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

My hon. Friend will be aware that much of the approach to tackling crime is to do with prevention. I understand what he said about the unsightly effects if we get landowners to try to reduce the opportunity for fly-tipping, but many people put extra locks and burglar alarms in their homes to deter people from targeting a particular home. That is an example of how people take an active interest in making their home robust against entry and crime. I understand my hon. Friend’s point and do not blame landowners. I am trying to be helpful.

I recognise that more can be done. The Government are hosting a roundtable on fly-tipping on private land next week. We will consider further what we can do. A key point is knowing the scale of the issue. Currently we cannot quantify the extent of fly-tipping on private land, as there is no established easy way for people to report it. However, we are changing that. We are learning from Natural Resources Wales, which has created a mobile app to record incidents. We will shortly be rolling out a similar app for England, with many benefits. The app will link through to the local council so that its enforcement team will instantly know when an incident has been recorded. It will also automatically plot the incidents on a map so that hotspots can be targeted. Such sharing of information will help the police, in particular, to identify issues quickly.

In response to a point raised by my hon. Friend David T. C. Davies, I would point out that we have just concluded a consultation on giving local councils and the Environment Agency the power to issue a fixed penalty notice of up to £400 for householders who do not take reasonable measures to ensure that their waste is provided to an authorised person such as a local authority or registered waste carrier. People can check online. The consultation closed on 26 March and we are considering the responses to determine exactly what proof a householder would need to provide to show that they had complied with the regulations. I want to make it clear that the approach is not about duffing up victims, but there are laws in place and we need to try to ensure that people obey them, rather than taking shortcuts. Subject to the outcome of the consultation, we intend to lay regulations in the autumn.

As to the broader question of tackling more forms of waste crime, we brought in regulations in February to strengthen the Environment Agency’s powers to tackle problem waste. It can lock site gates and require all the waste at a site to be cleared. We have just concluded a consultation on tightening the requirements to hold a waste permit and reviewing the waste exemption regime. As I have pointed out, there will be quite a lot more in our resources and waste strategy later in the year.

We will set out proposals to review the brokers and dealers regime. That is an important step to crack down on organised gangs who collect waste under the veil of legitimacy. As my hon. Friend Julia Lopez highlighted, there are a lot of cowboy operators. We will be working closely with the waste industry to determine how best to ensure that those who are part of the trade fully understand their duties and responsibilities.

Much has been said about sentencing and we are reviewing it so that people who fly-tip will be punished appropriately. In 2014 we worked with the Sentencing Council to strengthen the guideline for environmental offences. The level of fines for organisations found guilty of fly-tipping has since risen, but fines for individuals have not undergone the same increase. My officials are liaising with the Ministry of Justice on that matter.

I am interested in the idea about insurance that was raised during the debate, and will add it to my next roundtable with the Association of British Insurers. As to consistency of response, we can only do our best by trying to share best practice with councils and police, and that is what we shall continue to do; I assure hon. Members that we work with other Departments. John Mc Nally highlighted action being taken by the Scottish Government. My hon. Friend Kirstene Hair was right when she pointed out that there are not many prosecutions and that the fines that are given are quite low, and when she praised Angus Council for its work to ensure that recycling centres are open more widely. As to marine pollution, those things that blight the countryside and urban streets often also end up in the marine environment. My hon. Friend Jack Brereton mentioned illegal waste sites, and I assure him that we are taking action on those more broadly. The issue is less to do with fly-tipping than with the way people exceed their licences. We managed to get an extra £30 million out of the Treasury to support the Environment Agency in tackling that matter more, as we recognise the increasingly prevalent serious and organised crime links.

What I have been describing is a continuing journey, but I am pleased about the parliamentary support for more powers to be given to the Environment Agency and councils to tackle what is a real blight. I welcome the contributions that have been made to the debate today.