall resist that temptation.

We are beginning to understand a lot about responsible gum disposal. As with most things, a blend of carrot and stick has an impact on that, which is why clarification of gum as litter and stronger enforcement of fines have an important, but perhaps modest, part to play in dealing with the difficulty.

The chewing gum action group is preparing to launch a campaign based on what has been learned about gum disposal behaviour and the messages that are likely to encourage people to behave well, rather than badly. That has to be pitched carefully, because the wrong advertising campaign or programme to tackle the problem could make things worse rather than better. The industry will back that up with point-of-sale material, with the support of retailers, and will do more work on good gum disposal messages in schools—something that it has been doing for a long time. The action group will also consider developing an innovation fund to help councils develop new solutions. That will be an effective blend of carrot and stick.

The Conservatives always rail against too much regulation on business, so I am a little surprised that Miss McIntosh proposes just that when so much work is being done. As Sue Doughty said in Committee, if that work does not reduce gum littering, we may need to return to the matter and consider legislation. In the meantime, I hope that the hon. Member for Vale of York will consider her position and withdraw the new clause, because the next time she or any of her hon. Friends want to deregulate, she may blush a bit when she recollects that rather than resisting the urge to regulate, she jumped on a popular bandwagon when it came along, before giving partnership and voluntary co-operation a chance to work and to produce a genuinely sustainable solution. I urge hon. Members to oppose the new clauses.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I am pleased to follow Linda Gilroy. I do not think that she would accuse me of being an over-regulator, but I am surprised that she defends the industry, which has come into the debate only because of the considerable pressure placed on it. We must ask whether we should have done that a long time ago, given that most of us support the "polluter pays" concept. In this case, the industry puts on to the public market a product that is not biodegradable, that causes considerable unpleasantness, litters our streets and causes a great deal of damage to clothing and the like because of the way in which it is disposed of.

The hon. Lady is right to say that it is pretty disgusting that Britain is less clean than our continental neighbours. Perhaps that is another example of something that we can learn from our neighbours, instead of always believing that we can teach them everything.

I wonder whether the hon. Lady was entirely fair about the proposal made by my hon. Friend Miss McIntosh. My hon. Friend is seeking to put a much greater responsibility on those who create the problem in the first place. If the industry is making money out of gum and people are causing trouble not just in small numbers but all over the country, which is resulting in what most would consider unpleasant, that industry should be producing some hard evidence of research and answers so that people can eat gum that is biodegradable, or at least easily cleaned up. I see no such evidence at this stage, yet that is what we would expect in almost every other circumstance.

I have considerable sympathy with the hon. Lady's points—that was a perfectly proper case for her to put, especially on behalf of her constituents—but we need to go a good step further, simply because, on the evidence, nothing will be done until there is so much pressure that the industry feels that it must do something. Corporate social responsibility might well have led the industry to do more in the past.

My hon. Friend also commented on the areas covered—if that is the right phrase—by the Bill. One must recognise that the environment in general, and the built environment in particular, have a huge effect on people's behaviour and their quality of life. I am therefore particularly concerned if we do not point to some of the most obvious examples of litter causing offence. Any of us who are part of the travelling public understand that well.

I find it difficult to defend the argument that we know that litter is filthy and disgraceful but that it is too expensive to collect it. There are two halves to that argument. One is that we need to do a great deal more to encourage people not to drop litter. Litter is one of the dirtiest aspects of our society, and I am afraid that we are worse than most of our neighbours in that respect. A visit to any other capital city in Europe will reveal that we have degenerated from the point at which once upon a time we were rather proud. We thought that we were rather good, but we are now at the other end of the scale.

Photo of Peter Atkinson Peter Atkinson Assistant Chief Whip, Whips 5:30 pm, 21st February 2005

If my right hon. Friend wants to talk about litter, may I suggest that he take a drive down the A1, as I did yesterday? He will see the filthy state of that road. The amount of litter in some sections is way beyond the Government's recommendation to local authorities. That road has not been cleaned for months, and it is a disgrace that a main artery of this country is in such a state.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

My hon. Friend points to my concern about what people who visit this country must think about us when they see us behaving in such a way. Some of the worst roads are those leading from the airports into London. One cannot make a party political point about who does the cleaning up; it seems that in general we are dirty in the first place, and that we do not clean up satisfactorily.

