I am very grateful to Mr Speaker for granting this debate on a subject about which I have always felt strongly. I spoke of my dislike of fly-tipping in my maiden speech on
Although the Government have reduced the deficit by a quarter in the two years they have been in office, they are still spending more than their income, which is why the £863 million spent on street cleansing in 2011 is such a huge sum. If we add the cost of cleaning the highways and railways, and the cost of removing fly-tipping from public and private land, the actual amount of public money spent on cleaning up litter in England is well over £1 billion annually. If people behaved responsibly and cared for their local areas by not littering, that money could be used to care for the needy and the vulnerable in our communities.
My argument is that we need rigorous and robust action from the Government, the police and local authorities, as well as a massive increase in personal responsibility and care for our local environment from an army of concerned citizens. I pay tribute to street cleansing staff up and down our country. They do an important and valued job, and I thank them for it, but they cannot keep our country clean on their own, which is why I wholeheartedly welcome the Daily Mail “Spring Clean for the Queen” campaign and pay tribute to the Campaign to Protect Rural England “Stop the Drop” campaign. I also note that the Country Land and Business Association says that it costs its members an average of £800 per incident to remove non-toxic fly-tipped waste, and several thousand pounds per incident if the waste is hazardous and includes, for example, asbestos.
All of us have a responsibility not to drop litter and to keep our immediate environment clean. We can all keep the area around our homes clean. Shopkeepers can clean in front of their premises, and businesses can keep their immediate environment clean as well. Public servants should also join in. When I go round schools in my constituency, one of the ways in which I judge head teachers is whether they pick up litter as they show me around their school. I have noted that the schools in which the head teachers pick up litter tend to be cleaner. If it is not beneath the head teacher to pick up litter, the other staff tend to get the message fairly quickly.
I also commend the material to combat littering produced by the Campaign to Protect Rural England for use in our schools. This work is really important. If children are not learning at home that littering is wrong, they need to be told this very clearly in schools. I was delighted to read recently that Mrs Patricia Prosser, in the village of Stanbridge in my constituency, has just been nominated as villager of the year for the regular litter-picking that she undertakes in her village. She does not have to do it, it is not her job specifically, and she is not paid to do it, but she does it because she cares about her village and her environment. All of us could well follow her example, whether we live in a town, village or city.