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Fly-tipping

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th October 2017.

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Photo of David Davies David Davies Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee 12:00 am, 26th October 2017

What steps the Environment Agency is taking to prevent illegal fly-tipping on farms.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Fly-tipping on farmland is a serious antisocial crime that damages the environment, human health and farm businesses, so tackling it is a priority for this Government. So far, we have strengthened the ability of the Environment Agency and local authorities to seize the vehicles of suspected fly-tippers. We have also given local authorities the power to issue fixed penalty notices. We are working with the National Farmers Union to increase reporting and to better target enforcement. I also recognise that this is a devolved issue, so my hon. Friend will be working with Natural Resources Wales.

Photo of David Davies David Davies Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee

Is my hon. Friend aware of the excellent campaign by Farmers Weekly to bring in much tougher penalties across the UK for the criminal gangs responsible for fly-tipping on farms in Britain?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Minister Coffey is a bit coughy this morning, Mr Speaker.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to stress the importance of tackling such criminality, so we are working closely with the Environment Agency to investigate further ways of doing that. We will continue not only to work with the police, but to create new powers so that we can get rid of criminals from the waste industry entirely.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Fly-tipping is a curse not only on farmland in Huddersfield, but up and down this country. It is usually associated with people who operate just above the law. They hire out skips, and then take the money, evade landfill duty, and tip the waste everywhere. We must have an Environment Agency with the powers and resources to do something about that.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We do work closely with the police in making fly-tipping a focus for the Environment Agency. I also draw to the attention of the House the fact that we are continuing to do more to help councils to tackle litter more widely. As we announced yesterday, we have plans not only to double fines, but to make it easier to tackle motorists who throw litter out of cars. The Government are very focused on this, and we are working with councils to make progress.

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

I support the views of my hon. Friend David T. C. Davies. The trouble is that the fines are not heavy enough, which makes it easier to tip on farmland than to go to a waste disposal site. Unless we get some teeth and impose really heavy fines, we will not stop these people, who leave farmers with the huge problem of getting rid of the waste.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I recognise what my hon. Friend says. It is key that we continue to do more to work with farmers at a local level to ensure that their farms have better barriers against such access. Nevertheless, this is about targeting, getting intelligence, ensuring that we follow up people who are dumping, and using the full force of the law to deter such behaviour.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

The Minister has outlined the importance of the issue and the role of the local councils. Will she indicate what incentives local councils can make available to homeowners to encourage them to use waste recycling centres, rather than harming agricultural land and farmers?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

This matter is devolved in Northern Ireland. We are issuing new guidance with the Department for Communities and Local Government to try to clarify what councils should and should not be charging when people want to use the recycling centre. I know that councils want to do the right thing. Some £800 million is spent every year on tackling litter and fly-tipping, which is why we want to work with councils and the Environment Agency to make improvements.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The Warwickshire NFU convened a roundtable on this matter last month after a terrible spate of fly-tipping. It has two asks of the Minister: can we provide more briefing for magistrates so that fines are proportionate to the crime; and can we extend fixed penalty notices to the statutory duty of care for the disposal of waste on households?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We are looking carefully at the issues that my right hon. Friend raises, particularly the second one. I will take them away and speak to one of the Justice Ministers about potential sentencing guidance.

Photo of John McNally John McNally Scottish National Party, Falkirk

Zero Waste Scotland estimates that Scotland’s deposit return scheme will save Scottish councils around £13 million a year in fly-tipping, litter-picking and kerbside recycling costs. Has there been any attempt to conduct a similar analysis in England?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We have issued a call for evidence on reward and return schemes for things such as plastic bottles. An independent committee will be looking at that. I know that the Scottish Government have asked our Department to work with them on their proposals. We are looking carefully at the report that came out a couple of weeks ago, but trying to extrapolate economic benefits on the basis of a handful of councils is not necessarily a straightforward exercise.