I agree with the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton that there are two sides to the issue, and that one is to try to encourage people not to drop litter in the first place. Part of that is to ensure that we reduce the amount of packaging. I declare an interest as chairman of Valpak Ltd., which is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to deal with our packaging obligations. Therefore, I have a little knowledge about the matter. We have not yet done enough to reduce packaging. If we had less packaging, and more biodegradable packaging, we would be protecting our streets and the sides of our railways.

The culprits are the people who drop litter, and we should improve how we teach people about litter. Perhaps more of us should follow the example of those redoubtable ladies who, when they see somebody drop litter, tend to pick it up and say, "You seem to have dropped this." One must be quite brave to do that, and "redoubtable" is perhaps an understatement of such people's nature. We must introduce much tougher penalties—a matter on which the Government have done a good deal. We must also ensure that people take responsibility for clearing up afterwards, which is the only way to drive them to try to improve the position.

The new clauses tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley) and for Vale of York are worthy of consideration by the Government. Although the Bill is small it is valuable, but it could be improved, and those are two areas in which it could properly be improved. I shall be particularly concerned if the Government are not prepared to lay greater responsibilities on the creators of the products that specifically and particularly cause offence, even if that is done by saying that unless a significant improvement is made over a period of time, certain things will happen.

We have not gone far enough—on chewing gum, in particular. I hope that in another place the Government will go further, and come closer to meeting a reasonable objection from many people in our society.

Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Shadow Minister (the Environment), Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

This is a tough problem. I am sure that all hon. Members are aware that stains left by chewing gum are present wherever we go. In some buildings, beautifully designed paveways have been ruined by chewing gum stains, which are a menace.

Conservative new clause 10 is similar to some of the amendments that we discussed in Committee, so we know that more must be done and that more consultation is required. The consultation must be tough because the problem is no longer acceptable. Some would like us to go for the industry now, while others say that we should engage in consultation and implement regulations if we really want to solve the problem.

As I said in Committee, although we have dealt with people who allow their dogs to make a mess, that does not mean that we can deal with people who drop chewing gum—a dog is an obvious culprit, but people who quietly drop chewing gum are not easily identified. The problem caused by chewing gum is far greater than that caused by dogs, and we must deal with the many people who think it reasonable to drop chewing gum.

Liberal Democrats in the London assembly have surveyed 33 local authorities, every one of which thinks chewing gum a nuisance. Some 81 per cent. of London local authorities believe that gum companies should concentrate on developing biodegradable gum, which is essential; 53 per cent. of them do not think that imposing fines will stop people from discarding chewing gum, which is an area that we must explore; and 41 per cent. of them say that they have established dedicated teams to remove chewing gum from the streets. Tube companies spend £2 million a year and councils spend £2.3 million a year on cleaning up gum.

Photo of Linda Gilroy Linda Gilroy PPS (Rt Hon Nick Raynsford, Minister of State), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

Does the hon. Lady agree that it is essential to tackle behaviour rather than putting money into perpetually cleaning up gum? Westminster council has said that the gum returns within 10 days of a clean-up.

Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Shadow Minister (the Environment), Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

It is a complex issue. We need carrots and sticks to ensure that people do not constantly have to pay this money. London Liberal Democrats have suggested the introduction of a penny-a-pack levy on manufacturers, and I understand that Westminster council—we heard in Committee how much money it has spent—agrees with that.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Does the hon. Lady agree that a company that started entirely afresh in marketing a new product that was known to have such an impact would, as a matter of corporate social responsibility, be expected to change its formulation or to arrange for some kind of compensation for those who had to clean it up?

Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Shadow Minister (the Environment), Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

On the whole, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. However, life is full of unintended consequences, and only after products are marketed do we find that people have developed a particular behaviour in respect of them. In fairness, I do not believe that chewing gum manufacturers ever imagined that their product would be sold to people who throw it down in the street and walk away from it, which is a pretty disgusting thing to do. We do not have the prescience to say, "Here is a new product—its consumers will immediately misbehave in this particular way." We could introduce biodegradable gum and withdraw the nasty stuff from the market, but even biodegradable products do not simply vanish—if we cleaned up Oxford street it would be just as bad 10 days later.

London Liberal Democrats recommended that chewing gum manufacturers should have to print large messages about correct disposal. That is a good idea and I hope that they will take it up. We need publicity campaigns to tell every person who buys this stuff not to throw it away, and we need more chewing gum bins outside major transport hubs. We worry about smoking waste, which is getting worse as people are driven outside to smoke and litter is created by doorways, but at least there are little receptacles on the walls indicating that people can put their rubbish there. That is not the case with chewing gum. We do not tell people, "This is where you stick the stuff", so they will stick it wherever they like.

If we do not quickly come up with some good ideas, local government will continue to face disproportionate bills to pay for the clean-up costs. That is unfair.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Shadow Spokesperson (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister)

I agree with my hon. Friend. In my constituency, Clarence street, at the heart of the town centre, is littered with chewing gum. That causes a serious problem, and the local authority has been spending a lot of money on it. It seems that some chewing gum companies are reluctant to spend money on telling people about safe disposal because they are worried that it might put them off buying their product. We will have to be much tougher on those companies and possibly force them to take that approach, because they will not do it willingly.

Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Shadow Minister (the Environment), Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

My hon. Friend makes a strong point that bears out my remarks. The consultation cannot be allowed to be a soft option. We should consider alternatives such as the penny-a-pack levy to be fed back to those who have to clean up this mess. Tough action is required. I hope that this will not be a lightweight consultation, because it cannot be allowed to be a soft option. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

Photo of Peter Atkinson Peter Atkinson Assistant Chief Whip, Whips

I shall be brief because we want to hear what the Minister has to say. I support new clause 10 because the problems with chewing gum need to be tackled. The Liberal Democrat spokesman said that it was a question of consultation—I fear that more is needed and that we should send a tougher message to chewing gum manufacturers, conveying that they are partly responsible for the damage that their product does. That point applies to all litter. The manufacturers of soft drink cartons should also have some regard to the biodegradability of their products. As I said earlier, many seem to end up on British roads.

People's behaviour is influenced by the state of the environment. Many years ago, when I was a councillor in London and we had taken over from a fading Labour council, we spent much more money and cleaned the streets. That had not been done properly in the time of Labour rule. One consequence of keeping the streets clean is that people throw far less litter. If one drives along a road such as the A1, where stretches are covered in litter, it is easy to think, "Well, I'll just chuck the can out of the window because it won't make any difference to the messy road." That applies to chewing gum. If the street is littered with chewing gum, it is a great temptation to throw it down and not dispose of it properly.

In Chicago, the mayor has made a tremendous effort to keep the city clean. It is interesting to observe that the citizens of that city, which was once filthy, are meticulous about putting their rubbish in litter bins. If we set a good example, people will follow it. That is why I believe that a message to manufacturers about taking some responsibility, rather than consultation, is needed.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 5:45 pm, 21st February 2005

I suppose that I should begin by welcoming the fact that one or two Conservative Members appear to have woken up to the importance of the Bill. However, on Second Reading, they opposed it and even failed to turn up to debate it, and they did not make major contributions in Committee. They therefore have a cheek to make such contributions to today's debate.

I must resist new clause 2 on a ground that I hope that Miss McIntosh will find immediately convincing. It is unnecessary because section 89(7) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 already requires a code of practice to be issued on the discharge of the litter clearance duties. That has been achieved through the code of practice on litter and refuse of 1999. Subsection (9) allows the code to be modified or withdrawn and reissued. We plan to consult on a new version of the code in the summer to take into account the changes for which the Bill provides. I assure hon. Members that we will cover standards for litter involving gum and smoking-related products in that code.

