Clause 27 - ''Litter''

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 20th January 2005.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 2——Producer responsibility for litter caused by discarded chewing gum etc.—

''(1) The Secretary of State must consult on producer responsibility measures to—

(a) discourage litter caused by discarded chewing gum and the discarded remains of other products designed for chewing; and

(b) provide financial redress to litter authorities for the costs incurred by removal of discarded chewing gum and the discarded remains of other products designed for chewing.

(2) The consultation must—

(a) include such bodies or persons appearing to him to be representative of the interests of litter authorities as he considers appropriate;

(b) include such bodies or persons appearing to him to be representative of the interests of producers and distributors of chewing gum and other products designed for chewing as he considers appropriate; and

(c) publish recommendations before 2007.

(3) The consultation must consider both voluntary and statutory schemes.'.

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

The new clause recognises the problems of producer responsibility. On Second Reading we heard a great deal about the cost of dealing with chewing gum. Certainly no one intends to put onerous clean-up costs on to local government. We are trying to look at the whole problem of why we are in this situation and how we deal with the onset of the problem rather than the tail end. While we support other aspects of the clause, we have real problems with its provisions in that regard.

On Second Reading, we referred to the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea. We know of the enormous amounts of money that are involved in dealing with chewing gum. Community support officers in the borough issued 175 warnings for litter and council enforcement officers issued 700 fines, but they still have the problem of chewing gum. In 1994, Westminster City council found 300,000 blobs of chewing gum on Oxford street. I hope that it ascertained that by statistical means rather than by sending a man out to count. It has spent a huge amount on dealing with the problem and was involved in a huge clean-up on Oxford street, but several months later it was as bad as ever.

Chewing gum stains pavements so it is not only a problem while it is there. I had a nasty fall caused by a piece of discarded chewing gum that became attached to my foot. As I thought I was walking forward, my second foot at first failed to leave the ground, then moved very suddenly and the rest of me went straight forward. It ruined a rather nice pair of boots and my dignity and I acquired some rather bad bruises. Chewing gum does not just look ugly and horrible, but causes injuries.

We also have a problem with the market. The chewing gum market is now worth £258 million a year. That is an estimate from Wrigley's. Chewing gum sales in the last five years have gone up by 33 per cent., so it is a growing problem. I know that there have been discussions with Wrigley's about whether it could do something about introducing biodegradable gum or making gum less sticky, because it is the sheer stickiness that causes the problem. Wrigley's claims   that it cannot do that, although London Liberal Democrats did some research and found out that a more environmentally friendly gum is available which could meet the demand. That sort of thing needs to be worked up because we need to put pressure on the gum manufacturers to go right back to the beginning, not only to how gum is disposed of, but to what happens to it. People just keep throwing gum on the ground.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

It is registered that I have a retail business that happens to sell chewing gum. We have, sadly, a minute part of that £250 million, or whatever the figure was. I hear what the hon. Lady says, and if more biodegradable chewing gum could be produced, that would do the job that people want. Surely the real responsibility, however, lies with the people who discard gum. There is encouragement on the packet, which says, ''Please put the gum back into the silver foil and dispose of it properly.'' The industry is sending the right message. It is the people who discard gum on the floor who should pay the penalty.

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

I have a lot of sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's view. There are two problems, however. People throw it away and we need to jump on them for doing that. [Interruption.] Well, we need designated officers to jump on them. I fully support measures to deal with that.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

That will be the subject of another new clause.

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

Not another new clause, as the matter is perfectly adequately covered. However, the problem is the cost. It cost £200 million to remove chewing gum from London Underground's trains and stations. Given the state of our public transport system, that is £200 million of money that could be put to good use on the railways and other transport undertakings.

The problem has been going on for a long time. In 1996, the Conservative Government were asked whether the Department of the Environment was consulting manufacturers about cleaning chewing gum. That was eight years ago. At that stage, the Keep Britain Tidy group, now ENCAMS, considered the opportunities for cleaning gum up. I know that the Minister has spent a lot of time dealing with the subject, so I am telling him something of which he is already aware, but for the record, it is important that we recognise the problem.

DEFRA set up the chewing gum action group to review what was happening. It decided to find out about people throwing gum on the ground. It is not unreasonable that we must understand the problem before we can solve it. There were five classifications of people who do it. The group said that the idea of chewing gum stuck on your hair, face or shoes is disgusting, but people still throw it away. The selfish say, ''When I have finished with my gum, I don't want it anywhere near me. I just want rid of it.'' In other words, they throw it away rather than wrapping it up and taking it home with them. That is a psychological issue.

