It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark.
I want to tell a story. It is the story of a constituent who wrote to me recently, and it is about a lovely spring morning of the sort we all dream about. The weather was beautiful, as it always is in Lancashire, and there was not a single cloud in the sky. The weather was so wonderful that my constituent and his wife decided to take their daughter and their dog for a walk in our wonderful countryside. They found a route they liked and headed out into nature. After a time, they saw a road in the distance. They ambled casually towards a hedge next to it and climbed a stile out of the field. They looked around them at this unspoiled bit of rural Lancashire, and they saw an old sofa, three broken kitchen units, piles of old, empty paint tins, and many bags of building waste and other rubbish, some with flies and rotting smells coming from them. They were appalled. The family’s outing had been spoiled by a blight that impacts us all.
That story is a composite of many emails and letters I have received about this subject. Not a day goes by without someone dumping something in a country lane or back alley, and my office estimates that almost 20% of our casework relates to fly-tipping of one kind or another. That is shocking, and it highlights the sheer scale of the problem we face as a society. It is not just rural areas: our towns, cities and villages are also blighted by this horrendous crime, but what is the solution?
There is no doubt that the steps the Government are taking to allow materials to be recycled at tips more easily will certainly help, but that will not stop the problem altogether. At its heart is laziness, and a lack of care for others and for the communities in which fly-tippers live. The only solution is enforcement, deterrence and prosecutions, and I am sorry to say that councils simply to do enough. I have constantly called on Rossendale Borough Council and Hyndburn Borough Council to take more action on fining the people who blight our communities, but unfortunately they have not done that. After our great local election, we now have a cabinet member in control who is on our side—Steven Smithson—so I hope more action will be taken.
Councils need to increase the use of covert recordings and invest in drones, static hidden cameras and other technologies to record fly-tippers and catch them in the act. They also need to increase their investigations into fly-tipped material and pursue every single fly-tipper relentlessly. There should be a disproportionate response to fly-tipping, and fines should reflect that. At present, we are simply not issuing enough and we are not putting other punishments in place. I also believe that the vehicles of all fly-tippers should be seized as proceeds of crime. We need a zero-tolerance approach. I agree that we need to look at licences, and there needs to be more enforcement action when rubbish is dumped on private land.
That is my contribution to the debate. We need more action and we need more from the Government, such as an education campaign. We must work together to improve our local communities.