New clause 10 is unnecessary and its principles have been debated in detail in Committee. The hon. Lady has a predilection for pointless regulation while resisting well considered efforts to tackle the real issues. The Government are already working with local government and the chewing gum industry through the chewing gum action group to tackle the problem of discarded chewing gum. My hon. Friend Linda Gilroy referred to that a few moments ago. I set up that action group in autumn 2003.

Members of the group represent the interests of both the chewing gum industry and local authorities, including Wrigley as the largest manufacturer in the UK, the Local Government Association, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management and ENCAMS. We sponsor ENCAMS to run campaigns on behaviour change, which is at the heart of the matter. The group's remit is to find sustainable solutions, through a partnership approach, to the irresponsible disposal of gum.

My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton referred to the segmentation research, which arose out of the group's work. The group considered the research and asked why people behaved in such a way. The segmentation research demonstrated that different groups in society dispose of their gum in antisocial ways for different reasons. That is why the campaigning work, which is being designed and worked on in conjunction with the industry and ENCAMS, is tailored to the genuine reasons for people's behaviour.

We have gone beyond simply saying that things are better elsewhere to asking how we can effect change by first understanding behaviour and then finding the levers that will lead to better behaviour, and litter disposal that does not cause the problems that hon. Members described. The action group is looking at national and local initiatives. The market research project will inform a national awareness-raising campaign that will take place later this year, which will be complemented by sustainable local campaigns around enforcement and innovative disposal solutions. There is no single solution to this; it is a question of carrot and stick and of behaviour change. It is a question of encouragement as well as exhortation.

I am pleased by the way in which the industry has responded over the past 18 months. It is now contributing financially to the measures that the group developed. I spent some time at Wrigley in Plymouth a couple of weeks ago, with my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton, and I am convinced that the managing director, Gharry Eccles, and his team understand that, in regard to the more responsible disposal of gum, it is in the best interests of their company and the industry, as well as those of the wider public, to change the way in which people behave.

Mr. Gummer sounded almost European in his wish to learn from other countries. I share his wish for better standards, but we must understand the problems of this country first. He clearly had not bothered to research his subject before coming into the Chamber to speak on it; otherwise he would have been aware of the work that the industry is now doing with us. It was unfortunate that he sought to attack the industry, and Wrigley in particular, in his speech.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I am proud to make the statement that I am a European. I am a European, I am proud of it, and I shall continue to be so. I should like to make a point to the Minister that I think is reasonable. I did not suggest that the industry had done nothing; I suggested that it had not done enough. I ask the Minister again to give us some time lines in regard to what the industry is going to do, when it will do it, and how soon we can expect to see any alteration. If he could do that, we would be happier with what his committee has been doing.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I accept that as a sort of qualified apology from the right hon. Gentleman. I should not be too hard on him when he is clearly—

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That was not an apology, and I would not like it to be accepted as such.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I was being generous to the right hon. Gentleman, but if he does not want my generosity, he can do without it. I was about to say that I should not be too hard on him because he is now supporting a Bill that his party opposed on Second Reading—a point that needs to be made to Conservative Members time and again.

Amendment No. 3 will be resisted because it is unnecessary. Clause 18 will make it an offence to drop litter anywhere in the open air, including on land beside railways, railway carriages and buses. It will cover structures such as bus shelters and railway platforms that are covered but accessible to the public. It will also cover land to which the public does not have access, such as boarded or fenced-off land adjacent to railways where dropped litter can easily accumulate.

Subsection (3), by virtue of section 86(13) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, will exempt land that is both covered—albeit open to the air on at least one side—and not accessible to the public. Littering in such areas is really a matter for the occupier to deal with, as it does not impact on the quality of the local environment. The amount of litter likely to end up in such areas when thrown from a railway, railway carriage or bus is minimal.