There were some interesting comments on Second Reading about whether the packaging could be designed so that used chewing gum could be put back in. The research said that people were unlikely to carry it to a bin, and I am quite happy to deal with people whom I spot throwing it away. There should be publicity saying that that is wrong. Much more needs to be done, because it is a major problem. We could consider fining chewing gum manufacturers or putting a levy on the product that would go towards the cost of cleaning up. We need more work to be done into how we can get the manufacturers to take account of what people throw away. It is horrible to find it on the ground.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

It would be unfair to put a tax on chewing gum as the hon. Lady suggests. I dispute her finding that everyone who chews gum drops it on the ground. I am very careful how I dispose of chewing gum, which I use from time to time, and I am sure that the hon. Lady is, too. Why tax people who are not going to break the law just to pay for those who take no responsibility? We should jump on those people, as she said, not on everyone.

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

The hon. Gentleman has a good point. We have not tabled an amendment on the subject, as we do not necessarily subscribe to that solution, we merely say that such a suggestion could be considered, and we need to look at what can be done about the problem of chewing gum. The hon. Gentleman and I throw the stuff in the bin, carefully wrapped up; there may be a problem with the sample from the statistics taken by the chewing gum action group, which found that sooner or later, everyone throws their gum on the ground. The hon. Gentleman and I may be the exceptions; the problem is widespread.

The purpose of the new clause is to ask the Government to get much tougher with the manufacturers, and to look for appropriate solutions that deal with people who throw chewing gum on the ground. There is a huge problem, which will continue if we do nothing about it, as shown in Westminster, where things got just as bad again soon after the stuff was cleaned up.

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

I am glad to have the hon. Lady's endorsement of what DEFRA, ENCAMS and the action group to which she referred are doing. I am grateful to her, too, for promoting DEFRA's fascinating and illuminating research, which gave an insight into people's behaviour. I agree with the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) who said that   it is people's behaviour that turns the wrapper into litter and its contents into a stain that is enormously difficult to remove.

The first instinct of legislators is to legislate, but that is not always the answer to a problem. The clause is simple and limited; I will refer in a moment to the definition of chewing gum, which will assist in controlling the process of transition from its being in someone's mouth to becoming a stain.

Chewing gum deposition is an increasing problem, and gum is harder to remove than other types of litter. I have looked at the problem personally and talked to the councillors who are responsible for devising a policy on the cleaning-up process, and to operatives in city centres and local authority officers who have to put the policy into practice. The further one goes into the matter, the clearer it becomes that the problem must be tackled, and that it is a very complex issue, not just because of the technicalities of removing the stains, but in terms of how we get people to behave in a different way.

In the end, it is a matter of public attitudes although, retailers, manufacturers and the local authorities have a responsibility. I pay tribute to the many local authorities that take the issue seriously and try new methods and technical approaches to deal with the problem, which is what the public want them to do. They object to the stains on the pavements and the other extremely unpleasant aspects of the problem. A member of my family who asked me why we were bothering about this issue came back 24 hours later having completely changed her attitude because her skirt had been damaged by a piece of chewing gum that had been placed under a table.

The segmentation research is illuminating—more so than some research that consists only of people's opinions or who is for or against things. I shall not repeat the information that the hon. Member for Guildford gave, but she was accurate in what she reported. I found the material difficult to believe at first, because it is difficult to understand that people will talk about their attitude when it is that of the bravado user. However, on the day that we launched the research, I found myself on a radio station that had managed to capture two chewing gum users in the centre of a town, and one was a bravado user. As the conversation went on, he said, ''I'm starting to feel a bit embarrassed about this now'', to which my general response was, ''Good.''

The research showed that it will take work to change the attitudes that lead to littering and therefore staining, but attitudes can be changed. That has been shown, for instance, in relation to dog fouling, which we spoke about on Tuesday. The legislation, enforcement, the change in public attitude and the change in behaviour on the part of dog owners are leading progressively to an increasing improvement and a diminution of that unpleasant presence on our streets. I conclude that we have a big mountain to climb to turn things around on chewing gum, but I   believe that we can do so and we certainly can if there is the unanimity of purpose and the wish to see the matter dealt with that I perceive across the Committee.

