New Clause 1 - Illegal deposit or disposal of waste(power of arrest)

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee on 1st February 2005.

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'(1) In subsection 24(2) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c.69), at the end insert—

''(w) an offence under subsection 33(4A) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (c.3).''

(2) In section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (c.3), after subsection (4) insert—

''(4A) A person authorised by the Environmental Protection Agency to exercise the powers specified in section 108(4) of the Environment Act 1995 (c.25) shall have like powers to those of a constable to arrest any person depositing or disposing of waste in contravention of subsection (1).'.'.—[Miss McIntosh.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question proposed [this day], That the clause be read a Second time.

Question again proposed.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport) 2:40 pm, 1st February 2005

May I welcome you, Mr. Forth, and the rest of the Committee back to our proceedings?

I listened carefully to what the Minister was saying, and I must say that he lost me at one point. He said that he was agreeing with me, but on a different point to the one on which I wished him to agree, and he disagreed with me when I wished him to agree.

I hope that the Committee has followed the arguments that we crafted on the new clause. I do not accept that the Minister's argument on clause 33 that making the offence subject to a maximum penalty of imprisonment for up to five years is sufficient to deal with our arguments. The whole point is that a police officer would have to effect the arrest.

We listened carefully to submissions from local authorities and the Environment Agency, and I believe that they would be empowered and that the provisions of the Bill would be strengthened if their officers were authorised to make even a citizen's arrest when appropriate. However, I am mindful of the fact that we have discussed that, and that the Minister has, at least in some regard, recognised our concerns.

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

I do not quite understand the hon. Lady's point about the citizen's arrest, because that does not require special legislation to authorise arrest by specific officers of an organisation. As I said earlier, the Environment Agency has advised against giving those powers.  

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

I hear what the Minister says. We understood the reverse from the Environment Agency; we understood that it argued for the powers and that it thought that it was not sufficient to make the illegal deposit or disposal of waste an arrestable offence.

The Minister did not respond on whether evidence taken by camera would be sufficient on some of the sites where we know for a fact that fly-tipping takes place. Will he be good enough to respond on that point? If no police officer was present at the time, would it be sufficient under clause 33, to which he referred, if there was clear evidence on camera associating that person with the offence?

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

First, may I respond on the dissonance between the hon. Lady's remarks here and elsewhere on the Bill? It seems rather odd to suggest, as she did earlier, that it is not appropriate for a trained officer of a local authority to undertake the giving of fixed penalty notices for very minor offences, but then to say that the power of arrest should be given to officers of the Environment Agency for what the hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) pointed out can be very serious and difficult circumstances. I do not think that that is appropriate.

On the point of evidence by camera, that would be dealt with by the normal rules on what evidence is admissible. I do not think that the issue is relevant to the new clause on the grounds that a camera cannot arrest anybody.

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

I was not suggesting for a moment that the camera would arrest anybody. My question is about what would happen if a police officer was not there to make the arrest, and the environment officer, under clause 33, is not deemed to be the appropriate person to make an arrest. If the person was arrested at a later stage, could camera evidence be used to convict the person of the offence?

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

Yes, I see the point that the hon. Lady is making, but it is a different point to that covered by the new clause. Clearly, if there was camera evidence in addition to the evidence of an official of the Environment Agency or any other witnesses, that would be relevant to how an offence might be prosecuted and to the need for police officers to arrest an individual. The evidence from a camera would be relevant, but I am struggling to understand how it relates to the new clause. However, such evidence could, of course, reinforce the ability of a professional witness, such as an employee of the Environment Agency, to provide evidence to the police for them to undertake an arrest or to the appropriate authorities for them to undertake a prosecution.

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

The Minister has been extremely helpful. He will recall, and the record will prove it, that I queried specifically what training would be given. He said that a trained officer would be authorised to give fixed penalty notices. I referred to the concerns that were expressed by, among others, the Law Society of England, which said that the Bill did not show that   sufficient training would be given. However, given the Minister's comments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.