This summer, DEFRA’s grant-aided delivery partner, Keep Britain Tidy, carried out a major vehicle litter awareness campaign that resulted in a 25 per cent. reduction in litter in locations monitored by local authorities throughout England. DEFRA continues to work alongside the Highways Agency and local authorities in keeping the roads under their responsibility clear of litter.
The most recent local environmental quality survey states that litter on verges and landscaping alongside rural roads is now a significant problem. When does the Minister intend to introduce measures to give local authorities greater powers to fine registered vehicle keepers or other responsible people when litter is thrown from vehicles, especially fast-food detritus, which is particularly obnoxious?
Those who litter from vehicles are subject to the same laws that apply to anybody else on the street. Although it can be difficult to identify an offender, especially in a vehicle moving at speed, 65 fixed penalty notices were issued during a recent vehicle litter campaign. The Government are examining the matter very closely and if a compelling case can be made, legislation might be forthcoming. We will certainly give that serious consideration.
In the light of the fact that surveys done in my own city, Belfast, show that the people who are responsible for most littering are those who eat fast food, smokers, the 18-to-35 age group and those who chew gum, is there a need to target initiatives to reach people who are particularly culpable?
The most important challenge is changing behaviour. DEFRA provides a grant funding of £25 million a year to Keep Britain Tidy, and about £1.2 million each year goes specifically towards behaviour-changing campaigns, which are clearly targeted, as appropriate. That has raised awareness of traffic litter, resulting in a 25 per cent. reduction in litter from vehicles.
A significant amount of the litter on our streets, especially that thrown from cars, is cigarette material, particularly butts. What is the Department doing to get tough on the cigarette manufacturers? It is about time that they put something forward for clearing up the mess to which they contribute.
Obviously, we have discussions with a wide range of people who manufacture items that contribute to litter. In truth, it comes back to behaviour change. Education, above all else, is what changes behaviour, and behaviour change is needed to deal with litter.
There does not seem to be much evidence of behaviour change. Will the Minister applaud the work on that aspect of Bill Bryson and the Campaign to Protect Rural England? Roadside and pavement litter especially are made up of cigarette butts and chewing gum, but as there is little evidence of behaviour change, what more can the Government do? What is the take-up of the Minister’s grants?
There is keen take-up of the grants. A number of local authorities have taken up various offers of grants to work towards reducing litter. The Government have made important powers available to local authorities, if they wish to use them. When those powers are applied, they have a good record of working effectively.