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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:39 am on 17th April 2018.

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Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 10:39 am, 17th April 2018

I heard what my hon. Friend said, and he will appreciate that this matter is devolved to the Welsh Government. The Welsh Government have already carried out a consultation to make it easier for councils to fine householders who do not check how their waste is disposed of, but those powers have not yet come into effect. We require a further consultation, because I am conscious that householders may not realise that websites are available—such as that of the Environment Agency—on which they can look up the names of the firms that come around touting for business. There is an obligation to use the appropriate procedures, because otherwise people can be convicted. Fixed penalty notices were introduced because they tend to be a more straightforward way for councils to deter people. Through this debate and other consultations, I am keen to continue to raise the awareness of householders who must look into who is disposing of their waste, and who it is being passed to. Our current assessment of fly-tipped waste in England is that two thirds of it comes from private households. That is why we are doing what I hope my hon. Friend believes we should be doing. I am happy to hear any more ideas he might have and to share them with the Welsh Government—I am sure he will also do that through his own political links.

Let me single out and praise certain councils across the country that are excelling. In Hertfordshire, for example, funding from the police and crime commissioner has enabled the county council to set up an effective partnership group that is starting to see results. Buckinghamshire County Council is another great example. It decided to make this issue a priority, and its dedicated enforcement strategy has halved fly-tipping incidents over the past 15 years—it is now prosecuting more than one case a week. In Cambridgeshire, a local council is making use of section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which requires landowners to clear waste when the amenity of an area is being significantly affected. That has helped to tackle fly-tipping hotspots, such as the front gardens and alleyways that become dumping grounds, as has been mentioned by many Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton. I appreciate that councils have to decide whether to invest resources in tackling this, but there are powers that they can use to great effect.

It is often asserted—several hon. Members mentioned this, including Dr Drew—that there is a connection between charging at household waste recycling centres and an increase in household waste being fly-tipped. There are anecdotal reports suggesting a connection, but the evidence remains inconclusive. The waste and resources action programme undertook a survey last year, but it did not show a strong link between the two issues. I am happy to write to hon. Members present and share that information with them. I know that there are calls for fly-tipped waste to be disposed of for free at household waste recycling centres. More generally, enabling waste tipped on private land to be disposed of free of charge would not provide the right incentive to deter fly-tipping or to secure land. I stress that it is up to councils to determine whether to charge, in line with legislation.