It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark, and I congratulate my hon. Friend Saqib Bhatti on raising this issue. From the speeches we have heard, it is clear that whether we are in an urban or a rural setting, we are all facing the same problem: the pernicious crime that is fly-tipping. It happens in my constituency, and it has happened to a greater degree over the pandemic. The statistics are stark; figures from across the country show that over the past two years, fly-tipping has only got worse. In the east midlands, it has got 20% worse; in the east, it has got 29% worse; in London, it is 6.9% worse; in the north-east, it is 26.7% worse; in the north-west, it is 21.8% worse; in the south-east, it is 34% worse; in the south-west, it is 9.2% worse; and in the west midlands, it is 27.9% worse. The only area of the country that has seen an improvement is Yorkshire and the Humber, with a reduction of 1.6%. Surely, there is a lesson we can learn from that.
There has also been a 24% reduction in the number of fixed penalty notices issued for fly-tipping, so we need to seriously address the questions of who is disposing of waste and where they are disposing of it. The people who use such services have some responsibility for ensuring they are disposing of their waste through a safe and responsible organisation; they, too, have a responsibility to make sure that their white goods, mattresses and furniture go where they should. It was interesting to hear Opposition Members talk about the responsibility of local authorities. Of course, some responsibility rests with local authorities to take action, but this also relies on individual businesses behaving responsibly by making sure they put their waste into tips, and on responsible behaviour from people who are getting rid of waste.
One of the biggest problems I have found in my constituency is how we document this crime, because it is incredibly difficult and expensive to so. We can talk about putting up CCTV cameras everywhere, but the reality bites: people in rural areas do not want CCTV cameras all over the place. In order to stamp fly-tipping out, we will have to find a way to bring together councils, individuals and businesses, with a register and hard-level fines to punish people who commit this crime. We will not always be able to rely on documenting it with big-state CCTV.
The fines are the biggest problem. According to the notes I have and the “Panorama” documentary “Rubbish Dump Britain”—my hon. Friend Paul Bristow and I referred to it in a debate that we held last year—it costs £1,500 to £2,000 for a council to investigate and prosecute fly-tipping, but the average fine is £170. Clearly, when there is such an imbalance, we will not discourage people from fly-tipping. We have the added problem of what happens if we employ someone to take our waste away and they subcontract the service to someone else, so there has to be a register or a measure in place.
My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden started and finished his speech with the words of “Jerusalem”. We might also add some Shakespeare, and say that
“this sceptred isle…set in the silver sea” is worth protecting. It is worth ensuring that we can bring to justice those who commit the crime of fly-tipping. We must ensure they are brought before the law and dissuaded by punitive fines. If we can do that, we will see an end to it.