The hon. Member for Guildford referred to Wrigley. I have met the managing director, Gharry Eccles, and should be meeting him again shortly to talk about the engagement of that company, which is by far the biggest manufacturer and supplier of chewing gum in this country. The clause is designed to address a narrow problem: current legislation does not carry an explicit definition of litter and refuse, although the courts have considered the definition to be wide. The Government and local authorities generally agree that smoking-related materials and discarded chewing gum already fall within the definition of litter. A number of councils have recently launched well-publicised campaigns to issue fixed penalties to gum droppers, based on the fact that discarded gum is litter. Some, however, argue differently and say that discarded cigarette ends and chewing gum are not litter, and anecdotal evidence suggests that concerns about their legal status may have discouraged some of the more cautious local authorities from taking action against those who discard cigarette ends and gum. We therefore consulted widely on the issue and there was widespread support in the consultation for a provision to put the position in law beyond any doubt.

Clause 27 provides that clarification, confirming that discarded smoking-related products and chewing gum, including bubble gum and other products designed for chewing, fall within the definition of litter for the purposes of part 4, entitled ''Litter Etc'', of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. That will confirm that local authorities have the ability to tackle one of the most serious problems of litter dropping. The responsibility is not new, because the Government and local authorities generally have always taken the view that I have described. The clause simply confirms that that is correct.

New clause 2 is unnecessary. The Government are already working with the industry and local authorities to address the problem of discarded chewing gum. We expect to see the first results this year, so there is no need to wait until 2007. However, I understand the sentiment behind the drafting of the new clause and I hope that that is a sufficient assurance for the hon. Member for Guildford.

The hon. Lady referred to the chewing gum action group, which I set up in autumn 2003. Its members represent the interests of the chewing gum industry—including Wrigley—local authorities, the Local Government Association, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management and ENCAMS. The group's remit is to find, through a partnership approach, sustainable solutions to the irresponsible disposal of gum. We have the results of market research conducted by the group, and industry is committed to contributing financially to the measures that the group develops. That will be complemented by work on local campaigning, innovation projects and effective enforcement.

If the hon. Member for Guildford intends to put down a marker saying that we need to return to the matter in legislation if the partnership measures are not effective, I accept that as being a reasonable and constructive warning. However, at this stage, I hope that the way to go is via the partnership approach and trying to tease out, as we did in the segmentation report, what is going on and what we need to do to change users' behaviour—the point made by the hon. Gentleman. I shall be grateful if we send the message from the Committee that that approach has strong all-party support. I shall then undertake to take that message not just to the industry but to local authorities and others with whom we work. I shall also pass that message on to ENCAMS, which I am sure will be greatly encouraged, because it has been trying to design campaign material, in the way in which it did on dog fouling with such success, to address the issue.

I hope that we will be able to go forward from the Committee with the clause, the provisions of which are a small element in the debate, because the proposed new clause has widened our discussion. The clause will clarify the legislation, but it is important to have the support of everyone in the Committee for the initiatives that we are taking to try to tackle, in a partnership approach, the problem of chewing gum.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport) 10:45 am, 20th January 2005

I hate to break up the cosy partnership that the Minister seeks to establish. However, I shall start in a helpful way by explaining to him where we are coming from. We have not sought at this stage to draft an amendment, but we will table an amendment on Report, if the Minister is not minded to agree with what we propose.

We propose to strike clause 27 from the Bill. I shall elaborate on why I believe that the Minister seeks to impose responsibilities on councils which it is beyond their wildest expectations that they could meet. However, I will say, in a constructive way, that there are three, if not four, ways in which we could proceed as an alternative to clause 27. The Liberal Democrats referred both to a purchase tax and to producer responsibility. Neither the Minister, nor the spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats, the hon. Member for Guildford, referred to the other large company in the industry besides Wrigley. That company is Cadbury Schweppes, which produces Hollywood, Trident and Dentyne, and imports chewing gum such as Stimorol. 

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

May I make it clear that I referred in general to manufacturers and suppliers. However, Wrigley has about 95 per cent. of the product market; that is why I referred specifically to it. Given its segment of the market, it has a responsibility, which I believe that it accepts.

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

I accept what the Minister says. There is the element of producer responsibility. Cadbury Schweppes and Wrigley both take a responsible position. I chew gum, and I hope that I always dispose of it in a socially responsible and environmentally friendly manner.

