Question proposed [this day], That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Question again proposed.
The Chairman: I remind the Committee that with this we are taking 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.'.
I am pleased to be approaching the conclusion of our substantial discussion on clause 27. I have taken the opportunity to ask further advice. Westminster city council is delighted that the debate has gotten the £9 million cost into the public domain. Without detaining the Committee for too long or getting stuck on the provision, I just want to say that the Government are being accused of not listening. The council tried to make those points in consultation and it is delighted to have the opportunity to do so again through our debate on the clause. I urge the Minister to use his good offices to take a closer look at the streets, because, in my humble submission, his understanding of the situation is entirely wrong. The unsightly spots on the street are predominantly—forgive the graphic description, Mr. Forth—solid, flattened lumps of chewing gum. When they are left for a considerable time, they may be slowly worn down by passing feet, but the residue of gum lasts a very long time.
Westminster city council has measured many things, but it has not yet measured the time taken for a single piece of gum to wear away. What it cleans off is gum, so we are discussing the cleaning-off of gum, not just staining. If the council is asked to do spot clearance of gum, rather than whole paving-slab clean-up, spots usually remain. Those are clean spots, rather than stains, because the gum adhesive takes with it any general dirt left beneath on the pavement. That is why the council's preferred clean-up method is whole paving-slab clean up, which not only removes the gum but cleans the whole surface, so that it is not left spotted.
I assure the hon. Lady that I am well aware of the options—as I said earlier, I have stood in the street with operatives discussing the best way of clearing gum from our streets. But that has nothing whatever to do with the clause before us.
Miss McIntosh rose—
I cannot allow that to pass—we do not agree to disagree. The hon. Lady is wrong. She has brought us some interesting information from Westminster city council; it sounds realistic, judging by my discussions with people at a policy and a practical level in local authorities, but it has nothing whatever to do with the Bill, and how much it costs to clear up the aftermath of litter is nothing to do with the clause. The hon. Lady should clean those issues from her mind as far as clause 27 is concerned.
It would be outrageous if the hon. Lady were to succeed in deleting the clause. Instead of clarifying that cigarette ends and chewing gum are litter, as everyone pretty well accepts now, deleting the clause would, in effect, say that they are not. What impact would that have? That is nearly as silly a political approach as the not-very-wisely drafted reasoned—or unreasoned, depending on which title we use—amendment brought forward on Second Reading. I vigorously resist any attempt to take the clause from the Bill.