New clause 30 - Zero waste strategy

Part of Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 10th April 2003.

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Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment) 3:30 pm, 10th April 2003

I accept that, and I share the hon. Gentleman's outrage. I am extremely keen for action to be taken. My view remains, however, that that will not happen without litter wardens or environmental wardens—call them what you like—on the ground. They can detect people dropping packaging, and they can follow up incidents, checking the source and taking appropriate action.

Of course, there is a cost problem associated with that, but the Government's policy is that the money from the penalties imposed on those who commit litter and, I think, dog-fouling offences can be recycled. For the life of me, I cannot see why more local authorities do not take up the opportunity that that policy would provide. We are piloting nine local projects to put people in such roles, and we are seeing what the consequences are. They remind me of parking wardens in Westminster; they are a source of considerable extra money and they deal extremely effectively with a serious social nuisance. The powers to take such steps are there, and we must ensure that they are used.

The Anti-social Behaviour Bill takes forward several important proposals to deal with fly tipping—believe it or not, that is where we started half an hour ago. They include extending to waste collection authorities—not the Environment Agency—the power to investigate incidents of unlawfully deposited waste. They also include the power to stop, search and seize vehicles that authorities suspect of being used unlawfully to deposit waste—a power currently available only to the Environment Agency. That is a modest but not insignificant extension of the powers of local authorities, which I welcome. We are considering what further measures

may be needed, and we intend to announce details later this year.