With regard to the element of producer responsibility, I pay tribute to the work that Wrigley and Cadbury Schweppes have undertaken, particularly through the investment that they have made and their participation in the chewing gum action group. There is also the element of educating consumers, particularly the young who are perhaps keener to chew gum, including bubble gum.

There is an element of individual responsibility. The Minister must accept that if each and every one of us cannot desist from dropping all forms of litter, the Bill will have failed in its aims. There is also the option of a purchase tax. As a representative of the low-tax party, I can understand why the representatives of the two other parties would favour a purchase tax, but that would be our least-favoured option.

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

If the hon. Lady had been listening she would know that we are not proposing a purchase tax, but it is an option to consider at some stage and we listed it among a range of other proposals. We are not endorsing such a tax, and I would like that on the record.

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

One could get used to misrepresentation of different sorts, but I point out that on Second Reading the Conservative party seemed to think that the answer to the problem of chewing gum was precisely that of producer responsibility.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Order. There is a danger that the discussion is drifting somewhat. I remind the Committee that we are discussing clause 27, which is very narrow and focused, and also the new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Guildford, which refers to producer responsibility. However, I am not sure that we want the discussion to go further than that.

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

There is another reason why chewing gum should not be described as litter. We have heard of the poop and scoop system to deal with dog poo, but I do not know whether the Committee is familiar with the gum pouch, which retails at £1.35, or the gum ashtray pouch, which motorists can purchase for 95p. There is an alternative way to dispose of gum, to which the Minister may like to allude.

''Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, local authorities and police community support officers already have the power to issue fixed penalty notices to those who drop chewing gum. The current level of fixed penalty is £50.''—[Official Report, 17 November 2004; Vol. 426, c. 1472W.]

I point out to the Minister that in a debate held in Westminster Hall attended by the Minister for the Environment and Agri-environment it was made clear that certain councils, such as Westminster city council, are already applying that penalty.

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

I made it clear that the immediate response when this subject was raised in consultation was that extra legislation was not necessary because it is clear that chewing gum is litter and that therefore the provisions of existing legislation apply. Only as a result of some people saying during the consultation that there might be an argument about chewing gum, did we accede to representations and explicitly refer to it in this legislation. It is as simple as that. There is no mystery that what I have said in the past applies under existing legislation because nothing changes as a result of this clause, which explicitly clarifies what is already the case.

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

My point is that clause 27 is nothing more than discretionary; it does not impose an obligation on councils.

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

Of course it does not, because all the clause does is to confirm our, and the vast majority of people's, understanding of what the law is. It merely puts the definition beyond doubt.

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

The point is that when councils fail to clear litter, no penalty is imposed.

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

Local authorities not using their powers is a different matter to the definition of litter. All that the clause deals with is the definition of litter. It is clarifying something that is already very clear in law and removing any doubt—should people feel that there is any doubt whatever. That is all that it does.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport) 11:00 am, 20th January 2005

The Minister says that that is the purpose. However, I was staggered when, in a further reply to a parliamentary question on 17 November, he confirmed that the chewing gum segmentation study commissioned by the chewing gum action group had cost £60,170. That is an extraordinary amount to spend when all the study did was look at the different ways in which people disposed of chewing gum, without coming up with any conclusions.

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

That is not what it did. It looked at people's motivation, their explanations and their description of their own behaviour. If the hon. Lady fails to take the sensible steps that we have taken to understand the problem before trying to tackle it, she will continue doing what she is doing today—tying herself in knots.  

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

With respect, it is the Minister who is tying himself in knots. In his answer on 17 November, he said that the chewing gum action group report

''will assist by informing campaigns to change behaviour.''—[Official Report, House of Commons, 17 November 2004; Vol. 426, c. 1472W.]

In answer to a question on 16 November, he said:

''We will launch a public awareness campaign in the coming year with the aim of delivering the behavioural change needed to prevent gum being dropped in the first place.''—[Official Report, House of Commons, 16 November 2004: Vol. 426, c. 1243W.]

Will he confirm that that has happened? As Wrigley and Cadbury Schweppes have said, there will be no change in behaviour whatever without that campaign.

