Fly-tipping — [Mr George Howarth in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 17th April 2018.

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Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee 9:30 am, 17th April 2018

The hon. Lady makes an important point. It is about the resources that local authorities have, but it is also about how local authorities choose to use those resources. Like many people in this House, I came up through district and county councils, so I know that there is a series of choices to be made even when times are hard. As I said in answer to the previous intervention, local authorities should look at whether it might be more cost-effective to do more collecting, even if money is tight, because the cost of clearing up is probably greater. I therefore put some of the onus back on to local authorities, but I will ask at the end for the Government to work much more closely with local government to try to stop fly-tipping.

Current enforcement rules are not working, as the increase in fly-tipping demonstrates. Fines need to be more severe so that they act as a real deterrent. Jane said that littering should be a crime with instant fines and names recorded. Persistent offenders should be made to pick up litter, and more needs to be done to enforce current laws—I think we would all agree with that. We also need more anti-fly-tipping education. We have many campaigns, but we probably need even more. If we can get to our schoolchildren and young people we have a greater chance of ensuring that the situation gets better.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency should be given powers to remove vehicles belonging to fly-tippers. That is a really good point, because if we can capture and fine people who have done it, and we can take away vans, lorries and other vehicles, that would send a real message. At the moment, it is too easy to fly-tip, and people feel that the fines they get if they are stopped are outweighed by the fact that they have been able to dump a lot of material that they may have had to pay to put into a waste disposal site. Local authorities should consider reducing or scrapping charges to take away large or bulky items such as white goods—we have talked about fridges—which are among the most fly-tipped items. That would take away some of the incentive to fly-tip in the first place.

When South Staffordshire Council increased civic amenity site charges, the entire area was blighted by fly-tipping, including dumping of rubbish in woodlands, lanes and ditches. If councils scrapped charges at waste disposal sites for people bringing in trailers, and reduced charges for commercial waste disposal, it would encourage people to do it the right way. Local authorities should also consider making waste and recycling centres more accessible to everybody. The point has been made that such sites are not always open, and not everybody can get there on a Saturday morning, or whenever the waste site might be open; sometimes they are open during the week but not at the weekend. There are all sorts of ways we can make it easier. We have to give people every opportunity to do it the right way, and then come down heavily on those who do not.

There is constant fly-tipping in many areas, undermines the sense of community pride and the community’s efforts to look after their area. Does the Minister agree—I am sure she does—that we need to prevent fly-tipping? Will the Minister increase the fines? I am not sure that it is her direct responsibility, but will she ensure that local government and others in Government take the opportunity to introduce extra fines?

To what extent are Ministers working with other Government Departments on addressing the problem? Naturally, a Minister from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is here this morning, but other Departments involved include the Home Office, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and the Ministry of Justice. Will the Minister work with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to create an anti-fly-tipping education campaign? We need to talk to the Department for Education, because this all needs to work across Government.

Will the Minister encourage local authorities to work more closely with private landowners so that we can identify fly-tippers and ensure that they are penalised? We need to be on the side of the innocent. That is a really important point. Very often it is left to landowners and farmers to pay large amounts of money to dispose of rubbish that was not theirs in the first place. Will the Minister encourage local authorities to open up access to waste disposal and recycling sites, so that people are not incentivised to fly-tip in the first place? Will the Minister encourage local authorities to stop charging people to have larger items, such as white goods, taken away?

We must ensure that all parties—local authorities, police, landowners, and the Environment Agency—work together. What can the Minster do on a national level to increase the consistency of the fly-tipping response across the country, so that people who fly-tip know that they have a reasonable chance of being caught? At the moment, people do not feel that they do. What can be done nationally to encourage more local partnerships to clean up fly-tipping? Finally, would the Government support a scheme to allow any landowner affected by fly-tipping to dispose of his or her waste free of charge? Landowners and farmers do not invite fly-tipping, and it is a huge cost to them to clear it up.