Fly-tipping and Illegal Dumping — [SIR MARK HENDRICK in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:37 pm on 24 May 2022.

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Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:37, 24 May 2022

It is about building blocks and making sure that we have the proper ability to investigate whether waste carriers and brokers are suitable to hold a waste licence. That is part of what we are trying to do. I commend the MSP, Mr Fraser, for driving this forward among the Scottish Conservatives. It is really important to all our constituents.

I was pleased to see that Aylesbury Crown court recently sentenced a serial fly-tipper, who had dumped rubbish in multiple local authorities, to 21 months in prison and seized his van. That is important, because it shows what many Members present have asked for: a deterrent and a strong, firm approach.

The Government outlined how we intended to strengthen enforcement powers through the passing of the landmark Environment Act 2021. We have fulfilled that commitment. The Act ensures that agencies and authorities can work effectively to combat waste crime through better access to evidence and powers of entry. The Environment Agency was granted access to the national automatic number plate recognition service in 2021, giving it the ability to better trace those using vehicles for illegal waste activities.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden acknowledges, this issue is not something that my Department can tackle on its own. It is not enough for us to provide the tools; the tools must be used. It is also important that we work across Government, which is why I have spoken to Baroness Vere in the Department for Transport about National Highways. I note that my hon. Friend Stephen Hammond, who is no longer present, asked for a similar approach with Network Rail. It is about us joining up. My hon. Friend Cherilyn Mackrory spoke about her council, which has joined up at multiple levels, including parishes and so on. We can get on top of this problem.

I agree with Ruth Jones that this is about education. We do fund education through WRAP, Keep Britain Tidy, Recycle Now and others. This year, I have secured funds to drive our education campaign work forward. I will be looking at how we can best target that and what we can do with it. I know many voluntary organisations already do phenomenal work and, although it is not a laughing matter, have tremendous names—the Rubbish Friends, the Wombles, and so on. They are encouraging young people, Scouts groups and many other parts of our community to get involved to clean up the areas that they love. It is really commendable.

I urge the councils of all Members present to feed back to us as much enforcement data as possible. My records show that Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council has not issued any fixed penalty notices or brought forward any prosecutions since 2014-15. In total, 19 local authorities in England reported no action taken in 2021. Councils keep the proceeds of fixed penalty notices, so they can use those to step up enforcement efforts. There is something cyclical here. Sara Britcliffe is no longer present, but neither Rossendale nor Hyndburn has, in fact, issued any FPNs. As I say, it is good to hear about the joint working, but I need councils to work with us so that we can do more.