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

Yes, absolutely. It may have escaped the hon. Lady's notice, but the coming year has so far reached only 20 January; there is a considerable amount of the year to go, but a good deal of work is being done on designing the campaign. She referred to industry's involvement, and the group's work has not necessarily been easy, because the industry side obviously does not want the negatives of its product to be brought out. As was clear on the issue of dog fouling, there is a need for a challenging campaign if we are to see effective change in public behaviour, and that is precisely what we are working on.

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

I think that it would have been helpful if such things had been in place when the Bill was introduced.

May I turn the Minister's attention to the costs involved? The hon. Member for Guildford elaborated on them, but I want to go into greater detail. Westminster city council has spoken of its concerns and sent a full response to the Minister and his Department. It said that it was particularly concerned that the proposed redefinition of gum and gum staining as litter in relation to section 89 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 would place a duty on local authorities to keep streets clean of gum at all times. It was certain that such standards could not be met without a massive and disproportionate increase in street cleansing costs. The Minister said that the clause was not imposing a duty, but simply widening the definition, so can Westminster city council be more relaxed about this?

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

I do wish that the hon. Lady would listen to what is said in answer to some of her comments. The clause does not place a new duty on anybody or change the definition; it clarifies the definition to make it clear that it means what local authorities and government generally believed it to mean. It merely puts the matter beyond doubt.

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

But local authority representatives—not members of the Committee—are the very people whom the Minister is asking to apply the provisions, and, in their view, there are already adequate grounds for defining gum and smoking-related materials dropped on the public highway as litter.

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

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady while she is reading word for word contributions that have come to her from lobbying organisations, but will she answer one question for me? Local authorities are issuing fines for dropping chewing gum. Does she consider that illegal? We do not. It is what the law says now. If gum is not litter, there would be no basis for those fines, but as it is litter, there is an existing statutory duty to clear it up. Does the hon. Lady not understand that?

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

The right hon. Gentleman must understand our frustration, expressed and recorded on more than one occasion in this House. We totally accept that councils have those responsibilities, and excellent flagship councils such as Westminster City council are applying the law already. Our frustration is that there are councils throughout England that are not. Bath council springs to mind; it has issued only one notice under a litter order. We believe either that the clause is not necessary because the powers already exist or, if the Minister is imposing a duty, that costs will increase incrementally by £9 million a year for councils that are already implementing existing provisions.

Our record on litter and keeping Britain tidy is second to none, since it was the Conservatives who set up the Keep Britain Tidy campaign. I put it on record, having had discussions with and representations from Wrigley and Cadbury Schweppes, that those companies are fully aware of their producer responsibilities, and look to the Government to come forward with the campaign that they are committed to introducing. Chewing gum can not only help to relieve stress, as I find on occasion, but has some beneficial qualities, particularly for dental health.

We have had an excellent, wide debate, but the Government must consider a range of responsibilities. To be fair, it is not this House but the producers of chewing gum who are calling for a purchase tax. There is a producer responsibility, but I also recognise individual responsibility. The Minister has gone some distance to say that we are not going to change behaviour, but there is the ''wrap it and bin it'' approach and the gum pouch approach. We believe that this clause is very damaging indeed. We have some sympathy with the Liberal Democrat amendment, but would move to strike the clause from the Bill.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

I just thought that I would add my two penn'orth and seek some clarification. Clause 27 mentions

''discarded ends of cigarettes, cigars and like products'',  and it is absolutely right that we need to clamp down on that; it is litter, after all. Perhaps one of the unintended consequences of smoking bans in various places is that we see people huddled outside buildings smoking cigarettes or cigars. They do not have a right to discard their finished cigarette ends on the floor outside those buildings. They are on a public highway, so they must take seriously their responsibility to discard cigarette ends and other products connected with their smoking properly. From time to time we see people throwing their cigarette end out of their vehicle while they are driving. People should be clearly told that that is not allowed, and that they will be prosecuted if they are seen doing it. Other times, one sees someone sitting in a vehicle outside a shop, perhaps waiting for someone, discard the entire contents of the ash tray on to the highway. How piggish is that? Quite frankly, it shows no responsibility whatever, so I hope that it will be included as part of the definition of ''like products''.

I have many years of experience of selling gum, as well as using it myself. Looking at new clause 2, I agree that there has to be some responsibility for the producer to consider how the product is packaged. I heard what my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York had to say about pouches, which are new to me; we certainly do not sell them, and I suspect that the vast majority of people do not use them either. Certainly, if I am using Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum or the like, which has foil wrappers, it is easier to discard the gum responsibly.

