Clause 38 - Failure to produce authority: fixed penalty notices

Part of Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 20th January 2005.

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Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Shadow Minister (the Environment), Environment, Food & Rural Affairs 5:15 pm, 20th January 2005

The amendment comes back to my concern about the inconsistency with which we treat the Environment Agency, compared with local government. We are talking about who keeps the receipts for fixed penalty notices. On Second Reading, I mentioned that there are major problems with the apprehension and conviction of criminals by the Environment Agency. I appreciate that there will be occasions when the Environment Agency thinks it more appropriate to issue a caution than to take matters further, but the fact is that people are disillusioned with the Environment Agency's ability to cope with that. The agency itself is concerned about the costs that it will run up if it is to carry out its requirements.

Yesterday, I went to meet one of my parish councils, the Worplesdon parish council, which has had a huge amount of fly-tipping on Stringer's common. Curiously, a lot of it is not reported on the flycatcher database because the parish thinks that it is not worth it, but it may get to the point when the parish does decides to report it. I asked how many of the instances went on to flycatcher; the answer was only some, and that depended on whether the incident was handled by the warden from Surrey Wildlife Trust, the Environment Agency, the police or the local authority. The reality is that the Environment Agency just is not coping with the huge issues. The provision would be consistent with local government being allowed to keep the receipts for fixed penalty notices. The Environment Agency needs the funding to help with enforcement just as councils do. It seems strange that in the agency's case the money goes back to the Government, but in the case of the council it goes back to the council.

We shall express concerns later about who is to pay the cost of the clear-up. We will end up with a compound problem, in that the Environment Agency is not funded sufficiently to do the protection and   conviction work in the first place, and is not even able to keep the penalty receipts, which may not be a huge sum but would help. Yet it is required to do the work, and farmers, the Woodland Trust and others must pay the costs of the clean-up.

The amendment is intended to enable us to scrutinise what will be done with the income from fixed penalty notices, and to draw attention to the inconsistency between provisions for local government and the Environment Agency. The need for the agency to do more enforcement work came out strongly in the evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee, in its reports ''Environmental Crime and the Courts'' and ''Environmental Crime: Fly-tipping, Fly-posting, Litter, Graffiti and Noise''.

We need the agency to get on with the job. It is important that it should be able to, and the amendment is a small marker of our belief in that commitment.