We have had an interesting debate this morning about the levels at which penalties and fines should be pitched, and the amendment returns to that theme. The amendment would insert a higher figure for fixed penalty notices incurred through failure to furnish the requisite documentation.
Clause 45 covers the introduction of a duty
''on any person who imports, produces, carries, keeps, treats, or disposes of controlled waste or, as a broker, has control of such waste, to secure a written description of the waste whenever it is transferred.''
That is a perfectly sensible proposition. The clause also
''empowers an enforcement authority to issue a fixed penalty notice to a person who has failed to comply with a requirement to furnish documents''
under the regulations.
I am glad to say that waste disposal companies have welcomed the introduction of the measures in the clause. They feel that those measures will go a long way towards cracking down on the cowboy element in that sector. It is to be welcomed that, at last, the fine for not having a licence will be greater than the cost of obtaining one. I believe that the cost of registration runs at around £133, and the new fixed penalty will be set at £300. It is true that the number of registered carriers dropped from 92,000 in 1992 to 50,000 in 2004; it is alleged that that is largely due to a lack of enforcement. Although the £300 fine is more than the cost of registration, we wonder whether it is still too low, and inadequate in the face of those who seem determined to make a large amount of money from the illegal transport and disposal of waste.
The Local Government Association questioned the new fixed penalty of £300 in the clause. It highlighted the large sums that can be made by unregistered carriers and the fact that a £300 fine is unlikely to act as a deterrent to those who break the law. I have some sympathy with the LGA's request for a review of the amount of the fixed penalties for failure to comply with a requirement to furnish documentation to assess the impact of the new penalty notice regime after the first year.
I should be interested to hear from the Minister, first, why his Department decided on £300 and, secondly, if he will respond positively to the LGA's request for a serious assessment, after a year, of the new regime's impact on the activities of illegal transporters and disposers of waste.
The amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) is sensible, as £300 will not be a sufficient deterrent. It would be a gnat's bite on the potential daily or weekly profits from the illegal activity that the Bill tries so manfully to stamp out or curb.
I, too, want to speak in favour of the amendment. Traceability is important in respect of fixed-penalty notices for the failure to furnish documentation. We must know exactly what type of controlled waste is being disposed of and in what quantities. As a Conservative, I naturally believe in as little bureaucracy and red tape as possible, but that does not mean getting rid of all of it, as some is of great benefit to the community. I suggest that in this case the bureaucracy is useful in insuring the traceability of controlled waste.
There is an important job to be done in the first place by people who have a licence for this speciality; we are not talking about ordinary people. If those who have a licence fail to comply with the law, it is right that they should know that they will receive a fixed penalty. However, that penalty must act as a deterrent and help to ensure that the licence holders keep the paperwork up to date. They must be aware that someone could call on their business at any stage to see how much waste they are disposing of. Indeed, if some waste has been illegally tipped, they might want to discover the source—
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.