I must point out to the hon. Member for Vale of York that, when she was talking about transport undertakers, she confused clause 18, which deals with the offence of dropping litter, with clause 20, which is about litter cleansing notices. Amendment No. 3 does not affect the latter. Railways are under a statutory duty to keep their relevant land clear of litter, and that is not affected by the Bill. Litter cleansing notices could be issued in respect of other railway land, but we will issue guidance to ensure that they take account of operational needs after full consultation with the relevant operators. I therefore ask the hon. Members not to press their amendment and new clauses to a vote.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey PPS (Rt Hon Alistair Darling, Secretary of State), Department for Transport

Do the provisions in the Bill on litter and waste mean that a local authority will be able to serve a penalty notice on a householder who has put their household refuse out on an unadopted passageway to which the public have open access? My right hon. Friend will be aware that refuse bags that have been badly tied can lie in such passageways for days before disintegrating, causing huge litter problems across the whole neighbourhood.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I understand my hon. Friend's point. The simple answer to her question is yes. Under clause 48, it will be possible to issue a fixed penalty notice to anyone who leaves waste out on any land other than their own house or garden—the curtilage of their own dwelling. Section 46 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 requires householders to follow the requirements of the local authority on the collection of household waste.

Government amendment No. 26 is necessary because, under clause 23 as it currently stands, the distribution of free printed matter in a public transport vehicle when on designated land could be covered by the offence. It could, therefore, be an offence to hand out leaflets on a bus if the bus were in a designated area at the time. We did not intend that to be an offence. Distributing material on a bus or coach is unlikely to result in the degradation of the local environment, and our amendment deals with this by clarifying the position. Controls on distribution will continue to apply, however, when material is distributed from a vehicle to people outside it, because in such circumstances, the literature could well end up being dropped as litter.

Government amendment No. 27 is needed because clause 23 does not currently make it clear whether the local authority is able to give consent that extends to anyone other than the person who applied for it. The provision was intended to be wide, enabling the local authority to give consent that would cover the applicant, as well as allowing his employees, distributors or any other persons to be included within the consent. Amendment No. 27 makes the position clear. For example, if a company wishes to distribute a free newspaper in a designated area, the consent given to the company will also cover all those who actually hand out the paper. I therefore ask the House to accept amendments Nos. 26 and 27.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport)

Amendment No. 3 addresses the concern put to us by the transport infrastructure companies that their land is not currently defined as public land for the purpose of making it an offence to drop litter on such land. The amendment would define their land as public land for the purposes of the Bill. The companies are already working hard to clear up the litter, and the Bill will place additional responsibilities on them in that regard. They feel that they would be greatly assisted if it were made an offence to drop litter on their land.

I do not wish to press amendment No. 3 or new clause 10 to a vote, but I will persist with new clause 2. The Minister and his Department raised uncertainty by a proposal in their own consultation document, "Living Places—Powers, Rights and Responsibilities", that discarded chewing gum be defined as litter so that existing litter duties and powers would apply to dropped gum. The Minister referred to ENCAMS. A document on ENCAMS' website identified as the "MPs' pack" provides a guide to local environmental quality issues. It states:

"The Defra consultation document, Living Places, Powers, Rights and Responsibilities recommends that discarded chewing gum be defined as litter to which existing litter duties and powers apply. If these recommendations are accepted the law would be clarified to create a duty to keep land clear of chewing gum. However, the costs to local authorities and other impacts would have to be assessed before any such change can be formally recommended. It would also allow members of the public to be fined for dropping gum, as they currently are for dropping litter."

We believe that, once discarded gum has adhered to the ground, it cannot sensibly be considered in the same way as other litter. We therefore believe that there is scope for new clause 2 to be adopted, and we commend it to the House.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 120, Noes 268.

Division number 87 Orders of the Day — Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill — New Clause 2 — Duty to keep land and highways clear of litter

Aye: 120 MPs

No: 268 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name


Nos: A-Z by last name


Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Deputy Speaker then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.