I congratulate my hon. Friend Neil Parish on securing this important debate and echo many of the points made by Members across the Chamber. We certainly do need tougher police action and tougher penalties for people who are caught fly-tipping, and we need to support local authorities. I am sure we would all welcome more funding if we can find it.
I want to make a suggestion that I have not yet heard mentioned by any of the organisations campaigning on this issue—I alert the Minister to the fact that I am that dreaded thing: a Back Bencher with a plan and a scheme. I would welcome her comments on this, as I have been giving the matter a great deal of thought, because this is an issue in Monmouthshire. I fully support the measures that have been set out and want to add another thought.
A particular problem, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton mentioned, is that the liability for any fly-tipped waste lies with the landowner. I suggest changing the liability and pushing it back towards the people who produce the waste in the first place. I started thinking about that after reading an article a couple of weeks ago—I think it was in Farmers Weekly, although I could not find it again—about a farmer who had had waste tipped on his land. He went through it and was able to establish where it had come from, then went back to the originators of the waste, who were able to say who had received the waste. As a result, a prosecution was brought against the cowboys who had taken away the waste. That made me think that there is room for some kind of voluntary licensing scheme, a little bit like that in force for anyone who wants to be a door supervisor.
In other words, we would give an organisation like the Security Industry Association the power to accredit anyone who wants to move away waste. Those who want to take away waste can apply for a licence—there would obviously be a charge for it—and would be able to establish themselves as legitimate operators. They would have to undergo training. They would not be able to breach any health and safety rules or tip waste illegally or they would lose their licence.
What about the people who produce the waste? Under a voluntary scheme, they would have the choice of going either to an accredited waste tipper or somebody not accredited, who might be cheaper. To make the scheme effective, anyone who chose to use a non-accredited company to remove waste would then become liable if that waste ever turned up somewhere it was not meant to be. It would clearly also be possible to make this a mandatory scheme, but that would involve a certain amount of extra paperwork and bureaucracy.
That is not a panacea, of course, but it is one of a number of moves that we could think about. It would get people who produce waste, whether small businesses or householders, thinking about whether they use one company that is a bit cheaper or another that is accredited. Using the accredited company might cost a little more, but they would not run the risk of having somebody knocking on the door in the months to come and demanding payment of a bill of thousands of pounds in order to remove waste that has been illegally tipped. It would quickly raise public awareness of the problem, because any company that had paid for a licence to get itself accredited would be making that very clear in its advertising, whether on websites or elsewhere. It would alert the public to the fact that, frankly, there are a lot of cowboys out there going around breaking the law. I offer it as a simple, constructive policy idea and I hope that the Minister might consider it.