Serious and Organised Waste Crime

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons on 21st February 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Griffiths Andrew Griffiths Conservative, Burton

What steps he is taking to tackle serious and organised waste crime.

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

What steps he is taking to tackle serious and organised waste crime.

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Last year, we commissioned a review of serious and organised crime in the waste sector. Recommendations from the review have informed our strategic approach to tackling waste crime. We have plans to prevent, detect and deter all forms of waste crime, including the creation of a joint unit for waste crime and a dedicated disruption team to deal with the threat of serious and organised criminal gangs.

Photo of Andrew Griffiths Andrew Griffiths Conservative, Burton

Landowners, and particularly farmers, across Burton and Uttoxeter have been having to deal with the scourge of industrial fly-tipping. One farmer who I met in Uttoxeter was confronted overnight with a tsunami-like deposit of waste that was chest-height and went on for hundreds of metres. It was he who had then to deal with the consequences—not just cleaning it up, but paying for that. What are we going to do to support farmers, make sure that the perpetrators get caught and help to keep our countryside clean?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My hon. Friend raises an important point and is an indefatigable campaigner for everyone in his constituency. He is quite right not only that fly-tipping is a horrific crime that leads to environmental damage, but that it is doubly unfair for farmers and landowners who have to bear the costs of clearing the waste. That is why we have talked to magistrates and others to ensure that they appreciate that they have unlimited powers to fine those responsible for these crimes.

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

I thank the Secretary of State for that response, but will he further outline whether he intends to liaise with the Ministry of Justice to increase the judicial ability in these cases to make examples of those who repeatedly flout the rules, on the basis that the fine for being caught just once is less than the cost of disposing of ten times as much waste? In other words, will he make the fine fit the crime?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: the “polluter pays” principle is central to good environmental management, and we must ensure that every arm of the justice system has the tools required to make sure that those who pollute pay a heavy price for their crime.

Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall

The cost of skip hire in Cornwall is disproportionately higher than in many other places around the country. The reason for that is that we do not have an aggregates recycling plant. Will the Department look at that and see whether there is anything we can do in Cornwall to reduce the burden on builders?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I will liaise with him, and of course Cornwall Council, to see what we can do to improve the situation.

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

Did the Secretary of State see the wonderful young people campaigning for the environment and against climate change last Friday? Some of them are in the Gallery today. Can we not harness the enthusiasm of those young people in tackling waste, waste crime and litter? They are out there plogging—clearing the planet up—so will he put his energy, action and leadership behind those young people?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I was going to say that we have recently seen a number of new groups emerging in this Chamber. May I say that I welcome the growing number of Sheermanites in the Chamber? I am tempted to join them myself.

The serious point that Mr Sheerman made is absolutely correct. The idealism shown by our young people towards the environment is inspirational. In particular, we hope that through the Year of Green Action we can support youth and community groups across the country in taking practical steps to improve the environment around us and to raise awareness of the threat of climate change.