Mostly, I hasten to add, I chew gum when I am driving so it is a lot easier, as everything is done in the car and I can clean it up at a later stage. Other gums, such as the Colgate brand, are not wrapped in foil. Stimorol has also been mentioned, and it is not individually wrapped either. That means that it is more difficult to discard the product. If manufacturers cannot come up with some way of wrapping gum individually, maybe they should consider putting pouches at the top of packs for people to wrap the gum in. Not all the gum that is available is individually wrapped, and I understand why that is the case.

To move on to the wider subject of clause 27, I mentioned apple cores earlier. Could the Minister say something about whether the public have a right to discard biodegradable stuff, or should it be included more clearly in the Bill? People often throw apple cores and the peelings from oranges, tangerines and the like down on the floor. I assume that litter includes wider things such as shopping trolleys, which seem to end up everywhere. I hope that if anyone is caught discarding one of those on the highway, they will be properly prosecuted. It should not be the responsibility of the shop or the store; it is also the responsibility of enforcement agencies to clamp down.

I hope that the hon. Member for Guildford has tabled new clause 2 to test the Minister on various ways of encouraging the industry to do more. It has a responsibility, after all, but that should finally come down on the user of the product. People buy the product and use it, and they should be responsible for putting it in litter bins either at home or on the street   when they have finished with it. They certainly do not have the right to throw their litter on to the floor. The cost of cleaning it up runs into millions throughout the country, and moreover it is dangerous. It is also unsightly. I hope that the Minister can clarify some of the points that I have raised.

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

I look forward to clarifying a number of points, particularly those raised by the hon. Gentleman. He went to the heart of the issue of chewing gum—not the heart of the clause, which is simple and straightforward—and how we deal with a considerable nuisance that the public want to see dealt with.

I perhaps ought to recommend further conversations between the hon. Gentleman and his Front-Bench representative, since the opportunity arises for him to discover all sorts of new products that can go on to the shelves of his shop following the contribution made by the hon. Member for Vale of York.

I have in my hand a form of packaging that is designed to deal with cigarette ends without any danger to the user. It is obviously greatly preferable to simply give up, but as the hon. Member for Ribble Valley said, some people contribute to the disgusting appearance of the outside of some buildings as that is the place where they go to smoke. There is no need for that. If people are going to undertake such activities, it is simple for them to use an article such as the one that I am waving in the air and not to create the disgusting scenes to which the hon. Gentleman referred. The clause simply makes it clear and reminds people what the law says. It may also remind the public that if they drop a cigarette end or throw a piece of chewing gum away, they are dropping litter. It is important that that is clear.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned dropping biodegradable materials and so on. That is littering as well. Clearly, if one drops an apple in a border where it biodegrades quickly, it is less serious than dropping something that is plastic and will be around for a longer period of time. However, it falls within the definition of litter. Nobody has argued about that, so we do not need any clarification. That is why I want to underline the fact that we are not changing the law or putting any new duties on anybody.

The hon. Member for Vale of York is absolutely and factually wrong in suggesting that there are costs associated with the clause. All that it does is one simple thing—it clarifies the definition of chewing and smoking-related materials as litter, in order to make it clear that authorities can prosecute and issue fixed penalty notices for the dropping of such materials.

If we are going to prevent the problem, there needs to be either a change in people's behaviour or prosecutions for it. Prosecution does not involve the costs that the hon. Lady mentioned. If she is right that chewing gum relieves stress, I shall be purchasing it by the end of some of her contributions—I say that in the nicest way possible, because I am certainly not going to start smoking again.

I have made clear what the clause does, which is no more than what I described. There are no costs involved. There is an opportunity to prosecute people and impose fixed penalty notices. That would provide additional finances, which would be beneficial. However, the amount would be nowhere the cost of the end result of the littering, which is staining. The clause does not deal with staining, and it cannot. I hope that that is clear.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley 11:15 am, 20th January 2005

The Minister also mentioned advertising. Can he say more about the campaign to make people understand that dropping gum is not acceptable? He has talked about social and behavioural changes, which we would prefer, but if they do not happen, people will be prosecuted. Will the campaign concentrate on gum or will it include the other products to which the Bill refers?

