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Volume 707: debated on Thursday 27 January 2022

Criminals should have no place to hide when they mindlessly dump waste. Fly-tipping blights lives and neighbourhoods, and wrecks our environment. We are consulting on legislative reforms to the way waste handlers are regulated, and introducing digital waste tracking.

I thank my hon. Friend for her answer. In the London Borough of Harrow, dealing with fly-tipping on the public highway costs council tax payers £1.5 million each year just to clear it up. The worst aspect is fly-tipping on privately owned land. What further measures can my hon. Friend take to highlight those people, catch them, put them through the courts, and get justice for people with privately owned land?

We know that fly-tipping incidents have increased. We had 1.13 million of them last year. We are taking that robust action, which we have been enabled to do through the Environment Act, and our recent consultations clearly set out how we will ensure that offenders face the full force of the law. Last year, we launched a grant scheme to provide £350,000 in funding for councils to tackle fly-tipping, but I commend Harrow Council on having made a large investment—£300,000—in its enforcement team. It is taking an area-based approach, it is delivering more fines, and it is using the full fixed penalty of £400. However, I urge my hon. Friend to urge his council to bring more prosecutions forward, as they did not do so last year.

Will the Government ensure that the section 33 offence attracts a fixed penalty of at least £2,000, much more than the price of a skip? At the moment, it is a rational economic decision for people to fly-tip, albeit a horrendously antisocial one. The fixed penalty for the section 34 offence should also rise to £1,000, so that we can kill off the illegal waste industry that is turning parts of our beautiful country into a litter tip.

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend: fly-tipping blights our countryside and, as we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), blights our towns. As I have said, we are taking robust action. We need to ensure that those fixed penalty notices are high enough to act as a deterrent, that more serious offences can be prosecuted, and that courts can hand down fines in excess of the fixed penalty notice should the offence be sufficiently serious. We are producing a new guide on how to present robust prosecutions, which should support tougher sentences, and digital waste tracking—the reform to waste carriers, brokers and dealers—will allow householders to know where their waste is going and that their contractor is legitimate and transparent. We must do more about this offence, which blights all our constituencies.

Since I was elected, constituents have written to me continuously about fly-tipping, both in our towns and particularly on farmers’ land. One of the reasons for the increase has been the ease with which the public can obtain waste removal licences: the checks and balances just do not appear to be sufficient. Will the Minister explain what the Government plan to do to increase the detail in which those checks are undertaken by the local authorities, to stop people providing a cowboy waste service that undercuts legitimate businesses, and stop them from abandoning that waste on the streets and farms of places such as Sadberge, Trimdon, Wheatley Hill and Wingate?

I agree with my hon. Friend: it is not fair that legitimate businesses are undercut by individuals who do not treat waste properly, and who take no care in anything they are doing. The waste carrier registration scheme needs reform urgently: that is why we are acting, and it is why we published our consultation. The measures that we announced will increase the competence and background checks that are needed to operate in the sector, and make it easier for regulators to take enforcement action to make sure we hound the criminals out of this industry and support our legitimate businesses, so that they play by the rules and treat that waste properly. We will make it easier for householders and businesses to act on a level playing field.

Everything that the Minister has just said is music to my ears, because illegal fly-tipping blights all of our communities and shames our country. It destroys our sense of place and our neighbourhoods. As the Minister will know, large-scale fly-tipping more than doubled in England between 2012 and 2019, with councils spending almost £13 million last year cleaning up somebody else’s mess. Of course, part of the problem with enforcement is that the resources available to the Environment Agency and to local government have been cut. What more can she say about ensuring that those enforcement agencies have the tools and the finances they need to get the job done?

We have supported the Environment Agency with additional funding of some £60 million in 2019—I think it was—and by making sure that they have the right regulatory framework in which to go forward. We are also supporting our councils, not only by equipping them with better processes and guidance in order to bring these criminals to account, but by making sure that the system is joined up so we know where the waste has been taken from, where it is going, and that it has arrived. We intend to beat this blight.

Fly-tipping is a blight across the UK, both in rural and in urban areas. What recent assessment has the Minister made of the need for fly-tipping to be treated as organised crime, so that investigations are properly resourced?

I do not think I can say any more than that it was described as similar to the narcotics industry. We need to treat fly-tipping with that much seriousness: we need to crack down and make sure that the people who are earning illegally and blighting others’ lives are hounded out of this industry.

May I first thank the Minister for her enthusiasm in the matter? She clearly means what she says and I thank her for that. The most recent statistics from back home show that in the past two years the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs cleaned up 306 illegal waste sites, costing half a million pounds or the equivalent of 15 nurses’ pay. What discussions has the Minister had with her counterpart in the Northern Ireland Executive to discuss how we can combat these issues together and take the pressure off local councils?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I meet Ministers from the devolved Administrations regularly. I have not had specific conversations on the matter, but I would be happy to because fly-tipping knows no boundaries. We need to sort it out together.

I would like to begin by acknowledging that today is Holocaust Memorial Day. May we never see such hatred and wickedness again.

The Minister will know that many fly-tips consist mainly of household waste. Wales has seen its household recycling rates catapult from just 4.8% in 1999 to more than 65% in 2021. That is the difference a Labour Government makes. Will the Minister join me in acknowledging the success of the Welsh Labour Government and tell the House what lessons she is learning from them?

I associate myself with the hon. Lady’s comments about the holocaust.

Consistent collections, ensuring we can collect the seven strands of waste, will allow all households in this country to make sure they are recycling. Coupled with the deposit return scheme and other measures in the Environment Act 2021, they will ensure that everybody in England can recycle easily and consistently.

I am grateful that my hon. Friend the Minister mentions the deposit return scheme, because including cartons in the scheme is one extra step the Government could take to tackle fly-tipping. Please will she meet Tetra Pak, based in my constituency, to discuss the feasibility of the onward processing of cartons, which I believe would make that inclusion a practical possibility?

As my hon. Friend knows, we will announce more information on the deposit return scheme shortly. I would, of course, be happy to meet his constituent for further discussions. I do not think we should rule anything out, but nor am I making any promises.