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

The campaign that we are considering concerns gum. Dealing with the consequences of the littering is difficult, which is why the working party has considered the matter more widely and looked at the underlying causes. There will be a specific campaign. I cannot say more than that now, because we are at the early stages of design, with a lot of discussions about what would be most effective, what would work and what would not, and how a campaign could fit with other forms of advertising. I undertake to write to members of the Committee when I can tell them where we are and how matters are being carried forward.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

One suggestion is that manufacturers should state on the packaging that dropping gum is an offence punishable by a fine.

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

As I have said, we have received a lot of co-operation from the industry. I believe that the group has discussed that idea, although I shall look at its latest recommendations to see whether that suggestion has been considered fully. The hon. Gentleman also asked whether other types of littering would be addressed in a campaign. The answer is yes. We are increasing the amount of money that ENCAMS receives, so that it can do more on littering.

We shall shortly publish the annual report of comparisons of how local authorities deal with a variety of environmental issues, including littering. For the first time we shall have a three-year comparison of whether trends are going up or down.   That will contribute to the exchange of best practice among local authorities. Campaigning on gum is only part of a much bigger picture. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is also increasing its work on sustainable communities.

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

I shall make a few brief responses to the Minister's remarks on new clause 2. First, like everyone, I am absolutely delighted with the change in public attitude to dog fouling, but I have to say that when someone is out with their pooch, it is very visible when it is pooping. It is easy to see whose dog is doing it, and local disapprobation goes a long way to changing attitudes. However, if a small amount of gum is flicked onto the pavement, it is very difficult to know who did it, and when and how.

I am very supportive of what the Minister said about the need to understand the problem. I have to say that spending £60,000 on research to find out why people throw gum away seems fairly cheap compared to the clean-up costs. We have to change attitudes. I very much welcome what he says about continuing to work on it, but we will need to see what happens. We cannot have endless discussion groups, focus groups, and warm thoughts and hope that it goes away. We could have projects, with one generation of children learning that it is wrong to throw gum on the ground, but as we have seen with other awareness campaigns, all goes quiet in the next generation.

I welcome the fact that the Government are talking with Wrigley's about biodegradable and other sorts of gum in order to limit the damage. However, we confirm that we have tabled the new clause as a marker; I think that the House will want to return to the subject if we do not see any results, because what happens now is unacceptable. Given the difficulties of identifying those who throw the stuff away, I hope that the message will get across; but it needs conviction of the mind as well as conviction of those who carry out the act.

Will the Minister say how long he will let it run before he reviews the effectiveness of the message, and what he has in mind to ensure that not only one generation of people receives it ? We need ongoing awareness.

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

We want active engagement. We need to see what can be done in this year's campaign, take stock and then see what can be done in subsequent years. I believe that we have the co-operation of manufacturers and retailers. It was nice and easy in the first instance to engage them, because they hoped that the problem would go away. However, they are now fully engaged. I certainly agree with the warning given by the hon. Member for Guildford that if we are not successful or if that success does not continue, we should return to the matter with further legislation. However, I hope that we shall see progress and success.

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

I heard what the Minister said about the difference between littering and staining. The difficulty is that chewing gum stains almost immediately it becomes embedded in the pavement—   one person drops it, another person stands on it, and already it has stained the pavement. The regulatory impact assessment states on page 40 that

''The measure does not widen the scope of the duty under section 89 of the Environment Protection Act 1990 to keep land free of litter and refuse, to include chewing gum staining.''

I do not see how the clause addresses the problem of chewing gum.

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

Very simply, littering with chewing gum leads to staining. If we tackle the littering, we have a chance of avoiding the staining. If we do not tackle the littering, the staining will continue to increase. Dealing with the staining once it is there is a different matter, and is nothing to do with the Bill.

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

That immediately leads me to say that the Government are presumably relying on an environmental officer, perhaps from Westminster city council, or a community police officer to catch   someone in the act of dropping the gum. That would be nigh on impossible in Oxford street because of the volume of people.

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

With respect, we have a problem with littering because a lot of it is not spotted, but a lot of it is. The success of litter wardens, for instance, is a lesson from which we have learned. Local authorities are enthusiastic and keen to pursue the policy, and it is popular with the public. Littering with chewing gum is about the act of its being dropped.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Order. I remind the Committee that we resume at 2.30 pm in this Room, and that we will be sitting in this Room until the end of our proceedings.

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.